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Remembering the old Belle Vue Manchester

The Company, Belle Vue (Manchester) Ltd originally world famous for pleasure rides including 'The Bobs' and the beautiful zoological gardens, is now one of the UK’s leading brands in Coach Hire Management Services.



Based on the theme of a fun-packed day out from the old Belle Vue, the new Belle Vue is geared towards fun packed coach trip excursions for the private hire market, educational school trips and the executive & corporate market.

From a variety of corporate coach tours including multi vehicle movements for thousands of delegates attending a conference, to day trips for senior citizens from our group excursion brochure, visits to fun filled theme parks for the kids, school trips, race day outings, Belle Vue cover everything to provide a group with a great coach hire experience. Our services extend across the Northwest, the UK and into the EU.

The original company started trading in 1925 and became the country's leading pleasure park. With a vast site featuring pleasure rides, zoo, circus, dance halls, wrestling, boxing, roller skating, bowling, bingo, speedway, stock cars, greyhound racing, a lake and beautiful gardens to name just some of the attractions.



The memories of the original Belle Vue still linger in the minds of those fortunate enough to have experienced the pleasure of such an outstanding theme park. The company was broken up into sections and sold off in the seventies. The original site in Manchester was sold for redevelopment. Today the site hosts a bingo hall, cinema complex, a private housing estate and a vehicle auction centre.

The original company started trading in 1925 and became the country's leading pleasure park. With a vast site featuring pleasure rides, zoo, circus, dance halls, wrestling, boxing, roller skating, bowling, bingo, speedway, stock cars, greyhound racing, a lake and beautiful gardens to name just some of the attractions.

Belle Vue Company History

The Start of the new Belle Vue (Manchester) Ltd operating coaches.

Opposite the site of the old speedway track (now vehicle auctions) is where the new Belle Vue was first incorporated. The business developed consistent growth from 1992 to 2011, then the company has grown four fold to the present day.

The company was formed in 1993 by the present directors. The company was formed when Philip Hitchen (Managing Director) had a burning desire to bring an Executive Taxi (Private Hire Car) service to the city of Manchester. Philip Hitchen joined Ian Braggs company Belle Vue Cars in December 1992 and he started to expand the business quite successfully in a short period of time. Philip Hitchen then purchased the business of Mount Road Cars and joined forces with Ian Bragg in 1993 and merged the two companies of Belle Vue Cars and Mount Road Cars and made the company into one of Manchester’s leading private hire car companies.

The Company rapidly built up a client base of hundreds of blue-chip companies. With uniformed professional drivers and quality executive cars, the company’s growth soon started to take off.

The company changed its name from 'Belle Vue Cars' to 'Belle Vue (Manchester) Ltd' and restructured to a Limited Company in 1996 and the company expanded into the PCV minibus and coach market in 1997 through the direction of Ian Bragg. Belle Vue also acquired the purchase of VIP Cars, a local private hire company to expand its local customer base.

The purchase of Griffiths Coaches - Hyde

In 1997 Belle Vue expanded into the PCV Coach Business, which saw rapid growth between 1997 and 1999. In 1998 Belle Vue purchased Griffiths Coaches of Hyde, Cheshire.

In 1999 a Chauffeur Driven Car & Limousine department was expanded with a fleet of Mercedes, Jaguars, Rolls Royce’s & American Stretch Limousines. Belle Vue was now highly geared to serving the corporate client. With this in mind the taxi side of the business was sold in 1999 and the company reinvested in its coach fleet by purchasing a number of Executive Coaches.

With a fleet of new minibuses and quality coaches the company had a diverse fleet of executive vehicles. At the turn of the Millennium the company expanded its services into Coach Tours & Holidays. With a variety of day excursions, Weekend Breaks & Holidays, the company rapidly built a reputation for value for money holidays! A classic example of this is door to door holidays, especially favoured by senior citizens. This side of the operation was sold off to the UK Holiday Group around 2012.

Recruitment of Kenny Walsh

In 2001 Belle Vue installed it's own Maintenance & Service Division, managed by Kenny Walsh. With ‘enthusiasm and dedication’ Kenny has proven to be a valuable player in the Belle Vue management team and has since been promoted to Maintenance Director in 2009. Kens dedication saw him win the Engineer of the Year at the UK Coach Awards in 2015.

With coach tour operations in 2002 expanding to France, Germany, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland the company's desire to conquer new shores travelled on. With commitment to training and reinvestment in the fleet the consistent growth of the Company was assured. Belle Vue played a major part in the transportation of the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.

