Redland company takes wheel of London's big red buses
From Bloomfield Street Cleveland to Oxford Street London - that is the remarkable transition for Redland's Leishman family as they take on the world to operate London's busiest bus route.
The Redland City-based transport company, Transit Systems, has signed a contract to purchase 20 bus routes in London from First Group PLC. The $33.5 million deal under a sister company, means the Redland business will operate the Tower Transit bus business with 1500 employees and 403 red double deck London buses, which will carry 111 million passengers per year.
In contrast, the entire TransLink network in South East Queensland carries 120 million passengers a year
Graham and Adam Leishman's Redland company will operate bus services on one of London's most famous routes. Photo: Chris McCormack
One of the more well known routes travels along the famous Oxford Street, it carries 23 million passengers a year – running a bus every three to eight minutes at all times of the day and night.
Transit Systems remains a private Australian company, ultimately owned by the Leishman, Smith and Francis families.
Graham Leishman, Neil Smith and Lance Francis' involvement in the Redlands transport scene goes back to 1985 when they moved from the Central Coast of New South Wales to run Bayside Buslines, one of the forerunners of the current service operated under government contract by Veolia.
The London bus contract is the latest in a long line of successes of Transit Systems, particularly in operating bus services.
The company currently has government bus contracts in Western Australia, South Australia and soon in New South Wales. In Perth, Transit Systems runs 36 per cent of the buses and in Adelaide it operates 35 per cent of the bus public transport, while they will transition a Western Sydney bus contract in October this year.
On the water, Transit Systems owns Australia's largest fleet of passenger and vehicular ferries - larger than the Sydney Ferries fleet. They also developed the world first Enviro Cats, an innovative and more sustainable vessel that can operate in fragile marine environments with zero overboard emissions and uses less fuel per person than a four-cylinder car.
The water transport business originally started in 2005 with the acquisition of Bay Islands Taxi Services to the Southern Bay Islands, with the company adding North Stradbroke Island barge operator Sea Stradbroke to the portfolio in 2007 and Stradbroke Ferries in 2011.
One of its biggest marine contracts at the moment is the operation of the ferries and barges between Gladstone and Curtis Island, transporting workers and equipment for both APLNG and GLNG projects.
Transit Systems currently employs 1700 people but this will more than double over a 6 month period, with the addition of the Sydney contract in October and the London business in June this year.
Transit Systems has won successive government bus contracts because of its track record in operating the services efficiently, focusing on reliable, safe, sustainable and convenient routes for passengers and ultimately increasing bus patronage.
Graham Leishman says the success has been in its management structure and listening to its customers.
“We have empowered our middle management staff so they can actively respond to opportunities and weaknesses in their business area,” he said.
“They make decisions that are relevant to the people using our buses and ferries and it results in a high level of satisfaction right throughout our business, from our employees to the passenger,” Graham Leishman said.
Adam Leishman, Graham's son, is Business Development Director for Transit Systems, and an Ormiston College graduate.
He is relocating to London to oversee the operation.
“I couldn't be happier with how the deal is progressing.
“We will be inheriting a team of excellent staff who genuinely seem excited to have a passionate Australian company with a reputation for service excellence at the helm.
Transit Systems 'Transport for London' contract is even more significant because it breaks through the dominance of the big international transport players.
“We have built on our success here to branch out confidently to London and fly the Australian flag,” he said.
“We're proud to be an Australian family business succeeding in an industry dominated by large, publicly listed multi-nationals; a David and Goliath likeness."
“London is a game changer for us,” Adam Leishman said.