Sunday 22 December 2013

Go West, Young Man ... to Kings Lynn!

Go West Travel is, for strange historic reasons, a bus company operating about as far east in the UK as you could go. The company has a slightly better trading name, viz ...
Last week it was announced that the business had been bought by Stagecoach.
Stagecoach Group plc ("Stagecoach") is pleased to announce that Stagecoach Bus Holdings Ltd has completed the acquisition of Go West Travel Ltd, trading as Norfolk Green, an independent bus operator in the east of England.

Norfolk Green, which was last month named Independent Bus Operator of the Year ...
... operates commercial, tendered and school bus services, employing more than 160 people. The company operates around 70 buses and carries around 4.6 million passengers a year on a network covering Norfolk, and parts of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.
Robert Montgomery, Managing Director of Stagecoach UK Bus, said: "Norfolk Green is an award-winning, high-quality bus operator. The business is well-run and has been successful in attracting more people to the benefits of bus travel."

Norfolk Green, which the present owners bought in 1996 with three coaches, has become available for purchase due to the retirement following ill health of main shareholder Ben Colson (pictured with award, above). The operation will be run separately, managed by Gary Nolan ...
... Regional Director North, Stagecoach UK Bus.

The management structure under Stagecoach ownership seems a bit "fluid", as one local rag published this picture ...
... of Colson with "the new manager, Andy Dyer." No doubt someone will explain it to our loyal blog readers.

Ben Colson said: "We have built a strong brand in the area with a larger network of bus routes than was here in 1996, attracted new customers to using the bus and increased employment. The company goes forward into new hands in good shape, and will benefit from being owned by a major transport company."

There is a map of the extensive network, of which this is a brief extract:-
The full map can be viewed (here).

The fleet is stylish and well cared for as illustrated by this YouTube video of Kings Lynn bus station.
Stagecoach has said that the company will remain as "Norfolk Green" with no changes to livery etc. If this turns out to be true, it will represent a major change in policy for Uncle Brian's company which has always obliterated previous ownership as swiftly as possible. "Stagecoach Norfolk Green" with a hybrid bus style livery?
The Norfolk Green web site (and spiffing it is, too) is available (here).

One problem facing the new owners is with the Coasthopper routes. Although these services are profitable in the summer, they need support from Norfolk Council in the winter; but the nasty cash-strapped council is reducing its support. This may make the services completely unviable.
It is hoped the Coasthopper service, which runs along the west and north Norfolk coast, will survive after Norfolk Green was bought by international company Stagecoach Bus Holdings. In September, Norfolk County Council announced plans to cut its £225,000-a-year Coasthopper subsidy by £75,000 in each of the next two years which threatened the existence of the route.

Stagecoach has said it is too early to make any decisions on the current services.

The loss of these services would be a great sadness for the coastal communities and it is to Norfolk Green's credit that this mini-network has grown significantly over the last 17 years. History suggests that Stagecoach will not tolerate such a loss-making service.
 fbb's Advent Calendar for 2013 
Sunday 22nd December

The Northern part of the former Kingdom of David and Solomon fell to the Assyrians, but as is the way of things, it was the new kids on the block, the Babylonians, that invaded and took the best of the Southerners into exile as "forced labour".

The prophet Jeremiah lived and prophesied through this final indignity.
Jerry, doing a bit of Lamenting

Although tradition paints him as a "prophet of doom" and a full-blown misery-guts because he witnessed the Exile, his extensive writings are, nevertheless, interspersed with hope. It goes like this:-

You've observed the invaded Samaria;
Well that's what is coming to you!
As sinners God's being quite fair to y'
Now there's nothing at all you can do!

Accept your punishment like a man;
Obey Babylonia to the letter;
Hang on in there if you possibly can ...
Because God has planned something better.
Prophetic popularity faded;
He was derided, thrown down a well!
Babylonia duly invaded ...
But God's truth he continued to tell!

With their homeland destroyed and rejected
Most exiles had managed to cope.
But deep down they felt so dejected.
What they needed was a message of hope!

The Lord says, “The time is coming when I will choose as king a righteous descendant of David. That king will rule wisely and do what is right and just throughout the land. When he is king, the people of Judah will be safe, and the people of Israel will live in peace. He will be called ‘The Lord Our Salvation.’ [Jeremiah Chapter 23 verse 5]

Sounds a bit like Christ-mas!
 Next bus blog : Monday 23rd December 


  1. Actually, this is not the first time where Stagecoach has purchased an independent bus company due to a "shareholder retirement" and retained its separate identity and management - there is Fleet Buzz, which operates in Fleet, Hampshire.

    Hopefully Coasthopper can be continued in one form or another, but I can't help thinking that it is hampered by the lack of an evening service, and a limited winter Sunday service. It could also probably do with better integration with the other King's Lynn/Hunstanton services, and better links to Norwich too.

  2. Thanks - I had forgotten Fleet Buzz!

  3. Norfolk Green has indeed done a brilliant job in unpromising territory, many of their services running at higher frequencies than when I traveled on the equivalent Eastern Counties routes forty years ago.
    Unusually for an independent operator, Go West Travel Limited has, or rather had, around fifteen shareholders, some of whom are/ were Stagecoach managers. Just under 10% was owned by the directors of Stephensons of Essex who according to the latest of RouteOne magazine are "actively seeking to acquire bus operators in East Anglia". Presumably Stagecoach had deeper pockets in this case.

  4. Norfolk Green's website is, indeed, spiffingly good. If only Stagecoach could learn from them with their own miserable offering on the web.

    Aside from that, I am sure that Stagecoach will do their best to maintain the very high standard of operation, provided by Norfolk Green. Perhaps even down to the mass departures from Kings Lynn bus station, as demonstrated in the video.

  5. I, too, hope that Stagecoach will learn from how Norfolk Green run their website. I expect that there will be some more of these acquisitions before too long, and am sure that each, in their own way, will have something to contribute to the benefit of the overall group.

    The Kings Lynn departure video was interesting. Here is another one, showing how the Dutch do things, from Enschede Bus Station. It is almost reminiscent of Cheltenham Coach Station at 1400.