Reminiscing about Western Greyhound

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383
Thought I'd start a nice friendly thread regarding Western Greyhound, it includes anything and everything to do with the company, even surviving vehicles/memorabilia in preservation (such as leaflets, blinds, vinyls etc)

I was recently lucky enough to meet the founder of the original company himself, and he donated a lot towards the preservation of a few vehicles that I'm involved with!

I'd definitely love to see some people's collections as well as mine, but here's something to kick it off, an original canopy blind from an RML!

Some of the stuff I have will be fitted to the vehicles in preservation soon, but the majority of it is staying with me :)
 

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Busaholic

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So was every WG route included on that canopy blind, even those which could never be worked by such a vehicle under any circumstances?!
 
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So was every WG route included on that canopy blind, even those which could never be worked by such a vehicle under any circumstances?!
I believe so, there may have been diversions in place for the deckers on the routes that couldn't handle anything other than a single decker or a beaver, though I will quote the founder himself here: "When we ran, we ran everything, no bus or staff member was left behind, no matter what"

I have to say, after hearing everything properly from him, it really hit home, because unlike today's modern companies, he actually recognised all the little villages and communities around Cornwall that needed a vital transport link, even if it was only a couple of people using the bus!

It may very well have been quite stressful for most people, but I think I can vouch for everyone here when I say that it was definitely worth it, and that they served this county well, I have a lot of respect for the company and the founder himself for what they did for Devon and Cornwall, and I'll make sure it's shown on the vehicles I'm involved with!

Let me know if you'd like to see anything else in my collection btw, I've got lots of different blinds, badges, leaflets, timetables, vinyls, ties, even a ticket machine and rolls! :)

Going through some more blinds as I got bored, these destinations take me right back! Good times..
 

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Busaholic

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Only ever met Mark Howarth once, on the last day of WG operating into Penzance, when he drove the RML. He'd put the destination Hither Green Station up, and I felt impelled to tell him I was an ex-resident of that area in London, on the 36 bus route. He told me he'd grown up on the 36B route in Downham. I'm slightly older than him and my 'career' at London Transport, which ended almost before it began, didn't coincide with his. I have no doubt that he achieved quite a lot during his years 'on the buses', as was recognised by his peers in the awards he, and WG, garnered, but I've also no doubt he made enemies and engendered jealousy in more 'mainstream' circles, and some of those enemies/opponents are, I'm sure. present as members of this forum, which means he'll never get a fair hearing on here.
 
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Yeah you're not wrong, though in my personal opinion he did a grand job! He definitely deserves his retirement

Funnily enough, speaking of the 36, if you have a look at the attachments I added to my previous reply, you'll see some London destinations on there, he actually told me that he put the route 36 in its entirety on all the RML blinds for nostalgia, and I don't blame him one bit! I'd do the exact same thing if I owned a bus company! :D
 

Robertj21a

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Only ever met Mark Howarth once, on the last day of WG operating into Penzance, when he drove the RML. He'd put the destination Hither Green Station up, and I felt impelled to tell him I was an ex-resident of that area in London, on the 36 bus route. He told me he'd grown up on the 36B route in Downham. I'm slightly older than him and my 'career' at London Transport, which ended almost before it began, didn't coincide with his. I have no doubt that he achieved quite a lot during his years 'on the buses', as was recognised by his peers in the awards he, and WG, garnered, but I've also no doubt he made enemies and engendered jealousy in more 'mainstream' circles, and some of those enemies/opponents are, I'm sure. present as members of this forum, which means he'll never get a fair hearing on here.
I don't think it's a question of his enemies/opponents, more a question of who has the genuine story.
 
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I don't think it's a question of his enemies/opponents, more a question of who has the genuine story.
I've probably got the closest thing to it from what he told me, and from what I've learned from others as well, but anyways, later on tonight I'll be having another look through my Western Greyhound collection, and I'll take some more photos to show on here
 

Busaholic

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I don't think it's a question of his enemies/opponents, more a question of who has the genuine story.
Has the genuine story ever been told? I've only been aware of insinuations . I do know that the Official Receivers have NEVER received a response from Cornwall Council as to why not a penny of the reimbursement claimed by WG for pass use was paid for the last period claimed, which cannot be right. This is the same Cornwall Council that has been shown to have acted illegally/recklessly/negligently in so many regards by Ombudsmen etc in recent years. Whether this changes as a result of recent political changes at the top I personally doubt,
 

richw

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Nobody was ever charged. All arrested were released without charge
 
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Oh you're kidding? That's not on at all! Someone should have been charged, it's not fair at all..
 
