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Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

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Tue 11 Oct 2011
David Moss – Ribble Vehicle Preservation Trust (RVPT)
'It's Best by Bus'  - Ribble Motor Services Remembered

David promised it would be ‘best by bus’ and he delivered on his talk, and more, about Ribble Motor Services.

He took us right back to the early 20th century and the beginnings of bus services in this part of Lancashire.

Following the first world war there was a need for bus services and there were plenty of ex-military men and machines to meet the demand. It was one such man, Major Hicknott started Ribble Motor Services in 1919. He appointed a Captain Betteridge as the chief engineer. Ribble acquired the business of J Hodson, which held the licence to operate the service of Gregson Lane to Preston.

It was no coincidence that Preston was chosen as Hicknott’s base for a bus company. Preston was at a pinch point of roads in central Lancashire. An early route map illustrated the important services Ribble had established. Licences were required to operate bus services and these were issued by town councils. Town councils ran their own transport operations and, not surprisingly, would not issue them to rival operators. Ribble, in order to expand, had to acquire operators who held licences in areas in which it wished to operate.

In fact, by the time of its last acquisition in 1969 Ribble had taken over 106 operators. Ribble’s first route was Preston to Bolton via Chorley and Westhoughton. Dave explained that rapid expansion occurred through the decades up to 1960. By then Ribble’s empire included parts of Westmorland, Cumberland and across Lancashire, including express services, particularly to London.

Fleet strength had grown from 5 in 1919 to peaking at 1,200 in 1955. Passenger numbers peaked at over 215 million and road miles operated at 50 million in 1956. With a long and close association with Leyland Motors, Ribble was an innovator in bus design and build. An example was the Leyland Atlantean, rear engined, double deck ‘Gay Hostess’ coach in the early 1960’s. These vehicles came complete with toilet, kitchen and ‘airline’ type hostesses to look after passengers’ needs. These hostesses were just a small part of over 5,000 Ribble employees at that time.

Following several reorganisations of the national bus industry during the 70’s and 80’s Stagecoach bought what remained of Ribble in 1989 and the name disappeared.

Through Dave Moss and his fellow RVPT volunteers, the preservation and restoration of Ribble company vehicles guarantee the memories for the future.

P Robinson