Specialist Leisure Group, the owners of Shearings Holidays, has today (22 May 2020) entered Administration.
All tours, cruises, holidays and hotel breaks booked with the Specialist Leisure Group have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled.
The Specialist Leisure Group operated several businesses that sold holidays and other travel arrangements under the following brand names, which have all ceased to trade, due to the impact of COVID-19.
All hotels trading as Bay Hotels, Coast & Country Hotels and Country Living Hotels will not reopen. Click here for a full list of hotels that have ceased to trade.
All Wallace Arnold Travel shops are now permanently closed. If you booked a holiday through a travel agent that was not Wallace Arnold Travel, please contact your travel agent in the first instance.
Hotels previously operated by the Specialist Leisure Group
Today, 5 May 2020, the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) is celebrating UK coach and bus workers with a social media campaign highlighting stories about those working on the front line and behind the scenes, and the key roles they are playing throughout the coronavirus pandemic. @CPT_UK www.cpt-uk.org
The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has launched ‘Back Britain’s Coaches’, a major initiative calling on the Government to provide support for the coach industry during the Covid-19 outbreak.
‘Back Britain’s Coaches’ will build on the successes CPT has had to date in securing support for the coach sector via business wide initiatives.
Specifically it has two immediate aims:
The publication of formal government guidance to support the Local Government Association’s view that coach operators should be considered leisure businesses, which would help them to access the Covid-19 business rates and grant schemes.
Alongside ABTA, securing an amendment to the Package Travel Regulations to allow coach operators longer than 14 days to process refunds and to issue refund credit notes as an alternative to cash refunds.
CPT also continues to work with coach operators to determine the amount of financial support needed to help the industry and make the case for coach specific support to government.
CPT has added a resource centre and member toolkit to its website giving members content to use to contact their local authority and elected representatives to access the support offered to leisure businesses, namely business rates relief and grants. CPT is also encouraging coach operators to provide information around the financial impact the outbreak has had on their business to help build the case for specific support for the coach sector.
Graham Vidler, CPT chief executive, says: “At this hugely difficult time, CPT is working with members across the country to ‘Back Britain’s Coaches’. To help shape the campaign, we have worked with coach operators across the UK to find out what support they need during this crisis, and will work with Governments across the UK to secure support for the industry.
“Anyone who would like to find out more about the campaign, and how they can support it, can visit the resource centre on the CPT website, which will include social media graphics people can share on their social media accounts to raise awareness of the campaign. CPT members will also be able to find resources they can use to contact their local authority to access support that is already available.
“Once the Covid-19 outbreak is over we will all need to work together to repair the damage done to our local economies. If we want to bring tourists back into our local areas, get people back in our theatres, shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, reinstate educational trips and help those who have been forced to spend a considerable length of time in isolation get back out and about, not to mention get people back to school and work, it is vital that coach businesses have the financial support to withstand the current crisis.”
The 70-year story of a preserved bus – Leicester City Transport 154 – FJF 193 – by Stuart Render.
The morning of Saturday 13 August 1983 dawned clear and bright. But whilst the weather wasn’t anything special, the day itself was one of the most memorable days of my life. It was the day I would drive FJF 193 for the first time.
The bus itself, numbered 154 in the fleet of Leicester City Transport, had, by that time, been around for longer than I had. Delivered new to LCT in August 1950, and part of the 160-vehicle post-war intake, this magnificent Leyland Titan PD2/1 was first registered on 1 December 1950. Reports indicate that she may have arrived at Abbey Park Road depot nearly four months earlier on 15 August and placed in storage.
At the time of entering
service she had a seating configuration of H30/26R, a standard bus industry
code referring to a high-bridge double-decker with 30 seats in the upper
saloon, 26 in the lower and a rear entrance.
In March 1954 she received
a recorded ‘Touch-up and Varnish’ to her external paint-work. In December 1955 she
was re-seated to H33/28R, the work being carried out by Charles H Roe of Leeds
for the sum of £95. It’s not clear whether she made the trip to Leeds for the
work but squeezing in the extra three seats on top, and two below brought the seating
capacity up to 61. This was deemed necessary because of the continuing growth
in passenger numbers, with this solution being the most economical way of combating
In February 1956 she was
involved in a serious road accident with an army lorry in the city centre at
the junction of Granby Street and Horsefair Street. Photos of the battered
front end made the front pages of the local papers.
