REL targets coach growth after PI finding set aside

REL chief Andy Scott underlines plans for coach industry growth

REL Capital founder and Director Andy Scott (pictured) has underlined his plans to grow its coach industry presence after succeeding in having set aside by the Upper Tribunal as materially unfair an adverse Public Inquiry (PI) finding.

That PI concerned an O-Licence application for an associated haulage business. The matter will be reconsidered at a second PI, but Mr Scott hopes that setting aside of the original decision will allow momentum to be regained for REL’s expansion in the coach industry, where it already owns three businesses in the London area. 

Sitting in the East of England traffic area on 10 December 2021, Traffic Commissioner (TC) Nick Denton refused an application by REL Haulage Ltd for an LGV O-Licence authorising 50 vehicles and 50 trailers on the grounds that it lacked the necessary good repute. 

The application had been called to PI because of what Mr Denton in his written decision said were fears that it “might have been a device to sidestep liability for debts” incurred by existing businesses, and because of concerns over other failed companies. 

In setting aside refusal of the application, the Upper Tribunal acknowledged questions around the adequacy of information presented in the call-up letter. Highlighted by REL Haulage’s legal representative to the Upper Tribunal was a claimed negative general view of the REL business model by the TC. 

REL’s appeal against was submitted on multiple grounds, including that it “unfairly damaged the reputation of the appellants, the group of companies of which the appellants are part, and the individuals within that group.” 

The Upper Tribunal found that remarks made by the TC at the original PI “suggested a degree of pre-judgement based upon personal distaste for a particular business model,” but it adds that “there was nothing illegal or immoral about the relevant business practices.” 

In evidence put before the Upper Tribunal, Mr Scott said that REL’s approach “is one followed by many investors” and that it is “both lawful and beneficial to those businesses which can be saved.” 

He also raised work done by REL on the three London coach operators, Davian Coaches, John James Luxury Travel and Redwing Coaches. They were purchased by investment vehicle REL Investment Management in a distressed state. Mr Scott has never shied from his business model, which is to purchase struggling companies and turn them around. 

In August he told routeone that the three operators had returned to profit. Since publication of the Upper Tribunal’s ruling on 25 November, Mr Scott has added that the PI finding hindered REL’s bid to purchase further businesses. He says that REL remains “actively looking to buy other coach companies” 

Mr Scott is now seeking “substantial costs” from the government in relation to the original decision. He says that it affected “everything from banks, suppliers, and partners not wanting to work with us on new deals.” 

“I am proud to invest in some of the management teams of leading transport companies that we have helped to turn around, including three of London’s leading coach operators, and will continue to do so.”