A LONG-established family coach firm has been taken over by a bigger operator which intends to expand it.

Solent Coaches, which has been in Ringwood since 1972, was acquired by Fareham-based Lucketts Group.

Lucketts managing director Tony Lawman said the acquisition would give Lucketts an extra 12 coaches to add to its fleet of around 130 vehicles. It would provide a strategic base for the company on the edge of the New Forest, he said.

Mr Lawman added: “At the start of the year we announced our intention to expand geographically and Solent Coaches fits into this plan perfectly. The company is family-owned like Lucketts and its offering of coach hire, days out and school travel reflects our core business.”

All 19 staff at Solent Coaches will be taken on by Lucketts and Mr Lawman said the plan was to grow the Ringwood operation.

He added: “It is very much business as usual. The Solent Coaches name will be retained and all booking and contracts will carry on as normal. But if extra coaches are needed we can call upon our extensive fleet.”

A sister company handling engineering will remain in the ownership of the Skew family, which established Solent Coaches. It will continue to be responsible for maintaining the Ringwood-based fleet.

John Skew said: “Our coach business has given us much pleasure over the years. Now, having taken it as far as we can, we feel it’s the right time to pass it on to a company that can grow it and take it to the next level whilst we concentrate on our engineering business.

“We’re so pleased that Solent Coaches will be owned by another family business, which shares our visions and values for quality travel and looking after its staff.”

Lucketts employs more than 300 people and works with big names in business and tourism, with global financial institutions and government departments among its clients. It owns two other brands – Coliseum Coaches in Southampton and Worthing Coaches – and runs more than 100 journeys each day for National Express.

Solent was founded by the Skew family as a taxi business in New Milton in 1972. It acquired its first minibus in 1976 and a coach two years later.

The taxi business was closed in 1982 and the coach and minibus operation was moved from New Milton to Crow at Ringwood in 1986, with the office following later.