Seven into one makes The Coach Travel Group

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North East operator JH Coaches is one of the seven to merge into the new group. RICHARD WALTER

A new group has merged the interests of seven large regional operators to leverage economies of scale and ‘drive enhancements in the sector’

In an unexpected move, seven independent coach operators have joined forces to create a new combined company, the Coach Travel Group. The result of what it calls a ‘strategic merger,’ the new company consists of Alpine Travel, Barnes Coaches, Coatham Coaches, JH Coaches, Johnsons Coaches, Swans Travel and The Ready Group. The new group will have approximately 700 employees and 450 vehicles in its combined fleet, and says its focus will be on leveraging the extensive experience and investment across the seven operators to provide a best-in-class service offering to its customers.

The new company says it will ‘drive enhancements in the sector’ and bring ‘value to all passengers across the UK’ through its operations, which are rooted in their separate local communities and key markets.

Tom Stables, who has previously held positions with National Express, is the Group’s new CEO. Tom commented: “Today marks a significant milestone not only for our group but for the entire coach travel industry in the UK. By bringing together these renowned and trusted regional operators under one roof, we are setting the stage for an unparalleled travel experience. We’re committed to being at the forefront of the industry, ensuring every mile travelled with us is a testament to the quality and innovation we stand for.”

The Coach Travel Group says it is already positioning itself as the supplier and employer of choice in the UK travel industry, and has an ambition is to provide consistently high-quality customer service, as well as operational and safety excellence.

Tom added: “As well as coach tours and day trips, our quality operators manage more than 232 school routes, safely transporting over 11,644 children each day. We also offer an innovative tracking service, ensuring the safe arrival of students and providing parents and carers with invaluable peace of mind, knowing their loved ones are in the most capable hands.

“With The Coach Travel Group, customers can expect nothing less than a seamless and enjoyable travel experience catered to by a dedicated fleet of modern, eco-friendly coaches driven by professional and courteous drivers.

“Our vision is to be a leading national coach travel company, providing excellent services across the UK rooted in our local communities and markets. We will be the supplier and employer of choice, thanks to our reputation for safety, customer service, operational excellence and respect for our staff.”

CBW understands the the owners of Johnsons of Henley-in-Arden have also taken the opportunity to retire from the business after 45 years at the helm, handing over the reins to its current senior management team.

According to the Coach Travel Group website, the group has an ‘ambitious growth strategy’ that will include further acquisitions. The Group has also attracted investment from H2 Equity Partners, which says it will work closely with The Coach Travel Group ‘to leverage the combined strengths of the seven operators and drive investment in its people, fleet and technology to deliver a best-in-class service to its customers.’

The management team of The Coach Travel Group (rear, from left): Executive Director Tim Bloomfield, Chief Finance Officer Aaron Kelly, Executive Directors Peter Robinson and Matt Clayson, and on the front row CEO Tom Stables and Executive Director Kieran Swindells. THE COACH TRAVEL GROUP

Q&A: The Coach Travel Group

What changes will it mean for the operators involved?

“It will be business as usual for the regional operators. Despite becoming part of a national group, each brand remains committed to maintaining the personal service and attention to detail that have been hallmarks of their family-run business. Focusing on customer satisfaction and community engagement will continue to be priorities.”

What is the ownership structure?

“Each of the owners is now a shareholder in the group, and will remain in their respective businesses continuing to drive them forward as part of The Coach Travel Group. This ensures that they can maintain the operational capabilities and practices that have driven their success while also contributing to and benefiting from the collective goals and resources of the group.”

Will there be a single, unified brand to replace the existing identities?

“The individual brands will operate as normal, but they are now part of The Coach Travel Group. The day-to-day operations will continue to be managed locally. Our brands understand their local markets best and the role of the group is to support their long-term future and growth.”

Will there be combined buying decisions, such as a ‘standardised’ coach make/model?

“Not currently, but that could be a possibility in the future. The merger allows us to achieve economies of scale, which may positively impact our buying power and pricing competitiveness. We are committed to investing in new technology while offering competitive rates, exceptional value and service.”

What will be the operational structure of the Group?

“The day-to-day operations will continue to be managed locally, while the group’s executive team will provide strategic insight to help drive the business forward.”

Why did now feel like a good time to get this off the ground?

“Our long-term vision is to become a leading national coach travel provider known for reliability, affordability and exceptional service. We aspire to be the first choice for passengers seeking convenient and comfortable group travel solutions.”

Whittles is, as it says on the side of YX15 ZSO, part of the Johnsons family of companies. RICHARD SHARMAN

Q&A: Operators

We asked some of the individual operators about their reasoning for joining and what effect the new structure will have:

Why did you decide to join the Group?

“The main reason for merging with other coach travel businesses was to expand our reach and capabilities. By joining forces with like-minded companies, we aim to offer a more extensive network of routes and services across the country, providing enhanced convenience and options for our customers.”

What benefits will it bring to your existing operations?

“The merger presents several key benefits, such as combining resources and expertise, enabling us to improve operational efficiency and service quality. Additionally, as part of a national group, we can negotiate better deals with suppliers and invest in new technologies to enhance the overall customer experience.

“For example, each operator will now have access to each other’s parking and service back-up facilities.”

How will it change your operations (efficiency, practicality, etc)?

“There are no operational changes planned, our local businesses will continue to deliver service to customers. Behind the scenes however we expect to be able to optimise our vehicle usage across our network better, reducing light mileage, empty runs and positioning moves.”

Will there be any effects on staff (changes in personnel, redundancies, change of management structure)?

“We understand that our staff have many questions about the transition, and we are here to support them every step of the way. We have assured them that their job roles, responsibilities, salary, benefits, and terms of employment will stay the same. Our priority is to maintain the stability and continuity that have been the foundation of our success.”