In his latest interview, Peter Bradley converses with Amy Baker-McCormack of Leoline Travel
Leoline Travel is based in Hampton, West London where I was born and raised. I was even able to recall where the old Neales/Capital Coaches depot was located in The Avenue (part of it still exists today as a sports centre).
Leoline Travel was formed in 1985 by Dave Baker and his wife Melanie with two minibuses based in Chiswick. The company developed, moving to Hampton 10 years later and it now has seven vehicles. Dave ran the company, and did all his own maintenance, ensuring that the coaches were kept to a very high standard. Melanie looked after the accounts and wages. Their daughter Amy joined the company in 2015 initially looking after job allocations, but quickly picked up all there was to know about running a coach company.
Tragically, Dave died in 2018, but Amy and her mum took the decision to run Leoline Travel themselves. As part of the transition, it became a limited company just 18 months before the pandemic hit in 2020. “In hindsight, that was probably one of the best decisions we made,” says Amy. “The furlough scheme protected our company during the worst of it, and now we are slowly picking up again.”
Most of the business is related to schools – not just home-to-school contracts, but also transporting students for sporting events and other activities. It is this aspect of the business that has been slow to recover, as interschool games have been off the agenda even with schools themselves reopening. “The flexibility of the furlough scheme has been very helpful to us as drivers have been able to work part time and yet maintain a greater proportion of their regular earnings,” says Amy. “We reopened the company in March, but we think it will be a quiet summer before hopefully some sense of normality returns in September.”
Amy is however very realistic in understanding that it is not all over yet and there may be a few more hiccoughs before recovery is finally underway.
Other work includes private hire, including evening and daytime events such as weddings, and horse racing events at Ascot and Goodwood, among others. “Generally, this sort of work fits around our other commitments and means that, overall, we have good utilisation of our coach fleet,” Amy comments, “but we tend not to get involved with such activities as rail replacement.”
Another challenge for Leoline Travel has been London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ). Being based in London there was little option but to ensure the fleet met Euro VI standards. “We decided to renew our fleet rather than rely on retrofitting,” muses Amy, “but that has brought us other benefits too. Since dad died, we have others in to maintain the fleet and it means we can try and keep to the high standards that he was always proud of.”
I ask Amy about the advantages of belonging to a trade body such as UKCOA. “For me, it was ensuring that we kept in the loop,” she says. “It was Judy Dale [of Royale European] that suggested that we re-join.
“My dad was a member of the London Tourist Coach Operators Association many years ago and it feels good to be among a group of like-minded operators.
“For me the coach industry is one big family, but it is important that we keep up to date with developments and changes. Being part of a trade body, you don’t need to worry about missing something.”