Premiere Travel first appeared as a start-up bus company in Nottingham during 2002. Mainly taking contract work and a few tendered services, they grew organically. Contracts and tenders as good as they are, have two issues, they generally are short term, and are subject to downward value pressures on renegotiation. Whether due to this, or just as a expansion plan, PT started commercial operations in 2007, initially targeting Trent Barton’s very busy XPRESS and Radcliffe Lines services with their version – the slightly more direct X1
This move on TB’s core area inevitably caused some “competitive actions” and various fare initiatives were instigated. One thing that remained though – Premiere were consistently cheaper than TB. Their fleet frequently reflected this.
Over the next three years, Premier expanded their commercial ambitions, augmenting their Rushcliffe offerings with a second service, this time a carbon copy of TB’s Radcliffe service. This was branded “Red2”. The red naming apparently a result of the local description of XPRESS as the “Green ‘un”. At a similar time PT registered the abandoned Arriva service between Loughborough and Nottingham via Costock and Bunny. This was immediately successful, and expanded rapidly. Initially branded X9, it later joined the “Reds” as Red9.
In late 2010, PT purchased the Nottingham interests of Veolia (themselves having taken over Dunn-Line holdings’ interests). This won them a number of tendered services and the University of Nottingham internal services. Suddenly PT were a big player.
Further commercial expansions continued. the Red routes expanded along most major TB corridors. Expanding into Calverton (Red7) Briar Gate / Long Eaton (Red 4) Hucknall (Red 8) and Kinoulton / Keyworth (Red3). The real success came with the massive improvement over TB’s Long Eaton Express – PT’s Red5. This rapidly displaced the TB offering, and drew a good loading. It remained dogged by poor fleet image, and sub market fares though.
One major expansion, which caught wide attention, including this blog, was the replacement of the tendered NCT skylink service between Nottingham and East Midlands airport, as a tendered service. It was unclear whether that could ever exist as a commercial service, and was initially launched as a 24 hour service, against a backdrop of relatively light loadings.It was withdrawn after 9 months, following reports of £1000 per week losses.
Controversy followed the interaction between TB and PT. unwilling to tarnish the main brands on the routes, Wellglade (TB’s parent company) introduced a further “competitor” on the Red2 and Red4 routes. labelled “Bargain Bus” 2 and 4 respectively, initially offering £1 flat fares, later dropped to 50p, they remained on the routes as long as PT operated. Both Red2 and Red4 were withdrawn. On the other routes, TB used discounts on its electronic smart card “Mango” also. Another Wellglade operator, Kinch placed a competing service on the Red9 route, but withdrew it later. The Bargain Bus tactics, perhaps surprisingly, did not attract the ire of the regulator – whilst Cardiff Bus were heavily reprimanded for defending their network in a similar way.
Late 2012, and early 2013 came news that PT were increasingly trying to raise capital to continue their expansion, yet were cutting down on their network. The speed of their demise still came as a surprise, I suspect tho the whole industry.