Rotala – Determined to succeed as quality bus operators

2 September 2015  •  Author(s): John Asquith, Regional Operations Manager, Rotala PLC

Now that Rotala PLC has taken over the running of Preston Bus and Diamond Bus North West in the UK, Regional Operations Manager John Asquith highlights how the organisation has grown, the challenges it has overcome, the work that it still needs to concentrate on in the years ahead, and ultimately the determination it has to succeed as efficient and effective public transport operators for the long-run.

Rotala - Determined to succeed as quality bus operators

Preston Bus (PBL) has a long history, with transport activities dating back before the turn of the 20th Century. Electric trams began operating from the present Deepdale Road headquarters in Preston from 1904. The first bus services began in the early-1920s. Since then the company has progressed from a substantial period of local authority ownership, to employee ownership following bus deregulation in 1986, to ownership by other bus operators. In January 2009, following two years of intense competition, PBL was sold to Stagecoach. The takeover proved a catalyst for essential changes within the company. Though some work had been done during the period preceding takeover, there was an urgent need for modernisation – especially in the day-to-day running of the company. Consequently management was restructured, processes and working practices were updated, and the depot workforce was streamlined.

However, the Stagecoach takeover was extremely controversial. A subsequent investigation into the sale by the Office of Fair Trading forced Stagecoach to run PBL as a separate entity with neutral management. The culmination of the investigation was a Competition Commission ruling that the deal had adversely affected competition in the area, and Stagecoach was forced to sell PBL after two years. There was interest from a number of companies, including a possible worker buy-out, but ultimately the Rotala Group was announced as preferred bidder, and the sale was completed in January 2011 with Bob Dunn becoming Managing Director of Preston Bus…

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