Our History

The various local bus companies that now make up Arriva each have an amazing heritage of their own, with some surprising stories to tell. You can learn more about the history of your local bus services. You might be surprised to find out just how long we’ve been an important part of your local community.

Arriva is now one of the leading transport operators in Europe. But our roots are in Sunderland, in the North East of England, in a second-hand motorcycle shop opened in 1938 by the Cowie family. To find out more about the history and growth of Arriva plc please visit the Arriva group website.

In the UK, our buses are organised into regional units, each of which has a fascinating story of its own. The core UK bus business outside London came into what is now Arriva ownership when the then Cowie Group acquired British Bus plc.

Until 1985 many buses were nationalised. But the 1985 Transport Act broke up the old National Bus Company and privatised it, a subsidiary at a time. A variety of fates were in store. Some companies were sold to their management teams or employees, while others were bought by entrepreneurs. It wasn’t long before a number of groupings started to form. Some of the newly privatised bus companies started to acquire other operators, and some started to change hands. One of these emergent new groups became British Bus plc.

There is a fierce loyalty amongst our longer-serving employees to some of the old companies, and many have family connections spanning several generations. Customers often remember the old names with fondness too. These links will take you to the fascinating histories of our local bus operations.

Yorkshire (West Riding) Electric Tramways began tram services in the Wakefield area in 1904. Operations in the Castleford area followed in 1906. The West Riding Automobile Company was formed in November 1923 to run motorbus services. West Riding almost doubled in size in 1950 when it bought out a local rival operator J Bullock and Sons.

The Yorkshire Woollen District Transport company developed bus services centred on the Dewsbury area. Both West Riding and Yorkshire Woollen became nationalised, latterly under common management. When the National Bus Company was privatised the management team, as Caldaire, bought West Riding and Yorkshire Woollen. Separate identities were maintained for the two operations and routes in Selby.

The long-established independent operator South Yorkshire Road Transport of Pontefract was acquired in 1994. The group was sold to British Bus in 1995.

Today all operations are under a common ‘Yorkshire’ banner and run from depots in Wakefield, Dewsbury, Heckmondwike, Castleford and Selby.