Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

Tag Archives: National Bus Company

  • South East England Buses in the 1990s by David Moth

    Guildford & West Surrey Leyland Olympian 903 (F573 SMG) is seen outside Camerley railway station on 8 April 1995. (South East England Buses in the 1990s, Amberley Publishing)

    The 1990s was an interesting time for bus operations as it saw the consolidation of the bus operating industry where a lot of companies that had been privatised and sold to their management teams in the late 80s were sold on to the emerging big groups. Such as Badgerline, Drawlane, later British Bus, and after that, Arriva and Stagecoach. Also a lot of the operators still showed their NBC heritage by the large number of Bristol VRTs still in service. Maidstone & District and East Kent Road Car were both smart fleets with a high proportion of double deckers in their fleets. It was a real shame that these companies inevitably got swallowed up by the big groups and eventually lost their individuality. Southern Vectis remained independent until 2005 and was well regarded by enthusiasts for their attractive livery and vintage fleet.

    Seen on 30 July 1994 is Luton & District Bristol VRT 934 (SNV 934W). (South East England Buses in the 1990s, Amberley Publishing)

    Reading was an interesting place to visit as council owned Reading Buses had a smart fleet of various types of buses. Plus from 1994 onwards there was the independent operator Reading Mainline that were extremely unusual in that their entire operational fleet was composed of just one type – Routemasters.  Reading Mainline were taken over by Reading Buses in 1998 and operations ceased in 2000. Another operator using Routemasters was Timebus who for a short while operated Routemasters on services around Watford. Although their bus services didn't last long, Timebus is still in business as a private hire operator and still has several Routemasters today. Luton & District was another interesting former NBC operator that was formed from the part of United Counties that was transferred from Eastern National in the 1950s. They had an interesting fleet with a high proportion of double deckers and took over neighbouring London Country North West before being taken over themselves by British Bus in 1994. A particularly favourite fleet of mine was Southend Transport which had a fascinating, but aging fleet in the 1990s, with a very high proportion of second hand buses in its fleet, including several Routemasters, Leyland Olympians, Leyland Nationals and Bristol VRTs.

    All the photos in this book were taken by me in the 1990s for my own enjoyment and for my friends. Which is why some areas are very well represented, i.e. Kent and Southend, and some are very much over looked, i.e. Sussex and Oxfordshire.

    It is a matter of regret that I didn't keep the bus photos I took during two visits to Brighton in the 1990s and several photos taken in Kent and Oxford in 1992.

    David Moth's new book South East England Buses in the 1990s is available for purchase now.

  • National Bus Company Service Vehicles 1972-1986 by Michael Hitchen

    Crosville G581, HFM 581D, Wrexham Garage. (National Bus Company Service Vehicles 1972-1986, Amberley Publishing)

    In the Summer of 1978 my brother took me on one of our many train trips around the North West, on this occasion to nearby Chester, it was there outside a travel agents in Foregate Street that I caught sight of a Crosville Morris Marina van, painted leaf green with bold white lettering, matching the local bus company. At that moment a lifelong interest was born! Few enthusiasts at the time paid any attention to the non-PSV parts of a bus fleet, but unexplainably I found this, hitherto unknown, part of the fleet fascinating.

    The now long gone, state owned, National Bus Company was at its peak the largest bus company in the world, alongside the well documented and photographed bus and coach, every fleet contained another fleet, known as the ‘Service Fleet’. Here were the company owned vans, Lorries, towing vehicles, trainers and other non-PSV vehicles. Finding information and photographs of these overlooked vehicles was at the time nearly impossible! Some NBC subsidiaries occasionally published details, but this tended to be the exception not the rule. Therefore it was a task of collating details from wherever they could be found, fortunately in the case of my local company ‘Crosville’ it published official fleet lists and included details of such vehicles. Possibly had they not I may have not pursued this interest?

    So what of the books content? Often a former bus, in the form of trainer or converted towing vehicle, for obvious reasons, appealed to the camera of the enthusiast at the time, but not surprisingly commercial vehicles, in a period when every view was limited to that of a roll of film, were often ignored. Never the less I have strived to include a selection of vans, Lorries and even Land Rovers.

    National Welsh E1060, t/p 331 AX, Aberdare Garage, April 1983. (National Bus Company Service Vehicles 1972-1986, Amberley Publishing)

    Sadly the organisation that interested me so much became victim of the erstwhile governments’ dogmatic drive to privatise state run assets, with no long term view as to the outcome. The National Bus Company has now not existed for more than 30 years, meaning it been gone longer than it existed in its corporate form. Much contained within will be familiar to many readers, but it is sobering that much can also be viewed as historical information.

    I have compiled this book with a hope to illustrate a cross section of the vehicles used. Over the corporate period, which only lasted 14 years, the 34 subsidiary companies of the NBC must have operated thousands of vehicles, many of which I imagine no photographs now exist at all. We must all thank the photographers that made the effort to capture these humble Service Vehicles!

    It was by sheer coincidence that I had reached a point where my research had grown to the point where I was considering a book, when approached by the publisher! This will be the first time a work has been published dedicated solely to the National Bus Companies Service Vehicles, and I am grateful to the publishers for support a fairly obscure study, and all the individuals who kindly allowed their photos to be included, their generosity has allowed that extra level of detail and depth I wanted to convey.

    Michael Hitchen's new book National Bus Company Service Vehicles 1972-1986 is available for purchase now.

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