19 April 2022
It was back in 1995 Richard Howells, Managing Director of Hitchin-based taxi and private car hire firm Carline Limited, took the decision to launch a new arm to his business, Britannia Coaches. Through a blend of hard work and personal service, the company rapidly established itself as a trusted and reliable player within the marketplace. Today, with its 12-strong fleet, own programme of tours, excursions and holidays, private hire operations and a portfolio of contracts including school runs and rail replacement work, Britannia Coaches is every inch the typical and traditional British coach operator.
However, in common with every other coaching company, coronavirus hit Britannia Coaches hard. As the pandemic ran its course, one of the few options available to Richard Howells and his team was rail replacement work. Although the government has temporarily relaxed its requirement for vehicles undertaking activities such as rail replacement services to meet its PSVAR standard, (which ensures greater levels of inclusivity for passengers with mobility issues), Richard decided the best way forward would be to re-equip with PSVAR coaches in order to future-proof his business.
In late September 2020, Richard began his search for two suitable vehicles. The problem was, at the time lead times for new vehicles were prohibitively long. Following a discussion with Scania's Worksop-based Bus and Coach team, who raised the possibility of retrofitting used Scania coaches to PSVAR standard, Richard approached Scania Financial Services (SFS) to explore the potential for funding.
A positive conversation followed, the outcome of which was to assure Richard that not only would funding for the two vehicles be available to him, but he would also be eligible to acquire the coaches using the government's Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). At the time, SFS was the only manufacturer finance company offering CBILS. The advantage of the scheme was that it would provide Richard with an interest-free loan for a full 12-months.
"The assistance given to us by SFS made a major difference," comments Richard. "We were very pleased their Internal Account Manager, Greg Randall, visited us to discuss the options and flexibility SFS could offer. Being able to choose the vehicles we wanted, safe in the knowledge that funding would definitely be available to us when we wanted it, and with a 12-month interest-free loan period, was a very acceptable way to do business from our point-of-view. We were able to dispose of two of our coaches privately and then put a ten percent deposit down on the two Scania Irizar i6 coaches we wanted. These were then sent back to the Irizar factory in Spain for PSVAR fitment and are today delighting our customers – they are excellent coaches.
"SFS were exceptionally helpful throughout. Every time our Office Manager Donna Anderson spoke to them, the response was invariably positive. I can honestly say SFS have taken the time and trouble to build a great relationship with us. They made the entire acquisition process painless – we would definitely use them again, and recommend them without hesitation."