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.

National Bus Company subsidiary Ribble Motor Services was divided into smaller units in readiness for privatisation. A new operation comprising Ribble’s routes in Merseyside, West Lancashire and Wigan revived the old North Western name. This was bought by Drawlane, the predecessor of British Bus, in 1988. Drawlane merged the operation with its Bee Line Buzz business in Greater Manchester.

Arriva North West acquired the operations of Merseyside Transport in February 2000. These had originated as municipal operations in Liverpool, Wallasey, Birkenhead, St Helens and Southport, which had merged to form the former Passenger Transport Executive business. This acquisition more than doubled the size of our business in the north west of England.

Arriva North West and Arriva Cymru, its Welsh neighbour, were merged in 2002, to form Arriva North West and Wales. Responsibility was taken for the Crewe, Winsford and Macclesfield operations of Arriva Midlands North in 2003. Blue Bus of Bolton was acquired in 2005, almost doubling our presence in Greater Manchester. The Welsh operations are trading under a separate ‘Arriva Buses Wales’ banner again from January 2009.

Today we provide services from depots in Liverpool, Speke, Bootle, Birkenhead, St Helens, Southport, Bolton, Wythenshawe, Winsford, Macclesfield and Runcorn.