A MAJOR bus company has gone into administration after racking up hundreds of thousands of pounds in losses.

The collapse of Halton Transport – run by Halton Borough Council –  has put around 150 jobs at risk and thrown the future of some of the borough’s bus routes into doubt.

Warrington’s Own Buses has confirmed this afternoon, Friday, it will be operating the 20, 20a, 3d and the Warrington only journeys of the 62. 

The 20 and 20a will start operation tomorrow, Saturday, the 3d from Sunday. 

Warrington’s Own Buses will also take over running of the bus services to Riverside & Cronton Colleges from this Monday with the college services running at the usual time and routes. 

Details of services and times will be added to warringtonsownbuses.co.uk as soon as possible. 

Ben Wakerley, managing director of Warrington’s Own Buses commented: “We are sad to hear about the events at Halton Transport and have acted quickly to reinstate services, alongside fellow bus operators. 

"We are working to secure jobs for as many people from Halton Transport and to ensure that bus services continue to operate, as they are a lifeline for many parts of our community.

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“It is becoming ever more vital that supportive measures and policies are implemented for buses across England, as buses are under immense competition from private car ownership, with the associated congestion and environmental impacts that cars cause”.

A “Final Staff Notice” has been posted at the Halton Transport’s depot signed by operations director Brian Stevenson.

The notice says: “Will all staff please submit your final timesheet for this week please.

“On a personal note I would like to thank each and everyone of you for all your commitments to myself and the company since I have been in my present position.

“Good luck to you all and your families in these trying times.”

Private operator Arriva North West has also confirmed that Halton Transport has ceased trading as it announces it will be picking up some of the routes from the collapsed company.

Halton Councillors made a decision on the bus company’s future in a behind-closed-doors meeting on Wednesday night, but the outcome of that meeting has remained confidential since then.

Several drivers failed to report for work on Thursday and Friday owing to uncertainty over whether they would be paid, leaving passengers including schoolchildren stranded when their buses did not arrive.

Halton Council confirmed the collapse on Friday lunchtime.

A spokesman said: "The council regrets that the Board of Halton Transport has taken the difficult decision to commence the process to put the company into liquidation, following a long period in which the company has been facing significant financial problems.

"Halton Transport is a company owned by the council as an ‘arm’s length’ company and has been since 1986, when the law was introduced meaning councils could not directly run bus companies.  Since then, Halton Transport has been required to operate on a commercial basis, which it has done successfully for many years.. 

"Unfortunately, over recent years, the trading environment has become more difficult.

Warrington Guardian: Halton Transport buses operate services across Runcorn and Widnes MBB250815

"As the major shareholder, the council has, in recent months, been supporting the company in an attempt to place it on a stronger, more sustainable footing - unfortunately that has not been possible. 

"It is widely known that the council, like all other local authorities, has had significant reductions in its budget and therefore has to make difficult choices as to how best to utilise the resources it has.  These are, by their nature, very difficult choices.  In this instance its ability to support a commercial operation like Halton Transport is limited.

"However, the council is extremely aware of the anxiety this will cause members of the public who rely on the services provided by Halton Transport and is working hard with other providers to ensure, as far as possible, that essential services are maintained. 

"However, there will inevitably be disruption.

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"The simple advice to members of the public is that if you rely on a Halton Transport bus you should make alternative arrangements.  The council will make announcements on its website, social media and through media outlets in relation to alternative services as they are put in place and become operational.

"The council would like to apologise to bus users for any inconvenience caused and will continue to try to arrange alternative services."

Arriva North West has announced it will take over some of Halton Transport’s routes.

In a post on its website, Arriva said: “New Arriva bus services will be available in Runcorn and Widnes from Saturday.

“Arriva will be introducing these services following the recent announcement by Halton Transport to cease trading. For the next two weeks all valid Halton tickets will be accepted on all Arriva services in Halton and throughout the wider Merseyside area.”

The routes being taken over by Arriva are the 6, 14A, 17, 61, 62, 200 and 201.

The collapse of Halton Transport comes after the company recorded almost £620,000 in losses last year and had to be bailed out with a £750,000 loan from the council.

Company accounts blamed rising insurance costs and delays to the works on the Silver Jubilee Bridge for the company’s deteriorating finances.

While Halton Council was able to bail out the company in July, an earlier council statement said it had become “more difficult” to support Halton Transport given the local authority’s own financial difficulties.

Halton Council itself faces a £6 million budget gap this year.