OK Motor Services

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OK Motor Services 17 LJX 17.JPG
Parent Wade Emmerson
Founded 6 April 1912
Service area County Durham
Service type Bus operator

OK Motor Services[1] was a bus company operating in County Durham from 1912 until the 1990s when purchased by the Go-Ahead Group. Following rationalisation and rebranding, the OK livery disappeared from the roads as services were integrated with Go North East.


OK Motor Services was founded in Evenwood, County Durham, by Wade Emmerson on 6 April 1912. The first route was from Evenwood to Bishop Auckland.

The original name was the Gaunless Valley Motor Services with the name OK coming from a consortium of operators who started to run from the area to the Great North Exhibition in Newcastle in the late-1920s. The name OK was used and means just exactly what it says, the service was 'OK'.

The first garage was in Evenwood, with an office being opened within Bishop Auckland Town Hall during the early 1930s. The site of the main garage was acquired and developed during the 1930s in North Bondgate, Bishop Auckland.

A further depot was opened at Heaton, Newcastle and two further depots at St Helens Auckland and Shotton Colliery were acquired with the business of F Lockey & Sons.

During the early 1980s, the company replaced OK Motor Services name with OK Travel and introduced a simplified version of the eye catching livery of dark red, light red and cream.

After deregulation, OK acquired two further depots, one at Gateshead to replace the Heaton depot. A brand new depot was built at Peterlee, which replaced the depot at Shotton Colliery.

OK Travel operated widely throughout the area with the majority of its services being in south Tyne & Wear and Durham. By 1994, it had 212 vehicles with an average age of about 11 years, and had bought 47 new vehicles in the preceding year.[2]

Go-Ahead takeover[edit]

Go-Ahead Group had already made approaches to Wade Emmerson Snr, who ran the business, but the shareholders had no interest in selling it. However, Go-Ahead was told that if the business did become available for sale, they would be given first refusal.

Wade Emmerson senior died unexpectedly in August 1994.[3] Wade Emmerson Jnr, OK's majority shareholder, was approached by Go-Ahead, which expressed its continued interest in acquiring the business. He was also approached by other operators including Northumbria Motor Services, the British Bus subsidiary in the North-East, but decided to enter detailed negotiations only with Go-Ahead. In March 1995, Go-Ahead acquired OK Motor Services for £5.4 million.[4][5][6]

Many of OK's staff, including its general manager, Charles Marshall, became employees of Go-Ahead following the acquisition. OK initially became one of Go-Ahead's locally managed subsidiaries with Marshall remaining in charge. Following the acquisition, Go-Ahead took steps to streamline the management of its north-east bus businesses and, as part of that reorganization, several of its earlier acquisitions were transferred to OK.[2] However, the local identities were soon abandoned, and the OK name disappeared.

The garage at Bishop Auckland was demolished, with a few services transferred to Go North East's depot at Chester-le-Street, with the more local services transferring to Arriva North East at Bishop Auckland.

On 23 January 2012, the OK Travel livery was revived by Go North East on new services OK1 and 18. Branded The OK Expressway, the OK1 service provided a direct link to Darlington, West Auckland and Middlesbrough from Crook. The 18 was a local Bishop Auckland and branded The OK Way.[6]

On 10 August 2013, Go North East ceased operating the OK1 service as a result of a fall in passenger numbers towards the end of its 18-month trial.

The name re-born[edit]

In November 2007 a new OK Motor Services Ltd was formed at Companies House, company number 06415076. The company remained dormant under its original owner but was bought on 21 October 2014 by Tim Phillips, who had also previously formed a new OK Travel Ltd on 30 October 2012 (company number 08273998). Tim Phillips had already acquired for restoration a former OK vehicle, Leyland Tiger Plaxton Supreme V Express LFT 5X, bought new by OK in February 1982 (along with LFT 1-4X and LFT 6X). On 25 May 2016, the new OK Motor Services Ltd was awarded an operator's licence and LFT 5X is now operational under that licence.

Former depots[edit]

In 1991 the former service depot of Leyland Truck and Bus in the Team Valley Trading Estate, Gateshead, was obtained.


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 626949 OK Motor Services Limited
  2. ^ a b Brown, Stewart J (November 1995). Buses in Britain 2: The Mid-Nineties. Capital Transport. ISBN 1-85414-181-3.
  3. ^ Remembering the OK This is the North East
  4. ^ Annual Report for year ended June 1995 Archived 23 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Go-Ahead Group
  5. ^ The Go-Ahead Group plc and OK Motor Services Limited: A report on the merger situation Competition Commission 1996
  6. ^ a b Omnibus edition Northern Echo 24 January 2012
  • Holding, David (2007). A History of OK Motor Services. Bus Enthusiast Publishing. ISBN 978-0-946265-39-8.

External links[edit]

Media related to OK Motor Services at Wikimedia Commons