I first spoke to Snake Ambrose of The Bridgnorth Bus and Coach Company in the aftermath of Storm Eunice, when I heard that the town of Bridgnorth may have been under threat from flooding from the River Severn. However, I learned from that call that his business is in Highley, to the south of Bridgnorth and out of the Severn Valley.
The Bridgnorth Bus and Coach Company was set up in 2019, when Snake and his wife Mallory Humphries decided to move away from London and start afresh. Before that, he had briefly worked for Transport for London as a Bus Station Controller and a Network Traffic Controller, before a sixteen-year spell at Gatwick Coaches.
Snake started Bridgnorth with two- 16-seat vehicles on a contract for City of Wolverhampton Council. Although that has now finished, he found other school work with Worcestershire County Council and now operates six routes on its behalf, together with some work for Shropshire Council.
This is all pretty amazing, given that a few months into setting up the company the pandemic hit, which sadly saw the end of many well-established and well-known coach operators. However, Snake – with sheer determination and grit – continued to build Bridgnorth, with the underlying principle that all those involved in the company are treated as team members.
I asked Snake what he saw as his greatest challenge. “Financing,” he says straightaway. “We are a fledgling company and we don’t own our premises. Trying to upgrade a fleet to meet PSVAR, for example, is very challenging. I wish there was a better way to treat smaller entrepreneurial companies such as ours.”
However, clearly Snake has overcome some these challenges, as out of his nine vehicles only two do not comply with the Regulations, although some do have 22 seats or less.
We spoke some more about PSVAR and vehicle conversions. “The problem is that installing equipment in vehicles that were not originally designed for it can create all sorts of unintended consequences,” he reflects.
“For example, an older vehicle having a lift installed means that wiring that has been untouched for years suddenly gets disturbed. Then when the coach is out on the road a few months later, it fails. The problem is not the lift itself, but some of the electronics that were impacted when the lift was being fitted. It is much better to buy a purpose-build vehicle if you are able to.”
We turned to opportunities, and Snake immediately spoke positively about his staff. “They are your greatest asset,” he says. “We not only need to treat them as human beings, but we need to treat them as though they are part of a team. That is what we do here at Bridgnorth.
“There is such a trust between them now that they will, for example, sort out cover if a problem arises and ensure that no passenger is left stranded at the roadside without disturbing me. They then let me know that they did this and that, and all was resolved. It is brilliant.”
Snake is clearly proud of what he has achieved, and so, it appears, are his family. He wants to see the company grow and develop and be something that in the future his grandchildren can take a pride in.
He is also very positive about the role of trade bodies. “We joined UKCOA to benefit from the back-up that it provides, just in case anything goes awry. It is also good that UKCOA listens to members and takes up some of the ideas that we have.”