Martin Ballinger was one of the founders of Go-Ahead Group, one of the United Kingdom's largest transport businesses. In 1987, Ballinger led a management buyout of the Northern General Transport Co. based in Gateshead, a subsidiary of the National Bus Co., which was then undergoing privatisation. Ballinger had served as General Manager since 1982. He became Chief Executive Officer of the new company, Go-Ahead Northern, and rapidly expanded the business through the acquisition of other bus companies in the late 1980s and early 1990s to become one of the largest transport enterprises in the United Kingdom. When the business was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1994, Ballinger and his fellow directors, as substantial owners of the business, became wealthy. At the time the company was worth £40 million. Today it is valued at £577 million and employs 27,000 people worldwide having diversified into running railway concessions and bus companies outside Britain.

Martin, a committed Catholic, and his wife Diana (nee Edgoose) endowed The Ballinger Charitable Trust shortly after the flotation of Go-Ahead as a vehicle for philanthropy, with the intention of giving back to the region they loved. Martin was born in Peterborough but raised in South Shields and educated at St Gregory’s school before becoming a boarder at the Salesian School in Chertsey. He went on to study at Imperial College before qualifying as an accountant in the late 1960s. It was then he met Diana who had been raised in Godalming in Surrey and educated at St Catherine’s School in Guildford. After spending time working in South Africa, Martin joined the National Bus Co. in 1972, returning home to the North East when appointed General Manager of Northern General in 1982. Following his retirement from Go-Ahead in 2004, he became Chairman of the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust, living with Diana at Bolam Hall in Northumberland. He died in 2007 in the Royal Victoria Hospital from lung cancer.

The Ballinger Trust, chaired by Diana Ballinger, makes grants to North East charitable organisations supporting children and the elderly and promoting health, the arts and culture. The Ballinger children, Nicola and Andrew, also sit on the board of the trust. In 2016 it made grants of £2.3 million and had long-term assets at the year-end of £34.4 million. It is one of the twenty largest grant-making foundations in the North East.


Murray, J. (1994). All aboard for Go-Ahead's float. [Online] The Independent. Available here (Accessed 28 Mar. 2018).

Wikipedia (2018). Go-Ahead Group. [Online] Available here (Accessed 28 Mar. 2018).

Ballinger Charitable Trust (2018). Welcome to Ballinger Charitable Trust. [Online] Available here (Accessed 28 Mar. 2018).