Clearly keen to get even
more capacity out of the bus, in 1957 LCT took the decision to change the
seating configuration again, this time replacing the front two pairs of seats
in the lower saloon with a five-seat, rear-facing bench seat. The cost for this
piece of work is recorded as being £40, the work being carried out at Abbey
Park Road. 154 could now carry 62 seated passengers, a figure that has remained
the same to this day. Reports indicate the bench seat wasn’t popular with
passengers given that the 26-foot length of the bus resulted in a very cramped
In January 1958 she
received her first full repaint, retaining the classic post-war maroon livery
with cream window surrounds albeit without the orange lining that had been
applied when new.
Having spent some seven
years from delivery until that first full repaint, it’s perhaps surprising to
note that the second full repaint took place just over three years later, in
March 1961. It seems reasonable to assume that the growth in the number of motor
vehicles on the roads during that period had had an effect. It’s also believed
that buses were no longer being varnished as part of the repainting programme.
It’s likely then that LCT felt more regular repaints were necessary to ensure
that its reputation as a municipal operator proud of its fleet was maintained.
This second repaint still
retained the maroon livery and cream window surrounds. However, it was only two
months later that LCT changed the fleet livery to the predominantly cream
livery with crimson relief. The honour of being the first to wear the new,
brighter livery, went to AEC Bridgemaster 214 (VJF 214), outshopped on 5 May
1961 and launched at that year’s Lord Mayor’s Show.
Some might question why LCT
didn’t hold 154 and her sisters and put them through the paint shop later so
they could carry the new livery. The answer lies primarily in the need for the
paint shop to maintain its programme of repaints. The painting of 214 was also an
experiment by LCT to gauge reaction and see how the lighter colours stood up in
service conditions before the new livery was rolled out to the rest of the
In fact it wasn’t until
eighteen months later, on 23 November 1962, that the second bus, sister
Bridgemaster 213, emerged from the paint shop in the new revised cream livery.
The paint shop records then show that whilst Leyland PD3s, Daimler CSG6s,
Leyland PD3As and the rest of the Bridgemasters were repainted cream, the next
45 PD2s through the paint shop continued to be repainted in the old livery!
The turning point came in
late 1964. On 20 November bus 140 was outshopped in the old livery, and then,
on 30 November, bus 141 became the first PD2 to appear in the revised cream
154 received her cream
livery in March 1965, with a further repaint, into the same livery, being completed
in March 1968.
But the writing was on the
wall for 154. She had performed admirably, and was no doubt looking forward to her
20th anniversary of serving the people of Leicester.
But the celebrations were
never to happen. On 27 March 1970, 19 years, three months and 27 days after
entering service, she was withdrawn. She was one of the final Leyland Titan
PD2s in service in the LCT fleet.
Demonstrating the changing
times she was officially ‘replaced’ by a Bristol RELL/ECW single deck, one-man-operated
bus. Younger readers may question the term ‘one-man-operated’. The answer is
simple. In those far off days, it was very much a male-only occupation, and the
terminology reflected it.
Running on strawberry
Parked on the garage
forecourt at Abbey Park Road, 154 awaited her fate. She didn’t have to wait
long. In April 1970 she was sold, along with sister 155, to Barnsley dealer
Fisher & Ford who, three months later, sold her to A & H.A. Scutt of
Owston Ferry in Lincolnshire. The records show she was acquired for further
service, but it’s unclear if that was of the passenger carrying variety or not.
It seems unlikely, as you might reasonably expect photos of her ‘in service’
would have survived. However, research does reveal that by September 1971 she
was no longer registered as a PSV.
She spent the following
three-and-a-half years living this life of apparent mystery before being sold
to a farmer, Mr Maw, based in West Butterwick in North Lincolnshire, south west
of Scunthorpe and close to the river Trent. In this rural setting she spent
six-and-a-half years transporting strawberry pickers, a far cry from
negotiating the city traffic of her former home. She was, however, joined by an
old pal when Mr Maw also acquired ex-LCT Bridgemaster 214 in 1972.
Eventually, and no doubt
prompted by the effect of wind, rain and strawberry juice, Mr Maw decided that both
154 and 214 had to go. You do wonder whether there was any sentiment involved.
At this point in her story, 154 had delivered nearly 30 years of faithful
service, both to the good people of an East Midlands city, and the good
strawberry pickers of rural Lincolnshire. Oh, and the three-and-a-half years of
her mystery existence!
It was at this point that
local enthusiast and LTHT member John Arnold, an LCT-trained body craftsman who
had become involved professionally in classic car restoration, became aware of
the location of both vehicles.
He contacted fellow
enthusiast Peter Newland (now an LTHT director). Peter takes up the story.
“In the summer of 1981 four
of us visited Mr. Maw the farmer in West Butterwick,” he says. “I went up with
John in my Triumph Dolomite, and Mick Gamble, Brown’s Blue owner (and now LTHT
member) went with his friend Tony Sewell in Mick’s Singer Vogue. We inspected
154 and Bridgemaster 214 but sadly the latter was in very poor condition. 154
was in much better shape, considering it was by this time over 30 years old,
and we all thought it deserved a chance to be saved.”