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Yeah you're not wrong there, meant to say I wish the culprit was found and charged, WG didn't deserve that fire or what the two new owners did

Anyways, onto brighter things, in terms of preservation, once I get permission, I'll be uploading photos of the vehicles I'm involved with, but for now, I'll be uploading a couple of photos of the bits in my collection
 
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175mph

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I'm not very familiar with this particular bus company, but I read somewhere on here that their buses had radios in them to enable the drivers to speak to each other, to allow connecting services to be made if one was delayed etc.
 
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That is correct, I remember multiple times where drivers had to use radios when a connecting bus was late etc as many services required driver swaps at connecting points/stations

Didn't manage to get the lot out as there's not enough room at the moment, but I got a few interesting bits to show themselves! All indeed very rare, I've got both variants of the corgi beaver 2 models as well, just need the royale, citaro, and E400, then I'll have everything!

Again if anyone wants to see anything in particular, don't hesitate to ask and I'll dig the item out! :)
 

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M803UYA

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Only ever met Mark Howarth once, on the last day of WG operating into Penzance, when he drove the RML. He'd put the destination Hither Green Station up, and I felt impelled to tell him I was an ex-resident of that area in London, on the 36 bus route. He told me he'd grown up on the 36B route in Downham. I'm slightly older than him and my 'career' at London Transport, which ended almost before it began, didn't coincide with his. I have no doubt that he achieved quite a lot during his years 'on the buses', as was recognised by his peers in the awards he, and WG, garnered, but I've also no doubt he made enemies and engendered jealousy in more 'mainstream' circles, and some of those enemies/opponents are, I'm sure. present as members of this forum, which means he'll never get a fair hearing on here.
I'm surprised one or two posters (such as SWTH whose firsthand observations chronicled the decline of the business) haven't chimed in here given their forthright views. I would be taking 'official' versions of the truth with a pinch of salt.

Western Greyhound, in it's first few years was held up as a model as to how to run a bus operation. Even in those days there were issues related to the inability, or unwillingness of the owner to spend money. Full Mercedes Varios with no standing capacity (the dual purpose spec ones didn't allow standees) were operating journeys and leaving customers behind.

Not unreasonably those customers complained, and were simply told to wait for the next bus in an hour's time. Add in the variable traffic congestion that affects Cornwall and you have timetables that could win prizes for fiction in book awards. Customers generally like bus services that turn up when they say they will on the timetable.

Western Greyhound's ultimate demise was hastened by using those vehicles way beyond their useful economic life, as well documented on the other thread. If you operate buses continuously on 17/18 hour days for over 10 years eventually those buses wear out, become unreliable and need to be replaced. The glut of 40 Varios was also the major barrier to the sale of the operation. They were extremely late in purchasing low floor buses, preferring instead to purchase secondhand Mercedes Varios for 3/4 years after new ones ceased being built.

I know firsthand that one interested buyer factored in the cost of acquiring 40 low floor buses into their offer and it was reduced significantly from what the owners would have got. The offer was rejected as the bid was deemed to be too low. Someone like Stagecoach could have taken the operation on, and it wouldn't have been a problem as they have surplus buses that can be redeployed in such situations.

As another poster has mentioned, if you'd said in 2011 that what was then First Devon & Cornwall would be running the bulk of the commercial services in Cornwall with a modern fleet of double deckers and a massively improved quality of fleet, everyone would have asked if you were on crack.
 

Robertj21a

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I think the problem with the history of Western Greyhound is that there are at least 2-3 versions of what really happened, and who might have been involved in the fires. Without that being settled (probably never) it is extremely difficult for anybody to give a reasoned, objective, view on much about the business in it's latter years.
 

