Rumours of the death of bus building in Blackburn may, to paraphrase Mark Twain, have been greatly exaggerated.
Hot on the heels of Optare’s announcement that they are withdrawing from Blackburn to concentrate production at their splendid new Sherburn factory, ending eighty years of bus manufacture in Blackburn in the process, a local bus refurbishment business says that they might begin manufacturing themselves.
And it just so happens that they have a rather familiar name they could use!
Father and son team of Philip and Robert Hilton set up a bus refurbishment business called Bus and Coach World in 2006. It was a logical step, given the amount of experience with buses and coaches tey both had - Philip had just retired as joint managing director of Optare’s predecessor East Lancashire Coachbuilders at the same that son Robert was made redundant.
In fact, Philip had started as an apprentice at East Lancashire Coachbuilders in 1960 rising to become joint managing director in 1990, so he knew the business inside out. He clearly didn’t want an easy retirement on the golf course, so Bus and Coach World was the result
Now, with the company positively thriving - they now employ 35 mostly ex-East Lancs Coachbuilders workers – they are ready to move to the next level by building their own buses. And by great good fortune, they just happen to own the famous old trade name East Lancashire Coachbuilders which they bought with the intention of starting manufacturing.
“We are looking at building from scratch again in Blackburn ,” Philip told his local newspaper. “The vehicles would be specialist, perhaps open-top.”
“At the moment we need to make sure we don’t run out of cash and we have to look for investment.”
If all goes well, then bus building might remain a Blackburn trade for a little bit longer. And there'll be many who will be genuinely delighted to welcome back a familiar name onto the streets of Britain.