However, in September
1981, and hopefully with a tear in his eye, Mr Maw sold the two buses to the
Barnsley dealer Paul Sykes. This time the writing was very much on the wall,
and in short order both passed to Mr Sykes’ sibling, Joe, also a dealer.
For most people, perhaps
the majority of people, a bus is little more than metal and rubber. But you
know, I’m minded to think that some buses have a fairy godmother, because what
happened next to 154 (and this is like the story of the ‘Titanic’; the answer
is hardly a secret) was simply magical!
But for this writer,
heading to Abbey Park Road on that August day in 1983, thoughts of that third
stage in the life of this very special bus were hardly front-of-mind. Indeed,
the plan was to take 154 for a bit of run out in readiness for the next day when
I would be part of the driving team that would take her to Leeds and to the
Wallace Arnold depot in Gelderd Road for the start of that year’s Kirklees
But this isn’t a feature
about my rallying days with 154 (Perhaps another day? – Ed), it’s about 154
remarkable life – so let the story continue.
The initial restoration
Having seen 154, John
Arnold was keen to try and save her from the cutter’s torch. He initially approached
the management of the Abbey Pumping Station Museum. They already had Renown 329
and Willowbrook-bodied PD3 164 on their books, and with 154 having no local
connection in terms of chassis or bodywork manufacture they declined the
Never one to give up easily
John then contacted Mike Greenwood (LCT’s Traffic Officer, Planning and
Publicity) to encourage him to talk to Geoffrey Hilditch (GGH), LCT General
Manager. The message would be that 154 was too good to be scrapped and that it
could, even should, be restored and earn its keep as a heritage vehicle.
I recall (helped by sight
of a memo in my collection) of a not dissimilar conversation with GGH about saving
ARY 225K Metro-Scania for use as a publicity vehicle!
Mike and John had both
correctly recognised GGH’s penchant for preserving heritage vehicles. The answer,
eventually, was “yes!”
At the same time, and languishing
in the Abbey Park Road depot yard, was Leyland Titan PD3A/1 GRY 63D. This bus,
withdrawn in November 1980, had been earmarked for a German buyer (Bruning, Bad
Gaudersheim) in January 1981 but the agreed sale price never arrived. GGH
instructed Mike to talk to Joe Sykes and tell him that he would exchange 63 for
154 and a small amount of money. Joe was having none of this and told Mike to
tell GGH that he would take 63 and “some money” in exchange for 154!
A bit more sabre rattling,
with Mike acting as the go-between, took place before Mike, somewhat bravely,
suggested to GGH that wouldn’t it be better if he spoke to Joe Sykes direct!
This did the trick.
There’s doubt about what the
final deal was, but Mike got the impression that both parties thought they had
got the better deal!
The formalities were completed
on 18 November 1981 with 154 returning to Leicester on Thursday 19 November. It
seems likely that she was probably delivered by a suspended tow on one of Joe
Sykes’ wagons. 63 wasn’t in a fit state to be driven either so it’s also likely
that she would have been the return load on Joe’s wagon. Sadly no photos
exist of those movements, so far as we know, but one might picture the moment.
Except that one member of
the LCT team wasn’t quite as fully briefed about the project as you might expect.
Maurice Darnes was Body Shop
Superintendent at Abbey Park Road and he takes up the story.
Quite a project!
I knew nothing of the
discussions that were taking place to bring 154 back to the transport workshops
to be completely overhauled for preservation (says Maurice). That was, until 5
November 1981 when I was in conversation with GGH. He had asked me to meet him
that particular afternoon to discuss the details of a future workshop project.
At the conclusion of the meeting I was informed that there was a possibility of
an ‘old Leicester’ vehicle being acquired, and should the outcome be positive,
what were my thoughts for a major overhaul of a vehicle to bring about a high
quality restoration project.
My answer was that we had
all the facilities, skills, and the employee technical knowledge to carry out
the task to bring the project to conclusion.
“Good!” was GGH’s reply,
“I shall keep you informed of all the details and speak with you at a future
date. I shall not be in the office throughout tomorrow!”
Those words were
significant, as the next day I was approached by a workshop employee (a labourer)
who told me that “one of the old PD2s was to be purchased and it was to be
My immediate thoughts were
that someone, somewhere, had more information than me, and after the following
weekend, when GGH came into my office, I informed him of my findings.
