How Did Bus Companies Operate Before Deregulaion?

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TR673

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The various aspects of bus deregulation seem to be quite well documented and details on how operators could register routes and compete with each other are fairly easy to find and understand. However, a little look around the internet hasn't yielded any meaningful results on how things were before deregulation, so now I'm curious to know. Being as the title is vague, here are a few random questions I can think of that are a bit less generalised;

How did operators get new routes approved (did they need an Act of Parliament or something)?
How did independent operators come to be if existing operators already ran buses in the area?
What happened when operations from two different companies met up or overlapped?
If someone worked for a municipal company, would they be considered a council employee?
Who decided which operators became part of the National Bus Company?
Who decided what was allowed to operate where?

I'd be interested to read pretty much any insight into how a 'regulated' bus company worked, especially anything about how municipals, NBC, independents and PTEs co-existed if there was no competition. Being from Nottingham where there has been no shortage of operators over the years, I've always wondered how the likes of Barton, South Notts, City of Nottingham/NCT and Trent worked alongside each other prior to deregulation.
 
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A0wen

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The various aspects of bus deregulation seem to be quite well documented and details on how operators could register routes and compete with each other are fairly easy to find and understand. However, a little look around the internet hasn't yielded any meaningful results on how things were before deregulation, so now I'm curious to know. Being as the title is vague, here are a few random questions I can think of that are a bit less generalised;

How did operators get new routes approved (did they need an Act of Parliament or something)?
How did independent operators come to be if existing operators already ran buses in the area?
What happened when operations from two different companies met up or overlapped?
If someone worked for a municipal company, would they be considered a council employee?
Who decided which operators became part of the National Bus Company?
Who decided what was allowed to operate where?

I'd be interested to read pretty much any insight into how a 'regulated' bus company worked, especially anything about how municipals, NBC, independents and PTEs co-existed if there was no competition. Being from Nottingham where there has been no shortage of operators over the years, I've always wondered how the likes of Barton, South Notts, City of Nottingham/NCT and Trent worked alongside each other prior to deregulation.

The bulk of your questions can be answered by looking at the 1930 Transport Act - which basically regulated bus services and fares with the control being given to local Transport Commissioners.

Simplistically an operator didn't need an act of Parliament for a new service, but had to make an application to the Transport Commissioner who could accept, reject or amend the application.

New Independents only came into being where there was a gap in the market or if the major operator (usually an NBC subsidiary) retrenched - which Western National did in several places in the 1970s.

The decision on which operators became part of the National Bus Company is a bit different - the NBC was formed in the 1968 Transport Act where the various state owned bus holdings were put into a single organisation. The majority of bus operations pre war had been under Tilling Group or BET. The government had obtained the Tilling Group companies when they nationalised the railways, because the rail companies had been Tilling's major shareholders. Other small operators did sell out to the state that had sat outside Tilling or BET.

Most of the 'who decided would operate where' was historic - where companies had set up originally. However the Transport Act 1930 did establish the London Passenger Transport Board - and gave it a remit *far* outside London - about 40 miles in fact. This had some odd consequences. So for many years there wasn't a regular bus service between Stevenage and Luton, because Eastern, later United Counties couldn't operate into Stevenage, so their buses from Luton to Hitchin then continued up to Letchworth & Baldock. It also meant tiny places like Buntingford in Herts became the border for LT and others, probably to the detriment of services in the area, because LT only ran down to Hertford, so a link up the A10 was never really established. It also meant long distance operators, such as Birch Bros operating from Rushden in Northants to London could serve the towns like Bedford and Hitchin en route, but weren't allowed to run into Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield or Stevenage as they would have liked to from the 1950s because the Commissioner's blocked it due to objections from LT.

There were also complaints from the independents who'd been operating pre the 1930 Act, such as Smith's at Buntingford, that the commissioners would set fares based on LT's recommendation, which negatively impacted their long-standing market day services.

Technically employees of the municipal bus companies were council employees.

