24 March 2008

Recent BUS/COACH developments, no 3

  • Rennies sold to Stagecoach. Rennies of Dunfermline, a long-established coach operator based just north of the city in Wellwood, has been purchased by Stagecoach East Scotland for an undisclosed sum. Rennies has an annual turnover of £2.3 million and being unusual for a Stagecoach acquisition, operates virtually no regular stage-carriage bus services, instead concentrating on coaching/private hire work. The firm has a mixed coaching fleet including Mercedes-Benz Touros, Dennis Javelins, Volvos and BMC 850 Clubs. Stagecoach has been quoted as saying they will continue to operate this firm under its current identity and have no plans to change the current make-up of the business.

  • Possible sale in Huddersfield. Arriva has entered discussions with Stagecoach Yorkshire about the possibility of purchasing Stagecoach's bus business in Huddersfield. Arriva, trading as The Huddersfield Bus Company, has won recent new tenders in the area and has applied for a 35-vehicle O-licence at the current Penistone Road depot used by Stagecoach.

  • Optare sold to Jamesstan Investments. Optare, the UK's third largest bus manufacturer with operations in Leeds and Hellaby, was sold to Jamesstan Investments, a company controlled by north-east entrepreneur Roy Stanley, for an undisclosed amount. Optare was formed in 1985 following Leyland's decision to close its Roe body-building plant in Leeds. Optare went on to produce many very recognisable body designs: Delta in 1988, Spectra double-decker in 1992, Optare's integral Solo launched in 1998 and the Alero in 2001. Optare and other operators joined a co-operative called United Bus from 1990-1993 when this collapsed and a second management buy-out occurred; they were then sold to North American Bus Industries in 2000 with yet another management buy-out in 2005 following problems in America before being sold earlier in the month to Jamesstan Investments.

  • Award for First. First's North Staffs and South Cheshire bus operation won the 2007 ACES Public Transport Service award. During January First ran 99.31% of its scheduled services - higher than that required by the Traffic Commissioner, and start-of-journey punctuality was 96.73%, again higher than that required by the TC.

  • They just bounce off. Manchester-based Bluebird has halved its replacement glass costs following smashed windows, caused by brick-wielding youths, by using polycarbonate sheets - the same material used in riot shields. In a two-year period, Bluebird made 300 reports to Police following smashed windows to its buses. The sheets cost £250 each and is making considerable savings on the firm's reported £2,000-a-month glass bill.

  • Redbys in liquidation. Sunderland-based Redby Coaches went into voluntary liquidation last week, with debts of £450,994. Redbys was sold to Go North East last month who had wanted to continue operating the firm separately, as a coach-only business. Redby Coaches was formed in 1946 by Fred Stratton and had remained a family business throughout.

  • 116 caught flouting bus lane. In a two-hour period during a morning peak period, Police caught 116 motorists flouting bus lane rules in Norwich at Brazen Gate. A number of those caught were repeat offenders though all were issued £30 fixed penalty notices.

  • The Kings Ferry MD steps down. Steve O'Neill, The Kings Ferry MD, has stepped down after 18 years in that position with the company. His resignation comes 4 months after the firm was purchased by National Express. Mr. O'Neill plans to take six months off to recharge his batteries before returning to NX as a consultant working on strategic projects until the end of 2008.

  • CPT warns of "shrinking of England's bus network". The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) is warning of commercial bus service withdrawals, higher adult fares and tender prices, all as a result of changes in the way local authorities reimburse bus operators over the concessionary free fares scheme in England. The CPT's concerns were contained in a letter to the DfT, which was leaked to Local Transport Today trade journal. The CPT's chief executive Simon Posner warns the DfT that, "there is a very real danger that the most visible effect on the Government's generosity to older and disabled people will be the substantial shrinking of England's bus network. Routes that are extremely popular with older and disabled people will not be able to cover their costs even if buses are full."

  • Cross-Forth Wi-Fi trial. Stagecoach is trialling free Wi-Fi on its cross-Forth bus services to/from Edinburgh in an attempt to increase patronage. The technology, costing around £36,000 has been fitted to vehicles operating services 53, X54, 55, X58, X59 and X60, which carry around 400,000 passengers each week. Stagecoach runs 32 services an hour across the Forth road bridge.

  • First's BoltBus operation. From 27 March First will launch their equivalent to megabus in the USA with BoltBus. Fares start from $1. Initially eight returns journeys will operate between New York-Washington DC and from next month additional services linking New York-Philadelphia and New York-Boston will occur. First are investing $15 million (£7.43 million) in 33 new 51-seat Canadian Prevost X3-45 coaches for the routes. Tickets can only be purchased from www.boltbus.com

  • Dudleys at 70. Dudley's Coaches of Inkberrow in Worcestershire, is celebrating its 70th anniversay. Formed in 1938 by Ernie Dudley, his involvement in passenger transport came when he purchased a orange Chevrolet school bus to convey children to nearby schools. The company made two acquisitions - in 1986 Royal Motorways was purchased and in 2002 Reddich-based Kingfisher Travel was bought. The current fleet stands at 34 staff and 17 coaches.

  • Child porn found on director's PC. The director and traffic manager of local family coach firm Collins Coaches Ltd, Hanwell, London, received a nine-month suspended sentence after Police searched his home and found 322 pornographic images, some of which contained children. Eric Colins, a self-confessed naturist, had been running Collins Coaches since it was formed 22 years ago and holds 12 O-licences. He comes into children on a daily basis operating school contract services. He had also been a Scout for 40 years. In addition to his suspended sentence, he was placed on the Sex Offenders' register for 10 years, banned from spending time alone with children and using the Internet, except for work.

  • TfL to run Croydon Tramlink. Tramlink Croydon, the private finance initiative concession holder, responsible for the operator on the Croydon Tramlink in south-west London is to be taken-over by TfL following a deal worth £98 million that will give TfL full control of the system. Over the years a couple of high-profile spats between both organisations have occurred and with TfL assuming full control, the tramlink aims to be better poised for any potential expansion.

  • Coach driver's 80th birthday. Marshalls of Sutton-on-Trent, just outside the LEYTR area, employs one of the oldest coach drivers in the country. Norman Wells, soon-to-turn 80 years of age, retired on 13 March in readiness for his 'four score years'. Mr. Wells was a tour driver with Marshalls when he retired but returned as a part-time driver, latterly operating afternoons only.