A VINTAGE bus will be making its way to Darwen after a 23-year spell in Malta as part of a bid to help rekindle town pride.

And the journey back to East Lancashire is set to mirror the adventures of Sir Cliff Richard in the 1963 hit film Summer Holiday.

It's all the idea of members of the Darwen Transport Trust who dedicate their spare time to tracking down old buses and giving them a new lease of life.

The rare 1966 single-decker spent 14 years in Darwen before it was sold to Malta when the Blackburn with Darwen vehicles were introduced.

Peter Dawson, Blackburn Transport bus driver and one of the charity's founders, said: "It was the colour of the old red Darwen buses when it went out and now it's been changed to the yellow and grey Maltese colours. Our aim is to restore it to a Darwen bus and put it on show.

"We hope to have it back here in 18 months and we'll take it to rallies across the North West and as far as Newcastle."

A transport enthusiast alerted Peter to the bus, which will be driven back to Darwen or shipped the whole way. The road will be long and the costs will be high for the charity, but members are hoping for lottery money to help return the bus to its birthplace.

If it ends up in Darwen it will be the fourth bus the charity has managed to repatriate.

Peter, 53, of Cemetery Road, said: "A lot of paperwork needs to be done and it will cost around £10,000. We've wanted to do this for five years but it's only happening now because Malta are upgrading their fleet and selling all the old buses.

"We're very keen to preserve Darwen's heritage and restore the town's pride.

"We hope people will get a lot of pleasure from seeing it and that it will bring back a few memories.

"I am hoping to get the ball rolling this summer when I visit Malta. Three or four of us will go out there and driving it back will be like Cliff Richard's trip in Summer Holiday!"

The vintage vehicle ran the Sunnyhurst and Hoddlesden routes before it started its 50-mile-per-day slog around Malta.

The charity has restored 14 Blackburn and Darwen vehicles since it came into existence in 1993. The Trust boasts 50 members altogether.

Michael Morton, managing director of Blackburn Transport, said: "It's good enthusiasts work so hard to keep the old flavour of Blackburn and Darwen alive.

"Our buses have been around since the reign of Queen Victoria."