BUS passengers across Oxfordshire were today facing disruption after operator RH Transport went out of business.
School pupils on routes across West Oxfordshire have been forced to find alternative transport while services to Oxford’s hospitals and commuter and rail link Buses have also been disrupted or cancelled.
Bus operator Stagecoach has stepped in to cover other services until Monday.
RH buses stopped running last night with up to 50 drivers losing their jobs and an application to put the Witney firm into administration is expected to be submitted today.
Officials at Oxfordshire County Council’s transport department are now pulling out the stops to ensure permanent arrangements for school and commercial bus services are in place from Monday onwards.
Rodney Rose, county council deputy leader and cabinet member for transport, said: “We have already started the process of identifying replacement operators given the news that RH Transport may well be placed into administration early on Friday.
“We hope this speedy action will ensure that as many services as possible are operating at the start of the new school week.
“Services run by RH Transport will not be on the roads on Friday and we have made schools aware of this so that they pass the message on to their parents and through their community networks.”
Alma Tumilowicz, who lives in Alvescot, said: “When RH Buses took over the contract from Stagecoach a couple of years ago they hiked the price of a bus pass from my son Stefan to go to Henry Box school.
“I’m not surprised it has gone out of business. They used old buses and the standard of service dropped considerably when they took over and sometimes they just didn’t turn up at all.”
Northmoor Parish Council clerk Michael Ryan added: “We only have one bus service and there are always people on it. I just hope they can continue to run. People may struggle to get to work otherwise.”
In a statement, Matthew Arnold School in Cumnor, which is served by an RH service, said: “We are advising all parents affected to make alternative arrangements where possible for children to get to school.”
As well as the school routes, RH ran 13 services from Faringdon in the west, Didcot in the south and as far north as Chipping Norton.
In Oxford, a peak hours replacement service was found for the 700 service from the Water Eaton park -and-ride to the hospitals operated by Stagecoach and the Oxford Bus Company.
In a statement, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “Oxfordshire County Council has arranged for a skeleton bus service at peak times. This service will only run to the John Radcliffe Hospital and will not continue on to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre or the Churchill Hospital site.”
The disruption could also affect fans travelling from outlying towns to the Kassam Stadium for Oxford United’s match with Gillingham on Saturday. Spokesman Chris Williams said the club was trying to make alternative arrangements.
Finance specialist RSM Tenon is set to be appointed as administrator for the business today. Spokesman Hassiena Albohaithi said: “We applied for an administration order and a court application will be heard in Manchester.”
A team from RSM Tenon travelled to RH Transport’s Witney headquarters to assess the situation yesterday.
Union officials were last night meeting up to 50 drivers affected by the company’s failure and facing redundancy as a result. It is understood there are no wage arrears.
A statement from RH Transport said: “RH Transport Services will cease to operate all Oxfordshire County Council bus services and school contracts.
“Anyone who has booked private hire with us should make other arrangements. We would like to thank all our passengers for their custom over the years.”