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Unitary sells struggling municipal bus firm

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Swindon BC has sold its bus company in the face of mounting losses, reducing the number of council-owned operators to just 11.

Its move comes as the Bus Services Bill continues its passage through parliament, which will widen councils’ powers over buses and could yet prevent them forming new bus companies.

Swindon has sold Thamesdown Transport to operator Go-Ahead in a deal reported by the Swindon Advertiser newspaper as worth £11.2m, of which £4m was for a freehold depot site.

Thamesdown runs 85 vehicles on urban routes in Swindon and some in rural Wiltshire.

Its losses were reported as £149,000 this year and a cumulative £2m over the past five years.

A Swindon BC statement said Thamesdown had “incurred losses over the past five years due to difficult trading conditions, despite continued financial support from the council”.

Leader David Renard (Con) said: “The council is operating in a really challenging financial climate at the moment and we do not have the resources to continue to support Thamesdown Transport as we have been doing in recent years.

“We have had to change the way we provide services across the council while balancing the ever increasing demand on adults’ and children’s services.”

Municipal bus companies were once common but most have long since been sold to the private sector.

Those still in council hands are in Blackpool, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Dumfries & Galloway, Halton, Ipswich, Newport, Nottingham, Reading, Rossendale, and Warrington.

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