Heartbreak for engaged couples after Calderdale bus firm goes bust

Tony O'Neill and Mandie Howarth
Tony O'Neill and Mandie Howarth

Out-of-pocket customers of a Calderdale vintage bus company say they are furious after the firm went bust.

The Yorkshire Heritage Bus Company, owned by Luddenden Foot resident Tony Blackman, went into liquidation in February, with customers left angry claiming that money was still taken off them after that.

Heather Hindley and Chris Blakey

Heather Hindley and Chris Blakey

Heather Hindley and Chris Blakey, of Holywell Green, booked their bus in April for their wedding next March.

“We wanted a bus because we felt it was cheaper than taxis and would be a nice little quirk for our wedding,” said Heather.

“We were told that if we paid in full then it would be cheaper than if we paid in instalments. That would have been £450 but it was actually £350.

“The next thing we knew, my partner came home from work and said a friend had told him the company had gone bust.

Chris Perks and Ruth Kingdon

Chris Perks and Ruth Kingdon

“We were just absolutely gutted because we had been really looking forward to it. We’re only having a small wedding, with about 20 guests, and my family are coming from all over the world.

“It’s just really sad because I don’t know where we are going to find that money from.

“To take money off someone when they knew they were in trouble - if they had said that then obviously we would have had a rethink and probably not gone with them.

“They’ve cheated us, especially when they told us if we paid for it up-front we would get a discount.

Tony Blackman.

Tony Blackman.

“There are other couples who are getting married soon and I feel really bad for them, although I doubt we will find something else. It’s certainly put a dampener on things.”

Mandie Howarth and Tony O’Neill, from Huddersfield, get married on September 7 at Huddersfield Town Hall.

Mandie said: “Back in January, February last year, we paid £375 after we were told that we would save £100 if we paid it up-front.

“Then in March we had the route extended to take everyone to Greenhead Park for photos, for which they said it would cost another £40.

“Last month I realised they had gone into liquidation, and they had filed for bankruptcy in February.

“I tried to contact the owner but to no avail. We’ve had to book someone else but thankfully we had wedding insurance so I can claim the money back.

“The thing that riles me is that he took money off me in March but knowing he had filed for bankruptcy in February.”

Ruth Kingdon and her partner Chris Perks, of Sheffield, got engaged last summer and have been together for nearly 10 years.

“I contacted them in May to book a bus for our wedding in August,” said Ruth. They gave us a discount for paying in full up front. We contacted them a week ago to say ‘is everything alright’ and the email bounced back.

“I’m just really cross because we’d told friends and family this was going to happen, and my partner’s parents wanted to give us a gift for the wedding so we used their money to pay for it.

“So their money’s gone, which is really sad. It seems quite dishonest to not get in touch with people if they have gone bankrupt.”

The Courier attempted to make contact with Mr Blackman but was not able to do so.

The Calderdale Citizens’ Advice Bureau said: “We recognise the distress and upset caused when companies stop trading or go out of business and Citizens Advice seeks to provide advice and support to individuals who may have purchased services from that company or have lost their jobs as a consequence.

“We offer a number of choices about how people can access the information that they need at this difficult time.

“Where people have access to a computer they can use our website (citizensadvice.org.uk) to search for relevant information pertaining to their individual circumstances and where required, obtain specialist support from our National Consumer Helpline (03454 04 05 06).

“Alternatively people with employment and benefit issues resulting from a company ceasing to trade, can contact Citizens Advice Calderdale via telephone (0300 330 9048) or by email (www.calderdalecab.org.uk).”

A statement on the company’s website read: “I have to respond to all clients and apologise most sincerely for the demise of both Halifax Joint Committee and Yorkshire Heritage Bus Company and the ensuing problems that have arisen for you all.

“I also need to clarify the facts that seem to have been distorted and misunderstood by quite a few people:

“Fact 1 – On the 27th February 2019 the Yorkshire Heritage Bus Company Limited entered into a (CVL) Creditors Voluntary Liquidation this was due to not being able to keep up with repayments with regard to the asset management company. These lovely old buses have been cared for by myself for many years; my first bus being saved in 1961, so this is a very sad time for me.

“Fact 2 – I purchased the domain name Yorkshire Heritage Bus Company (without the limited) so that I could maintain the website and continue operating in the name of A.R.Blackman T/A Halifax Joint Committee in which the name bus operating licence is held and Yorkshire Heritage Bus Company (Not a bus operator and never has been) just an agency with a less local name than Halifax, to attract less localised business.

“Fact 3 – I continued to trade, operate and take bookings and every intention of fulfilling them.

“Fact 4 – Many years ago the 15 buses were put into asset management due to funding problems. Subsequently the spiralling overheads of storage and business rates of what is a seasonal business have taken their toll and I became unable to maintain my payments to the asset management company and the buses have been re-possessed and I have filed for bankruptcy.

“I am not far off 80 years old and about to enter into bankruptcy which is a very disappointing end to my working life. Again, my sincere apologies. Tony Blackman.”