16 February 2008

First surprise?

TT04TRU TT05TRU TT55TRU Truronian Coaches.


There have been rumours for ages that Truronian were looking to sell up. Veolia were known to be interested and for a while it seemed that an expanding Stagecoach would almost certainly take control. Then a few weeks ago Omnibus blog reported an upsurge in searches for "First buy Truronian" - this is often a sign that things may becoming more than just rumour.

Then it happened! On the 12th February Truronian released a statement:

One of Cornwall's most successful public transport operators over the past two decades is set to change hands. First Devon and Cornwall Ltd, part of FirstGroup plc, the UK's largest bus and rail operator, has announced its intention to acquire Truronian Ltd.
Truronian operates a number of local bus services as well as coach holidays and coach hire and is being sold by its owners, Geoff Rumbles and David Rabey.
"Since launching Truronian Ltd in 1987 we have worked immensely hard to build a company that our passengers can respect and trust," said managing director Mr Rumbles.

"The opportunity to be part of the UK's largest surface transport company is definitely good news all round."

Marc Reddy, managing director of First Devon and Cornwall, commented: "This is a hugely exciting time for both First and Truronian and I see this acquisition as a good and natural fit for both businesses.

"Not only is this great news for the local economy but Truronian customers will soon have the UK's largest transport company alongside them on their every journey."
Truronian has some 70 vehicles, comprising around 50 buses and 20 coaches.
The company currently operates a number of high profile services, such as the Eden Project Park and Ride, as well as local bus services in Cornwall. It also undertakes National Express operations and offers executive coach hire as well as UK and European coach holidays. The transaction is subject to clearance from the Office of Fair Trading and completion of the due diligence process, after which the acquisition can take place.
Truronian has launched a number of innovative rural projects, all earning national recognition, and won a series of prestigious awards culminating in the "Public Transport Operator of the Year" accolade at the 2003 National Transport Awards.
Truronian's staff level has risen over the years to its present highest-ever number of around 200. Prior to Truronian, Mr Rumbles and Mr Rabey were the senior managers
of Western National before its privatisation.

This certainly caught out most people, even those who were expecting Truronian to sell out. It has also prompted a lot of comment from bus enthusiasts. The first reaction was one of amazement that First would even want to take back services, many of which First have given up in their general retreat from vast swathes of Cornwall over the last few years.

There were a few comments that local passengers would not be happy as FDC were rubbish and Truronian were a lot better. Many local enthusiasts though have pointed out that the FDC under Marc Reddy is a very different beast than the FDC of the few years ago. The appearance of the fleet has improved no end and they seem to be surviving the onslaught of competition from Stagecoach in North Devon - with Stagecoach still in North Devon but cutting back on many services at the end of last year.

The general opinion is that one of the overriding factors for FDC was not wanting Truronian to go to one of the other national groups. They certainly would not have wanted Stagecoach there!

The fleet of low floor Darts and Optare Solos will fit in well with FDC and there is also a nice smart fleet of coaches for FDC to play with. FDC will also join the small but growing band of First Group fleets with bendy buses with two Mercedes on the Eden Project contract. It will also bring in a fleet of elderly Olympians which I wouldn't expect to hang around too long once the acquisition is completed. They certainly present a very different image of Truronian than the nice shiny coaches above.

I along with many others will be watching Truro closely over the coming months. As Marc himself says

This is a hugely exciting time for both First and Truronian...

I think he means it!

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As always Omnibuses is worth reading on this subject click here

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