THE company behind bus firm Burnley and Pendle Travel has taken over its Blackburn counterpart.

Blazefield Holdings is to take over the Blackburn with Darwen Council-owned company Blackburn Transport, taking the firm into private hands for the first time in 125 years.

And it is Blazefield's track record at Burnley and Pendle which has helped it to land the Blackburn firm.

The agreement will see a multi-million investment in new buses along with a commitment by Blazefield to replace the company's 124-bus fleet within a certain amount of time.

Council chiefs said the authority was not selling the firm to make money but to secure its long-term future.

Today the move received widespread support from councillors and all three mainstream parties issued a joint statement on the sale.

Councillors will decide at the borough's executive board tomorrow whether to keep a ten per cent share in the company, and the deal is likely to be signed later this year.

It is understood that for the year ending March 2006, Blackburn Transport recorded losses in the tens of thousands.

Council chiefs said the deal was not likely to include assurances on fares, the maintenance of unprofitable routes, or redundancies.

But the council said the company's track record, owning Lancashire United which serves Blackburn, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley, as well as Burnley and Pendle Transport, was that fares were lower in those areas.

Councillors Kate Hollern, leader of the council, Colin Rigby, Tory opposition, and David Foster, LibDem leader, issued the following statement: "This agreement is good news for the borough. It will secure the future of the transport company and local jobs while at the same time bringing much needed investment into public transport which will be welcomed by bus users.

"It is important that as the borough grows and continues to thrive, it is served by a first-class public transport sector and we are confident that this agreement will play a major part in helping make that happen."

Blazefield declined to comment.