End of the road for historic bus firm

John Fishwick & Sons bus depot at Tuer Street Golden Hill Lane in Leyland
John Fishwick & Sons bus depot at Tuer Street Golden Hill Lane in Leyland

The century-old sight of iconic green buses run by an historic Lancashire firm has come to an end.

John Fishwick and Son stopped operating on Saturday night following days of speculation, with national transport provider Stagecoach stepping in to take over at least one of its routes.

Fishwick’s, whose buses are synonymous with the Preston, Leyland, and South Ribble areas, offered luxury coach holidays to many UK and international destinations, public transport services, and private bus and coach hire.

It had been operating since 1907 and its closure has been branded the ‘end of an era’ and met with sadness by city leaders, Post readers, and heritage enthusiasts.

Callers trying to ring the company over the weekend were told in a recorded message: “As of midnight on Saturday, October 24, 2015, John Fishwick and Son will be ceasing to operate.

“To those who have paid money for holidays, we will be contacting you shortly.

“To the people of Leyland and surrounding areas, we would like to say thank you for their custom over the last 108 years.”

One customer in the Manchester area said he feared there were problems when he had still not had confirmation about a holiday to Norfolk, which he had booked with the firm and was due to begin on Sunday.

Fishwick’s wrote to the man, who said: “The holiday has been cancelled. They said I’m going to get another letter next week explaining things. It says you will get your money back in the letter.”

Stagecoach began providing the 111 service from Preston to Leyland yesterday and said it would sit down and talk to county hall chiefs about other routes too.

A spokesman said: “Taking over the 111 service follows special dispensation given by the Traffic Commissioner to Stagecoach to allow this to happen at very short notice.

“We will not be in a position to operate any other former Fishwick’s routes today, but will be in discussions with Lancashire County Council over the possibility of covering other sections of route.”

The 111 route will be the same between Preston Bus Station and Moss Side, and will then operate a loop of Dunkirk Lane, Schleswig Way, Longmeanygate, Leyland Lane, and Dunkirk Lane.

It will follow the normal route back to Preston and will no longer serve Fishwick’s Golden Hill Lane terminal between the Leyland Lane traffic lights and Tuer Street, Stagecoach said.

The future of the 119 service to Runshaw College is among those now in doubt, although this week is half-term and college bosses have moved to reassure students.

A spokesperson for the college said: “We will make sure all the routes Fishwick’s run for us – there are seven at the moment – are covered if needed.

“The students will get to and from college.”

The spokesperson said students would be kept informed, adding: “We will tweet, Facebook and text them if we need to.”

Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle said: “I was extremely concerned to hear rumours over the future of Fishwick’s.

“The company provided a number of services in the Chorley area, including school bus services.

“My aim is to ensure local services are protected and we need to make sure that alternative arrangements are put in place through other providers.”

A spokesman from the British Commercial Vehicle Museum, in King Street, Leyland, said: “Fishwick’s is part of Leyland. It will be sad to see the green buses disappear.

“I was talking to people and lots of them took pictures on Saturday because they won’t see them any more.”

The museum has an Olympia single-decker bus, now privately owned but still painted in the iconic Fishwick’s livery, which dates back to the late 60s.

“Local people obviously know it but people from a distance don’t,” the spokesman said. “We often explain that it’s part of Leyland’s heritage and part of our community.

“It’s a family as well as a company and it’s part of our heritage.”

Fishwick’s was up for sale and faced three scenarios heading into the weekend, The Post understands.

They included a buyer being found and the firm continuing to provide its regular services, a buyer being found but services changed, and if no buyer was found, the company closing.

Fishwick’s said very little about the situation prior to Stagecoach’s own announcement on Friday, and it is still not clear how many jobs have been lost.

Jim Hustler, a manager at the firm, told the Post on Friday: “At this moment in time we’re operating our stage carriage services as normal.”

He was unable for comment over the weekend.