This year will see the end of an era as eighty years of bus manufacturing comes to an end in Blackburn, Lancashire.
Optare have announced that from March 31 its Blackburn factory will close and all of its vehicle manufacturing will be consolidated at its new purpose-built factory in Sherburn, near Leeds (pictured).
The former East Lancs Coachworks site in Blackburn will remain as a storage and specialist conversion facility, but the company says it will only need around 40 of its current 99-strong workforce there.
All staff have been offered the opportunity to transfer to the new Sherburn works, but redundancies seem inevitable.
Buses have been manufactured in Blackburn since 1934, originally by East Lancashire Coach-builders. In 2008, East Lancs merged with Optare and the local engineering business Darwen Group and at that time more than 300 people were employed in building buses at the Blackburn site. However, the growing economic downturn soon led to job cuts.
Now, the factory itself has been cut and all manufacturing will now being concentrated at Sherburn. The company has already announced the closure of the former Roe works in Leeds with all work, and workers, transferring to nearby Sherburn.
Optare itself was recently bought-out by Indian-owned Ashok Leyland, who announced earlier this month that they had secured a majority shareholding in the company – see my blog of 11 January. However, in truth the future of the Blackburn factory had been in doubt for some time.
Jack Straw, MP for Blackburn said: “It is obviously a sad day to see an East Lancashire tradition go.
"I understand the commercial logic which has faced the company and I’m glad they are making every effort to relocate staff or provide them with a redundancy package.
“There’s no question the bus industry is a highly competitive market. I just hope some jobs can be retained on this side of the Pennines and on an individual level I’ll help any employees as they face difficulties.”