Jonathan Welch speaks to the team behind Birmingham Busworks to find out how the company is carving a niche for itself in bus sales and seatbelting
School buses. We’ve all been on one, or at least seen them at the school gates at the end of every school day, waiting for the hordes of children to come streaming out. Over the years, school services have seen a variety of second-hand, cast-off vehicles turned out by operators good and bad, but slowly the industry has started to up its game. Some have opted for mid-life coaches, refurbished with 70 seats in 3+2 configuration, whilst the other common sight is now mid-life double deckers, often ex-London or from other major group operators, and generally converted to single-door with seatbelts added.
It is into this seemingly niche – but actually quite large – market that Birmingham Busworks is expanding. A sister company to bus operator The Green Bus, Birmingham Busworks was founded with the aim of becoming a highly-focused specialist seatbelting business; as I found out when I paid a visit, there’s more to turning a bus into a fully seat-belted school bus than just bolting a few belts to the seats. To find out more, I spoke to owner and Chief Executive Ian Mack along with Mitch Brookes, who as General Manager is charged with running the Busworks side of the business.
“We operate two businesses from our premises here in Birmingham,” Ian explained. “We have The Green Bus, which operates high-margin peak-hour local bus services, mainly for schools, along with rail replacement and private hire work. That’s a long-standing business which I established in 2001. During the pandemic, like a lot of people, I wondered what our future would be.”
Gap in the market
“Originally we started Birmingham Busworks off just doing seatbelt fitting, as we believed there was a gap in the market,” Ian continued, “but that side of the business has grown to encompass both seatbelts and buying and selling of buses. Our aim is to keep things simple. We can either supply a bus, and seatbelt it for a customer if they wish, or we can fit belts to customers’ vehicles.
“A lot of the buses we convert come from London, so we can also undertake centre door removals, including fitting a manual ramp at the front door. We have good relationships with operators such as Abellio London, as well as with Ross at RGI Bus & Coach Refurbishment here in the Midlands, so we have avenues to buy direct, or via Ross.”[…]
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