Avon Buses the largest independently owned bus company in Wirral have ceased trading this morning (5th October 2018), putting around 50 jobs at risk.
Avon Buses was founded in August 1981 as Avon Minis, by present proprietor Larry Smith. By 1995, Avon Coaches, as it was called at that time had six buses and ran mostly school contracts plus one local route. The newest buses were two former London Leyland Titans.
At the time of writing, the Avon Buses fleet consisted primarily of Dennis Dart SLF and Alexander Dennis Enviro 200 Darts chassis with Caetano Nimbus, MCV Evolution and Plaxton Pointer2 bodywork. September 2017 saw 2 former First Essex and Great Yarmouth ALX400 buses joined the fleet doing most School runs and some bus routes usually Monday to Friday.
In 2017, Avon expanded its operations in the Liverpool area but in June a driver and vehicle shortage led to many service cancellations and the company at late June 2017 was in a state of crisis with most Merseytravel tendered and commercial services not operating.
However the crisis appeared to have been resolved by the end of June 2017, with most of all scheduled services running, but during July services were regularly cancelled again.
Sadly staff arriving at Avon Buses’ Prenton depot today were told the firm had ceased trading with immediate effect and that they were being made redundant.
In a statement, Avon Buses said: “It is with great regret that we have to inform you that after 35 years serving the local community, Avon Buses will cease operations on Friday, October 5, 2018.
“It has been the case for some time, that the cost of running services has been far in excess of the revenues that we receive and while every effort has been made to cut costs and improve ticket sales it has become obvious that the situation is unsustainable.
“We have been subject to significant increase in fuel costs that show no prospect of reducing and a very large increase in insurance premiums caused by the ‘claims culture’ that currently exists nationally.
“On their own, these factors would be difficult to manage but the main problem with revenue has been the introduction by Merseytravel of a product called MyTicket.
“This was introduced in September 2014 as an affordable day ticket for young people up to the age of 16 years.
“Again, this was done without any consultation with this company. There is still no need to show proof of age, and we continue to believe that this ticket is open to serious abuse.
“Prior to the introduction of MyTicket, 80% of all cash ticket sales were to adults. The remaining 20% were for young people.
“In the year 2017 to 2018 adult ticket sales had reduced to 37% with young people’s tickets at 9%. The remaining 54% of tickets were MyTickets.
“As MyTicket is essentially a discounted half fare, a substantial part of our revenue from adult tickets has been halved and this has had a massive negative effect on our revenues. As our passenger numbers fall well short of those experience by the larger bus companies we have been unable to absorb these losses.
“It is disappointing to note that the Metro Mayor has announced his intention to introduce discounted ‘Apprentice Tickets’ up to the age of 24 years without first consulting independent bus companies.
“As we understand it, there is an expectation that the bus operator will pick up the cost of subsiding this ticket.
“We have advised Merseytravel on numerous occasions that this is not a sustainable situation and their response has been unsympathetic.
“They suggest that the increase in MyTicket sales shows a growth in young people travelling by bus.
“The reality is that the increase is merely abstracting from the number of adult passengers using the bus.
“To ensure that we continue to accept this ticket Merseytravel have included MyTicket into the pre-paid ticket scheme. This means that to refuse to accept MyTicket would mean that we would have to withdraw from the scheme entirely. We could not accept Solo, Trio or Saveaway products.
“It would be impossible to operate in these circumstances.
“We would also like to apologise to our loyal passengers, many of whom will be adversely affected by this closure.”
Speaking with a driver of the company who wishes not to be named, they said, “We arrived at the locked gates of the company this morning to be handed letters at the gate. I’m shell-shocked.”
Due to operational difficulties Avon are not operating services at this time, we’re awaiting further updates from the operator. If possible please seek an alternative route.
— Merseytravel (@Merseytravel) October 5, 2018
This morning a Merseytravel spokesperson said: “We have received notification from the operator, Avon Bus Ltd, that they have made a commercial decision to cease operating.
“We acknowledge the inconvenience this decision by Avon Bus Ltd will cause customers and are advising them to make alternative travel arrangements whilst we focus on assessing current service provision.
“Customers are advised to look for alternative bus services by checking the Merseytravel and other bus operator’s websites plus they can also use the Merseytravel Journey Planner. We can confirm Arriva are presently providing some support in covering some of Avon’s services.”
#Chester #WestKirby #Moreton Following the sudden collapse of #AvonBuses we are pleased to confirm that we will be operating service 22 from Monday 8th October on the same timetable @Merseytravel @wuthnhs https://t.co/ShCd9X3qag
— Stagecoach MCSL (@StagecoachMCSL) October 5, 2018
Arriva North West is offering limited cover for Avon Buses’ routes 10A between New Brighton and Arrowe Park Hospital, 18 between Moreton and Birkenhead Bus Station, 122 between Crosby and Fazakerley and 83A between West Kirby and Birkenhead Bus Station.
Arriva are currently covering a limited service on #Avon bus routes 10A, 83A and 122 in Merseyside.
— Arriva North West (@arrivanorthwest) October 5, 2018
We advise any customers of Avon Buses to keep an eye on the Merseytravel website for further details.