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Ribble Motor Services and the battle of the buses

Posted on - 10th July, 2022 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Nostalgia, Preston Bus Station, Preston News, Transport
The Ribble Preston depot in the 1950s Pic: Stagecoach
The Ribble Preston depot in the 1950s Pic: Stagecoach

Ribble Motor Services was one of the biggest bus operators in the North West, if not the country. By the time they were bought by Stagecoach, in 1988, they had absorbed over 80 smaller operators.

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Notably, Ribble had its own bus station on Tithebarn Street in the centre of Preston. This was demolished to make way for the new bus station in 1969. They also had a large maintenance depot off Selborne Street. This is now the Stagecoach maintenance depot.

The old Ribble depot today Pic: Google
The old Ribble depot today Pic: Google

Ribble Motor Services history

Ribble Motor Services began shortly after World War I. Two military men, Major Harold Hickmott, managing director, and Captain Harold Betteridge, chief engineer, forged a strong company. Consequently the distinct cherry red and ivory livery was seen in most parts of the country. Service buses linked the towns that had their own municipal operators. Additionally, coaches embarked on longer journeys and tours.   

New services were introduced to more remote places. At a time before mass car ownership, some areas, away from a railway station, were connected for the first time. 

Ribble had a close relationship with Leyland Motors who provided most of the chassis used, especially in the early days. Some also had Leyland bodies.

A Leyland Lion from 1932 Pic: Ribble Vehicle Preservation Group
A Leyland Lion from 1932 Pic: Ribble Vehicle Preservation Group

Ribble Motor Services buses and mergers

The distinctive cherry red and ivory livery was a common site in the North West and beyond Pic: Wikimedia
The distinctive cherry red and ivory livery was a common site in the North West and beyond Pic: Wikimedia

1961 saw a major merger when Scout Motor Services was purchased. Scout became part of Ribble in 1968. The cherry red and ivory livery was changed in 1972 when buses became all red, while coaches became all white.

The post 1972 livery Pic: Ribble
The post 1972 livery Pic: Ribble

The coach livery

One of the more attractive coaches, the Leyland Tiger Cub with a Burlingham body, 1956
One of the more attractive coaches, the Leyland Tiger Cub with a Burlingham body, 1956

Preston Bus versus Stagecoach, battle of the buses

In 1988 Ribble was purchased by Stagecoach Holdings, who also had a rival in Preston Bus. In 2006, Stagecoach set up services in competition with Preston Bus, with lower fares. Later, it was alleged that some Stagecoach drivers had thrown eggs at Preston Bus vehicles. Two years of acrimony resulted in Stagecoach buying Preston Bus in 2008. Unfortunately, they then fell foul of the competition commission.

The commission decided that Preston Bus would have to be resold and provide services in conjunction with Stagecoach. Preston Bus is now a subsidiary of Rotala.

The present Preston Bus livery, Pic: Route One
Modern day Preston Bus livery Pic: Route One

2021, and Ribble returns

Glenvale Transport Ltd, owners of Stagecoach, changed its name back to Ribble Motor Services Ltd, in 2021.

Ribble Vehicle Preservation Trust

The 2019 Ribble anniversary saw some special 'what might have been' liveries produced Pic: Stagecoach
The 2019 Ribble anniversary saw some special ‘what might have been’ liveries produced Pic: Stagecoach

The Ribble Preservation Group – now Trust – was formed in 1972. The collection of over 30 ex-Ribble buses is now housed in a building owned by the Trust in West Lancashire.

The Trust has a members group and a quarterly newsletter.

There are also Ribble buses on show at the British Commercial Vehicle Museum in Leyland.



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