Friday 24 April 2020

Sixty After Sixty (2)

Firstly; The Mystery Of History

The British Transport Commission (BTC) was created by Clement Attlee's post-war Labour government as a part of its nationalisation programme, to oversee railways, canals and road freight transport in Great Britain. Its general duty under the Transport Act 1947 was to provide an efficient, adequate, economical and properly integrated system of public inland transport and port facilities within Great Britain for passengers and goods, excluding transport by air.

Note the phrase "properly integrated".

The BTC came into operation on 1 January 1948. Its main holdings were the networks and assets of the Big Four national regional railway companies. It also took over 55 other railway undertakings, 19 canal undertakings and 246 road haulage firms ...
Oldies will remember "British Road Services", especially the ubiquitous parcels "noddy van".
Many such beauties are delightfully preserved.

... as well as the work of the London Passenger Transport Board, which was already publicly owned. In London and the surrounding area, the BTC thus ran the Underground, both the (red) London buses and the (green) country buses, including Green Line Coaches.

The Tilling Group sold its bus interests to the BTC in September 1948, as did the Red and White Group in 1950. Midland General buses and trolleybuses were transferred by the British Electricity Authority. From the railway companies, the BTC also inherited non-controlling interests in many bus companies in the British Electric Traction Group.

United Counties was part of the Tilling Group.

Tilling Group companies were (almost) exclusively operators of "group" vehicles with Eastern Coach Works (ECW) bodies on Bristol chassis - both providers were taken into public ownership.
BET companies had a less proscriptive purchasing policy and a much greater variety in livery!
Municipally owned bus operations and a plethora of smaller more local bus companies were not swallowed up into the BTC empire - and empire it was!

The BTC was one of the largest industrial organisations in the world, at one time employing nearly 688,000 people.

But what about this "properly integrated" service as promised.

Well, it didn't happen then; and hasn't happened since. Even in London's Oyster beds the Underground, National Rail and London Buses still don't have a fully integrated service or fares structure. The technically complex Oystercard could have been so much simpler and cheaper to implement had the various players been able to adopt a simple multi-modal common fares policy.

The Explanation Of Integration

So in the 1960 United Counties timetable book we have a whole page explaining how you could use your bus ticket to travel on a parallel train service and vice versa. For the passenger's fare costs it was very much heads the railways win and tails the passenger loses.

On certain routes you could travel OUT by bus and back by train. but you had to pay a supplement ...
... obviously, because rail fares were more expensively "intergrated" than bus. Presumably the supplement was payable at the rail ticket office and doubtless you had to show both tickets to the ticket collector or at the barrier on arrival.

Not surprisngly, the option was little used!

On the other hand, for a much wider selection of stations you could travel OUT by train and return by bus.
On arriving at Bedford Midland by train from Northampton you would need to decide if you wanted to return on the very much slower 128 bus. If so, you would go to the ticket office, surrender the little cardboard return half of your rail ticket in exchange for a voucher (hand written, one supposes) to show to the bus conductor.

Not surprisingly, the option was little used!

All this financial demarcation seems somewhat unnecessary as the likelihood was that the bus service and the train service were both subsidised.

But, there was more! fbb will attempt to summarise.

Deep Joy For Buckingham

If perchance you held a train ticket from London Euston to Buckingham, you could travel to Winslow by train then by 346 bus from Winslow to Buckingham ...
... but ONLY on the 9.05pm on Mondays to Fridays! Somebody must know the reason why but somehow fbb would not expect to see crowds of anticpatory travellers arriving by train at Winslow (on the line from Oxford to Bletchley) ...
... and scuttling down Station Road to The Swan ...
... to catch the bus to Buckingham.

Not surprisingly, the option was little used!

The bus service is still there, currently on a reduced service, but the trains have long gone.

Deep Joy For Thrapston

fbb would have loved to provide his readers with a transcript of the paragraph concerning route 266 on SUNDAYS only ...
... but too much excitement is bad for blog readers' health. If you are prepared to take the risk, you can click on the image above and enlarge it.
What it is doing is allowing rail tickets to certain stations on the Wellingborough to Peterborough line to be valid by bus on the Sabbath - when, you would assume, trains had been withdrawn.

Not all stations were covered as the bus ran from  Kettering whilst the train ran from Northampton via Wellingborough London Road.
Not surprisingly, the option was little used!

Buses For Those To Get To Essential Work

Very much in the news today, United Counties 1960 timetable had a page dedicated to something similar but for reasons of capacity, not health.
Vauxhall Works at Luton was the biggest benefactor of this scheme but there were a couple of routes at Letchworth and a schooltime journey from Cambridge to Biggleswade (4.05pm), the latter being prioritised for schoolchildren with weekly seasons.


Too Much Excitement Department.

We still need to cast a disbelieving eye over those pages of terms and conditions. But to avoid over stimulating our readers' grey cells, snippets will be added to our usual mixed bag of weekend stuff.

You will thank fbb for his restraint!?

 Weekend Mixture : Saturday 25th April 


  1. When I started my summer conductor's job at South Wales Transport in 1969 I asked the Training Officer, it not having been covered during training, how one dealt with passengers holding "exchange tickets" who had travelled out by rail and were now returning by bus. He had no idea that such tickets existed!

  2. The concept of subsidy was not known when the BTC was set up. It was not until 1955 that BR made an operating loss; subsidy for bus services was not permitted until circa 1964. Those inter-available tickets therefore had to be properly accounted for within each organisation.

  3. When I was being trained in 1967 as a summer conductor for Eastern National, in the last 5 minutes of the fourth and final day, the instructor, a senior inspector, handed round samples of the more obscure tickets we might encounter: staff passes, blind perons pass (then a grace & favour issue by the company), and a blue Bus Exchange railway edmondson ticket. Needless to say, I was never presented with one by a passenger in my two summers 'on the back'.