The History of Public Transport in Preston 11/01/2022

On 2nd May 1859, a gentleman by the name of Richard Vievers started a service of HORSE BUSES running between Preston and Fulwood, and so began public transport in Preston.

On 20th March 1879, a TRAMWAY about 2½ miles long was opened by the Preston Tramways Company under the sanction of the Corporation, which, by the provisions of the 1870 Tramways Act was not permitted to undertake the actual operation. Three years later, the Corporation started to form an enlarged system: with routes between Fishergate Hill and the Pleasure Gardens in New Hall Lane; and from the Town Hall to Ashton. These began operating during Guild Week 1882.

The Town Council acquired powers by Acts of Parliament in 1900 and 1902 to electrify the tramway system. Construction of a Power Station was completed and the first electric tramcars operated in June 1904 from a purpose built depot in Deepdale.

The first Corporation bus service started on 23rd January 1922, and served the Plungington district. From that time onwards the fate of the tram was sealed. By 1930 it was obvious that the tramway cars and track were in need of extensive renewal, and after serious consideration, the Town Council decided to convert the whole system to Trolly Bus operation.

Routes were converted to Diesel Motor Omnibus between 4th July 1932 and 15th December 1935. During their life Preston’s trams ran over 32 million miles and carried more than 370 million passengers.

Since the adoption of Motor Omnibuses, vehicles were manufactured by Leyland Motors Limited, at a large factory within seven miles of Preston, employing thousands of local people.

During 1968 One Person Operated buses began as an efficiency measure, replacing the need for conductors.

In October 1969 Preston’s new Central Bus Station and Car Park was officially opened by Lord Stokes of Leyland Motors. At that time the Bus Station was the largest in Europe.

In the early 1970’s the traditional colour scheme of cream and maroon buses was changed in favour of a blue and cream fleet.

The Government’s decision to de-regulate the bus industry on 26th October 1986 resulted in a period of significant change. Preston Borough Transport Limited was set up to trade as an 'arms length’ company, as required by the 1985 Transport Act. Competition from new and established bus and coach firms on the company’s routes occurred, resulting in PBTL responding by introducing minibus services in April 1987.

The 1990’s were a period of competitive stability, during which the Company was sold to its employees in 1993, and renamed Preston Bus.

In December 1999, Preston Bus began operating low floor easy access buses to Tanterton. These replaced the traditional high stepped-entrance vehicles, and began the process of making boarding and alighting much easier, easing wheelchair and pushchair access.

Between 2000 and 2006 Preston Bus was successful, through partnership working with Lancashire County Council, in securing government funding towards a variety of projects including: Quality Bus Partnerships, Real Time Information, Preston Orbit and the CIVITAS project.

During 2006 Stagecoach North West subsidiary began to revise its local network in Preston. In 2007 Preston Bus was subject to high profile competition from the national operator (16% of the UK bus market), with Stagecoach introducing over 30 new low floor buses and offering lower discounted fares on the busiest routes.

On 23 January 2009, Preston Bus was sold to Stagecoach, however within 6 weeks an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading began, culminating in the Competition Commission ruling that the takeover had adversely affected competition in the area, and ordering the sell off of Preston Bus. In January 2011, Rotala Group was announced as preferred buyer and took over the ownership and operations of Preston Bus.

A positive new chapter began…