The regulated service created some very odd anomalies and gave disproportionate power to THC, Tilling and LT - and in the case of the latter, there's little doubt in my mind that they abused their power to the detriment of the passenger.
 

Roger1973

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On the subject of who operated where and how they worked together -

Generally speaking, each operator had their routes under the 1930 Act, and where interurban routes (generally company operated) shared a bit of road with local routes (generally municipal operated) there could be 'protective fares' applied, so that the longer distance service could / would not carry short distance passengers within the urban area, a Nottingham example being that the Trent services towards Hucknall would have a minimum fare so that northbound passengers would not be set down until (or close to) the city boundary.

This continued well after deregulation, as it also stopped the longer distance service getting full of short distance passengers and leaving longer distance passengers behind - I lived in the Bulwell patch for a while in the mid 90s and at that time, Trent buses were first set down at Bulwell Market (I don't know how long that lasted or if it's still the case.)

In some places where two operators' territories met, buses on each side of town were run by different operators, and sometimes there would be two depots in that town. Some places had one or two cross-town routes, either where the two operators had reached agreement, or operated jointly (either in a true joint service, or at least a co-ordinated timetable involving two different routes.)

Many of these situations were tidied up by the National Bus Company (in part to reduce the overhead costs of having two small depots in one town.)

Routes could be operated jointly by multiple operators, e.g. (BTC) Lincolnshire's Grantham - Nottingham and Grantham - Leicester routes were operated jointly with (BET) Trent and Midland Red respectively - on the Leicester route the two operators used different route numbers for reasons that I'm not clear on. There could be routes operated jointly with independents (e.g. Lincolnshire / Delaine on the Sleaford - Bourne route) but these were fairly rare.

On the other hand, there were examples of one operator having an 'outstation' with a few buses kept overnight at another company's depot, or sharing premises - Biddulph depot was shared between Potteries and North Western, and (BTC) Crosville had a small outstation in (BET) Potteries' Newcastle depot.

In some areas, company and municipal operators had a 'co-ordination scheme' (I believe this required the approval of the traffic commissioner) and operated several routes jointly. The Southend scheme is detailed here, and similar schemes existed in (for example) Luton and Brighton - the latter involving the corporation, (BET) Southdown and (BTC) Brighton and Hove.

Introduction of new services could be complicated - the post-1945 Clifton Estate ended up with a joint service to / from Nottingham operated jointly by South Notts, Nottingham Corporation and West Bridgford UDC, Barton didn't do very well out of it. The Traffic Commissioner got involved to share the proportions out.

It's out of print now, but F P Groves' book on Nottingham City Transport (published 1978) has more.

As for the National Bus Company, yes, its roots had been the Tillings Group, which became nationalised (British Transport Commission / Transport Holding Company) in 1948 - some constituent companies came from outside the Tillings empire - Notts and Derby / Midland General had been owned by Balfour Beatty, and I think they came to the state sector as part of the nationalisation of electricity generation, Red and White (with subsidiaries Newbury and District, Venture of Basingstoke which got merged in to Thames Valley and Wilts + Dorset respectively) sold out voluntarily (it is understood that they chose to sell voluntarily rather than risk a worse deal if it became compulsory a few years down the line.)

The BET Group resisted and campaigned against nationalisation in the late 40s (although by 1948 many BET companies had a significant shareholding held by nationalised British Railways) but chose to sell in the late 60s - the government of the day combined the former BTC and BET in to the new National Bus Company.
 

Class45

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The 1930 Transport Act was a response to the situation at the time where bus services were regulated by local authorities, all with different rules and objectives, and many services wre not regulated at all. It had the effect of freezing bus services at that point in time and any new services had to be approved by the Traffic Commissioners. They often made their decisions based on protecting existing bus operators and the railways from competition and it is unlikely that any new independant operators would have been granted licences. There was an understanding that in return for protection from competition on profitable routes, operators would also provide necessary but loss making services.

If you are interested, I would recommend getting hold of a copy of The History Of British Bus services by John Hibbs which documents the industry up until 1968.
 

