Thamesdown Transport sold to Go South Coast
Go Ahead subsidiary Go South Coast has confirmed its acquisition of council-owned Thamesdown Transport. Swindon councillors approved the deal earlier this week and Go South Coast says that the company’s routes and frequencies will be maintained.
“This is an excellent opportunity for us to develop the services on offer to local people here in Swindon and north Wiltshire,” says Go South Coast managing director Andrew Wickham.
“We’re keen to point out that it’s business as usual as far as our customers are concerned. Any tickets or passes they have will still be valid, and our 85 buses will continue to serve existing routes with no change to timings.
“That said, our ultimate aim is to enhance the services on offer here. As part of this, we will be consulting with local people and listening to the needs of those who travel on our buses. Our team will be engaging with representatives of local bus users about our plans to invest in local services.”
Swindon Borough Council said that the sale would ensure that the operation has a sustainable future and pointed to losses at the company over the past five years due to “difficult trading conditions”. It says that the sale to Go Ahead followed a competitive process and involves the entire shareholding of the business and the freehold of its Barnfield depot.
“We were one of the few local authorities in the country to still own a local bus company, but the council is operating in a really challenging financial climate at the moment and we do not have the resources to continue to support Thamesdown Transport as we have been doing in recent years,” says Swindon Borough Council leader David Renard. “We have had to change the way we provide services across the council while balancing the ever-increasing demand on adults’ and children’s services.
“We believe this deal is in the best interests of local bus users as it secures the financial sustainability of the bus company, offers the best long-term security for Thamesdown Transport’s employees, and will provide vital investment. Go South Coast’s expertise will also ensure customers continue to benefit from a high quality bus service.”
Alex Chutter, currently operations manager at Go South Coast’s Salisbury Reds business, will take over at Thamesdown as general manager.
Thamesdown Transport was established as an “arms-length” company at the time of bus deregulation in 1986, and traces its roots back to 1904 when Swindon Corporation opened its tramway system.
Thamesdown’s sale leaves just ten remaining municipally-controlled bus companies, including Nottingham City Transport in which Transdev has a 17 per cent stake. The sale comes at a time when there is heated debate around the Bus Services Bill and the government’s intention to close off the option of local authorities forming their own bus companies in the future. The contentious clause 21 was overturned in the House of Lords, but is likely to be reinstated when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.