The collapse of Bournemouth Transport after 120 years in August 2022 came as a major blow to many staff, as well as enthusiasts and local residents. However, out of the ashes has come a success story.

Tomorrow’s Travel was launched by Jay Thornton and Jason Cousins, who are both former managers for Bournemouth Transport, which operated as Yellow Buses and Yellow Coaches. Marking the first-year anniversary in April, the Co-Directors say they are taken aback by their early results and are looking forward to further big growth in the Dorset area.

Describing the “heartbreaking” end of Bournemouth Transport, in which only the Yellow Coaches arm was briefly taken over but then closed down, Jay says: “It was very emotional on the day of the closure outside the depot. There were hundreds of people around.”

However, having been pleased to fulfil his ambition of working in the industry, particularly with the local coach and bus operator they both grew up with, the duo were keen to use their wealth of experience in a new venture.

Jay says: “Jason and I had made a success of coaches commercially and operationally at Bournemouth Transport — that was the most profitable part of the business. We had always had the idea we could probably do this for ourselves, but we carried on. Then, several months passed and, with both of us working for other operators at that time, Jason invited me on board and the rest is history.”

Home-to-school transport has been a key area for Tomorrow’s Travel, boosted by the business’s own appHome-to-school transport has been a key area for Tomorrow’s Travel, boosted by the business’s own app
Home-to-school transport has been a key area for Tomorrow’s Travel, boosted by the business’s own app

However, they were keen that Tomorrow’s Travel would not be a “rebirth” of Yellow Coaches and that the business name would reflect their “vision” of how a coach operator should be. “Our name isn’t just a name, it’s a vision,” Jay says. “The critical thing for us is, from the beginning, we wanted to create something and not just be another operator.”

With good local contacts and more than 30 years’ experience in the industry between them, they were able to begin trading within a couple of months of setting the plan in motion.

First-year growth

They had planned for the Wimborne-based outfit to be just the two of them with maybe an additional casual driver. However, contract opportunities mean they now have four full-time staff and another two in the pipeline, plus casual drivers.

“We started winning contracts, really profitable work, and just went from there and we’ve grown it,” says Jay. The company has just collected its sixth vehicle with the help of Universal Asset Finance and focuses on midlife assets which it then refurbishes. Its fleet includes single and double-decker buses and a Caetano Levante coach.

Tomorrow’s Travel has concentrated on operations such as home-to-school, rail replacement, private hire and contract hire, but says it will steer clear of local scheduled bus services.

“I’ve always said the future of independents is not local bus,” says Jay. “If you’re an independent operator, you’re just competing with large groups — what’s the point? Focus on what you can operate and do it properly.”

With Festival Buses, a separate company which Jason and Jay own, winning transport contracts for events such as Bournemouth 7s rugby festival has been a key driver of business. With its own app, which allows for QR-coded e-tickets and for schools to track buses, home-to-school has been another important area.

Staff are valued

Jay says it’s crucial that Tomorrow’s Travel’s vision is shared by the whole team and points out that its treatment of staff means they have no problems with recruitment. He says: “With us, it’s 50% being able to do the job and 50% being able to fit in. And, if you can fit in, we can teach you the rest, but you’ve got to be on board with what we’re doing and show that you’re passionate for that.”

When taking on drivers, the business offers a salary, if that is what is wanted, offering a fixed amount even if the hours rise and fall rather than zero-hours contracts. Jay says: “We wanted to create something that makes a happy workplace and hopefully change the perception of the industry that there’s no progression or guaranteed income. In the post-pandemic era, people are looking for work-life balance, especially in this industry.

It is high time that these operators understand that, without a valued team of drivers, you don’t have a business – Jay Thornton

“The team are a massive part of our business; we value every single one of them. They all bring something unique to the table that benefits not just the business but each other. Some operators view drivers as commodities. It is high time that these operators understand that, without a valued team of drivers, you don’t have a business.”

Starting up presented no challenges that weren’t expected, it appears. “I think it wasn’t as difficult as we probably expected it to be,” he says. “It wasn’t plain-sailing, obviously, but I can’t really recall any times where it was going to be make or break. We had a very clear direction and plan on where we were going and we’ve just stuck to it regardless without getting distracted.”

tomorrow's traveltomorrow's travel
Sister business Festival Buses is making a success of event transport in south Dorset area

Despite the growth, Jay insists they have been “prudent” with the work it has taken on. “It’s not a race to the bottom,” he says. “Sometimes in business you have to say ‘no’ and we have had to say no because they’ve come to us and said so and so are doing it for this price. You have to draw a line.”

With Jay at the helm of commercial and engineering and Jason looking after finance and operations, they are keen to learn from mistakes they have seen during their career. Jay says: “At Yellow Buses and Yellow Coaches, we were exposed to such a wide spectrum of different elements of the business, and we’ve taken that experience forwards.

“In the past, we couldn’t make the changes we maybe could see were necessary, but we are now in a position where we can.”

Optimism for the future

After the success of the first year, tomorrow looks even brighter for Tomorrow’s Travel, says Jay.

He says: “If someone had said to us at the start, ‘You’re going to be doing this in a year,’ we’d have both said, ‘You’re mad.’ We’ve both said the same thing to each other and we are proud of our business and of our team.

“To set the business up, we risked everything we have — pensions, homes, the lot. That makes you more hungry to make a success of it.

“We just want to keep doing what we’re doing effectively. We will be expanding our business in and around the region. We want to get to that point where we are doubling and trebling the size of the operation. That’s our plan now. It’s not how we started out, but the market’s there. In the current climate, there’s more than enough work for everybody.”




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