26 November 2008

Stagecoach buys Eastbourne Buses

Eastbourne Buses has been sold in to Stagecoach. Eastbourne Buses origins are in the former Transport Department of the Borough Council, which inaugurated municipal motor buses, being the first such in the world, starting operations in 1903. Stagecoach also runs bus services in Hastings and Bexhill, is the new owner of the Birch Road firm in a deal reached last Thursday afternoon.

The sale has been imminent for some weeks after it was revealed the company was in poor financial condition. Eastbourne Borough Council, which owns 80 per cent, and the other shareholder Keolis, wanted to sell up. It remained solvent because its assets, primarily the Birch Road depot and workshops, which covered its liabilities. It also faced regular criticism over the past two years following unpopular timetable changes, the axing of uneconomical routes and above inflation fare rises which the company said was due to spiralling fuel costs, competition from the Cavendish-Renown operator and difficulties in keeping to timetables because of traffic congestion on some routes.

When it was announced in the summer the firm was up for sale, two companies were in the running, Stagecoach and Go-Ahead, which operates services in Brighton and Hove.

A spokesman for Stagecoach said, "We are pleased to confirm that Stagecoach has been named as preferred bidder for Eastbourne Buses Limited following a competitive bid process."A final contract is subject to further negotiations, the completion of legal matters and approval by the Department for Transport and we look forward to meeting with employees in due course."

A spokesperson at Eastbourne Borough Council said, "The transfer of Eastbourne Buses to a significant transport operator has been the council's intention over the past few months and the decision follows a full competitive process to ensure best value for council tax payers."

Councillor Troy Tester, the deputy leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, said, "Our objective has been to secure the future sustainability of bus services in Eastbourne and get the best possible value for local council tax payers."This deal is our best chance of achieving both of these aims and we look forward to completing the transfer as quickly as possible." (Photos: Eastbourne Buses) (PW)