Optare’s move out of Blackburn to Yorkshire might not signal the end of all bus production in the town.
During the past six years, father and son team Philip and Robert Hilton have seen their bus refurbishment business in Appleby Street boom, and now they’re thinking of manufacturing under the name Bus and Coach Builders Ltd.
Philip started as an apprentice at Optare’s predecessor company East Lancashire Coachbuilders in 1960, becoming joint managing director in 1990, and retiring in 2005.
His son Robert, 39, was made redundant at the same time, prompting them to set up Bus and Coach World in 2006.
Philip said: “We wanted to go back into coachbuilding as it was the only thing we knew.
“We’ve come from being a small company employing only one other person and having a turnover of £100,000, to employing 35 people with a turnover of over £2million.”
They have bought the name Bus and Coach Builders Ltd, with designs on starting manufacturing in the near future.
Philip said: “We are looking at building from scratch again in Blackburn. The vehicles would be specialist, perhaps open-top.
“At the moment we need to make sure we don’t run out of cash and we have to look for investment.”
Most of the Hilton’s staff are ex-East Lancs Coachbuilders workers.
Last week Optare announced the consolidation of manufacturing to its Sherburn site, near Leeds, ending almost 80 years of the tradition in Blackburn, with 99 workers receiving redundancy notices.
From the Lancashire Telegraph 24/01/12.