Normal Service Resumed: Classic Bus North West Licences Transferred

Oakwood Travel Services take over remaining services

Another chapter in the history of Classic Bus North West has opened, with the transfer of its licences to Oakwood Travel Services Ltd. In a pre-pack administration, a deal was struck saving 16 jobs and all remaining bus services.

Former Classic Bus North West boss Philip Higgs transferred the licences to Oakwood Travel Service, his sister company. As a result of the administration, eight driving jobs were lost, with a further six from CBNW’s bus refurbishment division.

All remaining services resumed operation. For regular users of the 22, Mr. Higgs said ‘the transition has been quite seamless’. Whether the Red Rocket Express will be cleared for take off this Easter remains to be seen. So far, nothing has been said over some of the heritage vehicles.

From Monday, the Lancashire County Council contracted 80 service from Preston to Blackpool, via Great Eccleston and Inskip will be reinstated with a change of operator. On an emergency tender, Archway Travel will take over the 80 service.

Mr. Higgs’ move is far from extraordinary. Where one business is in turmoil, it is commonplace to register another name and transfer the assets of a previous business to another one, much to the chagrin of employees. We shall see in the next year as to whether this was a smart move.

S.V., 13 January 2014.

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8 thoughts on “Normal Service Resumed: Classic Bus North West Licences Transferred

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    1. Hi Paul,

      I wonder if the people of Fylde would be happier if CBNW’s operations were nationalised by Blackpool Transport? If services were transferred to the Corporation buses, it could offer a degree of security to the routes and drivers. The one thing that may have prevented this is Blackpool Council’s budget and additional passenger benefits, so any services gained could be evaporated by amalgamation, thus not increasing any frequencies.

      However, I would say that the 80 service is of great importance enough to be subsidised. In the hands of a municipal operator such as Blackpool Transport ideally. Great in writing, but given recent events, about as likely as I, Stuart Vallantine, being called up by David Moyes to play for Manchester United’s first team!

      On a separate note, some constituents of their fleet could grace a transport museum. Given Blackpool’s history in public transport, why on earth isn’t there a Transport Museum focusing on its tram, bus and rail heritage? There’s already a ‘living museum’ by means of Blackpool Transport’s heritage fleet, augmenting their state of the art light rail vehicles. Its contribution to the coaching industry – excursions, the X60 service, Duple and Burlingham coach builders – is exemplary.

      Secondly, such a development could be used to harness the skills of its six, now redundant, bus refurbishment staff. A trust could be set up, or perhaps, an existing trust could be bolstered by the sextet and what remains of the former BusWorks fleet.

      I hope things go well for the travelling public and its drivers, but I have my doubts going off previous form.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  1. The company that terminated a vital bus service without warning amid rumours of financial difficulty has gone into administration. Blackpool-based Classic Bus North West sparked outrage when it pulled out of its contract to run the number 80 bus, linking the resort and Preston, after just 11 days. Boss Philip Higgs today told The Gazette that 16 jobs had been saved after a deal was struck with Oakwood Travel, of which he is a director. He said: “Oakwood Travel Services Ltd has acquired the goodwill and assets of Classic Bus North West in a pre-pack administration deal to protect jobs and bus services.
    http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/business/local-business/all-change-at-under-fire-bus-route-company-1-6369361

    Looks like the deal was struck by talking to himself?

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    1. Hi Paul [W],

      Definitely so you could say, but a far from unusual occurrence. See also bigger bus operators who transfer routes to another registration they have, thus saving jobs and bus services. In March 2005, FirstGroup’s Pioneer licence was reactivated, saving Tameside bus users from being stranded and an extensive round of emergency tendering. This came about after a number of vehicles were taken off the road (only about a dozen, not quite in the great numbers which affected its predecessor Oldham Corporation in 1965).

      In the end, only one service, the 220 [Manchester – Tameside Hospital] was affected – some were GMPTE tendered afternoon journeys, whereas the Sunday service went to JPT Travel (in turn withdrawn in January 2007), minus a Bank Holiday service. (Till May 2005, the 220 had an evening Bank Holiday service but the 219 to Ashton didn’t!)

      In more recent times, Eurobus was formed as a cheap and cheerful offshoot of JPT (different members of their family) with a separate licence, with the aim of competing against FirstGroup on a commercial basis. This, a year after formation was absorbed by JPT Travel with some of Eurobus’ older vehicles joining the main JPT fleet.

      Whatever happens, I hope it is business as usual for the bus travelling public of the Fylde Coast. The only problem is, if any CBNW/Oakwood routes are withdrawn in the next quarter, Lancashire County Council’s proposed cuts to the subsidised network may be a good advert for increased car ownership and local minicab operators. The question is, will they blame Oakwood or LCC if any of their services were withdrawn?

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  2. Quite seamless? How many weeks did that take? Also, shame on Lancashire County Council I think, for not pulling their finger out sooner to provide a replacement operator for the 80. TfGM probably could have done it overnight, or certainly within a few days!

    Classic Bus North West/Oakwood Travel T/A Classic Bus North West by now must have lost all credibility and respect from the local people who, I think, will remember this debacle when deciding with whom to renew their weekly bus tickets. I don’t think Classic Bus North West, in any form, will be around for much longer. Long live Blackpool Transport!

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    1. Hi Mark,

      Firstly, it seemed as if Classic Bus North West put County Hall on the spot, pulling out at a time where staff at the latter establishment may have taken time off. Secondly, under the ‘what would TfGM do’ scenario, they would have sorted it out with greater urgency. There has been cases where some operators wanted to pull out on Christmas Eve, and this nearly happened to the 343 service.

      Instead, GMPTE negotiated with the then operator (SpeedwellBus) to continue operations till the next round of service changes in late January. They agreed; the hitherto commercial journeys became subsidised ones.

      Compared with the above scenario, Lancashire County Council should have demonstrated some urgency with the 80 service. Therefore the wait between their service returning and CBNW ceasing operations was unacceptable. In perspective, there was little LCC could do; no funding for Demand Responsive Transport services as a stop-gap; nor powers for LCC to directly run buses. I wonder if they did approach Blackpool Transport, but a fair amount of the 80 service is within the Wyre Borough Council boundaries.

      The ‘seamless’ reference obviously disregarded the people of Great Eccleston, deprived of a bus in the Yuletide. Given that a fair number of Classic Bus/Oakwood Travel parallel Blackpool Transport’s routes, I can see more regular passengers opting for the Corporation’s buses.

      I wonder how much of this would have been preventable if there was an Integrated Transport Authority for the Fylde and Central Lancashire?

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

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