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British Independent Bus and Coach Operators (Hardback)

A Snapshot from the 1960s

Transport Photographic Books 20th Century Buses

By Jim Blake
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 176
Illustrations: 200 black and white
ISBN: 9781473857148
Published: 5th May 2020

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During the 1960s, a large number of independent bus and coach fleets existed, which varied enormously in size and scope of operation. They ranged from major operators such as Barton Transport (Nottinghamshire); Lancashire United and West Riding who operated stage carriage services as well as coach fleets; or Wallace Arnold Tours of Leeds, a major coach touring company in Britain and Continental Europe; to small operators who possessed just a handful of vehicles. The latter were sometimes involved only in private hire work, for such things as outings to sporting events or theatres, school or industrial contracts or often a combination of both. Smaller operators were based throughout the country, sometimes in tiny villages but also in the heart of large cities.

Often the smaller operators bought redundant buses and coaches from major operators, whether BET, BTC (Tilling) or municipal concerns, or London Transport. Many got bargains from the latter, with surplus RT and RTL double-deckers sold following the disastrous bus strike and service cuts of 1958. Conversely, redundant vehicles bought by independent fleets often brought types that came from as far away as Scotland to London and the south east. In the 1960s, the oldest buses and coaches with independent fleets were those employed on school or industrial contracts. These were not subject to the rigorous tests governing those carrying fare-paying passengers, so could be kept going until they were literally falling apart! These were known as ‘non-PSVs’, i.e. non-public service vehicles. On the other hand, some very small independent fleets, often with the title ‘Luxury Coaches’, took great pride in their fleets. They would purchase new coaches every two or three years and keep them in immaculate condition.

The net result was that British independent bus and coach operators in the 1960s had a fascinating variety of chassis and body makes and styles, as well as liveries. This book shows many of these as they were between fifty and sixty years ago.

The author has captured this variety well with a series of good quality and well framed black and white photos. There is a mix of 'on the road' and depot shots, with operators both large and small included. Many of the independents depicted became part of the National Bus Company or PTE fleets at the end of the decade, so it is good to seem them in their prime. This is pure nostalgia, and well worth a look.

PSV Circle, June 2020
 Jim Blake

About Jim Blake

Jim Blake was born at the end of 1947, and he soon developed a passionate interest in railways, buses and trolleybuses. In 1965, he bought a colour cine-camera, with which he captured what is now very rare footage of long-lost buses, trolleybuses and steam locomotives. These transport photographs have been published in various books and magazines. Jim also started the North London Transport Society and, in conjunction with the group, he has compiled and published a number of books on the subject since 1977, featuring many of the 100,000 or so transport photographs he has taken over the years.

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