Monday, 21 November 2016

Only the Lonely at Olney (1)

Roy Would Find His Bus Service in Decline
Olney lies just off the A428 roughly equidistant from Northampton (North West), Bedford (East) and Milton Keynes (South). Back in the days of fbb's youth bus services in that area were constant and straightforward. United Counties 128 ran along the A428 between Northampton and Bedford, continuing to Cambridge.
For reasons that will evolve, this blog is concentrating on services from fbb's former home town as far as Bedford.

 Running time Northampton to Bedford : 1 hour and 12 minutes 

The last village before Bedford is Bromham and the 128 was timed at The Swan.
Pedantically, this pub was at Bridge End ...
... and the 128 did not call at the more developed parts of the village to the north. The "Village|" was served by Bedford route 133.
Likewise, the 128 omitted Olney.  For the celebrated village of John Newton, John Clare and the annual pancake race, you would catch the 129.
From Bedford the 130 ran via Olney and the 132 via Stagsden ...
... continuing via Newport Pagnell and Wolverton to Stony Stratford. Milton Keynes had not yer been invented as a city, merely hiding from its unsuspecting future by being tiny village ...
... just off the A50 south of Newpoert Pagnell. Little did the residents know what was to engulf them!
Of you know where to look, the village is still there.
When United Counties developed its Coachlinks network of "fast" (?) inter-urban links, Northampton to Bedford continued relatively unchanged as X2 and X3.
X3 continued to Cambridge whilst X2 whizzes south from to Luton and its developing airport.
The timetable provided for connections at Bedford.

 Running time Northampton to Bedford : 1 hour 5 minutes 

There was a swish new blue and grey livery and cumfy luxury (?) coached replaced rattle-trap buses ...
... mostly!
After the privatisation sale to Stagecoach things continues much as before ...
... with an interesting mixture of vehicles. It was rumoured that Uncle Brian Souter was so impressed with the Coachlinks concept that he based his "X" network from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Fife in the United counties model. The Fife network has gone from strength to strength ...
... with very posh-looking coaches.
The most recent manifestation of this genre is the extension of the X24 from Glasgow to the airport ...
... complete with a modified branding.

But, back in Bedford, Coachlinks was losing its appeal and, to cut a complicated story short, the X2 and X3 disappeared; to be replaced by "normal" bus routes. If you could call what arrived as normal!

The Bedford lads still had a few cards up their sleeves.
The Stagecoach Group newsletter in Autumn 2006 included this imaginative headline.
But that excitement must wait until tomorrow.

 Next Bedford blog : Tuesday 22nd November 


  1. Olney, John Clare? The museum at Olney is the Cowper and Newton museum. I hear the spirit of our old English teacher shouting "William Cowper".

  2. Whoops! Super bludner! I think old age is really setting in. Of course it is/was William Cowper!