HCT Group

HCT Group

Slogan Social justice and equality for all
Founded 1982
Headquarters Ash Grove
Service area Bristol
Greater London
West Yorkshire
Service type Bus services
Routes 9 (May 2015)
Chief executive Dai Powell
Website www.hctgroup.org

HCT Group[1] is a social enterprise providing transport services and community services in London and Yorkshire. It was founded in 1982 as Hackney Community Transport in the London Borough of Hackney to provide transport services for local voluntary organisations, charities and community groups. HCT Group is registered as a company limited by guarantee (and has therefore no shareholders). The company is also a registered charity.[2]

The HCT Group was founded in 1982 and in 2014 had a fleet of 500 vehicles and a turnover of £43.7m[3] and employs over 700 people. In June 2011 it reinvested 37% of annual profits into local community services, its best performance to date. Its chief executive, Dai Powell, joined the social enterprise as a bus cleaner.[4]

CT Plus

CT Plus is HCT Group's brand for bus transport services

London Operations

Ash Grove (HK)

Optare Solo on route W12 in March 2010

Ash Grove bus garage is CT Plus' only London garage and as at May 2015, operated routes 153, 309, 385, 388, 394, 675, W5, W12, W13 and W19.[5] On 17 October 2015, route 675 will pass to Go-Ahead London.[6] It also operates Plus Bus route 812.[7] This depot is shared with Arriva London. On the 27th of February 2016, CT Plus required the 26 route. By 26 November 2016 CT Plus commences W19.


In 2001, CT Plus began operating route 153.[8]

In 2003, CT Plus began operating route 388 and route 394.

Other (non London Buses) London services


As at May 2015, the Transport for London fleet consisted of 75 buses.[9]

Outside London

HCT also operate a number of community and mainstream bus services outside London. Services include:

AccessBus in Leeds

Community transport services

Special needs education transport services in Waltham Forest

HCT operates:[13]

Education and training

HCT provides education services supported by the Learning and Skills Council and the London Development Agency. The courses include bus driver training, particularly for women; social care and management.[14]

Social enterprise and transport

West Yorkshire Metro 'My bus' school bus service operated by CT Plus in Bingley

The British government has promoted the delivery of public services by not for profit organisations (the third sector).[15] British prime minister David Cameron has stated that he wants more social enterprises running public services as part of his "Big Society".[16]

Charitable legal website Get Legal described HCT's corporate structure as allowing HCT Group to "separate the risks associated with its business in different limited liability vehicles. The social mission of each of those vehicles is protected (either through charitable status or through being CICs) which sends a clear message to the public that the organisation is a social enterprise.[17]

HCT says it aims to "demonstrate and promote the social enterprise business model as a highly effective and socially responsible mechanism", and that it maintains environmental, health and safety and social policies, and regularly measures its performance against these.[18] Profit is seen by company CEO Dai Powell as enabling its social goals: "You have to be an enterprise first, because if you don’t make a profit, you can’t fulfil that social mission.".[19] HCTs commercial services allowed it to invest 18 per cent of its annual profits into non-commercial community transport in 2007/08. Its mission was to increase this to 30 per cent in the subsequent five years.[19]

HCT only competes for contracts that have high levels of accessibility and quality in the specification.[20] "HCT sees the provision of high-quality public services as a goal in itself...and actively seeks user input into the design and delivery of all its services".[20] The CEO claims "we don’t provide poor services for poor people – the quality has to be there”.[19] HCT recruits volunteers to train people with learning difficulties and physical disabilities to use public transport independently.[21]

West Yorkshire Metro noted that a community transport provider "...spends its surpluses on transport services in the community which are not commissioned from public bodies" but that "Commissioning from the sector can however carry risks...organisations can lack capability and professionalism and be over reliant on individuals leading to instability".[15]

HCT Group is no more immune to labour relations problems than any other bus operator.[22] The Socialist Worker described HCT as "no friend of workers" and its workers as "some of the lowest paid drivers in London".[16]

HCT Group prefers social enterprises and co-ops as business partners and suppliers;[23] when they raised £500k impact investment from the Phone Co-Op in 2014, their CEO explained with investors as well as suppliers they want to "buy social".[24]


Dai Powel, the CEO of HCT Group, formerly a coal miner in Wales,[25] joined as a bus cleaner in 1990[26]

Hackney Community Transport was established in 1982 when 30 community groups in the London Borough of Hackney formed a pool of six vehicles with a grant from Hackney Borough Council to provide low cost van and minibus hire for local community groups and a door to door alternative to public transport for people with disabilities.[26] The company's services were staffed by volunteers,[26] but over the next decade a small group of paid staff built up to assist the volunteer workforce.[27]

HCT Group received loans from London Rebuilding Society to finance its entry to the bus industry.[28]

In 2004 HCT was contracted by EduAction to deliver 500 local special needs children to school and back each day for London Borough of Waltham Forest from a new depot in Leyton.[29]

In March 2006 HCT expanded outside London to run eight yellow My bus school transport routes in and around Wakefield for West Yorkshire Metro, a further seven runs added in September[30] and three more in September 2007.[31]

In July 2006 HCT merged with Lambeth & Southwark Community Transport.[30]

On 1 October 2006 HCT began to operate the AccessBus service in Leeds[30] and in 2008, merged with Leeds Alternative Travel.[32]

In March 2009, HCT Group published its first Impact Report[33]

