It’s a new era for the family business as 16-year-old Louis Goodwin prepares to take the helm from dad Wes in just five years’ time. After all, he’s been learning the ropes since he was 12
Eccles-based operator Go Goodwins has made its stamp on the Manchester and Bolton transport scene over the last 40 years.
And its youngest family member Louis Alan Goodwin is preparing to take on the legacy, learning the business inside out, during school holidays, and now as an apprentice in the workshop.
In 1976 Alan Edward Goodwin started working with his granddad at York Motors in Chorlton-cum-Hardy as a mechanic. A year later he started Goodwins Coaches from his home in Benchill, Wythenshawe.
Within a year his son Geoffrey Alan joined the business, aged 19 and by 1980 the company was developing further and needing new premises.
In 1983 the operation was moved to Stockport and got a new garage and workshop.
Alan’s grandson Wesley (Wes) says: “Grandad was always buying and selling and had between five and ten coaches at any given time.
“It was anything and everything. We had a lot of AEC’s and Plaxton Elites – all 53-seaters.
“It was all used vehicles until 1989 when he bought a new Volvo B10M Jonckheere.”
As the operation grew it started picking up new contracts along the way. One of which was Altrincham Aces Ice Hockey which turned to Trafford Metros. By 1985 the firm had built up a solid reputation and began to earn high profile contracts, one of which was Manchester United Football Club.
In 1994 it bought Erics Way Coaches and moved to larger premises in Salford. Just after that Geoffrey’s 18-year-old son Wes joined the company.
Times weren’t always easy. In 1995 the whole fleet was destroyed in a fire on the eve of Bonfire Night.
However, the family was determined to continue the Goodwins name despite having to start from scratch again. With the strong connections they had built over the years and the trusted client base the firm was soon back on track.
Over the next few years the coaches became more and more bespoke for higher end use. The company began renting its luxury coaches to some of the biggest artists in the world at the time including Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears.
Goodwins also obtained the official coach contract for the England Cricket Board (ECB)
Bus services started
In 2006 the operator started doing service work for Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), then known as GMPTE.
The firm was working routes based around Altrincham and Sale.
“We had been doing school routes with coaches,” says Wes. “And just took the plunge and bought the buses.
“2010 was a big year – we got awarded about £2m of bus routes a year and had around 40 vehicles.
“We took the way the coach industry was run and put it into buses. So the drivers went out uniformed and smart; they would get off the bus and help an elderly person if they were struggling; we kept the buses immaculate.
“It paid off and went really well.”
Things changed in 2017.
“TfGM started talking about bus reforms,” says Wes. “Lots of things were being thrown at us, franchising was being talked about – they were trying to make Manchester like London.
“So that made me nervous. I wasn’t sure what would happen to a small operator like us.
“Dad was nearly 60 so we decided to sell the buses.
“We sold 19 vehicles to Rotala and kept the coaches and the buses we used for the schools and school contracts.”
The legal entity – Go Goodwins – wasn’t bought leaving the firm with its
name and its solid reputation
Louis makes his mark
Too young to drive yet, but already forging his way ahead, teenager Louis has passed his International Transport Manager CPC.
He says: “As long as I can remember I’ve always liked coming here.
“Its something I liked to do in the school holidays. Come to the yard and help wash buses.
“As I got older I did more in the office, spreadsheets for my dad to help him see cash flow in a clearer way.
“I went out with the ice hockey team and to coach rallies.”
Wes adds: “Although my wife Sally does the accounts, with Sage, little brainbox Louis does the accounts on spreadsheets so I can understand it in simple terms.”
Louis is doing an apprenticeship as a mechanic, but Wes says he can’t keep him out of the office.
He says: “He’s so clever and so much more useful to me in the office. Since he was 12 years old he’s done all the registration documents, filled in forms and put the plates on the buses.”
Louis’ ambition is to run the business when his dad retires. “When I’m 18 I can get my licence,” he says. “Do a bit of driving too but hopefully run things on the office side.”
Wes adds: “Although Louis is doing a mechanic’s apprenticeship, I feel the way vehicles are moving so fast mechanics as we know them are going to be a thing of the past.
“But it’s always good to have a good knowledge.”
Louis has his own coach – a white 1984 Jonckheere DAF.
He says: “We are going to have it how we used to have ours back in that time.
“We used to have a similar one painted in cream with Go Goodwins airbrushed down the side and I want to get it back to how that was.
Back to buses
Three years on the operation has started running buses again. Wes says: “I had to sign an agreement that I wouldn’t operate buses for two years. As soon as that was lifted, I got back on it with six bus routes.”
The firm has one route in Bolton with three buses, three buses on one route in South Manchester and one bus in Bury. The buses are branded Little Gem.
Go Goodwins also operates Manchester Bee Coach Hire which was formed early in 2018. It came to the public attention when together with Go Goodwins and Flamingo Land, provided a free day out for all involved in the Manchester Arena terror attack and then other residents of Manchester.
Louis says: “We feel the Bee’s show respect to those involved as well as unity around Manchester.”
The firm has ordered two new coaches from Van Hool which has been built to its specification.
Wes and Louis visited the factory in Belgium and worked with designers to plan a bespoke coach.
Wes says: “We had a team coach, a 50-seater coach for school trips and a wheelchair accessible coach. But all of them were sitting in the yard when they weren’t being used.
“So we’ve taken a bit of a gamble and put all three into one design so they can be interchanged.”
The new coaches are EX-17HS with 63 seats and PSVAR compliance.
They can accommodate up to 7 wheelchairs or can be 45-seat coaches with tables.
Wes says: “These coaches, with a little bit of changing round, can do anything.
“It saves the team bus being sat there from Monday to Friday because it only goes out at weekends and a school bus sat there that doesn’t go out when the schools are off.
“It’s like a new era – me and Louis buying new coaches to make a bit of a statement – trying to change how we’ve done things for all these years, to streamline it really.”
Wes is looking to retire in five years time and says that by the age of 21 Louis will be ready to take the helm.
But for now the two of them are working together as a team and using their strong family values and solidarity to work through tough times – just as the family has for decades.