Whittles being wound down

An outline agreement for the sale of the coaching part of the Whittle business could be concluded in the next few days.

It follows the decision by parent EYMS Group to put the Kidderminster-based firm, which runs 35 vehicles with 50 staff, up for sale.

However, with no buyer for the bus part of the operation, all registered services are being cancelled with the required 56 days’ notice, effective on 5 January 2015, with the only purely commercial route (2A/2C) finishing on 15 December.

Parts of this route and most of the others (which are already operated wholly or mainly on contract to Worcestershire County Council) have been put up for re-tender by the Council. One route supported by Shropshire County Council has already transferred to Arriva.

National Express (NX) operations are being found new homes by NX – and are likely to transfer in mid-January with the five coaches required being rented by the new operator in the short term (until they receive new coaches ordered by NX for 2015), or all six if they need a spare for the time being.

Says EYMS Chairman Peter Shipp: “We are still in discussion with a couple of interested parties about the coaching part of the business, hoping to reach outline agreement in the next few days, and if so with completion by mid-January at the latest so as to maintain continuity on the coach side as much as possible.”

All staff have been issued with redundancy notices, with varying end dates depending on individual situations, but have also been told that efforts to sell the coaching business are continuing and if agreed, relevant employees are likely to be given the opportunity to transfer to the new owner, or in the case of NX, to whoever takes over the diagrams.

Inevitably some staff – almost all drivers – have resigned but the firm is keeping operations going with the help of casual staff and other operators, “notably Llew Jones International of Llanwrst, which has been very helpful, supplying coaches and/or drivers to help cover National Express work,” adds Mr Shipp.

Most of the 11 non-NX coaches are likely to form part of the sale if it is agreed, while the more modern (mainly DDA) buses (probably 14) will transfer to EYMS in Hull, where they will replace older buses, and the remaining six sold. Any coaches not part of any deal will also probably transfer to EYMS and replace older ones.