Managing Director vows to help drivers get supermarket delivery jobs and offers to provide references
Well-known Halifax, Calderdale bus operator TJ Walsh has sadly fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic, its Managing Director Neil Walsh announcing last week that the business would be closing down – leaving 30 drivers without a job.
The company was established in 1983 by bus enthusiast Trevor Walsh, and started running local services in 1994. Following deregulation, the company was one of the first independent operators to apply to run a bus service.
At its peak, the firm transported 1.25m customers a year on a fleet of 30 vehicles.
In a letter to staff, Neil wrote: “The over-bussing and discounting of fares on routes we operate by FirstGroup and the cutbacks from government for bus services – we only get 79p per pensioner carried for any distance – has for the last few years meant that the company has only just been trading and keeping employees in work, but has been unable to build up cash reserves to help in times of crisis.
“Unfortunately one microscopic virus has now moved the company into a situation that makes it impossible to continue running bus services and our contract services.
“We were the first to introduce strict measures to ensure the spread of the virus didn’t affect the workplace but the situation now is that they will not be enough and I cannot ask you to continue putting yourselves in danger.
“We have an ageing workforce, many with underlying health issues that will threaten your lives; if we were to continue, it would probably be a case of when not if you catch COVID-19.
“There is an irony that we had just applied for and been told we were successful in a bid to run three additional tendered services for Metro subject to the WCA’s approval and that would have helped to increase our cash reserves. Obviously these are not being awarded now in this time of crisis.
He added that the company’s lack of cash reserves meant that furloughing staff and temporarily closing the business was not an option: “This at first seemed like a possibility, but with little or no cash reserves, by the time the government support is granted we will have had to pay weeks of wages until it is reclaimed.
“Our passenger numbers have fallen off a cliff edge and the government, understandably, is telling people to avoid public transport if at all possible.
“The desperately needed cash we rely on has almost disappeared. We still have many overheads to pay, despite the help offered, some of which are just loans to be repaid, not grants, including a substantial insurance bill.
“Probably the most damaging part of this option is that we will lose our tendered and contract services and their revenue income and we will run out of money in a short time leaving wages unpaid, even before the grant may be available.
“This effectively means there weren’t really any choices or options available. It breaks my heart but I have yesterday sent a form that will start the process of putting the company into administration for insolvency.”
He concluded: “This is for me personally a very sad day, a lot of us have been on a journey working together against the might of First Group.
“This has been a difficult industry to be in, and it has been very challenging to continue at times, but one of the reasons I continued was the fact my staff all came to work and I believe, helped us provide a bus service that many, many people stop me in the street to tell me how I should be proud of our company.
“I would like to thank them all for the time they have worked for the company, some of them for many years, for the efforts they have made and the hard work and dedication they have given.
“I was, and am, proud of what we achieved and sorry it has to end like this, but we won’t be on our own.
“I wish them all the luck for the future, and once again thank you.”