ONE of Hampshire’s best-known bus companies has gone out business.

The family-run Brijan Tours, which has running bus and coach services for 25 years, has ceased trading in a move that has shocked the county’s business leaders.

Last night Companies House revealed that all the directors had resigned, adding that Brijan’s accounts were four months overdue.

It is not known how many people have lost their jobs. Nine staff have joined rival operator Xelabus, which has taken over rural bus services previously run by Brijan, serving areas including Eastleigh, Botley and Bishop's Waltham.

The hand-over was originally due to take place on September 7.

Brijan announced it was ditching the routes to focus on its coach services. It added that several drivers would transfer to Xelabus while remaining employees would be retained to operate the coaches.

Last night Xelabus boss Philip Blair announced that Brijan had already surrendered the bus routes.

He added: “We are reassuring the public that even though the company has ceased trading we are honouring the services.”

It means that bus services in the Botley, Bishop’s Waltham, Hedge End and Eastleigh areas will continue.

“Xelabus will operate the routes 7, 8, 15 and 17 and passengers will not see any difference in their service,” said Mr Blair.

Brijan’s base already resembles a ghost town. Only one coach was visible from the road yesterday and telephone calls to the company went unanswered.

Stewart Dunn, chief executive of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It’s always sad to see a family-run business that has been around for 25 years or more suddenly disappear.”

Members of the Bus and Coach Association criticised local authorities for refusing to award long-term contracts that provided operators with financial security.

Spokesman Martin Allen said: “I don’t think the industry has been in good health for at least five years. Quite a few firms have gone out of business.”

The Confederation of Passenger Transport said bus and coach companies had been hit by rising costs.

Brijan’s distinctive fleet of cream-coloured coaches have been a familiar site on Hampshire’s roads for almost three decades.

The company had been due to run a series of excursions over the next few weeks to destinations including Dawlish, Stratford Upon Avon and Salisbury.

Brijan was launched in 1990 by Hampshire coach driver Brian Botley and his wife Janet.

Initially he worked from the couple’s house in Swanmore, taking bookings by phone and delivering tickets personally to customers’ homes.

Over the years he watched the number of Brijan vehicles grow from one to 25 as the business went from strength to strength.

In 2009 Mr Botley was awarded the Freedom of the City of London for services to transport. At the time he employed 40 staff.