Statto

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The 1930 Transport Act was a response to the situation at the time where bus services were regulated by local authorities, all with different rules and objectives, and many services wre not regulated at all. It had the effect of freezing bus services at that point in time and any new services had to be approved by the Traffic Commissioners. They often made their decisions based on protecting existing bus operators and the railways from competition and it is unlikely that any new independant operators would have been granted licences. There was an understanding that in return for protection from competition on profitable routes, operators would also provide necessary but loss making services.

If you are interested, I would recommend getting hold of a copy of The History Of British Bus services by John Hibbs which documents the industry up until 1968.

Yep before the 1930 Transport Act you had to apply to local council watch committees to get new services approved, quite often the local watch committee would have vested interests, such as there own municipal company, & would often put a block on routes from outside the area into the area. The 1930 act meant planning & scheduling of new routes/timetables were handed to to Transport Commissioner who would be independent from local municipals & what was called Company buses[Company buses became owned by NBC], but anyone could still object to planed routes.

In my area Wirral, Crosville was one of those affected companies, as it covered 2 corporation areas so was heavily restricted, in that on outward journey's they could only pick up passengers, who were not allowed to alight until after a certain point, the reverse on inward journey were passengers were not allowed to board after a certain point.
 

Man of Kent

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In the interests of historical accuracy, it was the Road Traffic Act 1930 that set up the Traffic Commissioners. The original text is still viewable on www.legislation.gov.uk

The London Passenger Transport Act 1933 set up the London Passenger Transport Board (also on www.legislation.gov.uk). It had a monopoly on stage carriage bus operation broadly within 30 miles of Charing Cross. There is another fairly good Wikipedia entry at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Passenger_Transport_Board which explains some of the exceptions to this rule.
 

PG

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In my area Wirral, Crosville was one of those affected companies, as it covered 2 corporation areas so was heavily restricted, in that on outward journey's they could only pick up passengers, who were not allowed to alight until after a certain point, the reverse on inward journey were passengers were not allowed to board after a certain point.
Indeed some of these restrictions still survive to this day, see except below from a recent Stagecoach timetable.
PickUpSetDownRestrictions.png
Picture shows a Stagecoach bus timetable which has a footnote on restrictions limiting the ability of passengers to board or alight between certain locations
 

Statto

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Indeed some of these restrictions still survive to this day, see except below from a recent Stagecoach timetable.
View attachment 92281
Picture shows a Stagecoach bus timetable which has a footnote on restrictions limiting the ability of passengers to board or alight between certain locations

I think X84 Leeds-Otley-Ilkley-Skipton still has such restrictions in the Leeds area too
 

carlberry

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Indeed some of these restrictions still survive to this day, see except below from a recent Stagecoach timetable.

Picture shows a Stagecoach bus timetable which has a footnote on restrictions limiting the ability of passengers to board or alight between certain locations
Whilst the effect is much the same, previously the restriction would have been dictated by another bus company and the traffic commissions and be part of the license. Nowadays the reason is usually because the operator either wants to speed up the long distance services or ensure they don't get overloaded and the operator is free to remove the condition at any time.
 

Statto

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Whilst the effect is much the same, previously the restriction would have been dictated by another bus company and the traffic commissions and be part of the license. Nowadays the reason is usually because the operator either wants to speed up the long distance services or ensure they don't get overloaded and the operator is free to remove the condition at any time.

Yep, as i said a lot of routes mostly operated by what was called Company buses were most affected by such restrictions when they operated into an area with another dominant operator which was normally a Municipal, the Municipal would object to such routes & go to the TC & enforce such stopping restrictions.

