All seats taken on the bus to market

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The Independent Online
THE privatisation in Greater Manchester is one of the last big sales of public-sector bus companies in Britain.

Seventy per cent of bus services are now in private hands, and London Buses, which represents 20 per cent of the entire market, is due to be sold off later this year.

The privatisation bandwagon started rolling in 1985, when the Transport Act provided for the deregulation of bus services.

First in the queue was the National Bus Company, which ran non-municipal services in England and Wales. It was broken up and sold - mostly to management buyout teams. Among the companies to emerge from it were Badgerline, which floated on the stock market last November, and the coach company National Express.

Badgerline became the biggest private-sector bus operator in Britain earlier this week with the acquisition of Rider Group, which runs services in Yorkshire.

The purchase sent Badgerline motoring past Stagecoach, a quoted company based in Perth.

Stagecoach was built up from scratch, having been allowed under Scottish law to operate private long-distance services long before privatisation came in vogue. It has grown rapidly by acquisition, buying municipal bus companies as they were privatised as well as former MBOs from the National Bus Company and the Scottish Bus Group.

British Bus, based in Salisbury, is the third-biggest private operator, with turnover of about pounds 100m. It was an MBO from the National Bus Company and is expected to seek flotation later this year.