Bus company still on the road – despite big challenges

PUBLISHED: 09:42 05 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:37 05 June 2020

Donald McGregor drives his bus around Hedingham  Picture: PAUL CLARKE

Donald McGregor drives his bus around Hedingham Picture: PAUL CLARKE

Paul Clarke

A former bus company boss still gets behind the wheel for the school run – eight years after selling the company his father founded to a bigger group.

A red Hedingham Scania bus  Picture: HEDINGHAM BUSESA red Hedingham Scania bus Picture: HEDINGHAM BUSES

Hedingham Omnibuses founder Donald McGregor MBE died in 2012, but this year the company – which operates across Essex and Suffolk – is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Donald’s son, Robert – then its managing director – made the difficult decision to sell the business the year his father died to the Go-Ahead Group - but he still works for the company.

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“I was getting older. My father was in ill health and running a 100 strong fleet was getting harder,” he explained.

“My three children wanted to pursue other careers and my wife and I had a desire to travel. I felt then was the right time for me to move on as MD.

Hedingham Buses 60 years model display  Picture: MARK LLOYDHedingham Buses 60 years model display Picture: MARK LLOYD

“I still drive our school buses at Hedingham and love the work I do and will continue to play an active part in the business until I am no longer able. I would like to thank the Go-Ahead Group for giving us the opportunity to make it to 60 years.

“It has been a challenge for the last eight years and now with a global viral pandemic to struggle with, they have continued to show great professionalism.”

Hedingham Omnibuses was launched in 1960, when Donald MacGregor bought Letch Motors – which included eight petrol buses and a depot at Sible Hedingham, near Halstead – for £3,000 from retiring owner Aubrey Letch.

The company grew steadily, and within 17 years, the fleet had grown to 15 buses.

A Blue Dream 100 Hedingham bus  Picture: HEDINGHAM OMNIBUSESA Blue Dream 100 Hedingham bus Picture: HEDINGHAM OMNIBUSES

In the 1980s, various acquisitions including a major coach firm in 1982 expanded the business into private hire. Robert – who joined from school – was put in charge, becoming MD in 1995.

By 1991, Hedingham had become Clacton’s biggest coach operator and in 1997, following the largest acquisition of Osbournes of Tollesbury, the fleet had grown to 132 vehicles and was operated from five depots at Sible Hedingham, Sudbury, Tollesbury, Clacton and Kelvedon.

To mark the 60th milestone, the company – which has retained its family ethos – has launched a 60-year nostalgia video and a commemorative pin badge.

Go East Anglia managing director Jeremy Cooper said: “It is a great honour to lead such a long established and well-regarded company as Hedingham Omnibuses. During its 50 years of private ownership, the company built an enviable reputation for the cost-effective delivery of school services and subsidised rural bus services, expanding through changing times.”

Hedingham Omnibuses 60th anniversary cakes  Picture: HEIDI CARSBOULTHedingham Omnibuses 60th anniversary cakes Picture: HEIDI CARSBOULT

Hedingham Omnibuses is part of Go East Anglia, which provides bus services throughout Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. Go East Anglia owns the Konectbus, Hedingham, Norwich Park & Ride and Chambers services and operates a fleet of more than 190 buses over 159 bus routes. Its parent company is multinational transport operator the Go-Ahead Group.

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