He wasn’t pleased, but he
informed me that he had been speaking to other ‘higher management’ personnel
and it was evident that “words had flowed” when he had specifically asked for
That Monday afternoon GGH
asked me to his office and he confirmed that a PD2 was to be purchased, and that
within a fortnight the vehicle could be on the premises.
The initial planning was
that the vehicle should have a thorough examination. If the statements coming
forward from enthusiasts that had seen the vehicle were confirmed, then it was
in a shocking and filthy condition, and a total steam-clean of the interior and
exterior of the vehicle should be carried out.
When 154 subsequently arrived
and had been suitably steam-cleaned it was found to be in a disgraceful state.
It was placed into the body shop on the first vehicle pit. It was stripped to
its main frames for examination, a process that showed we were missing many
parts from the original vehicle that had been sold.
After discussion with GGH
he arranged that a full list of wanted parts be supplied to him and he would
take it further. At this stage 154 was allocated the affectionate name of ‘Strawberry
Scrappers save the day
Some days later he called
me to his office and said that myself and another member of the bodyshop staff should
make arrangements to go to Beresford’s scrapyard, near Leek in Staffordshire.
We were to spend a full day there looking at the many old and scrap buses, some
which were nearly intact Leyland-bodied PD2s.
I arranged a date with
Beresford’s and booked a works van for the day. The chosen person to accompany
me was Phil Andrews.
We travelled up to
Beresford’s and met with the boss who, we discovered, knew GGH well. We were
told we could go wherever we liked in the yard and take as much as we could to
try to complete the list of parts we required.
By 3pm the list of parts
was complete, except for an upper saloon front handrail. We needed one because
154 was sporting a bent scaffold pole! I insisted the one we needed was black,
with black fittings, and NOT stainless steel which many operators preferred.
There wasn’t one!
Eating a snack in one of
the ‘scrappers’ we realised the sky was becoming a rather worrying black
Phil said he was going to
go to the very far edge of the scrapyard and double-check to see if there were
any more PD2s, possibly ones we had missed. I started to load the Ford Escort
van and soon realised that we had many parts, large and small, short and long,
and the longer ones were only just fitting the van interior.
Phil had been away some
fifteen minutes when I heard a shout from the distance. He had located a PD2 on
the far side of the yard, hidden from my view. I can’t recall the operator, but
it had a black front handrail, intact with all its fittings and in good order!
It was a good find on
Phil’s part and out came the screwdrivers to see if we could remove the
handrail. No! All the machine screws were seized solid. I decided to remove the
front glasses (ideal to take back for LCT’s stock) and cut the three front
pillars, leaving the handrail fixings intact.
It was at that point that
the rain arrived, and I do mean rain! The front nearside and offside front ‘D’
lights were missing and because we had removed the two front glasses earlier we
were open to all that the British weather could throw at us – and throw at us it
We were both open to this
deluge but Phil remembered that the vehicle behind us had some reinforced
plastic sheet stuffed under its rear staircase. He went and collected it and
positioned himself and the plastic around our vehicle’s front upper saloon to
protect us. I thought I had the difficult job of sawing through the front
pillars, but no, Phil had an even more difficult task keeping the sheet around
and in front of us to try and keep us both dry.
We both managed to remove
the handrail intact, and without damage. Sadly, we weren’t quite so fortunate
and returned to Beresford’s offices soaked through to our under clothes.
“You’re not nicked!”
Fortunately we had taken a
change of attire, so changed and having given our thanks to all concerned we started
our journey back to Leicester. Being hungry we stopped at a ‘Little Chef’ for a
Whilst we were eating, two
police officers came into the restaurant, no doubt on their break from duty.
Phil nudged my arm and said I should look at our van. To my horror the front
bonnet appeared to be pointing towards the sky. Well-loaded was an
understatement. I began to think that after our very successful day we were about
to feel the heavy hand of the law upon our shoulders.
The two officers came over
and sat near to us. We started chatting (well, it was 1981!). They pointed to
our van. I explained where we had been. To our surprise one of the officers revealed
he was very interested in vehicle preservation so we found ourselves discussing
the subject further.
They finished their meal, shook
hands with us both, wished us well and hoped we had a good journey back to
Leicester. Fortunately the ‘Rocket Escort’ wasn’t booked.
At 7.40 the next morning
we received an early visit from GGH. He looked at everything we had brought
back saying: “You both had a good day then!”
I told him that our wet
clothes were at home! He walked away and immediately went to speak to Phil
where I noticed he shook hands with him and had quite a long chat. He was clearly
a pleased man. Despite his 154 being in a disgraceful state his parts were
It’s worth pointing out
that the entire job of restoring 154 was undertaken in spare workshop time, the
workshop team always keeping busy and showing their expertise in getting buses
back out to serve the Leicester public.
