Leigh Corporation Transport
The first proposals for a horse tramway in Leigh had been put forward in the
1880's by Mr. A. Speight, a contractor, who had been responsible for
constructing horse tram routes in St. Helens, but the scheme was never
implemented. A second scheme in 1896 for a 3ft 6ins gauge electric tramway under
the name Leigh and Atherton District Tramways Company, which would have run
between Lowton St. Mary's station to Atherton Central station, via Leigh and
Atherton, with branch lines to Plank Lane and Green Lane, Bedford, was also
dropped after a dispute with Leigh Council, although general agreement on most
matters had been reached.
The first section of tramway to open was that constructed by the South
Lancashire Tramways Company (SLT), from Lowton, via Leigh and Atherton, to Four
Lane Ends (where there was a connection with the Bolton system), which was
inaugurated on 20th October 1902. The SLT had planned to open local
lines in Leigh that would have complemented the new service, but negotiations
between the company and Leigh Corporation broke down and, as a result, the
Council decided to obtain powers to operate its own tramways.
The Leigh Corporation Act of 1903 authorised over 3 miles of tramway, most of
which was to be double-track. The two proposed lines ran from Leigh town centre,
one travelling westwards along Twist Lane, Firs Lane and Plank Lane to Plank
Lane Colliery, and the other travelling eastwards along Bradshawgate, Chapel
Street and Manchester Road to the Boundary Hotel at Marsland Green. The
Corporation was authorised to borrow the capital needed to construct the tramway
and to operate motorbuses and trolleybuses (the first time trolleybus powers had
been granted by Parliament), but, in the event, none of the powers were ever
On 23rd March 1906 Lancashire United Tramways (the parent company
of the SLT) introduced their first bus service. Operating between Westleigh St.
Paul's and Leigh Market during the week it was extended on Sunday's along the
proposed Boothstown to Leigh tramway as far as Leigh Cemetery. Three Scott-Stirling
single-deckers were used, but by August 1906 the service had been
discontinued and the vehicles sold.
In 1919 Lancashire United Tramways (LUT) re-commenced bus operations, and on
22nd October 1920, after many months of discussion, Leigh Corporation
inaugurated its own bus services. The first route ran from Plank Lane to the
Cemetery, via the town centre, operated by a fleet of Straker-Squire's. Further
routes to Glazebury and Wigan Road commenced shortly afterwards. Leigh
Corporation always employed a dark blue and cream livery.
It soon became obvious that some of these routes would be in competition with
those established by LUT. As a result negotiations between the two undertakings
took place to establish the routes and timings, with proposals for some joint
operation, which subsequently became a feature of bus services in Leigh.
A new depot was opened in Holden Road in the early 1930's, which replaced the
original depot in the town centre. It was converted from a former engineering
works and was afflicted with a low door lintel, which precluded the use of
highbridge buses. At the time, however, there were a number of low railway
bridges in the Leigh area and lowbridge buses were required, but as the railways
fell into disuse it meant Leigh Corporation continued to order lowbridge buses,
even when they were no longer needed in quantity.
In 1933 the SLT began to close the tramway in Leigh and replace it with
trolleybuses. The section between Leigh and Four Lane Ends was wired for
trolleybus operation by the SLT, whilst Bolton Corporation erected the overhead
from there on in to Bolton. A reversing triangle was provided at Four Lane Ends
so that trolleybuses could turn back to Leigh there. In Leigh itself, the
trolleybus terminus was on private land off Spinning Jenny Street, where LUT had
built a small bus station in April 1927. The buses were now moved to stands in
the side streets and it became the trolleybus station.
An inspection of the trolleybus system took place on the 12th
December 1933, and operations commenced in earnest on Sunday 17th
December, the last SLT trams having run the previous evening. The tram service
between Leigh and Lowton St. Mary's was replaced on the same day by a joint
LUT/Leigh Corporation motorbus service (later numbered 48), extended to Lane
Head at the same time.
With the onset of World War II in 1939, the Royal Ordnance factory at Risley was
expanded and Leigh Corporation was required to almost double its fleet in order
to cope with the extra amount of contract work transporting workers to and from
the site. When the war ended the fleet was reduced accordingly but still
numbered more than prewar days because of the continuing workmen's and colliery
A new bus station was opened in King Street in May 1955 in an attempt to
alleviate postwar traffic congestion.
On 1st September 1957, the Leigh to Bolton trolleybuses of the SLT
were replaced by motorbuses. The service (No. 82) was operated jointly by Leigh
and Bolton Corporation, along with LUT. Although Bolton Corporation took a
percentage of the receipts they did not operate on the route apart from a few
school journeys. The trolleybuses on the Leigh to Mosley Common route were also
replaced by a new bus service (No. 84), which was operated jointly with LUT,
although Leigh buses did not appear on the route until later.
Leigh Corporation became the first municipality to purchase the Dennis
Loline, when, in 1958, two (Nos. 60-61) were added to the fleet. This enabled
the standard highbridge design bodywork to be fitted.
In common with a number of other local municipal operators Leigh Corporation
was absorbed into the South East Lancashire and North East Cheshire (SELNEC)
Passenger Transport Executive on the 1st November 1969, bringing to
an end just under 50 years of municipal operations by Leigh Corporation
In preparing this history reference has been made to the
South Lancashire Tramways (EK Stretch, MTMS 1972);
Lancashire United/SLT (Eric Ogden, TPC 1985); Municipal Buses in Colour
1959-1974 (Reg Wilson, Ian Allan 1997); PSV Circle Fleet History PC10 (1972).
1920-1969 | Bus Fleet List 1920-1969 |