Weeks of speculation about the future of Cornish independent operator Western Greyhound have ended with the news the business has been sold

 

Western Greyhound’s Mark Howarth is pictured with a Plymouth Citybus vehicle in Liskeard

 

Weeks of speculation about the future of Cornish independent operator Western Greyhound have ended with the announcement of two deals that will see the operation pass into new ownership.

Earlier this week Western Greyhound’s shareholders, managing director Mark Howarth, his wife Mari and Robin Orbell, announced the sale of the operator’s network in south east Cornwall to Go-Ahead subsidiary Plymouth Citybus.

This deal was followed up with the announcement that bus industry entrepreneur Michael Bishop has purchased the remainder of the business from the three shareholders.

Bishop is the co-owner of Hampshire-based independent Velvet, which he acquired in August this year. Prior to this he was operations manager of Surrey-based Buses Excetera and a director of now closed Sussex-based bus operator Countryliner for several years.

“I am so pleased that we were able to work with Mark and his team to purchase Western Greyhound,” said Bishop in a statement. “The company has a very exciting future ahead of it and will continue to be a well-respected local independent operator. We have identified areas of the business that would benefit from further development and investment to strengthen the commercial future.”

Bishop will join Western Greyhound as managing director. He will be joined by Adam Smith, the co-owner of Velvet, who has been appointed as the operator’s general manager. A total of 65 buses and 133 employees, plus the operator’s freehold depot at Summercourt and a small leased outstation at Wadebridge will pass to the new owners. Mark Howarth will carry on as a consultant to the business’s new owners for a period of time

The sale of the south east Cornwall operations saw Plymouth Citybus take on a handful of routes, a leasehold depot in Liskeard and nine Optare Solo midibuses. The operation will be rebranded by Plymouth Citybus as Go Cornwall Bus, a standalone operation within the core business.

Richard Stevens, the managing director of Plymouth Citybus, said that he was pleased that an agreement had been reached to acquire the operation, which will secure the jobs of Western Greyhound’s 31 members of staff based at the Liskeard depot.

Commenting on the sales, Howarth said: “It is always sad to take the decision to sell a company that one has started and built up over a period of 16 years. However, we are all now in our sixties and it is time for new management and ideas to be introduced into the business.

“As a board, we were all keen to ensure that we sold Western Greyhound as a going concern and that the jobs of our hard-working and loyal staff could be protected. The decision to split the sale was because many staff wanted to see Western Greyhound return to a smaller, leaner and fitter operation.”

He added that it had been a difficult few months for the operator, which has been hampered by poor reliability, service cancellations and increasing competition from FirstGroup’s First Kernow operation (PT097). Howarth also apologised to any passengers who have been let down by the operator recently.

“I would like to thank the public and, indeed the rest of industry, for their loyal support over the past 16 years,” he concluded.

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

DON’T MISS OUT – GET YOUR COPY! – click here to subscribe!