Roe tribute

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Switch Mobility and Roe-bodied buses will star in the commemorative parade. TYPG

A socially-distanced cavalcade of historic buses marking 100 years since Chas H Roe started building bodies in its legendary Leeds factory is set for 22 May.

The parade is scheduled to start in Hunslet, home of Roe’s original base, at around 1100hrs, passing the site of Cross Gates Carriage Works where it was based for most of its history, and where around 18,000 vehicles were built between 1921 and 2011. It will then continue to Sherburn-in-Elmet and the modern purpose-built production facility of Switch Mobility, formerly Optare, before finally congregating at Springs Shopping Centre for a small gathering.

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The date has been chosen as it would have been the birthday of founder Charles H Roe (1887-1965), and May 1921 is understood to be the approximate point that manufacturing commenced at the Cross Gates site.

Chair of organisers the Transport Yorkshire Preservation Group James Fairchild said: “We have planned a much smaller, leaner event than what we might have delivered absent the pandemic. We are not offering public rides, and instead putting the emphasis on people watching as the vehicles pass by. The event will feature a small number of vehicles, all made in Yorkshire, and dating from the 1940s through the Leyland years and early Optare years to a brand-new Switch Mobility electric vehicle of May 2021. In the afternoon, we also plan a virtual presentation so we can bring-in vehicles that were unable to join our small procession, and also cater to enthusiasts and the public who are at home.”

This event is part of a five year campaign to get due recognition for the pioneering achievements of Mr Roe, and builds on volunteers’ success in 2020 in getting a public house in Cross Gates named ‘The Charles Henry Roe’ and also a commitment from Leeds City Council for a heritage information board to be installed adjacent to the former factory site. It is hoped that May 2023 can see a larger-scale public event.

Robert Drewery, Commercial Director West, Switch Mobility said: “Switch mobility is extremely proud to mark its centenary. This milestone reflects the company’s innovative heritage and a desire to meet the ever-changing needs of public transport over the last century.

“Switch Mobility will carry forward this heritage as it meets the exciting challenges of the next 100 years.”

Optare’s management restarted production at Cross Gates after Roe was closed by British Leyland in 1984.

A detailed timetable of the cavalcade will be available at the Transport Yorkshire Preservation Group website at prior to the event.