HCT Group announces closure
It is with deep regret that the Trustees announce that HCT Group has closed. This decision was made following a period of multiple challenges – underperforming acquisitions prior to the pandemic, the financial impact of the pandemic and the current surge in fuel and labour costs. As a small bus operator, this led to a difficult trading position and the group being unable to continue delivering and supporting its community transport services.
HCT began in 1982 as Hackney Community Transport and grew into one of the leading social enterprises in the UK, providing commercial and community transport services in London, Yorkshire, Bristol, Jersey and Guernsey. During its long period of operation, HCT Group has touched the lives of tens of thousands of people through its services and programmes, helping to tackle loneliness and social isolation, and taking down the barriers to access for the most vulnerable in our communities.
Being a social enterprise allowed HCT to provide services such as Special Education Needs transport and training opportunities to the communities in which it operated. The group developed and supported transport solutions that connected communities, and actively lobbied for improved community transport services across the UK. Our annual Social Impact reports chronicled and quantified these benefits. The social impact of good, reliable and frequent bus services is very considerable for the large - generally poorer - part of the community which lacks access to private transport. We must hope that substantial government support combined with the widespread use of franchising and other innovations which HCT has lobbied for is sufficient to sustain such services in the future.
Our Board of Trustees decided a few months ago that due to the multiple challenges faced by the business, HCT operations needed to be restructured. Through this process the Trustees' priority has been to minimise the impact on our staff, clients, beneficiaries, creditors and the communities we support. This has been achieved through the sale of most of the business units and, where that was not possible, working with transport commissioners to identify new providers for services. As a result of these efforts:
- Our London red bus operations were sold to Stagecoach on 26th August, 2022
- We agreed the sale of our businesses in Jersey and Guernsey to Tower Transit, part of the Kelsian Group which went through on 20 September 2022
- In Bristol, on 2nd September 2022 First West of England took back the services they had previously contracted to us
- Working with our transport commissioners in London, new operators were identified for our Special Educational Needs and Adult Social Care transport services, and those services transitioned successfully at the end of August 2022.
As a result of these transactions, the vast majority of the jobs at HCT Group have been preserved, albeit with different employers, and the passengers and transport commissioners that relied on these services will not experience disruption.
A buyer could not be found for our CT Plus Yorkshire and Powell’s Bus subsidiaries in West and South Yorkshire, where we operated mainstream bus services along with school transport services. These subsidiaries closed on 5th August and 11th August respectively, and the services have already been retendered by the transport commissioners. Our community transport operations have been similarly affected, with the closure of our community transport unit in Bristol, the cessation of Route 812 in Islington on 26 August and the closure of our community transport services in Hackney where we have been providing services ever since HCT Group started.
The closure of HCT Group is an immensely sad day for all the team and trustees. Everyone worked tirelessly to put the organisation on a sustainable footing, but market forces, lack of scale and multiple adverse events meant this proved impossible. We deeply regret that some of our colleagues and beneficiaries have been impacted by the loss of their jobs or critical services. However, we are heartened that through the sale of subsidiaries and transfers of services, we have been able to protect so many livelihoods and services.
The Trustees would like to thank everyone who has worked for and supported HCT over the last 40 years: those that launched HCT’s first community services, those that expanded the group across the UK and developed and demonstrated innovative services, those that delivered the critical services every day for our users, and those that managed the business through the very challenging last two years have all contributed to what has been an extraordinary journey.
HCT Group entered into administration on Friday 23rd September 2022
Mark Thornton, Martha Thompson and Neville Side, all of BDO LLP, were appointed as Joint Administrators of the company on the same day. The company ceased to trade on Friday 23 September 2022.
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