The team gets stuck in
During overhaul 154 was
rebuilt throughout its framework. It was fitted with a brand new rear bulkhead,
new entrance platform, new staircase, rear upper saloon emergency window, all
new window panes, lower saloon floor and front bulkhead mountings. The front
destination blind layout was NOT allowed to be reversed to when 154 was originally
delivered to LCT.
Glazing was retained as
were the cab fittings which were overhauled as necessary.
The body overhaul was
undertaken by many workshop personnel, but special acknowledgement must go to
Gilbert Hand, my chargehand, a gentleman who knew everything about the PD2 body-wise.
His recent passing aged 94 has greatly saddened me.
Names I must mention are
Mark Gretton, Gary Henshaw and Keith Robinson for the sheet metal and panel
beating expertise, Graham Konter and Alec Dormer for their body construction
skills and the brilliance of George Place the blacksmith, for everything that
needed ‘hitting hard’ to manufacture. Many other bodyshop personnel were
involved, too many to remember at this time. Sadly Graham Konter has passed
away, but with his Willowbrook skills he was an excellent craftsman.
The seat trimming was
brand new throughout in LCT maroon leather, expertly trimmed by
Doug Tams and Lee Tyres. Two
new front wings were also made. Mechanically, all parts were removed where
possible and inspected, many of them receiving a full overhaul at that time
under the sole charge of Gordon Wells, the fitting shop Superintendent and his
Mention must be made of
the LCT cleaning staff. Most items from Beresford’s together with those
fittings removed from 154 when it was stripped of parts, especially the seat
frames, were individually cleaned by these personnel.
Lovely orange gunge
A special point in
question was that of the dreaded front upper saloon handrail which came out of
LCT storage smelling and covered with a very thin layer of orange gunge.
It was a nicotine coating
from the heavy smoke-filled atmosphere of the upper saloon when the donor
vehicle was in service. This task was allocated to Val Tebbut, (a lady I must
mention as her name is very significant to me at the time of my writing this
article). Val showed me the cloths she used to clean this handrail and the soiling
from the item, and together with the time it took to clean, it had to be seen
to be believed. In total though an excellent job was done by Val and every
member of the superb team she worked with.
The final workforce effort
was by the paint shop under the charge of Brian Hulme, Paint Shop
Superintendent, and his staff. Original paint colours, transfers and varnish
were all sourced by Brian and a fantastic job was completed under his
leadership by all the paint shop personnel.
Proof of the high quality
completion of 154 by every department of LCT were the many accolades and
trophies the vehicle received from rallies, shows and social functions around
the country, especially the preservation groups and restored vehicle societies.
After 37 years of
preservation 154 has now completed its second overhaul. It’s truly heartening
to see people including Gary Henshaw, Ian Killingworth and Andy Harding, who
were familiar with 154’s initial preservation work, remaining in First
Leicester’s employment and involved in this project.
To them all I extend my
very good wishes and the very best to 154 ‘Strawberry Fields’ for another 37
The third age of 154
really bring this part of the story to life, and thanks must go to him for
taking the time to put them together. Thanks to the skilled and really rather
impressive team at Abbey Park Road, a fully restored 154 was outshopped in June
1983. As an added note, Maurice recalls that once complete the bus was road
Anstey Lane, a road he describes
as “the old stamping ground for newly mechanically overhauled buses.”
Somewhat surprisingly, the
actual date when 154 made its debut into the daylight isn’t recorded, and so as
far as we know, no photo of that moment exists. However, GGH was keen to show
154 to the world, and it wasn’t long before an opportunity arose.
1983 was the 100th
anniversary of municipal passenger transport and this important milestone was
to be celebrated, in Cardiff. If memory serves me well, GGH, having had an
illustrious career in the municipal sector, was keen to support the
anniversary. Regardless of the fact that such a long run for the newly restored
Leyland might be one step too far, both mechanically and potential body damage
from road chips, he decided that 154 would make its industry debut in the Welsh
On Saturday 25 June 1983 a
convoy of buses left Leicester. Leading the way, and being driven by GGH, was
154. Following along were AUT 70Y, an East Lancs-bodied Dennis Dominator, XJF
92Y, a Duple Dominant-bodied Dennis Falcon, LJF 16F, the much-missed East Lancs
Leyland PD3, and BUT 25Y, a Plaxton Paramount-bodied Dennis Dorchester coach. The
following day, Sunday 26 June, 154, together with its entourage, lined up near
the Cardiff council offices. GGH looked suitably pleased.
To complete the Cardiff
story, Plaxton Paramount-bodied Leyland Tiger coach BUT 18Y was also in
attendance having left Leicester very early that morning on an enthusiasts
It’s worth noting that 154
made the return journey without any hiccups, GGH always leading the convoy, and
woe betide any of the drivers should they overtake him!
