Major transport provider Abellio London Bus (ALB) is to move to a new depot in Hayes.
ALB, which operates 740 buses on 52 routes – nine per cent of the buses in the capital for Transport for London (TfL) – has to relocate as its current depot in North Hyde Gardens, Hayes is to be redeveloped.
Property Consultancy Vail Williams sourced the new site – just two miles from the existing depot – and then helped secure sui generis planning permission for expanding ALB, never an easy task when applied to bus depots.
Key support was provided by Janus Architecture and Curtins Consulting Limited.
Quoting freehold price for the one-acre site off Dawley Road, known as The Cottage in the Wall, was £3.2 million.
Uxbridge commercial property consultants Rose Williams acted for the vendor, a private individual.
Steve New, Vail Williams Partner based in the Woking office, undertook the search on behalf of ALB, the Dawley Road site meeting the challenging criteria exactly.
He said: “ALB had no alternative but to relocate, with a replacement facility required urgently as the company is a major employer and provides buses for TfL across the local area.
“The move ensures that the depot remains in the Borough of Hillingdon, retaining more than 100 jobs locally and securing continued inward investment. Losing ALB would have been a major economic blow for the borough.
“It also enables the strategic redevelopment of a tired industrial site on a busy thoroughfare which gives easy access for the buses and little disruption.”
The site is adjacent to an established builder’s merchant and backs on to Stockley Park Golf Course. Nearby is IMG Studios from where the Premier League’s video assistant referee (VAR) system is operated.
It will be used for the night storage of up to 56 buses – and the infrastructure to operate electric buses, for which ALB has a strong commitment, will be put in place.
Bus maintenance will be carried out at nearby Waterway Business Park which will also house a driver theory test centre to support ALB’s bus driver apprenticeship scheme.
Also acting for ALB were law firm Stephenson Harwood, FA Lachmann Consultants and building contractor BoShers.
Chris Wilmshurst, Vail Williams Partner in the Woking office, specialises in property planning consultancy and worked collaboratively with the business-based agency team on the project.
He said: “The strength of Vail Williams is that we can offer clients this one-stop shop, a complete package of cross-discipline commercial property requirements.
“On this occasion Steve sourced the site and we successfully made our economic and environmental case to justify why the new depot should be permitted on Green Belt land during the planning application process.
“We had to move quickly by necessity and had no leeway because of the time constraints. Happily, Hillingdon Council recognised the need for continuity and granted planning consent. TfL also supported the application.
“The future move to fully electric buses will be part of the package here, with ALB as site freeholder keen to futureproof the depot by installing the relevant infrastructure now.”
Contractors are currently flattening the site, before putting in a concrete base and constructing offices, staff buildings, a bus wash and a fuelling facility. An acoustic wall will be built and an existing, historic retaining wall repaired and kept.
ALB has to vacate its current site by December 31 and intends to begin the first services from Dawley Road in April 2022. The intervening period will be covered by relocating services to nearby depots.
As part of the Section 106 legal agreement ALB will be providing new footways and cycle lanes and a shelter at a bus stop adjacent to the depot.
ALB Managing Director Tony Wilson said: “We very much needed to stay in the borough for geographical and employment reasons and many of our routes from the depot – 278, 350, 482, U5, U7 and U9 – all serve the local area.
“To have been forced out of the borough would not only have disrupted the business and increased bus ‘dead mileage’, thus unnecessarily producing more exhaust emissions.
“Thanks to the efforts of the Vail Williams experts it will be business as usual. They identified a suitable site in the right location, provided a robust justification for the usage and rose to the difficult challenge of securing planning permission.
“Our renewed contract on the U5 Hayes to Uxbridge route will start with electric double-deckers on the first operational day out of Dawley Road so we have a requirement to install the infrastructure now.”
ALB has depots across south and west London at Walworth, Battersea, Beddington, Twickenham and a new one in Southall. The company has increased its share of TfL services from 5.6 per cent in 2010 to nine percent today.
Abellio, a fully-owned subsidiary of Dutch company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen), has been active in the UK since 2002, serving 1.2 million passengers daily, employing 16,000 people and operating five rail franchises East Midlands Railway, ScotRail, Greater Anglia, West Midlands and Merseyrail, some as joint ventures, as well as the bus routes.