Sunday 19 October 2014

1952 : London, Then and Now

"The Enterprise" bus and rail timetable for Northampton included this summary, ...
... offering not much opportunity for a day out by coach in London. OK on Saturday and Sundays, but clearly not considered as a possible profitable business by the company during the week. Fortunately the gift of "stuff" from Clive in Kent also included a United Counties [UC] timetable book for the same year, viz 1952.
The 2.35pm (that's 1435 in the new money) ran Summer only hence its omission from the Winter summary timetable. The service ran via the A50 and A5. Markyate's by pass did not open until 1955 but it was the M1 which revolutionised the Northampton to London run.

In 1959 the new-fangled motorway opened as far as Crick ...
... and this gave the bus companies the opportunity to start new and better services. United Counties [UC] started the MX5 from Nottingham on "ordinary" roads via Leicester to Northampton, thence a quick whizz down the M1 ...
... to a first stop at Hendon Central.
The service had become almost hourly by the 1969 timetable book.
click to enlarge the above picture

MW "coaches" were the original vehicles provided and an MX1 variant was for "duplicate" journeys from Leicester and Nottingham which ignored Northampton and took their refreshment break at the exciting new service area at (usually) Newport Pigswill.
An MX4 variant ran from Alfreton via Derby, jointly operated (nominally) by Midland General, Trent and Yelloway. An MX6 ran to London via Woburn Sands whilst summer MX7 and MX8 ran to Brighton & Eastbourne and Margate & Ramsgate respectively. These "other" motorway services varied over the years; 1969 is just one example.

But it was the swish RELLs that excited Northamptonian bus spotters; they really looked the part ...
... and lived on to carry National Express livery. fbb remembers that they had forced-air ventilation with little blowers above every seat.
The MX5 service polarised opinion in the town. There were those who were 100% in favour of coach travel and, equally, those who were utterly committed to rail. Ne'er the twin would meet!

Pursuant to the Transport Act 1968, the National Bus Company was formed and many local bus companies were nationalised. Many of these bus companies also operated coach services and these were initially branded as National, the National Express brand was first used in 1974 although the actual coach services continued to be operated by the individual companies. Coach services were de-regulated under the Transport Act 1980 and buses by the Transport Act 1985. In March 1988 the National Bus Company was privatised in a management buyout.

The "National" and "National Express" brand has ruled almost supreme since the heady days of Fred Wood's National Bus Company. British Coachways tried to compete but fizzled out very quickly. First had high hopes of Greyhound but, with the exception of First Cymru's effort ...
... between Swansea, Cardiff and Bristol Airport, that too has run off the tracks. Only Sir Brian's Megabus offers something of a national network.
The on-line map gives some idea of the UK scope of Megabus and its assorted cousins, MegabusGold, Megatrain and (sort of) Citylink; but now you have to click three times and you have no idea of links or timetables. England, for example, appears well-covered but without a proper map ...
... you really don't know. Searching for Northampton reveals nothing except no-longer-available buses to Silverstone for the Grand Prix.

So it's only National Express between fbb's former home and the Big Smoke.
Service 455 offers a modest five or six journeys a day ...

click to enlarge the NatEx extract

Note, however, that the 2014 running time is two hours and twenty minutes compared with 1969's straight two hours. Such is progress, but you do get the chance to enjoy Milton Keynes Coachway!

If you consider rail and coach to be competitors, despite the markets being somewhat different, then six trips a day by National Express comes a very poor second to three trains an hour from London Midland.
And the slowest train takes one hour and 12 minutes!

But HUGE changes since 1952!

More from "The Enterprise" timetable book in due course.
More Bad News
announced on Friday 17th October
It is with considerable reluctance, as a result of an unprecedented driver shortage that we are forced to suspend some rarely, or lightly used late afternoon or evening journeys on Mondays to Saturdays for a period of time as we seek to recruit new drivers. We have carefully selected the journeys to cause the minimum of disruption to our passengers.
If these changes cause you any massive problems please contact us and we will see if any adjustments can be made.
The services affected are the 521, 529, 555, 556, 587 and 597.
We have discussed the suspensions with our stakeholders and it was felt it best to identify specific lightly used journeys rather than have random cuts each day to different services. As a result we have maintained the daytime journeys without cuts.
We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause but we are actively recruiting additional drivers.
 Next rail blog : Monday 20th October 


  1. "If these changes cause you any massive problems please contact us and we will see if any adjustments can be made."

    Well, that's a new phrase for the bus industry. I don't recall seeing that sort of sentiment before.

    It does sound as though the operator is genuinely torn between the problem and the needs of the passengers affected. Much friendlier than the usual 'Take it or leave it' attitude.

  2. Sorry, but when was it acceptable to cancel services because of no driver? The operator registered a timetable, with the traffic commissioner, they are obligated to provide that timetable. If they cannot, then they should not operate the service, cancel it and leave the route to an operator who can provide it.
    An operator is required to have sufficient drivers and vehicles available to operate their registered timetables. Don't understand why this seems not to apply to Western Greyhound?

  3. On the 555 for example, that is the entire evening service wiped out!!

  4. .. And the last 556 of the day now leaves Newquay at... 1605! At least they've removed the 547 and 528 routes from the web site now... Only at least 6 weeks after the last buses ran on these routes!!! I wonder how long it will actually be before the "authorities" actually get round to dealing with WG... They'll have probably gone down the pan themselves limb before the spineless "bus users" or traffic commissioners finally act!

  5. *long before.....