Busaholic

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I'm surprised one or two posters (such as SWTH whose firsthand observations chronicled the decline of the business) haven't chimed in here given their forthright views. I would be taking 'official' versions of the truth with a pinch of salt.

Western Greyhound, in it's first few years was held up as a model as to how to run a bus operation. Even in those days there were issues related to the inability, or unwillingness of the owner to spend money. Full Mercedes Varios with no standing capacity (the dual purpose spec ones didn't allow standees) were operating journeys and leaving customers behind.

Not unreasonably those customers complained, and were simply told to wait for the next bus in an hour's time. Add in the variable traffic congestion that affects Cornwall and you have timetables that could win prizes for fiction in book awards. Customers generally like bus services that turn up when they say they will on the timetable.

Western Greyhound's ultimate demise was hastened by using those vehicles way beyond their useful economic life, as well documented on the other thread. If you operate buses continuously on 17/18 hour days for over 10 years eventually those buses wear out, become unreliable and need to be replaced. The glut of 40 Varios was also the major barrier to the sale of the operation. They were extremely late in purchasing low floor buses, preferring instead to purchase secondhand Mercedes Varios for 3/4 years after new ones ceased being built.

I know firsthand that one interested buyer factored in the cost of acquiring 40 low floor buses into their offer and it was reduced significantly from what the owners would have got. The offer was rejected as the bid was deemed to be too low. Someone like Stagecoach could have taken the operation on, and it wouldn't have been a problem as they have surplus buses that can be redeployed in such situations.

As another poster has mentioned, if you'd said in 2011 that what was then First Devon & Cornwall would be running the bulk of the commercial services in Cornwall with a modern fleet of double deckers and a massively improved quality of fleet, everyone would have asked if you were on crack.
I'm quite willing to believe every word of what you say, but on the subject of unsuitable, overworked or simply knackered buses, First's Cornish operation at the time was hardly in a different league. I remember a local newspaper report of the operation of the one remaining journey on the so-called X18 from Penzance to Truro which had broken down on the Camborne By-Pass. The driver told the passengers that the previous bus allocated had also broken down. While the passengers waited on the doubledecker (an Ailsa?) one of them noted mushrooms sprouting from the bench seat at the lower deck rear, and took photos, which were published in the newspaper.

I would still wonder, though, even if I accept everything above, how the WG management managed to bamboozle all their peers into giving them so many awards, and not just in the one year. How much First contributed, in one way or another, to WG's demise may never be publically known, not least because libel law in this country is very much geared to those with deep pockets. My instinctive feelings about WG all relate to the pre- first depot fire period, by the way: after that, I think they never stood a chance, even if arson had been proven by the conviction of anybody or anybodies.

Speaking of local newspapers, another one in the Helston area published a letter signed by various local, named bus users after First had taken on routes previously operated by WG as a result of the Cornwall Council retendering which had led to WG's initial pre-fire problems. The letter expressed the users' dismay about the deterioration in the bus operation, including unfriendly drivers and a couldn't-care-less attitude. Personally, I've never seen credible evidence of the reasons for the retendering, and doubt I ever shall, but then the lack of public scrutiny of CC's decisions (I include those of their 'commercial' spin-offs) is absolutely depressing, even scandalous, but that is par for the course in the public domain these days of course.
 

dmncf

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Was Cornwall Council supportive or unsupportive of Western Greyhound?
 

CBlue

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I'm surprised one or two posters (such as SWTH whose firsthand observations chronicled the decline of the business) haven't chimed in here given their forthright views. I would be taking 'official' versions of the truth with a pinch of salt.

Western Greyhound, in it's first few years was held up as a model as to how to run a bus operation. Even in those days there were issues related to the inability, or unwillingness of the owner to spend money. Full Mercedes Varios with no standing capacity (the dual purpose spec ones didn't allow standees) were operating journeys and leaving customers behind.

Not unreasonably those customers complained, and were simply told to wait for the next bus in an hour's time. Add in the variable traffic congestion that affects Cornwall and you have timetables that could win prizes for fiction in book awards. Customers generally like bus services that turn up when they say they will on the timetable.

