Kidderminster-based Whittle Coach and Bus has been put up for sale by its owners, the family-owned EYMS Group based in Hull, after several years of operating losses.
Whittle employs 50 full-time staff plus a number of part-time and casual employees, and runs 35 coaches and buses.
EYMS Chairman, Peter Shipp, says he is â€œextremely disappointedâ€ at having to take this decision. EYMS bought it from Ron Whittle in 2004 with â€œevery intention of growing and developing it for the long term.â€
Says Mr Shipp: â€œCompetition in the local bus and coach market has eroded Whittle’s financial situation and this has not been helped by factors outside the company’s control â€“ such as the 20% BSOG cut, reductions in concessionary travel reimbursement and cuts to tendered/supported bus routes.â€
It is hoped that a buyer can be found for the business, or at least parts of it. â€œThe absolute priority is to try and save jobs, and efforts to contact possible interested parties have already begun.
â€œHowever, if this does not prove possible, then the Whittles’ operations may have to cease and during the next few weeks Whittles’ staff will be consulted on the possibility of closure.â€
Whittles has an annual turnover of almost 4m, split between local bus services, coach operations, including day trips, private charter and holiday tours, and significant operations on contract to National Express.
Adds Mr Shipp: â€œDespite big efforts over the last few years it has not been possible to reduce the losses and after a great deal of soul searching we have decided that we have no option but to try and sell the business.
â€œWhile it has not worked for us, it could well be that for one or more other operators perhaps based in the area, there could be some synergies that would make the operation worthwhile and we are contacting anyone we think might be interested in buying all or part of the business.
â€œIt is important to stress that neither Whittles nor EYMS Group is in financial difficulties so payments are not at any risk, and Whittles’ coach business will continue as normal at least until the end of the year.
â€œThis is a huge disappointment for me but, of course, it will be an even bigger disappointment for the staff at Whittles and we will be giving them every opportunity to talk to our managers in the next few weeks so that they can discuss the issues which will undoubtedly affect them, and we will offer advice and practical help wherever we can.â€