In the following months
and years 154 lived up to the purpose that Mike and John had proposed to GGH
back in 1983. The bus became popular for private hires, appearing at school
events, open days and other events in Leicester as well as occasionally
appearing in service. With a welcome nod from GGH, the ‘154 Preservation Group’
was formed. Led by LCT employee Phil Spencer, this group of LCT staff looked
after the bus, taking her to rallies across the country where she was often the
star attraction, winning a veritable plethora of awards.
But, as in 1970, times
were changing. In October 1986 she transferred with the rest of the Leicester
CityBus fleet (as LCT was now known) to Leicester CityBus Limited, the new
arms-length company set up by the city council, with 8% owned by Trent.
In November 1993 the city
council ownership passed to GRT Holdings plc which in turn, merged with
Badgerline Group in June 1995 to become FirstBus plc, and then FirstGroup plc
in December 1997. Under FirstGroup she was allocated fleet number 90252 in the
national numbering system, but, fortunately, never had to carry it!
154 enters preservation
In June 2008, with
FirstGroup looking to dispose of this ‘non-standard’ vehicle, 154 was acquired
by Andrew Harris, a local preservationist. In the November of that year LTHT member
Simon Gill became part owner, taking full ownership in June 2009. In April 2015
he offered 154 to LTHT. It’s worth stressing that without the sterling
enthusiasm and commitment from these individuals, 154’s future would have been
By 2017 the bus was in
need of a major body and mechanical overhaul. First Leicester, as a result of
the close relationship with LTHT, offered to undertake the work as part of an
apprentice training scheme. As Maurice Darnes mentioned above, in 2017 a
handful of the people who worked on 154 in the early eighties were still
employed by First. This produced the unique situation where those men who had
worked on the bus then were now able to teach new apprentices body building and
mechanical skills on the very same bus they had learnt on!
On Wednesday 4 March 2020,
the newly restored 154, with LTHT chairman Richard Worman at the wheel, emerged
from inside the First Leicester workshops at Abbey Lane depot to the applause
of assembled guests.
Some 69 years and three months
after entering service with LCT, the grand old lady had returned, ready to
start her fourth life, and looking forward to her 70th birthday on 1 December 2020.
In ending this story, and because I’ve spent a good part of my life behind the wheel of 154, it feels only right to offer a huge thank you to each and every person, many no longer with us, who have played a part in what has been, and continues to be, the remarkable story of 154.
This feature was originally written for ‘Wheels’, the quarterly magazine of the Leicester Transport Heritage Trust. For more information about the LTHT, go to www.ltht.org.uk
Chairman of the Coach Tourism Association, John Wales, says that not only does
the coach industry need government help urgently, it offers the country the
best opportunity for tourism when the market recovers.
CTA says it has a seat at the table of TIER – the Tourism Industry Emergency
Response group – talking directly to ministers to mitigate the tourism crash
and plan for recovery.
Wales, the CTA’s chairman, told Bus and Coach Buyer that the key to emerging
from the health crisis strongly later this year will be for every element of
the industry to share the problems and remaining risk, expressly to avoid coach
operators going out of business.
fact is, the coach tourism can spearhead a tourism recovery,” he said. “There
won’t be a quicker route to market than coaches,
able to deliver 50 customers to hotels and attractions. The travel industry has
demonstrated an admirable ability to adapt to some of the most severe
conditions. These have ranged from natural disasters to attacks by terrorists.
The Coronovirus pandemic does however represent the
greatest challenge our businesses have had to face for several generations. At
the time of writing it would seem that almost all non-essential travel is being
recently wrote a letter to all the members of the Coach Tourism Association in
which I sympathised with both those coach operators and suppliers who are now
experiencing the immense financial impact, saying: ‘There has never been a time when
we have been more in need of flexibility and understanding during these
extraordinary circumstances so we can mitigate costs and ensure we have strong
partnerships going forward.’ Yet I am still getting reports of some hotels and
tourist suppliers enforcing strict cancellation terms on future bookings of
coach operators, even though there is no actual operating cost to them…. it’s a
are obliged to refund their clients in 14 days (PTD), due to the situation and
comply with trading standards, which makes it even more astonishing that these
generators of business are then ‘fined’ by large corporations who do not share
the real impact on the front line and accelerate the financial disaster most
operators are experiencing.”
said that the CTA is launching a website portal this week offering advice to
group tourism operators.
want to reassure operators that we will do everything in our power to put your
voice across to the TIER group – we’re at the table every week,” he said.
particular, John said, CTA is appealing to government to get coach operators to
be considered leisure businesses, and get the business rates holiday and grants
promised for that business sector.
