A brief history of Hedingham Omnibuses 1960-2012.
The highs,lows and luck needed to survive in business 52 years .
By Robert MacGregor
4th June 1960
Donald MacGregor purchases Letch Motors from Aubrey Letch for £3,000 . This was from a loan from the Westminster bank (now NatWest) . This consisted of 8 petrol buses and the freehold of the depot at Sible Hedingham. The livery was changed from blue to red and the name to Hedingham and District Omnibuses .
The great freeze which lasted 3 months. Buses froze and run all night to keep services going. Severe cash flow problems arose and L20 DUY 961 was sold for £2,000 and Hedingham survived.
Blackwells of Earls Colne taken over. Hedingham acquired route 88 Halstead-Colchester run jointly with Eastern National (now First), an arrangement which lasted until November 17th 2012. Harold Wilsons Labour Government introduced Fuel Duty Rebate (now BSOG) enabling bus companies to claim back the tax on fuel.
Steady organic growth with one depot at Sible Hedingham improving the site and the fleet grew to 15 all purchased new one a year and paid for in full.
Copeman and Regan Coaches purchased. C and R Coaches was a major coach firm in colchester based at Little Tey. This second site enabled Hedingham to expand into private hire.
Jennings of Ashen purchased and four more coaches added to the fleet
DEREGULATION of the bus industry and the privatisation of the state owned National Bus Company by the Thatcher government. A wonderful stroke of luck for Hedingham Omnibus (and a state owned bus company in Newcastle one day our paths would cross). Kelvedon depot was purchased and many bus services won under tender for Essex CC mainly service 90 Witham to Maldon which ran until 2003 when Stephensons of Rochford won it.
Three takeovers in 6 months - January Kemp Coach Travel taken over and 9 coaches and a rented yard at Tendring Village purchased. Hedingham now Clactons biggest coach operator. Rented depot at Walton on Naze railway station purchased for newly won school contracts.
Norfolks of Nayland taken over with a rented depot and services 84 Nayland to Colchester the main route. July Wents of Boxted taken over with main route Boxted- Colchester
Hedingham purchase and build a purpose built depot at Meekings Road in Sudbury (now the Chambers depot after Go-Ahead Group purchase in July 2012). Hedingham shut Norfolks depot in Nayland and moved to Sudbury.
The first low floor buses in Essex were Dennis Lance SLFs L211/2 (M212/1WHJ).
Donald MacGregor receives M.B.E from the Queen at Buckingham Palace "for services to the bus industry in north Essex". September CJ Partridge of Hadleigh Suffolk purchased with 24 vehicles including the major MOD contract transporting troops all over the country. All the Partridge fleet was moved to the new depot at Sudbury joining the Norfolks fleet.
Freemans Travel taken over and 6 strong fleet moved from rented site at Fordham to Sudbury
New depot at Gorse Lane Industrial Estate in Clacton freehold purchased off Dairy Crest and 14 Brunel Road engineering site expanded. Walton and Tendring depots shut.
C and R Coaches depot at Little Tey was shut and operations merged at Kelvedon
G. W Osbornes of Tollesbury taken over. The biggest takeover with 25 vehicles and an impressive depot that used to house 55 buses under cover bought freehold. This gave Hedingham a fleet of 132 including 50 coaches and with operating out of 5 depots, the pressure was really on!
Also that year a central administration office was opened at Dugard House in Stanway, Colchester.
Hedingham win big contract to transfer DFDS cruise passengers from Harwich shopping in Colchester.
Hedingham invests in 6 new Enviro 200s for Clacton town services putting the investment into Clacton.
Government "kick start funding " Essex CC subside new service 136 Jaywick -Brook Retail Park. Essex CC paid half of a new bus for service. This bus EU06KCX L346 is still in service to this day March 2018.
DFDS close HARWICH for ferry services and move operations to Hull. MOD ends contract training and transporting troops around the country and airports. They purchased their own in house fleet at Colchester Garrison. The going starts to get tougher
Banking crisis and local authority austerity hits Hedingham
Hedingham and District Omnibuses sells to the GoAhead Group PLC and a new era begins.
Robert MacGregor was born November 1958 and has lived in Colchester nearly all his life. All his schooling was in Colchester and he qualified as a PE teacher in 1981. Before that he gained his PCV license working part time as a driver for his fathers bus company Hedingham Omnibuses. Hedingham had one depot at Sible Hedingham which was dominated by his father Donald Macgregor the owner and MD. The life changing moment came when Hedingham purchased C and R Coaches based at Little Tey near Colchester . Robert MacGregor was put in charge and a love affair with the challenge of business began . Over the next 40 years he became MD and in 1995 the owner of Hedingham Omnibuses. Roberts wife Claire of 36 years worked at Dugard House for 16 years in charge of the back office function . There was to be no third generation at Hedingham with children James, Helen and Alison choosing careers outside the bus industry. In March 2012 Hedingham Omnibuses sold out to the Go-Ahead Group. Robert MacGregor continues to work for Hedingham as a part time driver and providing local knowledge to the new management .Robert MacGregor is now a grandfather to Annabelle now 5 who loves buses!