The start of the Yellow School Bus Service

In 2003 Belle Vue pioneered a new Yellow School Bus Scheme in conjunction with the GMPTE. (Now operating as TfGM, Transport for Greater Manchester). Belle Vue have been working diligently in providing transport solutions for home to school travel resulting in less rush hour madness and poor antisocial behaviour on the school buses. All students are committed to behaving in an acceptable fashion and our Yellow Bus Scheme is proving to be a relaxed and reliable means of Transport.

We currently operate Contracts right across the City in Tameside, Stockport, Trafford and Manchester and we are pleased to offer our brand new fleet of Yellow School Buses for Hire and Reward for all School, College and University based Transportation.

New purpose-built Maintenance Facilities

2004 saw Belle Vue sustain major growth in all areas of the business. The coach fleet was expanded with quality vehicles and Belle Vue’s policy of staff training and fleet reinvestment saw major returns in the quality of service that the company provided. Many major contracts in the education sectors of the business were expanded and Belle Vue also expanded into Stage Carriage Bus Services.

Belle Vue also recruited and quality approved many other coach suppliers throughout the Northwest to ensure the range of services was extended beyond the existing fleet’s capacity. The Maintenance Department was also expanded as a new site was secured and new garage facilities were purpose built to ensure the future development of our fleet maintenance program.

In 2005 Belle Vue had already developed a high reputation as a quality coach tour holiday provider over the previous five years. With many senior citizens relying on our door to door holiday service and the personal care and attention of our Office Staff and Tour Managers, the expansion of this department was continuous.

Belle Vue put three senior managers through CPC Courses (Certificate of Professional Competence) in 2005 ensuring that the Industries professional coach management requirements were installed right throughout our Company. This included the Transport and Sales Offices, the Accounts Office and also our Maintenance Department which was rapidly becoming a major contractor of vehicle inspections and maintenance services to other operators.

The purchase of County Coaches, Stockport and the relocation of Belle Vue to Discovery Park

In August 2005, Belle Vue expanded its Wheelchair Accessible Coach Service by purchasing 5 wheel chair accessible coaches, one standard coach and the private hire client base of County Coaches Ltd who were based at Stockport. The Directors from County Coaches had decided to retire and a deal was struck by Belle Vue, which ensured Belle Vue would continue to provide a professional and comprehensive wheel chair accessible coach service to the client base of County Coaches.

Belle Vue recruited some of the driver team that provided a quality service. At the end of September after the County business had been incorporated into the Belle Vue system, Belle Vue relocated to the former premises of County Coaches.

With other expanding travel services the new premises could accommodate the projected growth plans of the business in the coming future. The new operating centre would create improved customer services in our bus and coach operations, our door- to-door holidays and our maintenance inspection services.

The purchase of Lambeth Coaches, Stockport

In 2009 Belle Vue acquired the business of Lambeth Coaches Ltd of Reddish, Stockport. Having traded for 35 years the owners decided to retire amidst growing competition in a competitive market place. Belle Vue had been a major competitor to Lambeth in the late 90s and early 00s and the acquisition resulted in the loss of a local operator. Belle Vue took only three vehicles and two staff from the business and acquired the customer base to expand further.

The Launch of a new philosophy

In 2011, Philip Hitchen our MD, had a brief affair with cancer and had to receive chemotherapy in the autumn. It was during his stay in hospital that he decided to change his life values.

Phil reassessed everything across the business, and cut out all the dead wood and areas of business that were not profitable. He also started to work on the business rather than in it. Adam Bradshaw was recruited as Sales Manager. Two businesses were purchased including Freshfield Coaches and Kings Coaches. And the door to door holiday service was sold off to the UK Holiday Group as this was perceived as unprofitable business compared to the main line transport system Belle Vue were operating.

Phil also introduced a new communication management system called iMA. iMA stands for ‘Identify,’ ‘Modify,’ and ‘Adapt’ when it comes to communicating with another human being. iMA helped drive down stress and increase harmony in the workplace leading to Belle Vue’s sales quadrupling over the next four years. Further details are available here:

The purchase of Freshfield Coaches, Stockport

In 2011 Belle Vue acquired the business known as Freshfield Coaches based in Bredbury, Stockport. Having run a fleet of 8 vehicles Belle Vue took over the business, whilst the owner sold the assets and retired to Cyprus. The mix of clientele mixed well with the Belle Vue profile and gave the company a great opportunity to expand our school client base.

The purchase of Kings Minibuses, Dukinfield

In 2011 Belle Vue also acquired Kings Minibuses, a small coach operator based in Dukinfield. Kings had some useful school contracts that mixed well with the Belle Vue profile. One of these contracts was Manchester Grammar School.

