Skinners call it a day

Surrey operator to cease running on 31 December 

Skinners of Oxted is to cease operating on 31 December 2019 as its owners retire.

The husband and wife team of Deborah and Stephen Skinner are to retire at the end of the year. On why the pair have taken that decision, Stephen said: “It’s been fuelled by a number of different things, one of which is we are not enjoying it as much as we used to. And the opportunity for us to do it came up. We are also a bit older and more tired than we were. It’s legislation driven too, what with PSVAR regulations coupled with the ULEZ. It would mean we would have to majorly commit for the next several years.”

Skinners’ seven employees are to be made redundant. Stephen said: “They took the news well and understood. The area is desperately short of drivers. Several of ours have already got offers of new employment.”

Skinners 12-strong fleet is set to be disposed of. Of how these will be sold Stephen admits he has not given it a great deal of thought. But they will be used right up until January.

The company has two operating centres, one of which has gained interest from potential buyers and the business is in discussions with a number of interested parties. The other site Stephen believes will likely be redeveloped into residential property. Its main site is in Oxted, from which it has a licence to run up to 16 vehicles. Its other facility is in nearby Brasted, Kent, where it can operate up to eight vehicles.

The Surrey operation is based approximately four miles outside the current LEZ.

Skinners was started in 1967 by Stephen’s family, who originally had its roots in farming. It took on two coaches in the early days, along with a timber and hardware sales business and a blacksmith and wheelwright business. The latter operations were given up and, as deregulation came into effect, the company focused on its coach side and started running its own tours and day trips. One development in recent years was the fitment of emission abatement equipment. “But now we have decided it’s time,” said Stephen.

As his business closes, he will be handing his notice in as a Director at the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT). He said: “I’ve had to hand my resignation in. We have had a good association with CPT. We have always welcomed their help. We get out what we put in with them.”

The company has passed the contact details of Roadmark Travel in Storrington and Gardiners NMC in Epsom to its passengers to ensure they have a coach tours provider.

After over 50 years of running the business, how does it feel to be facing closing the doors of the operation for the last time? Stephen said: “We have two daughters, neither of whom are interested in operating. It’s always been a family business. It’s sad, but that’s the way life is going. They weren’t willing to get involved. So the family connection with coach operating is destined to cease. I don’t have a problem with that; they are doing their own thing in life. Everything has its season. What I won’t miss is those late-night phone calls!”

With the extra time his retirement will afford him, Stephen is planning to do some work on his house. He is also a gliding instructor, so will be lavishing more time on that. Deborah will have more time for her rambling pursuit.

“We have enjoyed operating the business,” Stephen said. “But I think we’ll enjoy not being a part of it too. We wish everyone all the best.”

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