In the latest UKCOA member interview, Peter Bradley converses with Roger Mott of Motts Travel of Aylesbury
Buckinghamshire is a county of contrasts. In the south stands the Chilterns with its natural beauty but also the commuter towns of High Wycombe, Amersham and Chesham; in the north east, Milton Keynes and Newport Pagnell (perhaps best known as a service station on the M1, although it has so much more to offer). However, in the centre lies the county town of Aylesbury where can be found Motts Travel, run by Roger Mott.
Roger’s father, John, first started operating coaches in the early 1950s under the name of Oxford Road Motor Services, based in Upton. That operation drew to a close a few years later, but clearly coaching had got under his skin and he purchased another coach in 1963, again running it from Upton. This developed into Motts Coaches. Roger joined the business in 1973 after a spell in the merchant navy and his brother Chris followed soon after having completed an engineering apprenticeship.
School work and private hire was the mainstay of the business in the 1970s, mostly using Fords, although from 1978 it moved to buying newer Bedford coaches. It also started to get involved with tour and holiday business at that time, as well as transporting pop groups, including Mott the Hoople and Paul Young.
Growing business Over the years, the business has evolved and expanded with probably the most significant development being the purchase of Crusader Holidays in 2011 after it went into administration. This doubled the size of Motts with an increase in its O-Licence to 70 vehicles, although today the company has around 60. Now (the pandemic excepted of course) holidays and touring work amounts for about 50% of its business. In 2005, Motts moved to its current depot in Stocklake, close to the Grand Union Canal.
Turning to the main challenges being faced by the company today, Roger explains that these are very similar to those faced by most other coach operators: “PSVAR,” he exclaims. “With our core work being tour and holiday related I didn’t think too much about PSVAR until recently. However, I realise, probably too late, that we have left ourselves behind a bit compared to others. We will have to think through our purchasing strategy, although that is not going to be easy, given our income over the past 14 months.”
Euro VI is also a concern: “Just under half of our fleet meets the new requirements of the London Low Emission Zone, which is only 20 miles away from Aylesbury,” muses Roger. “However, trying to sell vehicles which don’t meet the standard for a good price is almost impossible at this time. And then we have to ask ourselves: ‘What is coming next?’ Parts of London are already talking about zero emission zones, but the technology for coaches is in its infancy and certainly not tried and tested. How do we move forward?”
Roger is also concerned about the future of school work: “We offer a fair price for home-to-school transport runs, and yet there are plenty of other companies which appear to be able to do it for a lot less than us. It worries me that the school business might become unsustainable for many of us in the years ahead.”
One common theme that has emerged since starting these interviews last year has been the practical issue of deploying a wheelchair lift on home-to-school transport routes:
“On those routes we do operate, there are probably only half a dozen stops where we could deploy the lift successfully,” says Roger. “So, what do we do if we were greeted with someone in a wheelchair at a location where it was impossible to use the lift? Whose responsibility is that?”
These are all very good questions coming from someone who is passionate about his vocation and delights in giving great customer service to his customers. Clearly, however, he – along with most coach operators up and down the country – is facing very similar challenges.