right now, we must wait to see the full impact and timescale. All we can do is
control and reduce our costs and plan for a recovery, which we all hope will be
in the shorter term. We must wait and see what government support is pledged to
enable the coach operators to survive.
the media will show as much enthusiasm on the positives when the pain clears
and helps boost tourism – we will be sharing information on the CTA website to
assist all members and planning some PR stories ready for the recovery and
welcome any assistance and input from suppliers and operators.
hundreds of millions of pounds privately invested in low carbon emission
coaches, delivering the cleanest form of transport, has been a massive burden
on operators, magnified now as all incomes have dried up in this crisis. There
was a sense of long-term optimism voiced in the CTA’s
Conference and Workshop in York in February.”
CTA is appealing to government to get coach operators to be considered
leisure businesses, and get the business rates holiday and grants promised for
that business sector.
and this is a big but, survival through the effects on our industry from this
pandemic is the only short-term focus for operators, suppliers and all services associated with tourism. I believe our coach tour
operators and supporting suppliers in our close-knit industry can spearhead the
recovery, capitalising on the stacked up demand generated from lock down,
delivery of mass numbers around the country easily and in environmentally friendly way.
would say that, in all my 38 years in various tourism sectors, I have never had
the privilege to be associated with a more hands-on, robust, friendly and
forward-looking group of people than the coach operator members of the CTA who
can react swiftly to changing circumstances. With help
from Government, partner supplier support and determination to survive, we will
overcome the dark clouds on the immediate horizon. Working together we can
navigate, deliver and quickly drive down the road to tourism
recovery the country needs, hopefully in the summer.”
Solo travel as part of a group is thriving, according to Debbie Marshall, managing director of Silver Travel Advisor, the website for the over 50s mature traveller.
She was presenting to members of the Association of Group Travel Organisers (AGTO) at the AGTO Showcase Weekend 2020 that took place at the end of February at Ettington Chase Hotel near Stratford-upon-Avon.
She told the 115 delegates
that a growing number of solo travellers are choosing to travel on their own but
as part of a group, often because they no longer have a partner to travel with,
or by choice, either choosing to travel with girlfriends or simply because
their partner doesn’t want to go with them.
She explained that around
a quarter of people surveyed by Silver Travel Advisor said that the benefit of
travelling with an organised group was because it allowed them to travel as a
single person but have someone else organise everything for them. A third of
respondents said that having everything organised for them would encourage them
to travel with a group.
This year’s AGTO Showcase
Weekend included presentations from Helen Peters, chief executive of
Shakespeare’s England, who said that renewed efforts are being made to
encourage visitors to stop-over in the region rather than simply visit on a day
trip. Shakespeare’s England also arranged four familiarisation trips that
included Warwick and Kenilworth Castles, the British Motor Museum and
The popular AGTO
Associates’ Exhibition saw around 60 tourism suppliers meeting with GTO members
from around the UK. A highlight of the event was the Gala Dinner, sponsored by
made Tourism Marketing with a 1920s ‘Peaky Blinders’ theme. The prize for ‘Best
Dressed’ guest went to Matt Coulter from the groups and travel trade team at
Historic Royal Palaces.
Commenting on the event,
AGTO chief executive Wendy Hartley-Scarff says: “The annual AGTO Showcase
Weekend provides a catalyst for GTOs and our Associate supplier members to
network and socialise. This year’s programme, supported by Shakespeare’s
England, made Tourism Marketing and Cruise & Maritime Voyages, provided our
GTO members with lots of inspiration and ideas to take back to their groups. It
also gave our Associate supplier members the opportunity to find out more about
the changing expectations of group travel organisers.”
The Association of Group Travel Organisers is an independent organisation
representing the interests of those who organise tours and trips for groups as
well as those who provide services for group travel. The Association has over
400 group travel organiser members and around 250 supplier members.
Escorted holiday specialist Leger Holidays has announced that director Liam Race, finance director Andrew Oldfield and operations director Chris Plummer have acquired a 30% stake in the business.
The acquisition, which has been achieved with backing from NatWest, reduces the shareholding held by Ian and Kathleen Henry to 70%.
Commenting on the acquisition, in an announcement posted on b2b social network LinkedIn today, Liam Race says: “This is an exciting time for the business. We’ve seen a solid start to January with bookings for 2020 up 17%. As well as focusing on continual improvement to our customers’ holiday experiences we will be looking to grow sales through travel agents with additional presence in our on-the-road sales team.”
