Coachline promises jobs safe in crossover

MICHAEL BERRY
Last updated 05:00 01/06/2013

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Christchurch-based Leopard Coachlines is selling its city bus routes and commuter buses to Hamilton's Go Bus for an undisclosed sum.

Leopard Coachlines runs about 90 buses under the Orbiter, Selwyn Star and Urban Cat brands. The routes are contracted with Environment Canterbury's (ECan) Metro bus service. It also has a tourism and charter bus arm which is not being sold.

The agreement is conditional, but both companies were confident it would become final by mid-July.

Go Bus commercial director Craig Worth said the firm was one of the country's leading passenger transport operators employing 1200 people. It had about 280 in Christchurch and bought out Christchurch Bus Services in 2010.

He estimated Go Bus would have about two-thirds of the bus services in the city following the purchase of Leopard.

"We are really looking forward to welcoming the Leopard team to the Go Bus family and see this acquisition as a natural complement to our existing Christchurch business," he said.

Go Bus would continue to run the commuter business from the Sydenham Leopard depot. The Urban Cat brand would be replaced with Go Bus over time.

Leopard managing director Brent Early said the firm had contracted to the regional council since 1993.

It has operated the Orbiter service since 1999. According to Leopard's website it was the largest city bus route in Christchurch, carrying 12 per cent of all bus passengers.

Early did not expect anything would prevent the sale going through. One condition was ECan's approval, but a spokesman told The Press there was no obvious reason to deny the contract transfer.

Go Bus had approached Leopard with the offer to buy the urban arm of the business, including about 90 buses and 180 staff, Early said.

It meant Leopard would refocus on its tourism and charter bus business throughout the country, he said, it would also continue its school charters.

It would retain 90 buses and about 100 staff, spread between Christchurch and Auckland, he said.

He stressed there were "absolutely no redundancies" and all his urban bus staff would move over to Go Bus.

"We've been around for a long, long time and we'll still be here, just not doing the commuter stuff."

Leopard was founded 30 years ago on school bus contracts.

With the contraction of bus users and the reorganisation of Christchurch's bus routes after the earthquakes, it made sense for a larger, more concentrated and co-ordinated company, he said.

Christchurch City Council-owned Red Bus has a 167-strong fleet and 260 staff.

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In the year to June 2012, ECan spent $55.8 million on public passenger transport, slightly more than the previous year.

The regional council would not say how much the individual bus contracts were because of commercial sensitivity.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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