Cornwall

Western Greyhound bus firm ceases trading after insurance issues

Employees gather at the Summercourt depot
Image caption About 40 employees arrived at Western Greyhound's Summercourt depot to be told the news

One of the main bus service providers in Cornwall has ceased trading amid financial issues.

About 40 Western Greyhound employees arrived at its Summercourt depot on Friday morning to be told the news.

The company said 158 members of staff were affected.

Rival operator First Kernow said it would accept Western Greyhound tickets on its bus services over the next few weeks. It has also been asked to recruit some of the firm's staff.

Michael Bishop, Western Greyhound's managing director, said: "The reason for the company ceasing trading is a financial issue with the company's insurance.

"We explored all alternatives to seek a resolution to this and, unfortunately, that failed.

Image caption The Western Greyhound fleet remains in the depot at Summercourt
Image caption Michael Bishop, Western Greyhound's managing director said 158 members of staff were affected

"We've asked First Group to attend this morning in order to recruit the staff."

Mr Bishop said he was "fairly hopeful the majority of staff will find work".

'Pay not in bank'

Driver Paul Wills, who received a letter from Western Greyhound, said: "The letter says there is a shortfall of cash to pay for the insurance of the vehicles and we cannot continue to trade. We're all being made redundant.

"I was speaking to the manager earlier and he is naturally very upset. It's the end of the road for Western Greyhound.

"The pay has not gone into the bank today but we've been assured it will."

Image caption In 2013 a fire destroyed 35 buses, but Mr Bishop says the current problem is "not directly linked"

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said the announcement had "come out of the blue" and it was committed to "seeking assurances that all outstanding pay will be honoured, all redundancy payments are made if appropriate and that all pensions, rights and all other benefit entitlements are met".

In May 2013 a fire destroyed 35 buses - a third of the firm's fleet - and a further three buses were destroyed in a second suspected arson attack in January 2014.

However, Mr Bishop said the current financial problems were "not directly linked to the fires".

Many people took to social media to vent their anger at not being able to get to work or college or to show sympathy for the company's workers.

Image copyright @Poppylbx/Twitter
Image copyright @KevinPocock/Twitter
Image copyright @FionaMallows/Twitter

BBC Radio Cornwall's Michael Clarke, who has been at the depot, said: "There have been hugs and goodbyes by employees and they've been told to go home.

"Some people are angry and others are in shock."

Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, tweeted: "Western Greyhound ceasing trading is a blow to staff and to the thousands who depend on local bus routes. Urgent need to restore services."

Disruption 'inevitable'

In a statement, First Kernow said: "Following the cessation of Western Greyhound services, First Kernow this morning confirmed that it will accept all Western Greyhound tickets and passes on all its services."

Alex Carter, managing director, said: "We are working with our Cornwall Council partners to provide replacement services as soon as possible."

Image caption Western Greyhound has been operating buses in Cornwall since 1998

In a statement, Cornwall Council said: "We are aware of the sudden closure of Western Greyhound bus company and are working hard with the industry in attempting to secure alternative services as quickly as possible."

The authority said it was "inevitable" there would be disruption to services over the next few days.

Western Greyhound, which has been operating since 1998, was taken over in December by Mr Bishop with about 2.7 million passengers a year in Cornwall and Devon using the service at the time.

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