Western Greyhound's ultimate demise was hastened by using those vehicles way beyond their useful economic life, as well documented on the other thread. If you operate buses continuously on 17/18 hour days for over 10 years eventually those buses wear out, become unreliable and need to be replaced. The glut of 40 Varios was also the major barrier to the sale of the operation. They were extremely late in purchasing low floor buses, preferring instead to purchase secondhand Mercedes Varios for 3/4 years after new ones ceased being built.

I know firsthand that one interested buyer factored in the cost of acquiring 40 low floor buses into their offer and it was reduced significantly from what the owners would have got. The offer was rejected as the bid was deemed to be too low. Someone like Stagecoach could have taken the operation on, and it wouldn't have been a problem as they have surplus buses that can be redeployed in such situations.

As another poster has mentioned, if you'd said in 2011 that what was then First Devon & Cornwall would be running the bulk of the commercial services in Cornwall with a modern fleet of double deckers and a massively improved quality of fleet, everyone would have asked if you were on crack.
One comparison that I saw a few times was always Western Greyhound against Norfolk Green on the other side of the country. They also started out with a rather "mature" fleet including large numbers of Varios, but they were far more relentless in modernising routes and converting everything to low floor operation - a tactic that worked out well when Stagecoach bought them for what I imagine was a fairly pretty penny.
 
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I'm surprised one or two posters (such as SWTH whose firsthand observations chronicled the decline of the business) haven't chimed in here given their forthright views. I would be taking 'official' versions of the truth with a pinch of salt.

Western Greyhound, in it's first few years was held up as a model as to how to run a bus operation. Even in those days there were issues related to the inability, or unwillingness of the owner to spend money. Full Mercedes Varios with no standing capacity (the dual purpose spec ones didn't allow standees) were operating journeys and leaving customers behind.

Not unreasonably those customers complained, and were simply told to wait for the next bus in an hour's time. Add in the variable traffic congestion that affects Cornwall and you have timetables that could win prizes for fiction in book awards. Customers generally like bus services that turn up when they say they will on the timetable.

Western Greyhound's ultimate demise was hastened by using those vehicles way beyond their useful economic life, as well documented on the other thread. If you operate buses continuously on 17/18 hour days for over 10 years eventually those buses wear out, become unreliable and need to be replaced. The glut of 40 Varios was also the major barrier to the sale of the operation. They were extremely late in purchasing low floor buses, preferring instead to purchase secondhand Mercedes Varios for 3/4 years after new ones ceased being built.

I know firsthand that one interested buyer factored in the cost of acquiring 40 low floor buses into their offer and it was reduced significantly from what the owners would have got. The offer was rejected as the bid was deemed to be too low. Someone like Stagecoach could have taken the operation on, and it wouldn't have been a problem as they have surplus buses that can be redeployed in such situations.

As another poster has mentioned, if you'd said in 2011 that what was then First Devon & Cornwall would be running the bulk of the commercial services in Cornwall with a modern fleet of double deckers and a massively improved quality of fleet, everyone would have asked if you were on crack.

It only went downhill after the fires at Summercourt and Liskeard, and even more so when the company got sold on, you were right in saying that it was a great role model of how to run a bus company back in the good times before the fires etc, especially during 2008-10, as that is when the network was at its peak.

The reason why it all went to absolute hell after the new owners bought all those low floor buses in, is because they didn't listen to the voice of experience when they bought the company, Mark told them **EXACTLY** what to do, word for word, and they ignored him completely, what ended up happening? The insurance company didn't like what the new owners were doing and they asked them for the entire years' premium up front, and they just didn't have that sort of money, so they had to close down overnight, they never went bust and the fire was never an insurance job, I mean seriously, Mark is just as much of a bus enthusiast as I am, and he knows how to run a company properly, so why would he even begin to think about damaging his own pride and joy??

I've got some more bits coming to join my collection soon btw, watch this space! :)

Was Cornwall Council supportive or unsupportive of Western Greyhound?
Supportive, but after the fire and when it got sold on, tensions were brewing big time, the council were unsupportive of WG after it got sold on as the new owners kept cutting services that could have been saved, had they listened to Mark.

