You may have heard the term ‘Entrepreneurial Spirit’ being flung about the place and wondered to yourself… what's that? Does it actually exist? Or is it just a buzzword the folks on the apprentice use to romanticise the harsh and often brutal mechanics of big business?
If you are looking for a demonstration of true entrepreneurial spirit, Northumberland is the place to be right now. The county is home to a gentleman bus driver named Steve Hurst, who, frustrated with the lack of public transport services within his local community, set up his own bus company to serve the needs of the community; the aptly named Spirit Buses.
The problem was chronic in the valley where Steve grew up. Rural public transport is a notoriously difficult and enormously expensive endeavour and so is usually one of the first things to be trimmed back during lean times. In the end a whole string of local villages and hamlets including Snitter, Alwinton, and Harbottle, were left effectively cut off by the reduction of services, finding themselves completely removed from bus routes.
For those lucky enough to still be catered for, things were hardly much better. The service between the market towns of Rothbury and Alnwick, though just 12 miles apart, would take a ridiculous 2 ½ hours, including a change at Morpeth - that works out at an average speed of just 5 miles per hour.
The big bus companies had zero interest in improving the services of these rural areas, so Steve, weary and frustrated with the shameful services available, decide to take matters into his own hands. Undeterred by the huge logistical and financial challenges that lay in his path, Steve began to hatch a plan that would see a lifelong ambition of running a business matched with his love of, and concern for, his local community.
“It was never going to make me millions. I just wanted to revive the valley and connect all these communities up again.”
He managed to scrape together £60,000 pounds from personal savings and bank loans and as of September 2014, Steve’s small time rural transport enterprise was up and running! Spirit Busses now have 2 vehicles on the road, linking the villages of the valley together once more, and cutting the travel time on the notorious route between Rothbury and Alnwick to a much more proportionate 20 minutes.
What's more, in an unexpected but welcomed accolade, one of Steve’s new bus routes that connects Rothbury with Alwinton and all the villages in between, has recently been named as one of the most scenic bus routes in the country… how’s that for poetry?!
But Steve’s ambitions don’t stop there. Alongside the bus service he has incorporated an informal delivery service that has so far handled some unusual cargo including dogs, cats, bikes and Christmas trees. Come summer time he hopes to be offering guided bus tours of some of the local historical attractions.
Northumberland County Council Steven Bridgett summed it up rather well
“I’m probably going to get in trouble for saying this but I’ll say it anyway: one of the things you tend to get with the bigger bus companies is that as they grow, they forget the little people. Steve provides a tailor-made, personal service. I don’t just salute his entrepreneurial spirit but also his social spirit. It’s not just a business venture for him, but a social service for the Coquetdale valley.”