What Defines a National Operator?

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MK Tom

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I keep hearing reference to the 'big five' national bus operators in the UK. The list I usually hear is:

  • Arriva
  • GoAhead
  • National Express
  • First
  • Stagecoach

Any operator other than these five seems to be treated as a minor operation or an 'independent'. But at what point do you break through into being a national? I'm asking this question with particular regard to Centrebus, whose recent explosive expansion has in my view taken them well beyond what is independent operator territory and seems to have given them a national presence comparable with some on this list. National Express' presence on this list is curious to me - they're a coach operator with only three bus franchises all centred on the same region. Plus they don't even really operate their coach routes if my understanding is correct. So have Centrebus crossed this invisible threshold that Stagecoach presumably crossed somewhere in the 1990s? If not, why not? How do you go from being a few second hand buses on a farm to being a multinational transport giant?
 
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tbtc

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Good question Tom.

One phrase that gets on my nerves is seeing a company referred to as "the biggest independent" (which is a bit like being the shortest tall person...).

You could argue that Centrebus have more of a "national" presence than National Express do, since the vast majority of NatEx's buses are in the West Midlands (plus one garage in Dundee, plus occasionally some London operations).

In geographical spread of bus operations you'd have to say Stagecoach are the biggest (going from Orkney down to Devon). Go Ahead go from Northumberland to Brighton. Arriva from Northumberland to Carfidd. First go from Aberdeen to Lands End.
 

Schnellzug

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I don't really know very much about Centrebus, but they do come across as just a start-up company with no real history. I think that's what makes a National operator; one that is at least the inheritor of ye olde bus companies going back to the dawn of time, so that (for instance) Stagecoach South Coast is recognisably the current incarnation of Southdown, and First Somerset & Avon of Bristol Omnibus, and NXWM of Birmingham City Transport. I think that's when Stagecoach became a National operator, when they inherited that tradition.
 

317 forever

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You can even ask whether to consider EYMS or Rotala as national operators? EYMS have Finglands and Whittle in addition to East Yorkshire. Rotala have operations in Birmingham, Bristol, Preston and maybe still Surrey. Then there's Veolia Transdev, RATP and potentially others with a limited spread across the country.

I think the big 5 are quoted for being PLCs, or in Arriva's case an ex-PLC now foreign-owned.
 

MK Tom

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Don't forget that Centrebus Holdings is 40% owned by Arriva.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centrebus_Holdings
That's just their Huddersfield operation I thought? 'Centrebus Holdings' is a 60/40 venture between CB and Arriva to buy out the Stagecoach operation in that area. I'm pretty sure Arriva don't have any part in any of CB's other operations, especially not in places where both operate like Leicester and Luton.
 

Deerfold

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That's just their Huddersfield operation I thought? 'Centrebus Holdings' is a 60/40 venture between CB and Arriva to buy out the Stagecoach operation in that area. I'm pretty sure Arriva don't have any part in any of CB's other operations, especially not in places where both operate like Leicester and Luton.
As the link I provided says it's the Halifax, Huddersfield and (now) Hinckley services.
 

MK Tom

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As the link I provided says it's the Halifax, Huddersfield and (now) Hinckley services.
Yeah, so those operations are jointly operated but CB itself is still a fully independent company, as are its operations in Luton, Northants, Leicester and a few other areas.
 

Deerfold

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Yeah, so those operations are jointly operated but CB itself is still a fully independent company, as are its operations in Luton, Northants, Leicester and a few other areas.
Indeed - I was only pointing out the link to Arriva for some of their operations. I did refer to "Centrebus Holdings" and posted a link describing exactly what that covers.
 

MK Tom

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'Centrebus Holdings' is such a confusing choice of name - it really make it sound like it should own Centrebus but in fact it's the other way round.
 

Badger

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I think they're just called the big five because they're the biggest five.. (by a large margin).

In my opinion to be a national operator I'd say they just have to have services in more than one non-adjacent ceremonial county. Obviously to be International, more than one country.
 

MK Tom

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I think they're just called the big five because they're the biggest five.. (by a large margin).

In my opinion to be a national operator I'd say they just have to have services in more than one non-adjacent ceremonial county. Obviously to be International, more than one country.
So you would count Centrebus as a national operator then? Seeing as they were operating Leicestershire and Bedfordshire before they were in Northants...
 

