A COMMUNITY funding campaign has not been enough to save Tambray Coaches and its Adelaide to Mildura bus service.
Owner and coach driver Tony Prowse has reluctantly made the decision to close the business and sell his bus with no other avenue open to him to continue to finance the service which has been off the road since South Australia closed the border with Victoria.
“The decision had to be made – you have to stand up and take some responsibility and do what you have to do,” a deflated Mr Prowse said.
“As operators with a ‘loan-pause’ we were hoping that could be continued but that isn’t the case,” he said. Unfortunately for Tony, his financial institution didn’t consider the business to be viable ongoing.
“We were looking at a total renegotiation of the contract and payment deferrals which all add up to much more extra cost and unfortunately, while the financiers were good about it, they just said that we can’t give you that leeway, the asset doesn’t warrant an ongoing new contract, because your repayments will just kill you and you’ll never recoup the costs on the asset,” he said.
“Even if we were to get the borders open by Christmas, there will still be quarantine restrictions placed on Victorians and South Australians returning, which makes travel unrealistic. Why would a grandmother come up here to spend four days with their grand children to go home spend 14 days in lockdown?
“On top of that, the social distancing required on the bus would mean that I would be running at a third of my capacity and the ongoing running costs with that doesn’t add up.”
Mr Prowse’s priority now is to ensure that all the people who had purchased a bus ticket before the service’s closure, receive a full refund.
“We have come up with a full repayment plan – the money is there for people to get a full refund and every ticket that is currently in our system will be honoured with a full refund,” he said.
“The team at the visitor’s centre have done a great job and deserve recognition for that and they have been an outstanding supporter of me and Tambray Coaches.” Tony said that he would now be looking for a buyer for the coach which was still in Adelaide.
“It could be difficult finding a buyer because there is a flood of vehicles coming on to the market,” he said.
“People are starting to off-load assets that are a burden to them at the moment. The one advantage that I do have is that my bus is a unique vehicle. It’s Australian made with a European chassis and there are very few of these available.
“People who are operating small tour compa
nies in the states that are currently allowed to tour will hopefully have some interest in my bus.
“I have already had one enquiry but either way I won’t get back what I paid for it and I’ll walk away with some debt but it will be manageable.”
Mr Prowse said in the interim Job Keeper will sustain him for a short time.
“I will be looking for a job. Unfortunately in the industry that I have a passion for, there aren’t too many opportunities at the moment,” he said.
Mr Prowse’s friend Brett Hewitt, who set up the GoFundMe campaign to help his mate said it was disappointing that the business had to close.
“Tony rang me and told me the bad news. We had raised more than $4000,” he said.
“That money will help with some of the repayments on his overheads.
“It’s a real shame, Tony worked hard to get that coach service off-the-ground for the community and it wasn’t easy at first, but it was going well and then COVID struck and through no fault of his own he has lost his business.”