I'm quite willing to believe every word of what you say, but on the subject of unsuitable, overworked or simply knackered buses, First's Cornish operation at the time was hardly in a different league. I remember a local newspaper report of the operation of the one remaining journey on the so-called X18 from Penzance to Truro which had broken down on the Camborne By-Pass. The driver told the passengers that the previous bus allocated had also broken down. While the passengers waited on the doubledecker (an Ailsa?) one of them noted mushrooms sprouting from the bench seat at the lower deck rear, and took photos, which were published in the newspaper.

I would still wonder, though, even if I accept everything above, how the WG management managed to bamboozle all their peers into giving them so many awards, and not just in the one year. How much First contributed, in one way or another, to WG's demise may never be publically known, not least because libel law in this country is very much geared to those with deep pockets. My instinctive feelings about WG all relate to the pre- first depot fire period, by the way: after that, I think they never stood a chance, even if arson had been proven by the conviction of anybody or anybodies.

Speaking of local newspapers, another one in the Helston area published a letter signed by various local, named bus users after First had taken on routes previously operated by WG as a result of the Cornwall Council retendering which had led to WG's initial pre-fire problems. The letter expressed the users' dismay about the deterioration in the bus operation, including unfriendly drivers and a couldn't-care-less attitude. Personally, I've never seen credible evidence of the reasons for the retendering, and doubt I ever shall, but then the lack of public scrutiny of CC's decisions (I include those of their 'commercial' spin-offs) is absolutely depressing, even scandalous, but that is par for the course in the public domain these days of course.


You are not wrong there good sir! The reason why they started losing money is because First Devon and Cornwall (as they were known back then), didn't tell Western Greyhound that the routes they sold/gave to them were making a loss, and again, after the fires and what the new owners did, Western Greyhound's reputation was tarnished.. I still feel sorry for Mark to this day, he didn't deserve that fire, especially since it destroyed one of his VRs (JWV 259W)..

If I was to ever win the lottery (big time) or become rich in the future, I'd happily get all the buses that were lost in the fire, rebuilt, and that's a promise if I ever do get that lucky in the future :)
 
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Busaholic

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It only went downhill after the fires at Summercourt and Liskeard, and even more so when the company got sold on, you were right in saying that it was a great role model of how to run a bus company back in the good times before the fires etc, especially during 2008-10, as that is when the network was at its peak.

The reason why it all went to absolute hell after the new owners bought all those low floor buses in, is because they didn't listen to the voice of experience when they bought the company, Mark told them **EXACTLY** what to do, word for word, and they ignored him completely, what ended up happening? The insurance company didn't like what the new owners were doing and they asked them for the entire years' premium up front, and they just didn't have that sort of money, so they had to close down overnight, they never went bust and the fire was never an insurance job, I mean seriously, Mark is just as much of a bus enthusiast as I am, and he knows how to run a company properly, so why would he even begin to think about damaging his own pride and joy??

I've got some more bits coming to join my collection soon btw, watch this space! :)


Supportive, but after the fire and when it got sold on, tensions were brewing big time, the council were unsupportive of WG after it got sold on as the new owners kept cutting services that could have been saved, had they listened to Mark.




You are not wrong there good sir! The reason why they started losing money is because First Devon and Cornwall (as they were known back then), didn't tell Western Greyhound that the routes they sold/gave to them were making a loss, and again, after the fires and what the new owners did, Western Greyhound's reputation was tarnished.. I still feel sorry for Mark to this day, he didn't deserve that fire, especially since it destroyed one of his VRs (JWV 259W)..

If I was to ever win the lottery (big time) or become rich in the future, I'd happily get all the buses that were lost in the fire, rebuilt, and that's a promise if I ever do get that lucky in the future :)
In summary, what really did for WG in the long run imo was resentments built up against its principal proprietor by former colleagues who'd been shown up by his greater understanding of the bus market in Cornwall and a willingness to listen to what passengers wanted, including the extraordinary prospect of enticing more people to travel by bus, a revolutionary idea at the time. Of course, many corporate people in the bus industry detest 'enthusiasts' in any form with intense suspicion reserved for those who combined their enthusiasm with being very good at their job: funny how many of these are ex-First employees! In all this, must stress this is no reflection on my part about current First local management, whose approach is extremely encouraging and is to be applauded: all power to their elbow!
 