Badger

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According to Wikipedia,

Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire, Essex;
Through its High Peak subsidiary: Derbyshire, Greater Manchester, Cheshire.
I'd call that national personally.

Although maybe I shouldn't have said ceremonial county, and instead region (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regions_of_England) although something between the two would be better.
 

Ivo

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I think I would suggest a system of Big Four (Arriva/First/Go-Ahead/Stagecoach) and then a group of pretenders, all of whom are either too small or too young to be taken seriously as a full National Bus Operator (Centrebus/EYMS/NX/Rotala etc).

I suspect that, in a few years, Centrebus and possibly Rotala will be promoted. I sincerely hope otherwise however.
 

Tomonthetrain

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I think I would suggest a system of Big Four (Arriva/First/Go-Ahead/Stagecoach) and then a group of pretenders, all of whom are either too small or too young to be taken seriously as a full National Bus Operator (Centrebus/EYMS/NX/Rotala etc).

I suspect that, in a few years, Centrebus and possibly Rotala will be promoted. I sincerely hope otherwise however.
Unless Rotala get brought out which is as predictable as a drunken punch up on friday night
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
I think I would suggest a system of Big Four (Arriva/First/Go-Ahead/Stagecoach) and then a group of pretenders, all of whom are either too small or too young to be taken seriously as a full National Bus Operator (Centrebus/EYMS/NX/Rotala etc).

I suspect that, in a few years, Centrebus and possibly Rotala will be promoted. I sincerely hope otherwise however.
Plus national express is big 5 company period
 

MK Tom

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Plus national express is big 5 company period
Is it? They're a national coach operator obviously, even though they don't actually operate the services directly, but in bus terms they're basically just a local operator for the West Midlands and like one other place in the whole of Britain.
 

Deerfold

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Unless Rotala get brought out which is as predictable as a drunken punch up on friday night
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---


Plus national express is big 5 company period
Any particular reason? There's plenty of bigger operators if you're only looking at buses.
 

Badger

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National Express are probably one of the Big Five more for their other transport workings - trains (admittedly scaled back now), coaches, AirLinks buses, and Midland Metro (since the other four all do other things too). Plus they used to run Travel London which was a bit more substantial than one garage in Dundee.
 

Tomonthetrain

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National Express are probably one of the Big Five more for their other transport workings - trains (admittedly scaled back now), coaches, AirLinks buses, and Midland Metro (since the other four all do other things too). Plus they used to run Travel London which was a bit more substantial than one garage in Dundee.
Exactly Mr Badger.
 

Deerfold

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National Express are probably one of the Big Five more for their other transport workings - trains (admittedly scaled back now), coaches, AirLinks buses, and Midland Metro (since the other four all do other things too). Plus they used to run Travel London which was a bit more substantial than one garage in Dundee.
Although of course most of the coach operations are franchised out.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Exactly Mr Badger.
So you're basing the top 5 national bus operators on activities other than buses? Now that is odd.
 
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MK Tom

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I'm inclined to agree with Deerfold - we're only really discussing the concept of a national bus operator. National Express is a local bus operator in Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dundee. Their one surviving rail operation and the fact they have their name on coach services that other people actually run don't really make them a national bus operator in my view. Centrebus have operations in all the areas listed earlier in the thread, which gives them a much bigger presence in the bus world than NatEx have. I'm not sure about Veolia and others, which was sort of why I started this thread. But yeah, national bus operator and national transport provider are two different things.
 

Deerfold

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I'm inclined to agree with Deerfold - we're only really discussing the concept of a national bus operator. National Express is a local bus operator in Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dundee. Their one surviving rail operation and the fact they have their name on coach services that other people actually run don't really make them a national bus operator in my view. Centrebus have operations in all the areas listed earlier in the thread, which gives them a much bigger presence in the bus world than NatEx have. I'm not sure about Veolia and others, which was sort of why I started this thread. But yeah, national bus operator and national transport provider are two different things.
They do also run the local airlink buses to/from hotels around Heathrow (which are extremely expensive expecially as many of them have free local bus services from nearby bus stops) but I dont think that's quite enough to make the difference.

Veolia/Transdev I would have thought probably have more buses than NX, spread about rather more.
(London Sovereign, Keighley & District, Harrogate and District, Burnley and Pendle, Lancashire United, Yorkshire Coastline, Transdev York, part of Nottingham City Transport).

NX are definitely one of the largest transport operators in the country but I wouldn't class them as top 5 on buses alone.
 
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