8 Brand New Hybrid School Buses arrive in April

The company was experiencing considerable growth with sales up 50% from acquisitions of local operators and also increased school contracts awarded from TfGM. This included 8 new contracts that were serviced by 8 brand new Optare Hybrid vehicles. Whilst there was a delay in production of these vehicles, Belle Vue provided 8 spare school buses that created further opportunity whilst the Optare vehicles were being manufactured. The vehicles finally arrived in April 2012. From September 2011 to January 2012 Belle Vue had increased sales by 50% taking the fleet total from 34 vehicles to 53 and revenues from £1.8M to £3.5M.

ISO9001 Quality Status Awarded in August

In August 2012, Belle Vue were awarded the ISO9001 quality kite mark, the highest standard of quality recognised across Europe. Although there are standards within the industry such as Coach Marque, Belle Vue did not think our clients would recognise these or relate to them, so the director decided to go for the ISO9001 status which is universally recognised all over Europe. This made considerable improvements to our ethos of good customer service, quality systems across the company, improved complaints procedures and team morale.

Belle Vue invested £1.25M in the fleet

In 2014 Belle Vue purchased 5 brand new Mercedes Benz Tourismo Coaches from Evobus UK. The company also took 5 more Optare School Buses from TfGM as part of new school contracts. The fleet became one of the most modern on the roads in the northwest.

Belle Vue also purchased our first team coach and started working in the corporate sector providing corporate match day hospitality to some local football teams on a regular basis. This corporate service also extended to the business community of Greater Manchester.

The addition of more audited policies, quality awards and a famous actress

In 2015 Belle Vue produced an in travel coach safety video for our fleet similar to the ones the airlines use on the planes. Whilst producing the video, Belle Vue worked with actress Jennifer Williams, an ex Coronation Street star. After the production of the video Jeni Williams was offered a position managing our marketing department and joined the company in May 2015.

In the summer of 2015 Belle Vue had two more ISO policies certified. After having our quality policy certified to ISO9001 status in 2012, the company certified our Environmental Policy to ISO14001 and our Health & Safety Policy to ISO18001. Compliance was a priority to the business and now the company had an operating management system that ensured regulatory compliance was an everyday priority.

The company had also been installing professional auditors operating in the business on an annual basis over the past couple of years. This included the DVSA for fleet compliance, Lloyd Morgan Group for fleet compliance, Arthur J Gallagher Insurance (formerly Giles Insurance) for Health & Safety compliance, International Management Systems for Quality Management and Backhouse Jones Solicitors for Transport Management Compliance. These five auditors ensured our compliance standards were audited, measured and improved in the areas of fleet maintenance, health and safety, quality management, and transport management. Standards can never be too high when carrying human beings and the auditors work is a big part of ensuring the company remain at the forefront of the industry when it comes to passenger safety and comfort.

Belle Vue also invested another £500,000 in another new Mercedes Benz Tourismo Coach, a new Mercedes Benz Tura 900 33 seater coach, and 8 Yellow Double Decker School Buses.

Belle Vue also invested in further senior management training in the area of the Insights Colour Profile System. Insights is a deeper version of IMA and the training helped develop our leadership development program with many of the senior management team being developed from the positions of coach driver, mechanic or office telesales person, which is a testament to the company’s people development and the tenacity and dedication of the team employed.

The year of more award success

In 2016 Belle Vue had more success in the UK Coach Awards. Despite having competed in the UK Coach Awards and the Route One Excellence Awards over the past three years, often gaining the position of a finalist in the areas of Medium Sized Fleet Operator, Belle Vue scooped 3 Golds, 2 Silvers and a Bronze Award in the UK Coach Awards 2016.

Despite winning 2 Golds and a Bronze in the previous year Belle Vue had our biggest success to date.

Belle Vue secured the following awards:

  1. Best Coach Industry Brand – Gold
  2. Best Customer Service, Rik Tapper – Gold
  3. Best Unsung Hero, Shannon Meakin – Gold
  4. Best Medium Fleet Coach Operator – Silver
  5. Best Unsung Hero, Donna Thompson – Silver
  6. Best UK Coach Driver, John Gilbody – Bronze

You can visit the awards website here


Belle Vue never competed in the UK Coach Awards this year. Philip Hitchen had been requested to be a stakeholder in the awards and help develop them to expand the reach across the Industry. Philip decided that it would be unethical to compete in the awards having helped develop them. So Belle Vue stood down from applying (for a change!) The reason we compete in awards is not to win them (which is nice, especially in decorating the staff), but to compete with the best and see where we are away from the UK’s best operations.

