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Coach firm folds as fuel prices spiral

PUBLISHED: 10:19 19 March 2008 | UPDATED: 10:39 03 July 2010

Coach companies are struggling to survive in the face of "crippling" fuel costs, it emerged last night.

Their plight came to the surface as a Norfolk family firm blamed soaring prices for its decision to close after 55 years.

Coach companies are struggling to survive in the face of “crippling” fuel costs, it emerged last night.

Their plight came to the surface as a Norfolk family firm blamed soaring prices for its decision to close after 55 years. Yarmouth-based Caroline Seagull's fleet of 20 vehicles will stop transporting day-trippers along the coastline at the end of the month.

Mark Buckle, who manages and co-directs the business with his father Jeffery, put the blame at the door of rocketing diesel costs. He said: “This is a very sad time for us. We did not make this decision lightly. No doubt it's a loss to the community.”

Sixteen staff at the firm will have to find new jobs, including Mr Buckle, who joined the business from school at 16, starting out in the workshop.

The company also has a contract to take students to and from schools and colleges throughout Norfolk.

Mr Buckle, whose grandfather Harry Madisson founded the firm in 1953, said: “I don't know what I'm going to do now. I've got a lot of things to sort out first. We've had some regular and loyal customers, and it's a great shame for them as well.

“We have always had a good summer trade, but that has unfortunately declined. We are ceasing trading and selling all our assets.”

In Suffolk, Simonds, based at Botesdale, operates 44 coaches. Carl Lummis, its operations manager, shared Mr Buckle's views of the plight of Britain's coach businesses.

He said: “We're having the same problems as every coach company is, I think: the cost of diesel is really crippling us. It gets to a worrying level, and if it gets much higher than that then the customer loses out.

“We haven't put up prices yet but we might have to if it keeps rocketing the way it is - it can only carry on going up for so long before we have to do something about it.” And Mr Lummis offered his sympathy to the Caroline Seagull team, saying : “It is very, very sad when we hear of another operator coming to this.”

In his 2008 budget chancellor Alistair Darling warned of his intention to add 2p a litre in tax to fuel later in the year, while the global rise in the cost of oil has added to pump prices.

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