Johnsons Coach & Bus Travel of Henley-in-Arden has agreed to acquire the Whittle’s coaching division from Hull based EYMS Group. The sale is scheduled to be completed by around 10 January 2015 after EYMS took the decision to sell or close the Kidderminster based Whittle Coach & Bus Ltd subsidiary in October. The agreement secures the employment of relevant office, maintenance and driving employees related to the coach side of the business. Johnsons will continue to operate the coach operations from the Kidderminster site at Foley Park, which is leased from Ron Whittle. Peter Shipp, owner of EYMS Group, said he was delighted to have completed the sale speedily to protect the current loyal and committed workforce, and that the Whittles name is to continue.
EYMS has confirmed that all Whittles’ local bus registrations have been cancelled with the required 56 days’ notice, effective on 5 January 2015. The operation’s only purely commercial route (2A/2C) was withdrawn on 15 December. Parts of this route and most of the others, which were already operated wholly or mainly under contact to Worcestershire and Shropshire County Councils, have now been put out for re-tender by the Councils for operation by other companies from 5 January. The 101 Bridgnorth Town Service supported by Shropshire Council has already been transferred to Arriva and the 125 Bridgnorth to Stourbridge service has also been put out to tender by Shropshire Council. It was announced earlier this month that the Whittles operation was to be wound down, with all staff given redundancy pay (see B&CB 1305 5 December 2014). It was also made known that the company’s workers would likely be given the opportunity to transfer to the new owner.
It is understood that Whittle’s National Express operations will continue and will be transferred to one of National Express’s subsidiary companies on 11 January. All staff engaged in this work at Whittles have been given the opportunity to transfer and the coaches were being loaned on a temporary basis.
General Manager of Whittles, David Shipp, said, ‘Whilst I am very disappointed that our trading position has left Whittles in a situation where we are unable to continue operating in the area I am pleased that both Worcestershire and Shropshire Councils, both of whom have been very supportive, are able to ensure that all local bus links are maintained, albeit at reduced frequencies on certain routes, enabling members of the public to have the confidence that their bus services will remain. As to our coaching operations I am extremely pleased that a sale to Johnsons has been achieved within the last few days thus securing employment for as many of our staff as possible with a company which continues to provide a strong “family” ethos which both Whittles and EYMS share. Regrettably there will be some members of staff who work in other parts of the business who will be made redundant and they have been notified of redundancy dates varying over the next few weeks.’
Commercial Director of Johnsons Coach Travel, John Johnson, said, ‘We are pleased to see the joining of two well known, long established coach travel families and look to welcoming the Whittles team and their customers to the Johnsons brand. We look forward to continuing the Whittles brand for coach hire, holidays and day excursions.’