Proud Preston going in the Wright direction as new ‘deckers are delivered

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The first two of Preston Bus’ new Wrighbus Streetdeck double deckers have arrived and were shown to the press and local dignitaries on Monday 6 July

Preston Bus has placed the first of its four new Wrightbus Streetdecks into service. They will be primarily used on route 23 which serves the Royal Preston Hospital as well as schools, the university campus and employment areas. The first two are seen here outside the Royal Preston Hospital. JONATHAN WELCH

At a small event outside the Royal Preston Hospital, Rotala-owned Preston Bus officially unveiled the first of its new quartet of Wrighbus double-deck buses. Similar to those in service with Diamond Bus North West, the Mercedes-Benz-powered Wrighbus Streetdecks bring with them a revised Preston Bus livery of two-tone blue with lime green dividing line. Internally, the muted greys of the panelling are brightened by blue seats trimmed with lime green piping, reflecting the external colours.

Civic dignitaries including Cllr Michael Green (centre) joined Preston Bus and RPH to welcome the first of the city’s new buses for route 23. JONATHAN WELCH

Preston Bus General Manager John Asquith was joined by Councillor Michael Green, Lancashire County Council (LCC)’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Environment and Planning, and Andrew Varley, Public Transport Manager at LCC, as well as Preston Bus Operations Manager Dave Wright and Engineering Manager Ricky Burns.

“These are the initial two, and two more are arriving this week,” explained John. “Vehicle familiarisation for drivers started last week, and has continued this week. They should be on the road on route 23 later this week. We chose route 23 because its serves UCLAN (the University of Central Lancashire), Fulwood schools and the Royal Preston Hospital, and extends to the north-east employment area which contains a number of businesses that we work closely with, such as Homeserve and Asda.

“The new buses will allow us to cascade vehicles to other routes like the 19. The new buses carry a refreshed livery, which fits in with the Rotala Group but still keeps Preston Bus’ identity. It is still a strong brand.”

After a difficult period for Wrightbus over the past year, John says it is important to work with a strong partner, and believes that the revamped Wrightbus, with Jo Bamford at the help, is in a good position now. “Rotala has worked a lot with Wrights in recent years, it’s important that a group of our size finds a partner to work with long term. We’ve placed orders worth £29m in the north-west,” he said, emphasising that it is not just about supply of buses, but being able to have confidence in the ongoing back-up for service and spares.

Councillor Michael Green (front) and Lancashire CC Public Transport Manager Andrew Varley welcomed the investment by Rotala-owned Preston Bus. JONATHAN WELCH

Councillor Green welcomed the new vehicles: “We welcome the investment in the bus service and more environmentally-friendly vehicles,” he said. “We look forward to seeing their increased use once the current situation is over. We would generally encourage the use of public transport, the County Council is very keen on promoting that. It is good to see the investment especially in this route which links with the hospital and UCLAN.

Andrew Varley agreed: “It is great to see the investment in the city and wider Lancashire area. The new buses look really smart and will make a big impact. We look forward to working with Rotala and encouraging more people to get back on board when the current restrictions are over.”

Preston Bus’ ever-enthusiastic Engineering Manager Ricky hails from the city of Preston, and was delighted to see the invsetment in his home city’s fleet. “It’s good to come back to where I started,” he said. “We have the same vehicles at Diamond Bus North West, where they have settled down to be a good reliable product. Wrightbus offer good support, and the vehicle itself is good. We get good support from Mercedes too. This investment shows that the company wants to go in the right direction. We have a strong team in the North West, and we’re still growing.”

The first of the two buses should be in service on the streets of Preston this week, with the remainder following close behind.