IT’S the end of an era as the ignition is switched off for the final time at Dudley’s Coaches.
With their distinctive names – The Hanbury Harrier, Tanworth Tourer, The Flyford Connection – they’ve been a fixture on local roads and further afield, transporting millions of people, from schoolchildren to holidaymakers all around the country.
But now Chris Dudley, son of founder Ernie Dudley, has decided to call time on the business after 82 glorious years.
“There’s no one reason why we’re closing, but several different ones,” said Chris, aged 70, from the firm’s Radford base near Inkberrow.
“The introduction of the Clean Air Zones in Birmingham, Bath and London require a minimum standard of emissions and for us to reach that would need an investment of close to £1million.”
Further investment would also be required to meet new standards requiring easy wheelchair access to all vehicles.
Coach firms have also fallen through the net of the Government’s coronavirus support schemes.
“The Covid situation has impacted all leisure business – we’ve had no other work except school runs since April,” said Chris.
“The sad part about it from the coach industry side is that we have not been recognised.
“We are not a bus service and bus businesses have had quite significant help with grants and other bits of money.
“But we are not recognised as a leisure industry either, but apart from the school transport, we are a leisure industry.
“We take people on holiday – we are a leisure industry.”
Chris himself has no children and a niece and nephew, although sympathetic, have careers of their own.
His staff have either secured other jobs or a close to doing so and other operators have taken over the firm’s school contracts.
“So it’s time to call it a day,” said Chris.
The firm closed yesterday, Friday, December 18.
ERNIE Dudley started the company that bears his name in 1938 having served his motor vehicle apprenticeship at Victor Morralls in Evesham.
Using land adjacent to his parents house he set up a workshop repairing agricultural and motor vehicles and soon added petrol sales.
Not many people had cars, so Ernie would give people lifts.
In 1954 he bought an orange Cheverolet school bus and took over a contract from the Worcestershire County Council to transport children from Abbotts Morton and Radford to Rous Lench School.
From there the firm steadily grew to some 19 vehicles in the 2000s. The coaches were a distinctive sight on the road, before 2020, Covid and new regulations happened.