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In summary, what really did for WG in the long run imo was resentments built up against its principal proprietor by former colleagues who'd been shown up by his greater understanding of the bus market in Cornwall and a willingness to listen to what passengers wanted, including the extraordinary prospect of enticing more people to travel by bus, a revolutionary idea at the time. Of course, many corporate people in the bus industry detest 'enthusiasts' in any form with intense suspicion reserved for those who combined their enthusiasm with being very good at their job: funny how many of these are ex-First employees! In all this, must stress this is no reflection on my part about current First local management, whose approach is extremely encouraging and is to be applauded: all power to their elbow!

You really hit the nail on the head! Mark made sure that not one staff member or passenger was left behind when he ran Western Greyhound before the fires happened, and you're not wrong there, I don't know why people disliked him for recognising the enthusiasts, passengers, and staff's requests (in your words, a willingness to listen to what the passengers wanted), I guess it's a case of jealousy because he was so successful? I could be completely wrong, this is just my thoughts/an assumption, but I've seen the same sort of thing happen many a time..

I'll tell you this though, there will never, and I mean there will never, EVER be a company like Western Greyhound ever again, because there's one thing they had that modern shareholder based companies don't have, a proper community, including the staff, passengers, and enthusiasts.
 

RT4038

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I'm surprised one or two posters (such as SWTH whose firsthand observations chronicled the decline of the business) haven't chimed in here given their forthright views. I would be taking 'official' versions of the truth with a pinch of salt.

Western Greyhound, in it's first few years was held up as a model as to how to run a bus operation. Even in those days there were issues related to the inability, or unwillingness of the owner to spend money. Full Mercedes Varios with no standing capacity (the dual purpose spec ones didn't allow standees) were operating journeys and leaving customers behind.

Not unreasonably those customers complained, and were simply told to wait for the next bus in an hour's time. Add in the variable traffic congestion that affects Cornwall and you have timetables that could win prizes for fiction in book awards. Customers generally like bus services that turn up when they say they will on the timetable.

Western Greyhound's ultimate demise was hastened by using those vehicles way beyond their useful economic life, as well documented on the other thread. If you operate buses continuously on 17/18 hour days for over 10 years eventually those buses wear out, become unreliable and need to be replaced. The glut of 40 Varios was also the major barrier to the sale of the operation. They were extremely late in purchasing low floor buses, preferring instead to purchase secondhand Mercedes Varios for 3/4 years after new ones ceased being built.

I know firsthand that one interested buyer factored in the cost of acquiring 40 low floor buses into their offer and it was reduced significantly from what the owners would have got. The offer was rejected as the bid was deemed to be too low. Someone like Stagecoach could have taken the operation on, and it wouldn't have been a problem as they have surplus buses that can be redeployed in such situations.

As another poster has mentioned, if you'd said in 2011 that what was then First Devon & Cornwall would be running the bulk of the commercial services in Cornwall with a modern fleet of double deckers and a massively improved quality of fleet, everyone would have asked if you were on crack.

I suspect that the situation was a little more complicated - the services were being run by Mercedes Benz Varios, which were cheap to buy and cheap to run. Cornwall County Council had, at that time, one of the most generous Concessionary fare reimbursement rates in the country. This enabled Western Greyhound to operate an extensive network of services, efficiently scheduled and economic (although the schedules didn't work very well during the holiday season).

The problem was that the Varios were not DDA compliant, and no suitable DDA compliant new vehicle was available that was as cheap to buy and as cheap to run. Consequently WG was forced to keep the Varios running for as long as possible. However, as has been pointed out, the older they got, the more expensive and unreliable they were to run. This was not a phenomenon solely found at WG - Stagecoach had a very large fleet of Mercedes 709s and Varios, often on routes that could not afford the replacement DDA vehicles, and unpleasant decisions had to be taken on cuts. The difference in costs between the Mercedes Benz vehicles and , say, a Solo were not inconsequential.

