Building For The Future
The new site, finally without builders on site. Designed to minimise vehicle reversing and to ensure increased capacity for the expanding fleet, the redevelopment of the site was celebrated over two days, with clients and suppliers along with local dignitaries invited to attend the formal opening, with a commemorative plaque unveiled by the son of the founder, Roy Richmond. The next day and with brilliant weather, over 4,000 members of the public saw for themselves why Epsom Coaches had once again led the way.
A brand-new state of the art vehicle washing machine, within a heated building, ensured the famous reputation Epsom Coaches had for clean vehicles, continued regardless of the weather. The installation included a high-pressure chassis wash to ensure the underside of the vehicles was as clean as the top!
The existing workshop was retained to ensure continued provision engineering facilities. Once the new workshop was ready, the whole department moved across to their new facilities. This included the reunion of the Bodyshop and engineering workshops, which last were in the same location in 1979.
With over 80 vehicles coming back each evening, the contractors cleared up each day, to allow the fleet to park overnight. It was challenging, but everyone worked together. Staff were kept informed with regular newsletters and a committee comprising representatives from all parts of the firm, were involved in over two years of planning to ensure everyone had the building they wanted.
The garage received considerable care over the years and still was in good condition, but starting to become expensive to repair and restrictive of the growing fleet. A more dramatic solution was required! In late 2009, the company embarked on its largest single investment, with the complete redevelopment of the Longmead site. This also included a further land extension, with the acquisition of part of the field behind the existing garage, the third such expansion of the original 1971 site. Further land acquisition was unlikely, although the service road and the car park of the neighbouring Youth Centre were rented for extra staff parking and for buses overnight. The company invested over £2.2million in the redevelopment, which included demolition of the existing carriage building, the building of a new state of the art 7 bay workshop, including a replacement for the 1980 body shop, demolition of the original 1971 workshops and its replacement refurbished in 2004, to create more sparking space. The wash bay was retained, but totally enclosed, to ensure year round use. At the same time, the Departure Lounge was refurbished and a new entrance created, with glass.
In 2007 a departure lounge was created in one of the 1971 workshop bays, by the in house building team, again led by Steve Whiteway. This was to accommodate the new home to holiday service, for customers to wait for their tour coach. The Departure lounge later doubled up as the company’s heritage centre and the focus for many memorable events on special occasions and each Christmas.
Double decker’s were introduced into fleet in 2017, following the tender win to operate TfL routes 418 and 406, requiring 10 new buses. The new workshop could accommodate the buses, but the entrance and exit of the garage building was too low, as were the doors of the 1980 Bodyshop, as nobody envisaged ever running double deckers back then. With typical Epsom determination, an in house team led by Steve Whiteway, successfully installed new steel work and raised the entrance and exit to the garage. The Bodyshop beams were cut by a specialist concrete cutter, enabling the double decker’s to enter, the otherwise high enough bays. Another problem, was in accessing the vehicle wash, which was with foresight had a machine already capable of washing a double decker, but the entrance and exit to the wash bay, were too low! The concrete cutter again came to the rescue!
The Company’s premises at Longmead had been subject to continual development, culminating in complete redevelopment of the 1971 buildings in 2019/10. When the garage first opened, the longest coach was 11 metres long, and there were only four of them. With the introduction of 12 metre coaches in 1973, the width of the garage started to become a problem, and in 1979 the Company had to increase the length of the 34 vehicle parking bays to accommodate them. The site next door was also acquired and new facilities were built including a two-bay bodyshop, a larger drivers rest room, new vehicle wash, an additional 13,500-gallon underground fuel tank as well as an extension to one side of the garage. Even this was to prove inadequate, as later coaches had grown to 13 metres and double deck vehicles were introduced in 2007. In 204, the adjacent heat treatment works, became available and the company purchased the site including a suitable building for conversion into a new workshop able to accommodate the larger coaches and one day, double deck vehicles. The building was converted and completely refurbished, providing four workshop bays using vehicle lifts. The original workshop was retained, but seldom used, once the engineers had become accustomed to their spacious new workshops.