There was an influx of apprentices in the garage across the year. Every singe member of our garage team has come through an apprenticeship at Belle Vue which is great testament to the leadership programme we have in there.


In 2018, Kenny Walsh our award winning Engineer retired. He handed over to his second in command Jason Cotgrave.

TfGM (Transport for Greater Manchester) scrapped 12 school run contracts. Ten of those contracts were Belle Vue’s. This took 420k off the top line. Belle Vue had to re-adjust their overhead and sell some yellow school bus vehicles. Maurice Scott was employed as a new Finance Director and directed the company into a stronger financial position.

Belle Vue invested 550k in two double decker coaches and expanded the coach tourism market particularly with Tour Operators operating in Europe.


Philip Hitchen MD, was requested to be a judge at the Bus & Coach Show for an innovation competition by Diversified UK the holders of the event. It proved to be a fun and enlightening day debating the innovations of some forward thinking companies who were launching or improving products and services. The panel of judges with various industry backgrounds made a great debate discussing the acute angles of each and every project. There were a couple of golds awarded, plenty of silvers and no bronze awards - such was the quality of each and every project.

Belle Vue also invested over £1M in new vehicles this year. Two new 61 seater Mercedes Benz Tourismo coaches joined the fleet along with two new Mercedes V Class People Carriers and nine refurbished double decker yellow school buses. The education side of the business recovered from a set back the year before and the coach side of the operation continued to expand. The chauffeuring side of the business was strengthened to keep some blue chip clients in house.

On the charity front Belle Vue expanded their charity partnerships with WE LOVE MCR coming onboard along with Pure Innovations from Stockport. Belle Vue continued to raise funds for Oasis Gorton and the Christie Hospital.

2020 – 2022
The Coronavirus Pandemic

Belle Vue re-built our operation in March 2020, from the day Covid 19 broke out in the UK.

In November 2019, Covid broke out in China. Over the winter months it spread to Europe and the UK. In February 2020 it was obvious that it was going to affect passenger transport, especially our private hire business.

Around this time, we were in negotiation to acquire Selwyn’s Travel. A local operation operating in some similar niches to ourselves, school transport. However, the private hire business was not appealing due to the pandemic. We negotiated the school contract business, securing £800,000 of annual contracted revenue (and a potential £0.2M private hires), and increasing our fleet by 22 vehicles. On top of the £2.3M contracted revenue we already had this brought our contracted sales revenue up to £3.1M. We believe this deal secured our company’s financial viability over the next two years.

Having secured more revenue when our £2.3M of private hires disappeared over night, we changed all our driver salaries to 40 & 30 hour weekly contracts based over 41 weeks of the year. This meant all our wages were productive, as private hires disappeared.

We communicated our game plan to all our team in March 2020. Our office team all agreed to take a 25% salary cut and took on extra responsibilities whilst some of our team went on the road to cover additional driving on new contracts. Our garage team changed to more flexible working hours. And all our driver team reduced to 30 or 40 hours per week. The whole team of 90 people came onboard with our plan for business survival, and salaries were set at a level where everybody was comfortable to get through the next year. The team cooperation was remarkable.

We revised our £4M business, that would have increased to £5.1M with the Selwyn’s acquisition, to a £3.1M contracted revenue business.

We cut overheads and streamlined. We negotiated ‘finance payment holidays’ on fleet. First for 3 months but then, 6, 9 or 12 months depending on what was school bus and what was coach as our coach fleet was grounded and school buses were operational.

We represented the industry on BBC Radio 5 Live breakfast show discussing the returning to school of children and the wearing of face masks in the new term 2020. This was received superbly.

We decided to promote further revenue by selling bus advertising space on our fleet which is a first for us. However, we have a strong CSR programme and decided to help many of our charities with free advertising space to promote them as these charities really struggled in the pandemic as people forget charity when in survival mode. We didn’t.

In July 2021 we secured another acquisition, acquiring Jones Coaches from Macclesfield. This will secure another 2OOK of contracted sales creating 25% profit.

Where there is adversity there is opportunity. The pandemic has tested us, not to show our weaknesses, but to discover our strengths.

And for our efforts, we won the BUILD BACK BETTER AWARD at the UK Coach awards for the best business survival plan during Covid times. And to top that off PATRICK DOUGLAS won UK Coach Driver of the year for his dedicated service to our clients.

“Thank you for considering Belle Vue for your next travel requirement. Our goal is to provide a transport service by road that is safer, cleaner and greener. We’d love to be part of your next travel adventure. Please contact our friendly team if we can assist you further.”

- Phil Hitchen M.D. Belle Vue (Manchester) Ltd.