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routeone Issue 702 - 9 August 2017

Horseman Coaches E On top of coordinating contracts such as this and driving, Keith worked tirelessly to grow the business. “He did that year on year on year. Not many people could pull that off, but he did. That momentum carried us into the next three decades.” In more recent years, the business faced one of its hardest challenges – a Compulsory Purchase Order for their previous premises, which forced it to up and move its fleet (then at around 50 vehicles) while keeping it on the road and fully operational. “We tried to fight the order, and my dad took it to a Public Inquiry,” says James. “We fought our case as hard as we could for as long as we could but unfortunately we lost.” Finding a space big enough to house such a fleet was no small task. When they found their current depot it was in a state of disarray after being empty for four years, and the challenge to create a fit-forpurpose depot within a limited time frame began. Says James: “We had to create the office and get wired up for power and internet, and we had to create a warehouse that was fit and safe for a coach depot. “It’s 24/7, 365 days a year – we don’t stop. It was a work in progress, but we did it. “It was quite a seamless move, and our customers weren’t aware of it. We had a great team who got our servers up and running very quickly.” Spotting opportunity Just as one would imagine, there have been learning curves along the path to the 40-year milestone. In the mid-‘90s, Horseman Coaches opened a separate division – Horseman Travel – selling holiday packages and concert tickets. The division did well, and thousands of tickets for concerts and tours were sold. And then came the budget airlines, promising cheap flights to destinations further afield, and a decision had to be made about the future of Horseman Travel. “Towards the late ‘90s, the no-frills airlines came in, and families were realising that for the same money they could fly to Spain, rather than getting on a coach and going down to the West Country,” says James. “The bottom fell out of the excursion and UK holiday market, and my dad saw that about 18 months before it happened and geared up to pull out.” School of thought Then came the search for another market. Identifying home-to-school contracts as solid work, it was 2002 when the business became heavily involved in the schools market, selling passes to parents of private schoolchildren, and absolving the schools of the burden of coach transport. Says James: “There was a need for kids to get to school – and that will never end. The beauty of it is that it’s at peak times – you take them in the morning and take them home in the afternoon. There’s deadtime for the vehicle in-between – but is it a problem or an opportunity? It’s an opportunity. “You go out and discount hires that fit around your network. It doesn’t mean that we can only operate hires between 0900- 1500hrs, because we have a big fleet and A LEFT: Coaches are parked in a particular way at the depot, giving the greatest mobility possible for any coach to leave at any time ABOVE: Keith and James Horseman 9 AUGUST 2017 ROUTE…ONE.NET / 29


routeone Issue 702 - 9 August 2017
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