New era for Optare bus production at Sherburn 02 November 2011
With production now in full swing at Optare's new Sherburn-in-Elmet factory, a major new chapter in the history of the British bus manufacturing begins – while another ends as the gates at the company's Crossgates works in Leeds are closed.
Optare has been building buses at Crossgates since 1985, but the site's history dates back to the early 1920s when Charles H Roe started construction of charabancs on the eight-acre site.
The company was soon building both single- and double-deck bodies and established itself as a supplier of high-quality buses to large and small operators in Yorkshire and the north of England.
Over the years, the Roe business also built trolleybuses, articulated buses, coaches and a small number of trams. During World War II the factory produced over 650 utility bus bodies and also manufactured specialised vehicles to support the war effort, including trailers for use as mobile map printing units, which supported the D-Day landings.
Roe became part of Associated Commercial Vehicles in the late 1940s, and then part of what became the British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1961. However, a reduction in demand prompted Leyland to streamline its manufacturing and the Roe plant was a casualty.
It was closed in 1984, but a group of former employees and managers saw an opportunity for an, innovative company to take advantage of new potential in the deregulated market, and their efforts saw the business revived as Optare in 1985.
"Those who have worked at Crossgates over the years can take justifiable pride in their achievements," says Jim Sumner, the company's chief executive. "The factory has produced some of the most exciting bus designs to operate in Britain, attractive vehicles which are designed to encourage people to see public transport as a vibrant and high-quality alternative to their cars."
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