Update: MP reacts to the sale of Norfolk Green bus firm

Ben Colson, managing director of Norfolk Green, which has been sold to Stagecoach Bus Holdings. Photo: Ian Burt. Ben Colson, managing director of Norfolk Green, which has been sold to Stagecoach Bus Holdings. Photo: Ian Burt.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
4:13 PM

One of East Anglia’s independent bus companies is travelling into a new era after being sold to a national firm.

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Norfolk Green yesterday announced its sale to Stagecoach Bus Holdings - ending its 17 years of independence since being set up in 1996.

The company provides local bus services to west and north Norfolk, north Cambridgeshire and south Lincolnshire, employs more than 160 people and operates over 70 buses which carried more than four-and-a-half million passengers last year.

Managing director Ben Colson said the decision was “not taken easily”, and added that Norfolk Green went into new hands “in good shape”.

The surprise sale comes after a tough period for Norfolk Green, which has been struggling to keep on the road its much-lauded Coasthopper Service, which runs along the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is cherished by locals and tourists.

In September, Norfolk County Council announced plans to cut its £225,000-a-year Coasthopper subsidy by £75,000 in each of the next two years - a move that Mr Colson said could spell the end of the service.

After being formed in 1994, Norfolk Green was bought by its existing owner two years later and during the next 17 years it grew from three buses to the number it runs today.

It has won countless awards, including The Mayor’s Award for Business Achievement in 2007, the UK Bus Operator of the Year award in 2010 (the only time that a small operator has won it) and last month the Independent Operator of the Year award.

Mr Colson said “Our decision to sell was not taken easily but it follows a period of ill health during the summer and early autumn. Over the years we have built a strong brand in the area with a much larger network of bus routes than was here in 1996, attracted new customers to using the bus, and we have increased employment.

“The company goes forward into new hands in good shape, and will benefit from being owned by a major transport company.”

North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham greeted the news with cautious optimism.

He said: “I would like to give a very warm welcome to Stagecoach, who are a world class company with a really good reputation across the country and have just announced that they are buying Norfolk Green. They are obviously buying a local success story and I do believe that they will use their strength and expertise to reinforce this success so that Norfolk Green carries on serving our community.”

“Obviously I am very sad that Ben Colson has decided for perfectly understandable reasons that it is now time for him to move on. Having set the company up from scratch, he has turned it into an iconic local brand with an incredibly loyal workforce who have always put the customer first.

“Hopefully Norfolk Green will really benefit from having this new world class parent company, and I am going to be having early talks with them to discuss what I hope will be a firm ongoing commitment to key local services, including the Coasthopper.”

Robert Montgomery, Managing Director of Stagecoach UK Bus, said: “The acquisition will allow us to expand our operations in the east of England, where we have achieved good passenger growth by focusing on good value fares, investing in our networks and delivering punctual and reliable services.

“Our people are central to our growth plans and we are delighted to welcome our new employees to the business.”

28 comments

  • RIP Norfolk Green - Stagecoach (and Firstbus) are the pits.

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    Tractorboy

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • Perhaps Archant were waiting for their pet MP to respond and wrote the by line before she did. On the bright side, a lack of response from Norwich Norths finest is better than the normal drivel trotted out.

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    Ded Sterile

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • Let's hope that the Coasthopper service remains intact, it is a much needed service in the area.

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    peter99

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • There was a company called Norfolk Green before 1994. Albeit they were probably contract services only. All the best for the existing employees and after the recession someone at County Hall will reinstate the coasthopper.

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    George Ezekial

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • From press reports it seems that the decision taken by Norfolk Green was very much based upon a period of acute illness suffered by one of the owners who was the main driving force behind the company. The alternative to selling the business would have been to announce that they were ceasing to trade as from 18th December. This scenario does not make any business sense for the current owners and would not only have led to a complete withdrawal of all existing services, but more importantly a lot of people also losing their jobs. There would then have been a free for all as a variety of different operators moved in, cherry picking the best routes whilst leaving others to fall by the wayside. I understand that the new owners intend to keep the network intact and no doubt one of the reasons why they acquired the business was the fact that it included the award winning Coasthopper which has become so very much a part of North Norfolk life. Not that many years ago the villages along the coast had the Coastliner, an infrequent summer seasonal operation of about three journeys each way between Hunstanton and Cromer, supplemented by other all year round services running over certain sections which only operated once or twice a week The new owners will face the same problems of funding operation of the loss making winter timetable, but I think we should wait and see how things pan out. Finally, anyone put in a similar position who advocates that they, unlike the former owners, would have just called it a day rather than try to sell their business, with the inevitable loss of jobs and services, is either a liar or totally deluded.

