Heyfordian closes after 76 years

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The company had a long history and was widely respected. One of its coaches was captured in Malmesbury on 9 August 2022. JONATHAN TAYLOR

The respected operator suddenly announced its closure on 1 August, informing staff via email

Bicester-based coach operator Heyfordian has ceased trading after 76 years in business. The family-owned and managed business was established in 1947, but traced its roots back to the 1890s when a branch of the family operated a horse-drawn carrier service in the Oxfordshire village of Upper Heyford, from where the name originates. In the early 20th century mechanised trucks were introduced after the First World War, and haulage continued after the Second World War, when the company’s founder identified a need for passenger transport. The founder acquired a reputation for providing high quality customer care, allowing the business to grow; something which the firm said it continued to pride itself on today.

At its peak, the fleet grew to around 75 coaches before closure, ranging in size from 31 to 85 seats, including double-deck coaches, as well as 16-seat minibuses. The firm’s General Manager Stephen Smith advised staff via email on 1 August that the company would close with immediate effect, though stressed that the decision to close had been taken voluntarily, and that staff would be paid all money due in wages up to and including the day of closure. “Despite all our concerted efforts over recent months to keep the company going, we have reached a point where we cannot keep going,” staff were told in the email. “As such, we are ceasing trading today. There were just too many obstacles facing us since the pandemic, and we are suffering like so many businesses with post-Covid bonce-back loans rampant inflation, shortage of drivers and higher interest payments.”

It is understood that the company operated 13 school routes. Oxfordshire County Council said it was working hard to find alternate transport for any school routes affected from the start of the new term in September, and had already advised the schools impacted by the situation. “We will be working hard over the school summer break to find alternative transport providers in readiness for the new term,” a spokesman said.

Fellow local operators Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel, both part of the Go-Ahead Group which recently acquired nearby coach operator Pulhams, said they was saddened by the news and invited staff members made redundant to apply to join their driving teams, as did Arriva, which has vacancies at its depots in Aylesbury and High Wycombe. “It is a testing time for everybody involved – not least for the drivers who have lost their jobs. For anyone who’s looking for work, we have a variety of driver roles available at our Aylesbury and High Wycombe depots that we’d welcome anybody looking for a position to apply for,” the latter said on its social media.

Heyfordian operated a large and varied fleet, including relatively rare double-deck Beulas Jewels. RICHARD SHARMAN