AJS swallows Challenger
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• Harrogate Independent Travel, the drivers' partnership which has competed aggressively for two years on town services, has been taken over by AJS Holdings, Alan Stephenson's group which owns Harrogate and District.
HIT, which trades as 'Challenger,' was founded in January 1987 by a group of 10 including nine former West Yorkshire drivers from the Harrogate depot. The company was launched with six Dodge miclibuses, but it now runs 14 buses and coaches, with 11 partners and 15 employees. It will continue trading under its 11-man management team.
Chief Executive Alan Stephenson paid tribute to the strength of HIT: "The company has made its mark locally by offering a service which clearly appeals to passengers, and the founders will continue to be involved directly, and run the company much as before."
Challenger operates all day on town and coach routes with a passenger count of over a million a year. While West Yorkshire and its successor Harrogate and District claimed that competition had increased its passengers, fares cuts and concessions have cost it a fortune.
The separate identity of the two companies will make the most of passenger loyalties while making it tough for another operator to enter the market. Fare levels can be expected to rise and the duplication of lightly loaded services will be eliminated.
By offering a comprehensive service to most parts of Harrogate, Challenger hastened West Yorkshire's conversion to minibuses and forced it to match its lower fares and better concessions for children. In the absence of a concessionary scheme for pensioners in the area, Challenger introduced its own OAP pass and offered half fares as a commercial venture.