At the same time, Cornwall County Council were being unfavourably compared to other 'Shire' counties on the concessionary fare re-imbursement front, and made a decision to cut re-imbursement rates.

This led to a perfect financial storm for WG. This would have required some pretty difficult decisions, especially for a bus enthusiast who had built the company up. No criticism intended, I would be in a similar position!
 

Robertj21a

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It only went downhill after the fires at Summercourt and Liskeard, and even more so when the company got sold on, you were right in saying that it was a great role model of how to run a bus company back in the good times before the fires etc, especially during 2008-10, as that is when the network was at its peak.

The reason why it all went to absolute hell after the new owners bought all those low floor buses in, is because they didn't listen to the voice of experience when they bought the company, Mark told them **EXACTLY** what to do, word for word, and they ignored him completely, what ended up happening? The insurance company didn't like what the new owners were doing and they asked them for the entire years' premium up front, and they just didn't have that sort of money, so they had to close down overnight, they never went bust and the fire was never an insurance job, I mean seriously, Mark is just as much of a bus enthusiast as I am, and he knows how to run a company properly, so why would he even begin to think about damaging his own pride and joy??

I've got some more bits coming to join my collection soon btw, watch this space! :)


Supportive, but after the fire and when it got sold on, tensions were brewing big time, the council were unsupportive of WG after it got sold on as the new owners kept cutting services that could have been saved, had they listened to Mark.




You are not wrong there good sir! The reason why they started losing money is because First Devon and Cornwall (as they were known back then), didn't tell Western Greyhound that the routes they sold/gave to them were making a loss, and again, after the fires and what the new owners did, Western Greyhound's reputation was tarnished.. I still feel sorry for Mark to this day, he didn't deserve that fire, especially since it destroyed one of his VRs (JWV 259W)..

If I was to ever win the lottery (big time) or become rich in the future, I'd happily get all the buses that were lost in the fire, rebuilt, and that's a promise if I ever do get that lucky in the future :)
I don't know that anybody has suggested that Mark was in any way involved in the fires. My understanding was that some suspects were identified, but there is insufficient proof to enable any prosecution to proceed.
It's good to read of your tremendous enthusiasm for Western Greyhound but I do feel that it is being viewed through rather a number of rose coloured spectacles.
 
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I suspect that the situation was a little more complicated - the services were being run by Mercedes Benz Varios, which were cheap to buy and cheap to run. Cornwall County Council had, at that time, one of the most generous Concessionary fare reimbursement rates in the country. This enabled Western Greyhound to operate an extensive network of services, efficiently scheduled and economic (although the schedules didn't work very well during the holiday season).

The problem was that the Varios were not DDA compliant, and no suitable DDA compliant new vehicle was available that was as cheap to buy and as cheap to run. Consequently WG was forced to keep the Varios running for as long as possible. However, as has been pointed out, the older they got, the more expensive and unreliable they were to run. This was not a phenomenon solely found at WG - Stagecoach had a very large fleet of Mercedes 709s and Varios, often on routes that could not afford the replacement DDA vehicles, and unpleasant decisions had to be taken on cuts. The difference in costs between the Mercedes Benz vehicles and , say, a Solo were not inconsequential.

At the same time, Cornwall County Council were being unfavourably compared to other 'Shire' counties on the concessionary fare re-imbursement front, and made a decision to cut re-imbursement rates.

This led to a perfect financial storm for WG. This would have required some pretty difficult decisions, especially for a bus enthusiast who had built the company up. No criticism intended, I would be in a similar position!

Very well said!! I wouldn't be able to handle any decisions as tough as that, being an enthusiast myself!

I don't know that anybody has suggested that Mark was in any way involved in the fires. My understanding was that some suspects were identified, but there is insufficient proof to enable any prosecution to proceed.
It's good to read of your tremendous enthusiasm for Western Greyhound but I do feel that it is being viewed through rather a number of rose coloured spectacles.
You should see some of the cruel people on Facebook making all sorts of allegations, it's not nice at all :(

I will admit, Western Greyhound did have bad days, including buses that broke down from time to time (just like any other bus company), and the running of the company was stressful for most of the staff, but it was definitely worth it in my opinion.
 

