Monday 12 October 2020

A Jolly Good Read (1)

One of the joys of a resolute Christian Faith is the presence of God's goodness as a gracious gift. Things may be tough in our broken world, but every day the fbb's are privileged to feel his power and his presence in their lives. No gift is more gratefully given and gratefully received than the undeserved Love of God. 

But that doesn't mean that humble, earthly kindnesses are any the less appreciated.

So it was also a great delight when a large flat package arrived at fbb mansions. Its contents ...

... were a new book by Keith Shayshutt. Keith has already penned two fascinating volumes ...
... but the latest has a flavour all of its own. At first glance, North Devon does not seem to offer much meat for the bus watcher, enthusiast or student - it is a relatively small area.
Keith's "area" includes both the local authorities of North Devon and Torridge with three towns of reasonable size, namely Bideford, Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. On the map above Great Torrington and South Molton are smaller former market towns. Once away from the "big three" the area is very rural and not ideal bus territory.

What makes the book doubly attractive is that it reveals a microcosm of the bus industry from the 1960s to the present day. Some of the chapter heading track the progress (not a good word) of the industry.

It begins with Thomas Tilling. By the time Keith begins his tale this huge national group of companies was firmly in the hands of the UK government as was the other "biggie", BET - The Briitish Electric Traction group. North Devon was all Tilling but nearby was Devon General, part pf BET.

The familiar green buses dominated the area but faced the growing onslaught of the private car bringing with it a decline in passenger numbers. The 1960s also brought their distinctive A-line frocks!
Here a Tilling Bus waits patiently at North Molton
It hasn't changed much.
The former names remained, but just as labels.

Next comes the National Bus Company, effectively a "merger" of the big two and the development of the once-familiar brand with leaf green or poppy red colours. The management of Southern National, Western National and Devon General became one huge company.
Here is an NBC vehicle at Woolacombe terminus c/w a dinky little shelter.
It hasn't changed - much ...
... although it does have a new shelter!

There were a few enhancements during the NBC era, but not many. One was route 320 to Hunters Inn (middle of nowhere job!) between Ilfracombe at Lynton. It provides access to the National Trust's Heddon Valley.
Keith pictures a 320 at The Hunters Inn where walks commence or end, no doubt with some refreshment.
It hasn't changed much.
But, alas, no longer has a bus service.

Having joined everything together, the NBC management had a jackpot idea. Split it all up again! Instead of leaf green or poppy red, the new North Devon company was named Red Bus and guess what colour the buses were painted?

But it was a different red from the standard NBC offering.

Also, of course, there was the invasion of the minibus.

First came the bread vans ...
.. and later something a bit bigger as seen in Witheridge.
It hasn't changed much.
But then came privatisation and competition. Up to now the North Devon operation had been fairly stagnant and certainly losing any pretense of profitability. Whilst the minibus revolution increased frequencies, it also increased costs and, despite a growth in passenger numbers, they didn't grow enough to turn a reasonable profit. Pruning of services was a regular event.

All this is covered in the three chapters of pre-1986 happenings.

There are plenty of pictures, good maps, timetables and vehicle depot allocation tables. Each significant change in the pattern of service is well explained, but you might need a good map of the area in front of you as you peruse the detail.

It is oodles better that a book of pictures of bus types.

But from now on, Keith's book really does illustrate the ultimate failure of privatisation and competition - as we shall see tomorrow.

O Mea Culpa!

Get your facts right fbb! In Yesterdays blog, all about Northamptonshire Sauce and Earls Barton, fbb lamented that the latter town only had a hourly service on route X46 and X47. BC they were each hourly.
fbb was promptly and rightly upbraided by Alan. "Have you forgotten the X4", he asked, pointedly. Yes fbb had!

Once upon a time the 402 and 404 (plus variant 403 latterly) plied the main road between Northampton and Wellingborough, then the A45, entering the latter via Wilby.
The old A45 became the A4500 and a new whizzo A45 was built in the Nene Valley, much to the horror of the residents of Church Lane in fbb's village of youth.
Bus services were reorganised and, currently, the X4 runs super fast along the new A45 ...
... then nips off to serve Earls Barton (every 30 minutes) and on into Wellingborough via the A4500 an Wilby ...
... leaving the X46 and X47 to take the back way! Even in today's unprecedented times, the home of Northamptonshire Sauce has three buses an hour!
Apologies to our readers, to Earls Barton and to Stagecoach

 Next Book Review blog : Tuesday 13th October 

1 comment:

  1. I well remember visiting Barnstaple whilst holidaying in Devon at the time when the North Devon company was being formed and before the buses were re-painted, and seeing the amused look on the faces of folks waiting at their bus stop as as a big leaf green-coloured bus with the notice "This is a RED Bus" pasted on the side pulled-up!

    I wonder if the local opticians did more business!