News : Legendary Leyland bus operator closes

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Mike Humble

After a short period of financial uncertainty, one of the longest-trading UK bus operators to have had a strong association with British Leyland has closed after an incredible 107 years in business.

This 1983 image of the Golden Hill Lane depot shows the over the wall view of the huge Leyland Bus chassis works in the background.
This 1983 image of the Golden Hill Lane depot shows the over the wall view of the huge Leyland Bus chassis works in the background. A former experimental National can be seen parked against the wall – the company played a big part in Leyland Buses future product development

Leyland-based John Fishwick & Son has closed this weekend marking the end of an era for a well-respected bus operator which also had one of the strongest ties with Leyland Bus back in the halcyon days of British bus manufacturing. On a personal level, I was quite shocked to hear the news as I have had a professional working relationship with them in a former business role for a number of years.

Their Golden Hill Lane depot backed on to the premises of Leyland Motors bus chassis factory and the company provided much of the all-important “in service” development and testing for current and future Leyland bus products. A visit to their premises in the 1970s or ’80s would provide a fascinating look at some weird and wonderful prototype vehicles in actual public service around Lancashire in Fishwick’s distinctive livery.

Looks like an Olympian doesn't it? Its actually an Atlantean chassis with ECW body - another former Leyland Bus development vehicle in the Fishwick fleet.
Looks like an Olympian, doesn’t it? It’s actually an Atlantean chassis with ECW body – another former Leyland Bus development vehicle in the Fishwick fleet

The company had a superb working relationship with Leyland Bus and, latterly, Volvo for many years and quite often bought or were simply donated former Leyland development vehicles for use in their fleet. More recently, the company operated in the package coaching holiday industry and soon became known for their immaculate fleet presentation.

However, sadly, time has been called and the company’s managers and Stagecoach Ribble have worked with Lancashire County Council and the North West Traffic Commissioner to allow routes to be taken over at short notice by Stagecoach Bus.

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

4 Comments

  1. Andy – local media reports would suggest financial. An administrator has been appointed and most of the fleet has been impounded at the request of the lessors. The fleet was mostly DAF/VDL Bus single-deckers and Dennis Trident double-deckers but was immaculately presented as was always the case with this operator. It could be surprising to some that a decision was not taken to sell the business rather than close it but fortunately it would appear that Stagecoach Merseyside & South Lancashire (part of what was Ribble in the past, another company with strong connections to BL) have stepped in at short notice to run some of the services at short notice, with the blessing of the Traffic Commissioner. My immediate thoughts go out to the staff who I hope will manage to obtain new employment elsewhere. Fishwick also had a tours business and hopefully no one will loose out because of this also.

    The bus industry is going through some challenging issues at the moment, certainly outside the bubble that is London. Firstly, there’s the need to update fleets to ensure that they meet the DDA deadlines for accessibility. New vehicles are not cheap and with local authorities demanding ever more stringent emission targets, buses are an easy target. There’s also the Government’s decision to allow local authorities more control of services, such as route tendering, and so many companies are reluctant to invest with the changing political scene. If you ran a small company with only a few routes and thought you’d like to buy say six new buses why would you if the Local Authority decided to hand your service over to another company at the drop of a hat?

    Fishwick’s was a small, well respected company with a relatively modern fleet. Although it was sandwiched between two larger companies, Stagecoach to one side and Rotala (Preston Bus) to the other, all three operators tended to respect each other’s territory. So competition is not an issue. However the most likely factor in the demise of the company is the Concessionary Card Scheme. Operators receive reimbursement from the local authority for journeys used under this scheme. Apparently Lancashire County Council is one of the lowest paying councils for such things. Whilst Free Travel for parts of society has encouraged more journeys in some cases the reimbursement is barely enough to cover costs. It’s an industry wide issue and with the squeeze on local authority expenditure plus ever increasing costs for bus operators, it’s unlikely Fishwicks will be the last. The larger companies can absorb these costs to an extant that the smaller ones can’t.

  2. The building in the background is the old Leyland and Birmingham rubber company factory its now a housing estate. The Leyland chassis works was on the other side of Wheelton lane, its now a retail park and a housing estate.

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