MotCO

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The problem was that the Varios were not DDA compliant, and no suitable DDA compliant new vehicle was available that was as cheap to buy and as cheap to run.

Would the modern Mercedes conversions (e.g. with Mellor bodywork) been suitable and cheap enough if they were available back then?

I first learned of this forum due to the fire at WG - some 1,800 posts ago!
 
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Would the modern Mercedes conversions (e.g. with Mellor bodywork) been suitable and cheap enough if they were available back then?

I first learned of this forum due to the fire at WG - some 1,800 posts ago!

They more than likely would have been, yes.
 

fgwrich

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It only went downhill after the fires at Summercourt and Liskeard, and even more so when the company got sold on, you were right in saying that it was a great role model of how to run a bus company back in the good times before the fires etc, especially during 2008-10, as that is when the network was at its peak.

The reason why it all went to absolute hell after the new owners bought all those low floor buses in, is because they didn't listen to the voice of experience when they bought the company, Mark told them **EXACTLY** what to do, word for word, and they ignored him completely, what ended up happening? The insurance company didn't like what the new owners were doing and they asked them for the entire years' premium up front, and they just didn't have that sort of money, so they had to close down overnight...

There was all sorts of horror stories revealed from the Bishop & Smith Era of Western Greyhound, and unfortunately, I do feel that you are looking at their demise through some, perhaps Velvet tinted glasses. While no one can argue that the business was not in a particularly good shape after the Summercourt fire, it certainly was made worse by Mark's decision to sell up to Michael Bishop and Smith - Both of those two have a lot of (disreputable) history in running bus businesses, not least in Buses Etcetera in Surrey where Smith was a director and Bishop the ops manager. After some very dubious financial accounting (i.e Money Laundering), which resulted in Smith resigning from BETC, Smith then went on to purchase the remnants of Eastleigh based Velvet Travel - Bishop later on joining him there. Velvet Travel seemed to have a bit of a questionable history towards the end, particularly surrounding maintenance. When Mark put Greyhound up for sale, Bishop and Smith then seemed to use Velvet as the launchpad to purchase Greyhound - transferring all sorts of unsuitable vehicles to Cornwall from Eastleigh. While the story about the insurance company asking B&S for a years premium may be true, there's a lot of other rather dubious actions carried out by those two which hastened WG's demise - spending an absolute fortune on tarting up a Solo and fitting it with Wifi (far too ahead of it's time to work down there, an also not particularly important feature given the grand scheme of things and the shape of the business) - The same Optare Solo had the dubious history of running WG's last service... without an MOT or Insurance on it. Unfortunately, maintenance / tax & insurance all seem to be recurring features of the downfall of the final chapter of Western Greyhound, and it's slightly odd sister Velvet Travel - A Velvet Travel vehicle lost a wheel on the M3 while carrying passengers, causing a collision with a lorry - during the investigation it later turned out that said vehicle didn't have an MOT either, and I seem to recall a lot of complaints about the lack of service provided by WG at this time too (that's if and when they did find a vehicle that worked). In the end, Velvet Travel almost escaped with B&S placing it into liquidation owing in excess of £1M (before being officially wound up), while WG fell into administration - Having the traffic commissioner revoking the licenses of either business, and banning Mr Bishop and Mr Smith, really was the final nail in the coffin, and perhaps the best thing that could happen to the remnants of both businesses.

Personally, from my perspective, I can't share as much enthusiasm for Western Greyhound as you I'm afraid - While the trips with the VRs were nice, I have too many memories of absolutely ragged Vario's and being left behind on more than one occasion in North Cornwall - particularly as the Vario had well, just decided to give up in Padstow bus station. On another occasion travelling between Newquay and Padstow, the driver encountered traffic on one of the main roads (A39 possibly), and decided to go rogue around the country lanes - It certainly saved a trip to Flambards, this poor Beaver II was certainly being thrown around the country lanes and backroads, and absolutely stank of burnt out clutch by the time we reached Padstow!
 

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