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.

The origins of the core of the Arriva Midlands business lie with the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company. This was better known as Midland Red and was split into smaller regional businesses prior to the privatisation of the National Bus Company.

Midland Red East, based in Leicester, changed its name to Midland Fox in 1984. It was sold to its management team in 1987, with help from the directors of Stevensons of Uttoxeter who also bought operations in Swadlincote. Several smaller operators were taken over and in 1989 the business was bought by British Bus predecessor Drawlane. It acquired the Loughborough Bus and Coach Company in the same year.

Municipally-owned Derby City Transport was sold to its employees, with help from Luton and District Transport, in 1989. (See also Arriva the Shires). It passed to British Bus in 1994 with Luton and District Transport and the Clydeside operations in Scotland.

Midland Red North, based in Cannock, was bought by Drawlane in 1988. Various reorganisations in the north of its territory saw depots exchanged between Crosville and North Western.

Stevensons of Uttoxeter was a family business founded in 1926. It acquired a controlling interest in the East Staffordshire District Council’s operations in Burton-on-Trent in 1985. In 1987 it became involved in the management buy-out of Midland Red East. This included the purchase of Midland Red East’s depot in Swadlincote. Growth followed in the Potteries and the West Midlands. Stevenson passed to British Bus in 1995, and it subsequently came under the management of Midland Red North.

In 2003, a reorganisation saw operations in Crewe, Macclesfield and Winsford pass to Arriva North West. Arriva Midlands North, Arriva Derby and Arriva Fox County merged to become Arriva Midlands. The purchase of Chase Coaches in 2007 reintroduced the company to Walsall.

Today we operate from depots in Oswestry, Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth, Telford, Cannock, Stafford, Wednesfield, Burton-on-Trent, Tamworth, Coalville, Derby, Thurmaston and Wigston.