Travel Weekly reports Ian Henry as saying: “This transaction ensures that the business has the continued ownership of the Henry family but also brings on board the next generation of managers and owners meaning we can continue together to strengthen and grow the business over the coming years. I will remain active in the business, but as has been happening over the last twelve months, Liam, Chris and Andy will be leading us on a day to day basis.”
The Rotherham-based company is reported to have turned over nearly £35m in 2019.
Leger Holidays was awarded ‘Best Medium Coach Holiday Company’ at the British Travel Awards in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
River boat operator City Cruises has been bought by dining and excursion cruise operator Hornblower, a San Francisco-based dining and excursion cruise operator.
The acquisition, not previously reported on these pages, took place in November 2019 and is the first acquisition by Hornblower outside of North America.
A statement issued by the company said the sale will mean “greater investment opportunities for the City Cruises brand in 2020 and beyond.”
All staff have been retained. The previous owners and founders, Gary and Rita Beckwith OBE, are remaining as consultants for several months to assist with the transition.
Commenting, Gary Beckwith said: “We believe the sale of City Cruises to the Hornblower family will take the brand to the next level of success. We have been honoured to be at the helm of City Cruises and believe the business we started will further flourish and grow under the new ownership of Hornblower.”
Terry MacRae, CEO of the Hornblower parent in the US, said: “We are incredibly excited to acquire City Cruises which we believe to be the best leisure cruise operator in Europe today. We have long had the ambition to enter the European market and it makes perfect sense to start our journey in one of the most iconic cities in the world.”
City Cruises was founded in 1985 and now comprises operations on the River Thames, plus City Cruises York, City Cruises Poole, ThamesJet and R.S Hispaniola.
Hornblower Group has been operating for 35 years in the US and runs river cruises, harbour cruises, whale watching trips and ferries across North America including iconic trips to Alcatraz in San Francisco, The Statue of Liberty in New York and Niagara Falls in Canada.
In a statement the company said: “This announcement reaffirms our confidence in the marine hospitality sector, strengthened by continued investment to elevate the guest experience. In addition to expanding the company’s portfolio through mergers and acquisitions, over the past five years, Hornblower Cruises & Events has invested $50 million in guest experiences, innovation and technology, while adding new builds to the fleet alongside a programme of innovative fleet enhancements and upgrades in a drive to become even more guest-centric.”
With the completion of this acquisition, Hornblower Cruises & Events now operates a fleet of 157 vessels offering dining cruises, sightseeing, private charter, water taxi and ferry brands in 22 locations in the US, Canada, and now the UK serving 9.8 million guests each year.
The Coach Tourism Association looks set to announce a new public relations initiative that will raise awareness of the benefits of coach tourism.
Trade magazine Bus & Coach Buyer reports (2 August 2019) Helen Bowron, communications director with the Coach Tourism Association (CTA) saying that plans have now been laid for a major charm offensive to promote coach tourism throughout the UK. No details are included in the report, but it is expected that an announcement will be made in the next few weeks.
The news reflects changes taking place at the CTA under chairman John Wales.
AGTO, the Association of Group Travel Organisers, has announced that the 2020 ‘AGTO Showcase Weekend’ will take place over the weekend of 21 to 23 February at Ettington Chase, a 4-star hotel, event and conference centre close to Stratford-upon-Avon.
The Showcase Weekend, one of the major annual events in
the AGTO calendar, offers a unique opportunity for GTOs from across the country
to network with many of the country’s leading destinations, visitor attractions
and travel trade suppliers. The weekend programme includes a travel trade
exhibition, familiarisation trips and a black-tie gala dinner.
Commenting, Wendy Hartley-Scarff, AGTO chief executive, says: “The AGTO Showcase Weekend is a unique and prestigious industry event. It brings together our GTO and Associate members, offering unique networking opportunities in a relaxed and tranquil setting. We’ve chosen Stratford-upon-Avon not only to make it is easy as possible for members from across the UK to attend, but also because of the magnificent choice of visitor attractions in the area.
“Our 2019 Showcase Weekend, held at Eastwood Hall in Nottinghamshire, and including ‘fam’ trips to find out more about Robin Hood, D.H.Lawrence and Lord Byron was very well received by members. We’re building on that success to offer a first-class weekend in Stratford that will appeal to our members across the country.”
The Association of Group Travel Organisers (AGTO) is the UK’s
largest independent membership organisation supporting and representing the
interests of individuals who organise travel for groups. Associate membership
is available to destinations, visitor attractions and any travel trade supplier
that provide services for group travel.
Established in 1990, the Association now has more than 400
group travel organiser members and 200 Associate members. Membership services
include bespoke organiser liability insurance, legal updates, an advice line,
VIP registration to trade shows, free membership of the National Trust and
English Heritage, free access to National Trust for Scotland properties, and a
range of other discounts and offers.