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The HCT Group story

HCT Group started out as Hackney Community Transport, growing into a large scale social enterprise over a period of nearly 30 years. This is our story.

HCT Group has grown a lot since then...

Our history 

1982 – 1993: A local community transport charity

Hackney Community Transport (HCT) was originally founded in 1982 when around 30 local community groups in the London Borough of Hackney pooled their vehicle resources, helped by a grant from Hackney Borough council to get things going.  

Formally incorporated in 1983, it was one of the many small community transport organisations across the country that provided low-cost minibus transport to community groups, marginalised communities, non profit organisations and social clubs – helping the people of Hackney to get out and about (you can read more about the origins of Group Transport minibuses here). The organisation also provided a door to door transport service for people with disabilities who found it difficult or impossible to use public transport. We still provide both these services to this day

By this stage our members included over 300 local community organisations such as the Hackney Pensioners Project, the Stoke Newington swimming club, Hackney Greenham Groups and (memorably) Consenting Adults in Public.

At that time, the organisation consisted of a handful of minibuses, a few paid staff and some community volunteers. Like many local charities, we relied heavily on grant income to ensure our sustainability.

1993 – 2001: Learning to trade

In 1993, HCT was at a crossroads. Traditional community transport providers like HCT were finding it harder and harder to access the grants needed to keep them going. In the meantime, the need in the community we served remained undiminished, with so much more that could be done. With the future of the organisation at stake, we were going to have to meet this challenge in a bold, new way.

We rethought how we conducted our business from the ground up, developing a new business model. What if we could win commercial transport contracts? What if profits from those contracts could be reinvested into transport services with a real social impact? What if people from disadvantaged groups in our community could be trained to work on those contracts as drivers, passenger assistants and so on - gaining life-changing skills along the way? We started to compete in the marketplace for contracts and celebrated our first win – a hospital transport contract.

In 1995 we began to develop our skills in training. We became the only NVQ accredited centre for passenger transport training in Hackney, offering this service to our own paid and unpaid staff and as part of training packages for other organisations. Our Learning Centre is still going strong today.

In 1997 we added a further dimension to our social enterprise approach – community-led service design. With the support of the Bridge House Estates Trust, we developed a new PlusBus service in Hackney. Designed by its service users, it connected people who had difficulty in using existing transport services to the places that were important to them. We still deliver services like this today – Route 812 in particular.

2001 – 2012: A social enterprise

By 2001 we had developed our commercial acumen to the extent that we could compete for contracts against transport giants such as First Group, Arriva and Stagecoach, winning our first London red bus route. This would see the start of a phase of rapid growth that continues to the present day.

By 2004, we had added two further red bus routes and a second depot at Waltham Forest to deliver transport services for children with special educational needs. In 2006 we expanded into West Yorkshire, with contract wins to deliver mainstream school transport for Metro. 2007 saw the addition of a further London red bus route, bringing our total to four.

Mergers with Islington Community Transport, LaSCoT, Leeds Alternative Travel and the establishment of a joint venture with Ealing Community Transport to deliver site transport contract on the Olympic Park under contract to the Olympic Delivery Authority led to the formation of a group structure and a name change - Hackney Community Transport became HCT Group in 2008.

In 2010 we added a further five London red bus routes – either started or won during the year. In 2011, we marked a new chapter by launching our new depot in Bristol to deliver park and ride services there. Bristol Community Transport - a leading social enterprise in the Southwest also decided to join HCT Group.

2012 - present: Transforming transport and training  

 2012 saw HCT Group start its first contract to operate a whole bus network – Guernsey, in the Channel Islands. This was shortly followed by the contract to run the bus service in Jersey, starting in early 2013.

From this point on, HCT Group’s ways of working and patterns of growth became recognisable as the ’modern’ HCT Group – consistent growth, charity mergers and commercial acquisitions, operating at scale, working in partnership with commissioners, bringing innovation and high standards of quality - and creating social value and social impact in the communities where we work.  

Our story never stands still. Keep up to date with our latest news here.