Strawberry buses spreads its patch

Husband and wife team Oliver and Lorraine Howarth are launching a new bus company from Linkway Distribution Park, Elton Head Road with a route from Warrington to Skelmersdale through St Helens
Husband and wife team Oliver and Lorraine Howarth are launching a new bus company from Linkway Distribution Park, Elton Head Road with a route from Warrington to Skelmersdale through St Helens
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CUSTOMERS and staff have been reassured that it is service as usual following a series of bus firm mergers.

South Lancs Travel, which is based in Atherton and is one of the main bus providers across Wigan borough and Bolton was recently sold to operator D&G of Uttoxeter which runs buses in both the West Midlands and North of England.

D&G in turn had shares in the smaller St Helens firm Strawberry and it has now been decided to merge its services with those of the SLT creating an organisation boasting 128 staff.

Because the Atherton depot - which runs 45 vehicles - is so much larger, the St Helens operations have recent decamped there.

New joint operations director Oliver Howarth, who himself set up Strawberry two years ago after being operations director for Blackpool Transport, said that there should be very few noticeable differences.

He said: “The one thing bus service customers dislike above all other is change. They want consistency reliabiliy and continuity. They don’t want buses changing times and routes and they are not going to get that.

“You might perhaps see one of the other buses in the area covering for a vehicle if the regular one has broken down.

“We are very pleased with how smoothly the transition has gone.

“We will gradually merge the companies but we are not making any hasty announcements. We are aiming to bring stability above all else.

“It made sense to bring Strawberry - which has 16 buses - to SLT’s much larger Atherton depot.

“We have lost a couple of staff due to the overlap but by and large the transition affects neither customers nor employees.”

South Lancs Travel is the trading name of Green Triangle Buses which was established with four vehicles in 1998 by Martin Bott and David Stewart.

D&G Bus and shareholder Julian Peddle together bought the pair’s remaining shares although they are remaining with the newly-merged firm as consultants.

Mr Stewart said: “We will not have the pressure of control, but will have the benefit of still being involved within a business and industry that has formed a large part of our lives for so long.”

Strawberry Buses are a regular site around St Helens, and farther afield.