Blackburn Bus Company

Blackburn Bus Company

Wright Eclipse 2 bodied Volvo B7RLE in
Bolton in April 2012
Parent Transdev Blazefield
Founded April 2001
Headquarters Blackburn
Service type Bus services
Routes 18 (October 2013)
Hubs Blackburn
Depots 1
Fleet 97 (October 2013)
Chief executive John Threlfall

The Blackburn Bus Company[1] is a bus operator, running services in the boroughs of Blackburn, Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley. It is a subsidiary of Transdev Blazefield. Commencing in July 2016, the business is progressively being rebranded from Lancashire United.


Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TL in Accrington in February 2008

In April 2001, Stagecoach sold its East Lancashire operations to the Blazefield Travel. Soon after the business was split in two. The Blackburn, Bolton, Clitheroe and Hyndburn became Lancashire United[1] and the remainder Burnley & Pendle.

Investment commenced in new vehicles almost immediately, with the first of 30 new Wright Renown bodied Volvo B10BLEs arriving in September 2001.

A number of service revisions followed with many marginal services withdrawn and a number of school contracts were terminated. Much of this work, mainly contracted to Lancashire County Council, was picked up by Northern Blue. A focus was then made on developing high quality trunk routes, namely the 152, 225 & Hyndburn Circulars. Also later the X1.

In 2002, the Bolton garage was sold on to independent operator Blue Bus. The contracted services in the Clitheroe area were relinquished and the garage was sold to a housing developer. Most of the Clitheroe contracted work passed to Northern Blue.

In January 2006, Lancashire United was included in the sale of Blazefield Travel to Transdev.[2][3] Unlike the other Transdev Blazefield subsidiaries it retained its pre-acquisition trading name.

In January 2007, Blackburn Transport was purchased from Blackburn with Darwen Council with 130 buses[4][5] followed in August 2007 by Accrington Transport and Northern Blue of Burnley with 65 buses.[6] In September 2009, Transdev Northern Blue was integrated into Transdev Burnley & Pendle. In March 2008, Lancashire United took over the Accrington local bus network from Accrington Transport.

This resulted in Clitheroe services being reacquired by Lancashire United for a second time through the Northern Blue takeover, however these ceased to be operated in June 2008.

Commencing in July 2016, the business is progressively being rebranded as the Blackburn Bus Company.[7][8]

Routes and brands

Spot on liveried Plaxton Pointer Dennis Dart in Darwen in March 2008

Blackburn Bus Company

A rebrand of the company commenced in July 2016, beginning with the introduction of a new fleet of two tone blue Optare Versas for routes 6/7 between Blackburn and Accrington.[7][8]

Hot Line 152

A 2016 rebrand for the Lancashire Way 152, Burnley to Preston via Blackburn Service. This service uses blue and purple liveried Wright Eclipse Geminis.

Lancashire United

Some services operating around Blackburn, Darwen and Hyndburn operate under the Lancashire United name including service 24 to Chorley, 22 to Clitheroe and the 1 to Bolton via Darwen.

Red Express

From 3 April 2016 the X41 which links Blackburn, Accrington and Haslingden with Manchester was branded Red Express with specially branded blue and red double deckers. All services now operate between Blackburn, Accrington, Baxenden, Haslingden, Helmshore, Prestwich and Manchester Chorlton Street. Services run typically every 30 minutes Monday to Saturday and hourly on Sundays.

Other town services

The Outer Circle

The Blackburn Outer Circle is a circular service that connects schools, hospitals and leisure opportunities around the edge of the town. It was started by Blackburn Borough Transport in 1980 as the 50 (clockwise) and the 51 (anticlockwise). The Transport Department did not register the service for commercial operation, and after deregulation, it became one of several routes in the area won by GM buses on a nil tender basis. GM buses found out that these services were not as profitable as they had imagined and pulled out of the area entirely, on 26 January 1987 the route was returned to Blackburn Transport, who re-instated Leyland Atlantean double-deckers to operate the service. At the next round of tenders, the services passed to Ribble, who operated it using Leyland Olympians from Preston's Frenchwood garage. The route again reverted to Blackburn Transport using Optare Metroriders, the route was then renumbered as Track 5 with an A or C suffix denoting direction of travel.

In March 2006 the route became the OC and used Volvo Olympians which received a purple and orange livery with route branding, the vehicles and branding were retained on takeover by Lancashire United. As of August 2016 this route no longer operates due to budget cuts by Lancashire County Council.

Past services/Route Branding

Hyndburn Circular

This was a circular service that connected Blackburn with the towns of Rishton, Clayton-le-Moors, Great Harwood, Oswaldtwistle and Accrington in the district of Hyndburn. The service was taken over from Stagecoach Ribble's Blackburn depot in 2001 and shortly after a brand new fleet were purchased and carried branding for this service. From May 2007 the service was part of the Spot On network. September 2013 saw the routes rebranded as The Hyndburn Connect

The Hyndburn Connect

Launched on 2 September 2013, Hyndburn Circular services 6 and 7 that link Blackburn with Oswaldtwistle, Accrington, Clayton-Le-Moors, Great Harwood and Rishton, a new Hyndburn Connect ticket was also introduced to replace the Spot On Hyndburn ticket and buses received branding for this service

The X1

The X1 was a semi-express route linking Clitheroe, Whalley and Accrington with Manchester. The route was for a time operated by a fleet of route branded Volvo Olympians and won a number of awards. The X1 and associated X2 were replaced with the X40/X41 service running between Blackburn, Accrington and Manchester. Route 241 was created for passengers between Clitheroe and Accrington, however this route has since passed in and out of the company's control a number of times and now no longer runs. A very limited number of journeys still commenced at Great Harwood.

