Wales’ biggest independent bus operator – with depots and contracts both sides of the border – has gone into administration, causing many local authorities to seek emergency operators of schools and public services.
GHA Coaches employed almost 400 staff, operating from depots in Ruabon, Macclesfield, Shrewsbury, Ruthin, Winsford and Tarvin.
Public bus routes affected by GHA’s closure are as far afield as Manchester, Bridgnorth, Rhyl and Ellesmere Port.
Almost 400 staff at GHA Coaches were left unemployed
Flintshire CC was informed on Wednesday that GHA would cease trading. It prioritised replacements for home-to-school contracts.
‘No public services will be covered immediately, but the council is working on contingency plans to cover local bus services as soon as possible,’ said a council spokesman.
Cheshire West and Chester Council officials said: ‘School children have been prioritised and every effort has been made to provide as much cover as possible.’
Last year GHA bought three new double-deckers for its Welsh Government-funded contract for the Wrexham-Barmouth TrawsCymru service.
This is now being operated, with reduced frequency, by Lloyd’s Coaches. GHA’s closure comes just a month after Pembrokeshire operator Silcox Coaches, established in 1882, ceased trading with the loss of 40 jobs. Approximately 50 staff transferred to a different company.
The local authority found new operators for most of the affected schools and public services.
A senior industry source said the climate was difficult for Welsh bus operators because of the cumulative impact since 2012 of Welsh Government funding cuts for bus operators and local authorities.
Large groups such as Arriva had a ‘softer cushion to fall back on’, he said. ‘I often wonder how a lot of those smaller coach companies keep going.’