Fens bus operator Norfolk Green bought by national giant Stagecoach

Norfolk Green managing director Ben Colson.

Norfolk Green managing director Ben Colson. - Credit: IAN BURT

An independent bus company that ferries shoppers around the Fens is travelling into a new era after being sold to a national firm.

Norfolk Green announced its sale to Stagecoach Bus Holdings - ending its 17 years of independence since being set up in 1996.

The company provides bus services to west and north Norfolk, north and east Cambridgeshire and south Lincolnshire.

It employs more than 160 people and operates more than 70 buses which carried more than four-and-a-half million passengers last year.

Managing director Ben Colson said the decision was “not taken easily” and added that Norfolk Green went into new hands “in good shape”.

After being formed in 1994, Norfolk Green was bought by its existing owner two years later and during the next 17 years it grew from three buses to the number it runs today.

It has won countless awards, including The Mayor’s Award for Business Achievement in 2007, the UK Bus Operator of the Year award in 2010 and last month the Independent Operator of the Year award.

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Mr Colson said “Our decision to sell was not taken easily but it follows a period of ill health during the summer and early autumn.

“Over the years we have built a strong brand in the area with a much larger network of bus routes than was here in 1996, attracted new customers to using the bus, and we have increased employment.

“The company goes forward into new hands in good shape, and will benefit from being owned by a major transport company.”

Robert Montgomery, managing director of Stagecoach UK Bus, said: “The acquisition will allow us to expand our operations in the east of England, where we have achieved good passenger growth by focusing on good value fares, investing in our networks and delivering punctual and reliable services.”

NW Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham paid tribute to Mr Colson and said he hopes Norfolk Green will benefit from having a “world-class parent company”.

Mr Bellingham said: “I would like to give a very warm welcome to Stagecoach, a world class company with a really good reputation across the country.

“Stagecoach is buying a local success story and I do believe that it will use its strength and expertise to reinforce this success so that Norfolk Green carries on serving our community.

“Obviously I am very sad that Ben Colson has decided, for perfectly understandable reasons, that it is now time for him to move on. Having set the company up from scratch, he has turned it into an iconic local brand with an incredibly loyal workforce who have always put the customer first.

“Hopefully Norfolk Green will really benefit from having this new world class parent company and I am going to be having early talks with them to discuss what I hope will be a firm ongoing commitment to key local services.”