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Whitsunday Transit celebrates anniversary with bus purchase

When Colin Crossley ventured up north to start Whitsunday Transit 25 years ago, he had little idea the impact the operator would have on the local Queensland community

What did you do for your 25th birthday? Have a party? Go out with friends? For operator Whitsunday Transit, it brought up a quarter of a century by investing in two new state-of-the-art buses for its fleet.

“These are the most modern buses in Australia – they’re hi-tech, market leaders that all the major capital cities are starting to adopt,” Whitsunday Transit founder Colin Crossley says.

“We’re among the first to bring these buses to the local region.”

It’s a fitting present for Whitsunday Transit, which was started by Crossley in 1998. In the next two decades, Crossley would lead a company that has since grown to be a multi-generational family business that employs 60 staff and connects a community.

Yet the now 47-bus fleet isn’t Crossley’s first foray in the bus game. After completing his apprenticeship with Leyland Motors (formerly British Motor Corporation), he became Leyland’s state service manager in the truck and bus division. Not long after he was establishing his own runs along the east coast, including Sydney’s Crossley Bus Lines.

Crossley then arrived up in the picturesque Whitsundays in 1997, where he was granted the license for Whitsunday Transit a year later and began working alongside many of the tourism industry’s pioneers.

Crossley admits he had always kept an eye on the Whitsundays, scoping out potential runs when going on annual family holidays from Sydney to Bowen.

When the stars aligned and he sold his southern businesses, he first bought Sampson’s, then Daley’s and finally Butterworth’s services, combining the areas of Cannonvale, Proserpine and Kelsey Creek into Whitsunday Transit.

Crossley was soon assisted by his son Darren, who relocated up north in 2002 and has since flourished, bringing his own son, Jackson, up through the company ranks.

This hard work and resulting success hasn’t always been easy for the Crossleys – Colin says Whitsunday Transit has always met every flight at Whitsunday Coast Airport since 1998, even when it wasn’t always profitable to do so.

“When Ansett dropped out, it was costing me more than $100,000 a year to support the airport and it was the same with supporting the rail service,” he says.

“But I believe in doing things properly or not at all, and cutting costs isn’t always the way to a successful future.”

This has paid dividends, with the Queensland government formally recognising the investments and making Whitsunday Transit the only operator in the state to hold a commercial contract for passenger services in a population of less than 7,500 people.

The birthday was celebrated with two new buses featuring all of the latest safety technology. With these additions now running routes, Crossley says he hopes there will be at least another 25 years of success for the Whitsunday’s based operator.

“All the other bus runs we’d owned prior to Whitsunday Transit we’d built up and sold but then we got here, and I said, ‘this is it’,” he says.

“You’ve got the water on one side and the mountains on the other – it’s one long run and you can service everyone, but for me it’s also about the sunshine, the sailing and the people involved.

“We’re certainly not fly-by-nights and I’m proud of that as much as anything. I hope when people see these new buses driving on our roads, they can feel that same sense of pride too.”

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