Yorkshire Buses by Scott Poole
Gods own country is a name bestowed upon Yorkshire, with her variations of major cities, historical towns and award-winning villages. There are many attractions within the county of Yorkshire, from Minsters, Cathedral’s, ancient Abbey’s, market towns, rolling hills and vast moorland, Yorkshire offers plenty.
Today transport within the county is operated by three large operators Arriva, First and Stagecoach, alongside Transdev. With the 1972 local government re-organising of the Yorkshire county from Ridings to Metropolitan councils, it saw major transport departments of the cities vanish into new PTEs or merge into parts of the NBC bus operations. But the 1985 Transport Act again saw major change, as PTEs could no longer operate bus services, new arms-length companies arrived. New names, updated vehicles and the low floor generation saw new styles arrive into Yorkshire.
From humble beginnings, using horse drawn trams and carts to steam powered vehicles pulling large trailer cars, to the use of electricity for the new generation of tram car, with designs created by forward thinking managers. Bradford, Doncaster, Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds, Hull, Rotherham, Sheffield and Wakefield all had tramway systems, which towards the end of the 1940’s were slowly abandoned in favour of the motor bus. Some of our towns and cities used Trolleybuses to replace trams, which saw Bradford being the last operator of the type in March 1972.
After World War Two, the manufacturing sector saw improvements to materials and equipment, which allowed new methods of construction. Gone were the traditional teak framed bodies, replaced by lightweight aluminum frames and sheets. Fiberglass parts were also constructed, which saw a much-needed shape arriving on to buses during the 1960’s. Yorkshire had many traditional industries and saw cities extend boundaries, as many of the population wanted to live outside of the centers. This is where public transport grew in the 1920’s, 1930’s and the 1940’s as the public moved around the area for reasonable fares, the boom time of the 1950’s saw an increase in leisure travel.
Plaxton’s a Scarborough based coach builder would benefit from this coaching boom. With stylish bodies arriving at the Wallace Arnold firm, based in Leeds, with many journeys setting off from the Calls near the Corn Exchange, Leeds. West Yorkshire, West Riding, Yorkshire Traction and Yorkshire Woollen all joined together forming the coaching pool services. This saw in the 1950’s and 1960’s increased travel around the country, with days out to Birmingham, Edinburgh, The Lake district, Newcastle, Nottingham, Wales and London. With M1 opening, this allowed for express coach journeys to most of the cities’ south of Leeds.
Charles. H. Roe, initially based on Balm Road in Leeds, moved to Cross Gates in the 1920’s, were the firm stayed until closure in September 1984. Roe had bodied almost all the vehicles of Leeds City Transport, with neighboring towns and cities also purchasing Roe bus bodies. As a tradition, Leeds always sent a specially built vehicle to the annual Commercial Motor Show at London’s Earl’s Court. The last Leeds buses at this show was a Roe bodied Daimler Fleetline 761 (211) in September 1972. Roe bodied the West Riding orders for the interesting Guy Wulfrunian, which arrived during the 1960’s a concept which failed. Luckily two examples of the type are preserved with the Dewsbury Bus Museum, one in the green and the other in the red West Riding liveries.
The 1970’s saw the much-loved municipal transport departments close, as new transport ideas were generated, gone were local urban and district councils replaced by the larger metropolitan county councils. These in turn saw the creation of the larger Passenger Transport Executives (PTEs) from 1969, the Yorkshire PTEs arriving in April 1974. The National Bus Company (NBC) arrived in 1969, taking into her fold were the West Riding group, West Yorkshire Road Car and Yorkshire Traction. With a poppy red livery, the Yorkshire based fleets. Agreements saw the creation of the Metro/National group, which saw integration of the whole service numbers, inter-ticketing solutions, the rail network and the off-peak fares. Plus, the introduction of the multi journey saver strip, which was introduced as part of the 1983 bus fayre held in Leeds. The saver strip was a success along with the off-peak fares; it saw a 2 million plus rise in passengers during the late 1981-1983 period. But it was South Yorkshire, which had the rest of the PTEs thinking, bus fares in the county were the lowest, allowing the passengers to travel over ten miles for around 10 pence. All that would change in October 1986, as the fares in South Yorkshire rose to a staggering 250%, a basic trip across town would cost the same a Leeds, about 30 pence.
The 1985 ‘Transport act’ or deregulation, as it became better known, saw the new commercial enterprise era arrive. The PTEs were no longer allowed to run services, but could assist in financial subsidies of service, were required. Companies had to register a commercial service before 25th October 1986, after which time a 56-day notice was required to set in any alterations or cancelations to a service. Yorkshire saw some colour return to the transport scene, but it led to some confusion as to which company was operating an established route. In both South and West Yorkshire most of the former PTEs services were successfully tendered by the new at arm’s length companies. Huddersfield, Leeds and Sheffield were the areas were most of the competitive nature of deregulation occurred. But by the turn of the century, the situation had changed, with the now established big three of Arriva (West Riding routes) First (former PTE operations) and Stagecoach (Yorkshire Traction services and Hull Corporation). East Yorkshire remained independent until late 2018, when the firm was purchased by the Go-Ahead group. In 2019 a new livery and branding of key routes followed by investment in new vehicles, have ensured East Yorkshire continues. Blazefield, set up upon the departure of AJS Holdings took over the former West Yorkshire operations in Harrogate, Keighley and Malton, now operation as part of the colourful Transdev group.
In this volume I chart the ever-changing transport scene, as operators are seeing more difficult situations from funding cuts, competition and loss of business. It has shaped the county from its humble beginnings in the 1860 until now in the 21st Century. Step on board and enjoy this look back at the various types which once were operating around the Yorkshire area.
A huge thank you to Connor at Amberley for the opportunity to write a second book and to everyone else at Amberley too for their time. I hope you enjoy the book.
Scott Poole's book Yorkshire Buses is available for purchase now.