A joint venture between Chicago-area school bus contractor Cook-Illinois Corporation and British transport group Go-Ahead is ending this summer after the latter lost a contract bid to renew service in St. Louis, Mo.
The 50-50 partnership will end on July 31, when Go-Ahead ceases transportation for the nonprofit Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corp., which provides school bus service for students participating in the St. Louis metro area's desegration program. Durham School Services, a subsidiary of the UK-based National Express Corp., won the bid.
"Our joint venture with Go-Ahead from England was a fantastic learning experience for both companies," said John Benish, chief operating officer for Cook-Illinois. "We learned much from working with such a large, multi-international company. Since we were not the low bidder in St Louis, Go-ahead will be investing in other new projects in the UK."
Benish added that Go-Ahead's departure of the U.S. market signals that the attraction of non-U.S. bus contractors to "our once 'Mom and Pop' industry is waning."
Go-Ahead Group plc formed the joint venture with Cook-Illinois in November 2009 to focus on new school bus contracts outside of the Chicago area. Go-Ahead won the St. Louis contract the following year but was never able to gain any further market share across the country.
Go-Ahead operates a fleet of about 4,400 buses that transport nearly 2 million passengers daily in the United Kingdom. The $100-billion company owns a majority stake in rail services and employs about 23,500 people across the country.