Thursday, 12 December 2013

Aaaah Bicester! (Episode 3)

A City of Oxford Tramways Company horse-drawn system first operated in Oxford in 1881.

In 1906 its operation was taken over by the City of Oxford Electric Tramway Company which, oddly, never electrified any tram routes! Under threat of competition from William Morris, they replaced the trams with Daimler buses.

In 1921 the company was renamed City of Oxford Motor Services Limited and continued to expand its operations into the surrounding countryside. From the 1930s the company was controlled by British Electric Traction with the Great Western Railway also having a shareholding. Most of the fleet comprised AEC vehicles in the traditional red livery with grey-green stripes and maroon roof.
On privatisation, the country bus routes were bought by Harry Blundred (Devon General) and the city routes were a buyout by their management. Instead of staying country-based, Blundred competed in the city and the city company extended into the country, notably to Abingdon.

Stagecoach bought the business from Harry and thus became the major operator in Bicester, assuming control of the depot there.
In recent years a number of more lightly used Stagecoach routes have passed to other operators. The "back road" route(s) between Oxford and Bicester, for example ...
... and now in the hands of Thames Travel ...
... now, like Oxford City Bus, part of the GoAhead group.

Assorted varieties of routes 27, 28 amd 29 plied the main road; each continuing to different bits of Bicester.
These were lumped together and became the S5 irrespective of destination!
In the latest manifestation, the group of routes (still all S5) has been gilded ...
... offering its passengers all the "extras" that they should always get from every bus route.
fbb looks forward to being inspired as he trundles through Gosford! Also impressive from the Gold web site ...
... there is news that the S5 is offering a ...
... on, erm ...
Presumably a cr*p service ever since. Such are the benefits of Stagecoach Gold.

fbb does wonder whether lumping all these routes, very diferent at the Bicester end ...
... into one service S5 is the best for the easily-befuddled travelling public. But that's marketing for you! The Arncott route is bad enough on its own; offering differing combinations of Bullingdon and St Georges at different times of day! At least the daytime pattern is "clock-face."
Blog readers might like to muse over the delights of the stop at Bicester Village; thatched cottages with roses entwined round the porch; the half-timbered Red Lion with besmocked yokels downing their pints of best; ducks busying themselves on their pond; a peal of bells ringing the changes in Saint Ethelbert's church tower and desultory applause round the village green as the vicar scores a six against the lads from Horton-cum-Studley.

Readers could just be disappointed!

More tomorrow.
 fbb's Advent Calendar for 2013 
Thursday 12th December

Escaping, they arrived at the Sea** of Reeds,
The Egyptians followed at breakneck speeds.
Starting to cross involved faith-full deeds,
Keep on taking the tablets!
Safely across, they sang praises first,
But once in the desert, developed a thirst.
"It was awful in Egypt, but this is the worst!"
Keep on taking the tablets!
If hunger prevailed the journey would fail;
Against dear old Moses they started to rail.
But God gave them water and manna** and quail.
Keep on taking the tablets!
Behaviour becoming a problem, then,
Relationships, morals, 'twixt women and men.
So God gave the people commandments, ten.
Keep on taking the tablets!
Moses climbed Sinai, him all alone.
The thunder, the lightning; a terrifying zone.
He came back down with two lumps of stone.
From God he'd taken the tablets!
Sorry! Couldn't resist that last picture! Our Sunday School image is of Moses staggering down the mountain with a couple of gravestones. This is very far from the truth. Although there are different versions of the Decalogue (= "the ten words"), in essence they were short and easy to remember - in Hebrew.
They would fit on a couple of playing card sized pebbles.
The Hebrews' journey from Egypt to Canaan (modern Israel, the Promised Land) may have been a long-term migration encapsulated and summarised in the episodic stories of the book of Exodus. That doesn't devalue the lessons to be learned. Because of mankind's fickle freewill things kept going wrong and the journey took 40 years.

What went wrong still goes wrong.

Christmas recognised the problem and offered a long-tern, eternal, answer.
** Notes.

"Moses Crosses the Red Sea" captions many Bible illustrations. The actual historic location was the Nile Delta; a wide expanse of river, marsh and reed beds; hence the Hebrew name Yam Suph, the Sea of Reeds.

"Manna" from Heaven was the sweet flakey food collected each morning; Divine breakfast cereal!
 Next bus blog : Friday 13th December 


  1. From detail no.4. "Gone is the hard, plastic panelling you normally fine...". Wow. I wish I'd known earlier that we can impose sanctions on companies that use that. All in the detail, eh?

  2. South Midland was separated from City of Oxford around about 1984; both were sold separately to their managements, with South Midland being the ninth NBC subsidiary to be privatised in December 1986.

    Harry entered the scene on his own account with minibuses in the city around about March 1987 - I haven't had time to check subsequent events, but I vaguely recall that parts of the South Midland business were taken over by Transit Holdings in tranches, rather than a single transaction.

  3. Thanks again M of K - your memory and/or record keeping ar much better than mine. I appreciate the correction / extra detail.

  4. According to an earlier blog on Abingdon buses, South Midland and City of Oxford were split in 1983.

    This was part of an ongoing policy of the Midlands and West Division of National Bus Company to split up large companies - which had started with Midland Red in 1981. The policy, promoted by John Hargreaves (Regional Director) and John Bodger, was designed to achieve various aims:
    1 Properly devolve management to a local level
    2 Split out coaching and engineering units so as assist cost management (engineering central works were found to be a big cost that traditional organisations had hidden)
    3 Provide promotion opportunities for a number of rising stars

    I am pretty sure that South Midland sold out, as a whole, to Transit Holdings. One suspects that they were being squeezed as a consequence of the head to head between City of Oxford and Transit.