Spratts to close end of December
After almost 80 years in business, Spratts Coaches of Wreningham, Norfolk, is set to close at the end of December.
Its owner, Christine Bilham, explained why: “Retirement; as simple as that. The children just don’t want to take it on.”
She plans to sell the operation’s fleet of 11 coaches. “We’ve had several people show interest. We keep them to a high standard and we have always been ‘green’ with VOSA’s OCRS.”
“Included in the fleet we have a coach, which can carry disabled passenger.” (The company was the first privately owned company in Norfolk to adapt a coach to carry disabled passengers.)
All of its drivers have got jobs elsewhere. “I made some enquiries for them and some of them made their own. They weren’t surprised to hear we were closing. What finally pushed it was the ULEZ and things like that. New coaches are just out of our reach. We can’t generate the money to buy new. We have money in the bank though; we are not bankrupt. We wanted to finish while our heads are still held high.”
Three companies that Christine has been in contact with have agreed to take on the work Spratts committed to next year. She said: “All of our customers have been catered for.”
As for the depot, the plan is for it to be redeveloped. Christine is an owner of all the land the site is on.
Reflecting on the situation, Christine said: “It’s sad, but I’m looking forward to retirement. My brother and I have both done over 42 years each. I think it’s time we deserved a rest. All our staff are over 60; we just felt they had all had enough. There’s no new blood coming into the industry. They don’t want to know.”
Spratts Coaches was started in the early 1950s by the late Colin Spratt. He began as a taxi service, delivering groceries from his parents village store and transporting children and their lunches to local schools. To meet demand, he bought his first coach. He was one of the first in Norfolk to take a coach abroad, providing tours throughout Europe in the 1950s.
The business grew rapidly and even operated 30 vehicles at one stage. In the 1980s, Spratts was the first privately owned company in Norfolk to adapt a coach to carry disabled passengers.
Colin died in September 2002. His children, Christine and Richard Spratt, took over the running of the company.
Spratts is one of a number of operators in the Norfolk area to close this year. Richard’s Coaches ceased operating in November and Reynold’s Coaches ended its operation in the summer.