Sadness as coach firm announces closure after 80 years in business
- Credit: Spratts Coaches
A long-standing Norfolk coach company has announced it will close after almost 80 years of trading.
Spratts Coaches in Wreningham is a family-run business and owner Christine Bilham said the decision had been made due to difficulty recruiting and pressure to meet new engine regulations.
Mrs Bilham said: 'We decided it was time to finish as it was affecting our health with the stress.
'This is a 24-hour industry and it seems we never have time to ourselves.
'We have money in the bank and feel that this is a good time to retire and enjoy ourselves.'
The company director said all drivers working for them had been found new jobs, helped in part by the management team.
She said: 'They weren't surprised to hear we were closing. Unfortunately new Ultra-Low Emission Zone regulations in London mean we would need new coaches and buying new is out of our reach.'
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The company has 11 coaches and has been transporting passengers since the mid-1940s.
Now joint owned by Mrs Bilham and her brother Richard Spratt, the company was started by the pair's father in 1940.
Mr Colin Spratt started his driving career running a taxi service, delivering groceries and lunches from his parents' shop in Wreningham to local schools.
A few years later he began transporting schoolchildren, and the increased demand for this led to Colin buying his first coach.
In the 1970s Mr Spratt became one of the first operators in Norfolk to send a coach abroad, running trips to Switzerland.
In the 1970s, Spratts launched a bus service connecting Wreningham and other local villages to Norwich, which ran through until the 1980s.
Spratts was among the first operators to provide a coach with wheelchair access, a Duple-bodied Bedford c1980.
Following Mr Spratt's death in 2004 the company started to downsize but still transported hundreds of the county's children to and from school.
Its vintage 1940 Bedford Duple has been the star of many weddings and proms.
Mrs Bilham said she was looking forward to having some time to herself once the coaches were sold.
She added: 'I'm feeling relieved. I'm glad we can walk away with our heads held high.'