The Lancashire Way

Replaced by the Red Express and Hotline brands in 2016. This was first introduced to complement the Witch Way branding for route X40/X41 from Manchester to Blackburn/Great Harwood/Whalley via Accrington. Originally using buses in a black and red livery with a Lancashire Rose. For a time buses on route 152 also used this branding. Then later using Yellow and blue Wright Eclipse Geminis. Over time the Whalley and Great Harwood journeys were dropped to create a more standardised Blackburn, Accrington, Manchester service.

The Whalley Ranger

This service was introduced in late 2009 following customer requests after two years of the Whalley Range area being unserved by bus. The route used specially branded buses and operated every 10 minutes with a flat single fare of £1, on 14 June 2010 the service was extended to serve Openshaw Drive to replace Spot On route 24, with the frequency reduced to every 15 minutes and period tickets became valid. It was announced on 16 November 2010 that this service was to be withdrawn due to low patronage, the last service operated on 24 December 2010.

Route 124

This route was renumbered '2' on 2 September 2013 and operated as a through service from Chorley to Blackburn, Blackburn Hospital and Darwen. From March 2014 the Blackburn to Chorley section was once again split from the Darwen section. The service running as route 24.

Route 225

Route 225 was a long established route which ran from Clitheroe to Bolton via Whalley, Blackburn & Darwen. The route was taken over from Stagecoach Ribble in 2001 and a new fleet of route branded low floor buses operated it. As of 16 September 2012 this route was divided into two separate services with all buses now terminating in Blackburn town centre. The Blackburn to Clitheroe section being renumbered as Route 22 and the Blackburn to Bolton section became Route 1 which has subsequently replaced Spot On 1.

Spot On

Following the acquisition of Blackburn Transport, both its services and Lancashire United's Hyndburn Circular routes were combined and branded as 'Spot On', the service was launched on 14 May 2007 with a fleet of 25 brand new single deck buses .[9][10] As of July 2014 the brand have been dropped with the remaining services which operated under the former 'Spot On' brand now operate under the 'Lancashire United' brand..

Spot on 1

As of 16 September 2012 this route was divided into two separate services replacing the Spot On branding from this route, renumbered as Route 41 to operate alongside the X41 between Blackburn and Accrington with the Blackburn to Darwen section becoming Route 1.

Contract services

On 2 April 2011, Lancashire United lost the contract to routes C1 and 241. 2014 saw the loss of service 39 which has been handed over to several operators, however the company still operates a variation of one of its Sunday services via Pleasington Cemetery.


Eastern Coach Works bodied Leyland Olympian in Lancashire United's school bus livery in Darwen
Spot On branded Wright Renown bodied Volvo B10BLE in Chorley in March 2013

Fleet history

When Lancashire United took over Stagecoach Ribble in April 2001, the fleet was predominantly made up of aging buses. These included double-decker models such as Bristol VRs and Leyland Atlanteans and single-decker models such as Leyland Lynxs and Leyland Nationals. The new company also inherited a couple of Plaxton Pointer bodied Dennis Darts and Mercedes-Benz Vario minibuses at the Clitheroe depot. By September 2001, most of these had been replaced by more modern Leyland Olympians, more Leyland Lynxs and the first of 30 new Wright Renown bodied Volvo B10BLEs.

Whilst the Leyland Olympians and Volvo B10BLEs remained with the company for years, other models were bought and sold, mainly middle aged versions at the time. Included were Dennis Darts, Volvo Olympians and some other Volvo single-deckers, many cascaded from Blazefield's other operations in Yorkshire.

In 2007, Lancashire United took delivery of 25 Wright Eclipse bodied Volvo B7RLEs, these were painted in a white and sandy gold livery, with purple Spot On brandings for routes 6 and 7 and a deeper shade of purple for route 1. These were originally destined for Burnley & Pendle, but due to the acquisition of Blackburn Transport they were diverted to Lancashire United.[11]

In July 2016, a batch of new Optare Versas carrying Blackburn Bus Company branding in a two tone blue livery and operate on the currently branded Hyndburn Connect 6 and 7 routes.[7][8]


Lancashire United operated two depots, the former Blackburn Transport depot, and the former Stagecoach Ribble Motor Services depot. In August 2011, the latter was closed, with operations consolidated at the former.[12]


Current liveries

Lancashire United's original livery was cream with blue and red stripes with a swoop towards the back and a black skirt in standard Blazefield style, many buses in this livery carried route branding such as Route 152, 225 and the Hyndburn Circular, in recent years the vehicles started to receive various new liveries, the majority of Lancashire United's buses can now be recognized in a wide variety of liveries.

As of September 2010 following the introduction of the new eight Optare Tempos, the interurban fleet received the new Lancashire United livery of blue and yellow with most buses receiving route branding.

Former liveries

A small number of double-deckers inherited from the former Blackburn Transport operations still retained the old two-tone green and cream livery and the green and yellow Schools+ livery while two still wore the purple and orange Outer Circle livery.


External links

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