A DRAMATIC last ditch deal to save a bus company that went bust is on the table today, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Velvet – which traded as Black Velvet Travel – went into administration with the loss of 25 jobs, as revealed in yesterday’s Daily Echo.
Matthew Fox, a spokesman for insolvency specialists Chantrey Vellacott, confirmed that an interested party, which he refused to name, had come forward with a proposition which could see Velvet buses return to the road.
He added: “After lengthy negotiations an interim agreement has been reached with a bus company which will saw services recommence today on routes A, S1, S2, B4, M and 503.
“Negotiations for a permanent arrangement are continuing while a full recovery plan is put in place.”
Competitors had stepped in temporarily to save its routes, but now it is understood the new company began operating six of them today until a more permanent decision has been made.
The collapsed firm owes tens of thousands of pounds and creditors are already coming forward demanding repayment.
Robert Ings, co-owner of Brenhaul Commercial Services, which maintained Velvet buses, said his firm was owed tens of thousands of pounds for repairs and services.
The Daily Echo reported earlier this year how Mr Ings and business partner Shaun Noyce blockaded Velvet buses in its depot over a previous financial dispute.
He said: “I can’t believe Velvet has gone out of business because they get funding from the council and they get deals on their diesel. I had a gut feeling this would happen but I was promised and promised I would get my money.”
Mr Ings said he would keep his businesses running despite losing out on future work from Velvet.
He said: “I employ 14 people and I am not making any redundancies.
Even if I have to sell some of my own possessions to keep this business running, I will.”
Velvet managing director Phil Stockley said Brenhaul was owed around £10,000- £20,000 but was just one of Velvet’s creditors.
He said: “Clearly when you are closing a company down there are rules about who and what you are allowed to pay and you cannot put the interests of one creditor above another.
“The fact Brenhaul is still waiting for money is not because we feel negatively towards them; in fact we have the greatest respect for them.
“There’s a legal process they should adhere to which is to contact the administrator and then in due course money will arrive.”
Mr Stockley added he regretted the situation but stopped short of apologising.
Former rival First Hampshire is the latest bus company to encourage the defunct service’s drivers to apply for jobs.
A spokesman said: “We are very sorry to see one of the small independent operators cease trading. There are job opportunities with First Southampton for suitably qualified staff and we would welcome inquiries from them.”
Keith Trenchard, bus manager at Wheelers, which yesterday ran Velvet’s A route between Southampton and Hedge End, said the company was waiting for confirmation whether it could continue to do so.
Meanwhile Wheelers has hired six former Velvet drivers and three more buses to cover the routes.
Mr Trenchard said: “It’s never good to see a local company cease trading, but Wheelers are up for the challenge to keep the vital A route going.”