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    CentralRoad

    Friday, December 20, 2013

  • Would they like to use my reaction instead?

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    Jeffrey Osborne

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • So the old guard leave with a pile of cash built on profits made from public sector funding over the past 17 years. Before everyone criticises the new boys in town we should wait and see what happens.

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    devil's advocate

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • There are concerns over Coasthopper but could we not think first of the company and its staff. They have provided and operated some of the best vehicles and driven with consideration to passengers and road users alike. Perhaps the EDP could provide a link to Stagecoach so that we can all ask them to uphold the standards that have been set for both routes and service

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    Michael Hughes

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • Oh well. We will be seeing a deterioation of services, and less maintenence on the buses now

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    "V"

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • The only good thing I can see about this is that they're not being taken over by Worst Group.

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    Citizen of EUSSR

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • One look at Stagecoach's record in Scotland inspires little confidence in the long-term future of these current Norfolk Green routes.

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    Peter Watson

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • Well at least they can't be any worse than sanders buses!

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    Odget

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • Aren't stagecoaches operated by cowboys?

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    Norfolk and Good

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • Sad. News Norfolk had 3 very good independence bus opperaters giving good pight service. Only consolation to this is we still have 3 different operations

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    k day

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • That's the end of coastal services then. What a shame The Council could not find the extra funds to help keep this service in private hands. Very sad day for North Norfolk.

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    MIKEJ

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • The Deadwood stage is a comin' on over the hill.

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    bazzaboy

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • Oh well, End of the coast hopper then. Will have follow on hits on tourism along the coast.

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    DaveG

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • Well, lets hope that this sale could end the farcical subsidies this company received for under used services!

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    Norfolk John

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • A multinaltional operator taking over small services looks like a ruse to stop OAP's travelling for free. We have only one single MP's comment here, others will have to still make their mind up whether Stagecoah has anything to improve on here in the east of England.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • Norfolk County Council have probably just caught on to what Cambs CC realised a few years ago. If they cut bus subsidies, they can save double what they cut. They slash the subsidy to a level whereby the operator withdraws the service, and bingo - no more pensioners travelling for free, so the Council no longer has to reimburse the bus operator for those fares either!

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    Citizen of EUSSR

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • Not a pile more like a mountain ...who said there are no mountains in Norfolk 'laughing all the way to the bank ...bet the staff didn't get a share !!

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    billyboggins

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • Lets hope that Stagecoach reinstate some of the buses that have been taken off our route at peak times. Hope the drivers jobs are safe we have the best drivers on the 37 route and would hate to lose them. Only time will tell I suppose how this will all pan out.

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    Mary Steel

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • So another independent goes. When will we all realise nationals just want your money. Independents are there for YOU

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    Smartmart

    Thursday, December 19, 2013

  • so where is the MP's comment then ? Be interesting to see which services Stagecoach cull because they are only interested in making money for the shareholders not providing a service to the community

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    billyboggins

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • Let's hope that the Coasthopper service remains intact, it is a much needed service in the area.

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    peter99

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • so where is the MP's comment then ? Be interesting to see which services Stagecoach cull because they are only interested in making money for the shareholders not providing a service to the community

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    billyboggins

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • What did the MP actually say? I can't see a comment in the article.

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    shocked at stoopidity

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

  • Same thing happened with konectbus when they were bought out by the Go-Ahead Group. Now they are a shambles. Second hand fleet brought in and a tiny maintenance budget. This is what Norfolk Green customers have to look forward to. If they follow the konectbusGo-Ahead model then expect to see a lot of their buses broken down on the side of West Norfolk's roads. No good will come of this....

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    Scania

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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