At first sight, the purchase of Liyell Ltd t/a Midland by Arriva Midlands seems safe from the gimlet eye of the competition authorities. After all:
- The theatres in which Liyell competes (commercially and for contracts) only brush against those in which Arriva operates. This even though Arriva relatively recently took over Chase Buses.
- In Walsall, the first town in which Liyell began operating in the early 1990s, there’s been a recent upsurge in competition from Sandwell Travel.
- And, I might add somewhat cynically, the spelling of Arriva has no letters S or T or G or E or C or O or C or H.
Chase used to operate the 9 but it was withdrawn by Arriva. Midland took up the service which will now find its way back… to Arriva
But look at this again. The Competition Commission’s market investigation report states that henceforth there should be more interest in relatively small deals (Midland has 70 vehicles and 110 staff).
And Arriva Midlands does appear to be acquisitively making offers for small independents. It bought Chase in 2007, Wardle in 2010, to which operation Arriva added the Staffordshire business of D & G, once aligned to Liyell, in 2011. Then there’s a raft of non-emergency patient transport in the region. The extent to which Arriva is gaining itself a foothold regionally and, with the purchase of Midland, in the Centro area may be enough to raise an OFT eyebrow or two.
Once yellow & lime, in a clever move, Midland has clearly taken its image from the erstwhile Midland ‘Red’ operation. But the red will disappear under Arriva aqua, leaving Red Diamond and NXWM with (fading? As oft happens to that colour) red fronts
Additional information and images from Omnibuses’ Northern Correspondent