In February 2010 CT Plus Yorkshire took over The Hull 701 Priory Park & Ride route,[34] with the aim of investing any surplus from its park-and-ride operation to expand a local community transport service and to set up training for long-term unemployed people in Hull.[35]

In February 2010, HCT Group raised £5 million via a “social loan”.[25]

By 2010 HCT had grown by over a hundredfold since 1993 – from a turnover of £202k to a turnover of £23.3m in 2009/10.[36]

Corporate strategy

HCT Group's corporate strategy is to generate profits from providing commercial transport services, then to use these profits to provide community transport services for people unable to use mainstream transport. The two modes, public transport and special need transport, are fully integrated under their model: "the investment in responsive community transport services is made possible by running the commercial activity well".[20] The Financial Times reported in 2010 that turnover had "grown by about 25 per cent a year for the past eight years and is expected to top £20m in the year to March 31, 2010, when profits will be around £1m.".[25] HCT's rapid growth is achieved by merging with smaller community transport organisations.[19]

HCT Group CEO Dai Powell, in an article explaining the group's strategy,[36] said the business aims to double in size every five or so years for the foreseeable future, seeing scale as ...crucial. The better we do commercially, the more we can do for the communities we serve as a social enterprise. The strategy is maximising the good that we do... to be as bold as a commercial firm, but to the benefit of our communities, not to the owners of capital. It also has the advantage of keeping our social mission absolutely central to our approach. Powell contrasted this approach to that of many third sector organisations where risk is to be mitigated at worst and eliminated at best. This is simply hopeless for rapid growth. He describes the process as ...so much more rewarding than spending your days "maximising shareholder value", whatever that means.[36]


  1. Companies House extract company no 1747483 HCT Group
  2. Our structure on HCT Group website, retrieved 1 October 2009
  3. 'The Phone Co-op invests in public transport social enterprise' on Co-operative News website, dated 2014-12-09, viewed 2014-12-17
  4. Research shows 'start-up explosion' in deprived communities on The Guardian website, viewed 10 September 2011
  5. Carr, Ken (May 2015). The London Bus Guide (5 ed.). Boreham: Visions International Entertainment. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-9931735-3-0.
  6. Carr, Ken (May 2015). The London Bus Guide (5 ed.). Boreham: Visions International Entertainment. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-9931735-3-0.
  7. Route 812 Hackney Community Transport
  8. 1997 - 2003 on HCT Group website, retrieved 18 October 2009
  9. Carr, Ken (May 2015). The London Bus Guide (5 ed.). Boreham: Visions International Entertainment. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-9931735-3-0.
  10. London group wins Hull park and ride deal on thisishullandeastriding.co.uk news website, retrieved 1 October 2009
  11. HCT Group ¦ Social Enterprise bus operator ¦ - All the latest news from HCT Group
  12. Liberty Bus - Home
  13. Community transport services on HCT Group website, retrieved 1 October 2119
  14. Our Learning Centre on company website, retrieved 4 January 2011
  15. 1 2 AGENDA ITEM NO: 16. SUBJECT: COMMUNITY TRANSPORT on West Yorkshire Metro website, retrieved 9 October 2009
  16. 1 2 'East London bus drivers picket bosses over pay' on Socialist Worker website, retrieved 6 January 2011
  17. HCT Group case study on Get Legal website, retrieved 4 January 2011
  18. Corporate responsibility on Group website, retrieved 4 January 2011
  19. 1 2 3 4 "Profile of Dai Powell on socialenterpriseambassadors.org website". 4 January 2011. Archived from the original on 1 August 2011.
  20. 1 2 3 Social enterprise action plan: Scaling New Heights, British cabinet paper, retrieved 8 October 2009
  21. British Association of Settlements and Social Action Centres website (4 January 2011). "Engaging the unemployed in a volunteer led community service - HCT Group". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011.
  22. see for example 40 BUS WORKERS PICKET ASH GROVE on Workers Revolutionary Party news website, and London bus workers at Hackney to strike over dismissal of shop steward on Unite the union news website; both retrieved 10 October 2009
  23. 'Why we prefer social enterprises and co-ops as business partners' on The Guardian website, viewed 19 October 2011
  24. Anca, Voinea. "The Phone Co-op invests in public transport social enterprise". The News Co-Op. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  25. 1 2 3 ‘Social loan’ for cause-based groups on Financial Times website, retrieved 4 January 2011
  26. 1 2 3 Origins on HCT Group website, retrieved 18 October 2009
  27. 1986 - 1996 on HCT Group website, retrieved 18 October 2009
  28. HCT Group on www.londonrebuilding.com website, retrieved 8 October 2009
  29. 2004 - 2005 on HCT Group website, retrieved 19 October 2009
  30. 1 2 3 2006 on HCT Group website, retrieved 19 October 2009
  31. 2007 on HCT Group website, retrieved 19 October 2009
  32. 2008 on HCT Group website, retrieved 19 October 2009
  33. HCT Group publishes its first Impact Report on group website, retrieved 4 January 2011
  34. Commencement of Hull Priory Park Park and Ride service on group website, retrieved 4 January 2011
  35. Park-and-ride firm HCT is focusing on the community on Hull Daily Mail website, retrieved 4 January 2011
  36. 1 2 3 'Our lessons from the race for scale' on The Guardian website, retrieved 7 March 2011
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