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November 21 2018
By James Rudman

RGI looks to new growth horizons

The Warwickshire-based coach and bus refurbishment company is seeking bigger premises as part of growth plans

It was advice from two friends in London involved in buying and selling second-hand buses that led former police officer Ross Cleaver to start RGI Bus & Coach Refurbishment.

Ross Cleaver, Managing Director of RGI Bus & Coach Refurbishment

“They always said that refurbishment is the way forward. I took it on board, did some research and having done engineering when I left school, I thought: ‘I am going to get back into it’,” he recalls.

More than two-and-a-half years after starting the company following his retirement from the West Midlands Police after 20 years’ service, the 43-year-old is considering expansion from his original 5,000 sq.ft. site on an industrial estate at Southam, which can house up to three vehicles.

“We have outgrown it very quickly,” says Ross, RGI’s Managing Director who currently has a five-strong team undertaking refurbishment work.

“Ultimately, the aim is for sometime in 2019 to probably still keep this unit but have a far bigger one, probably in Coventry, fairly near to the M6, with a paint facility to allow painting on site.”

Vehicles are currently painted at a small, Birmingham-based paint refinishing company, where Ross is a partner.

Business growth

The search for bigger premises that will trigger additional recruitment, follows increasing business and turnover for RGI, which also sells second-hand coaches and buses including fleet disposals.

“Our turnover has tripled in a year. So it is going quite well and is running at a profit.”

Refurbishing coaches and buses is RGI’s ‘bread and butter’ and currently accounts for 60 per cent of its business, with the rest comprising vehicle and part sales. The company has refurbished 28 buses and coaches so far this year, and Ross wants to at least double that in 2019.


It is a good time to be involved in coach and bus refurbishment, he believes.

“A lot of operators are looking to refurb rather than buy new. With Brexit and various cities looking at low emission zones and various other things, there is still a lot of uncertainty around. So people are keeping hold of their older stock vehicles, and there are lots of options now in relation to Euro 6 upgrades.”

Ross says quality is the “overriding factor” for the firm.

“All the staff here know that we have to have an eye for detail, which is what customers expect.”

An engineering apprentice for two years from a 16-year-old before going on to serve with West Midlands Police, Ross undertakes “a little bit” of refurb work. But he says RGI’s staff – including a second-year coachmaker doing his apprenticeship with the firm - are a “really good bunch” and wants them to feel they are valued and cites training as a “big thing” for him.


A link with Abellio last year got RGI “established quite nicely” with a successful tender for refurbishing some Enviro 200s.

“We did a good job on those and they were really, really happy with the quality of the work. So the relationship started building with Abellio,” says Ross. This includes marketing and selling some of Abellio’s fleet disposals.

RGI’s clients include quite a few small independent operators. Local customers include Travel de Courcey. RGI has also undertaken some preservation projects on old buses for clients.

Bus being refurbished at RGI’s Southam base

“We tend not to touch anything mechanical, if we can help it,” says Ross. “We use Alliance Transport Technologies who come in to do mechanical work.”

His company will look at different types of work with refurbishment projects including converting double door vehicles into single ones, increasing seat numbers, reflooring, repairing accident damage and even turning a bus into a bar. It fits various makes of destination blinds, including Hanover and McKenna Brothers, and has a stock that it refurbishes for reuse in projects and selling to various operators.

“The work going on at our site is ultimately bodywork really and coach building. We have got a lot of equipment; a lot of it is old fashioned as such, but we need to make panels how they should be. So that is why we have a guillotine and an old-fashioned folder from the 1950s. But it works and saves us a lot of money buying panels.”

New technologies and suppliers

“We are always looking for new technologies to explore,” says Ross.

This includes LG Hausys’ ‘Architectural Interior film for the transport industry’, which is being marketed in the UK by Paul Leigh, of Inspiring Solutions. Ross describes it as a vinyl wrap for interiors that is being used on buses. He says it isn’t cheap, but he is pleased with the results as using the product saves time and is a “great option” for his firm.

RGI tends to use quality flooring from G-Floor and Altro.

Other suppliers include A and J Innovations, which RGI has used from the start to provide trimming work, foams and moquette.

“They have been very reliable, the price is right and they deliver on time, which is critical for us,” says Ross, highlighting the time sensitive nature of vehicle refurbishment.

“A lot of bus companies have cut down on the number of spare vehicles that they have. So, it really is critical that we get them back on time in the right condition and ready to go.”

Has the move into coach and bus refurbishment proved a good one?

“It definitely was a good choice.”


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