A leading travel company based in Henley is ramping up preparations for Stratford’s Victorian Christmas market as part of its recovery from the effects of the pandemic.
Johnsons Coach & Bus Travel is working with Stratford District Council, Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council and Warwickshire County Council to provide its Park & Ride service for the Christmas Market this year, after the 2020 event was cancelled due to government restrictions.
The family-owned company, which has been operating since 1909, runs bus services across Warwickshire and within Stratford District, and also operates coach hire services, as well as holidays and day trips.
It has already restored many of its services in the area and to various holiday destinations in the UK and is now looking forward to helping the council run a smooth park-and-ride service from Bishopton to the Christmas Market.
John Johnson, Commercial Director of Johnsons Coach & Bus Travel, said: “It’s fair to say the pandemic was an incredibly difficult time for our business as it was for the whole of our industry.
“Many of our services such as holidays and day trips had to be completely cancelled, and our bus services were significantly reduced.
“While our drivers operated essential bus services for those that needed it, it still wasn’t easy as some of them were quite worried about the risk of transmission.
“That said, we implemented comprehensive hygiene policies including regular deep cleans of our vehicles, PPE for all drivers, and social distancing onboard all our services.
“We also made sure to stay in touch with many of our regular passengers – some of them are elderly and on their own and didn’t have people to turn to during the hardest parts of the pandemic. Our motto is ‘Travel with Johnsons, Travel with Friends’ – so we made a real effort to keep in touch with our customers.”
Both Stratford District and Warwickshire County Council were able to support Johnsons through issuing government grants, as well as regularly updating them on the ever-changing situation.
“After such a difficult period, it’s great to be back working with the local authorities on this project, to provide convenient access facilities to the popular market,” John added.
“We intend to provide full Park & Ride services for all four days of the event, right through to the end of the evening. We’ll also have a presence at the market this year too – myself and some of our team will staff a stall in Victorian attire to greet visitors and enable them to put a face to a name!
“We’re really looking forward to the market and we hope to welcome plenty of passengers onboard the shuttle bus.”
Cllr Matt Jennings, Portfolio Holder for Culture, Tourism and Leisure at Stratford District Council added: “It’s great to welcome Johnsons Coaches back to run the park-and-ride service to take visitors to and from our wonderful Victorian Market.
“Part of what makes the Victorian Market so appealing is that visitors know they don’t have to try and find a parking space in the town – they can just head to the Park & Ride and let the shuttle bus take them in.
“We’ve been in regular contact with Johnsons throughout the various lockdowns and restrictions in the past year or so, and we’re glad to hear the grants we issued helped them. We’re looking forward to them being a key part of the Victorian Christmas Market once again.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “It’s great to hear that Johnson’s Coaches will be providing this service running to and from the County Council’s Park and Ride site.
“The benefits to the town centre are various. It will encourage many people not to drive into the town centre making it a more pleasant experience for all. It will keep congestion down, improving air quality. There are also real benefits to the local economy in bringing people safely back and this is another incentive to come to Stratford for the Christmas experience which can only be good news for local businesses.”
And Cllr Kevin Taylor, Mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon, added: “The key to success is partnership working and I am delighted that the three authorities are once again working with one of the most successful travel companies in our region and beyond.
“Plans for the Victorian Christmas Markets are well under way and ensuring a quick and easy trip into town by visitors to the Market was paramount. With Johnsons, it will be done.”