Bus firm bought by rival

A BUS firm launched 10 years ago in a Norfolk village has been bought by one of the country's largest public transport groups.

A BUS firm launched 10 years ago in a Norfolk village has been bought by one of the country's largest public transport groups.

KonectBus, which serves Swaffham, Dereham, Fakenham, Norwich and Watton, was bought by the Go Ahead Group on Tuesday for an undisclosed sum.

The Go Ahead Group employs about 25,000 people nationally in bus and rail transport and posted revenue of �1,097m in the six months to January 2, a drop of �51.7m on same period in 2008.

Steve Challis, one of the founders of Konect, now based in Dereham, said the purchase would not change the company.

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'It will be business as usual with the same people running the operation,' he said.

'Go Ahead fits in with how we do things. Over the years we have built up a good reputation and we will keep the local identity.'

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Konect Bus was launched by Mr Challis and Julian Paterson in 1999 at Sahan Toney near Watton with five coaches.

They moved to Dereham's Rashs Green in 2004 and now have a fleet of 39 buses and 60 staff, said Mr Challis.

By the end of March they will have 45 buses and 66 staff as they will take over the running of the Harford park and ride service on the outskirts of Norwich.

Konect already runs the Costessey and Thickthorn park and ride services.

Turnover for the firm was �3.5m this year, said Mr Challis, adding that the firm had seen growth year on year.

Go Ahead runs a fleet of 3,500 buses nationally, with a 21pc market share of London bus transport as well as services in the north east, Oxford, the south east and southern England.

It also runs a joint yellow school bus venture in north America and rail operations including Southern, which includes the Gatwick Express, Southeastern and London Midland, as well as Pink Elephant car parking at a number of airports.

In the sixth months to January it spent �29m on buying three bus companies, according to its half year results.

A spokesman for Go Ahead said the purchase would not have any impact on the day to day operation of Konect, which will become a subsidiary of Go Ahead.

She added: 'For customers and staff it will completely be business as usual.'

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