There was also the cases were companies would have a share of a route, but never operated a bus in service on it, or operated late in the day, one such route was 89 St Helens-Speke, a joint service between St Helens Corporation[later MPTE] & Crosville, but Ribble had a share of the route, however never operated any buses until Crosville moved from Edge Lane to a new depot to the North of Liverpool City Centre in 1985, Crosville felt it was uneconomical to run the 89 from the new depot so transferred there operations to Ribble who operated the route from Wigan depot, but interworked the route with the 352/362/372 to cut dead mileage
 

SCH117X

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Barton Transport IIRC were refused by Transport Commissioner the right to increase fares due to the state of their vehicles which led to the virtual wholesale replacement of the fleet with coaches.
The Clifton Estate services in Nottingham were an interesting example of how monopolies were protected. As a Nottingham City Council estate the City Transport intended to serve the estate but were immediately challenged by both West Bridgford Urban District Council, whose boundaries any service would have to pass through, and South Notts, whose principal service passed by the site of the estate. A three way joint service was the outcome until a new bridge over the River Trent allowed the NCT services to run wholly within the City boundary, the original route remaining as a WBUDC/South Notts joint operation and then a NCT/South Notts joint operation after the WBUDC bus operation was sold to NCT. This had a potentially confusing situation in that the stopping restrictions did not apply to the joint services but did apply to South Notts other services.
 

jacksmithyton

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Really, just who thought all these arcane restrictions were a sensible idea? No wonder bus ridership collapsed in the 60's...
 

Statto

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Barton Transport IIRC were refused by Transport Commissioner the right to increase fares due to the state of their vehicles which led to the virtual wholesale replacement of the fleet with coaches.
The Clifton Estate services in Nottingham were an interesting example of how monopolies were protected. As a Nottingham City Council estate the City Transport intended to serve the estate but were immediately challenged by both West Bridgford Urban District Council, whose boundaries any service would have to pass through, and South Notts, whose principal service passed by the site of the estate. A three way joint service was the outcome until a new bridge over the River Trent allowed the NCT services to run wholly within the City boundary, the original route remaining as a WBUDC/South Notts joint operation and then a NCT/South Notts joint operation after the WBUDC bus operation was sold to NCT. This had a potentially confusing situation in that the stopping restrictions did not apply to the joint services but did apply to South Notts other services.

Similar situation in Liverpool too, as there was an agreement between Ribble & LCT creating 3 zones, that LCT operated exclusively in zone 1, Ribble/LCT joint services in zone 2, Ribble exclusive in zone 3. Ribble operated exclusively zone 1 to zone 3 but only afternoon peak they had stopping restrictions, mostly on the routes via Walton, so when Netherton was developed LCT wanted to operate routes to there, however Ribble objected saying Netherton was in there area, so joint routes were started between LCT & Ribble

I think the only route LCT wholly operated to Netherton was a peak hour 1E Dingle-Netherton, which in turn was a peak variation of the 1/1C, the 1/1C replaced the Overhead Railway, when the Overhead Railway was closed & demolished
 

SCH117X

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Really, just who thought all these arcane restrictions were a sensible idea? No wonder bus ridership collapsed in the 60's...
The stopping restrictions had benefits to passengers on services subject to them as it sped up the journey; living just beyond the restriction limit it was noticeable how quicker journeys were on services subject to the restrictions. Of course today operators can make a service limited stop and get some flak from passengers (aka the change to Transdevs 36 in Leeds) when they cease doing that.
 

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Whilst the effect is much the same, previously the restriction would have been dictated by another bus company and the traffic commissions and be part of the license. Nowadays the reason is usually because the operator either wants to speed up the long distance services or ensure they don't get overloaded and the operator is free to remove the condition at any time.
In the example I used I think the restrictions are due to part of the route being subsidised by the council, who without the restrictions could be subject to accusations of permitting unfair competition with a wholly commercial service. To the best of my knowledge no other route in the area has similar restrictions, although the Buchan Express services do seem to yo-yo now and again with only serving certain stops once inside the city boundary for the reasons you mention.
 

Deerfold

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I think X84 Leeds-Otley-Ilkley-Skipton still has such restrictions in the Leeds area too
If they do, it's not mentioned in either First's timetable or West Yorkshire Metro's - it did used to be (I used to catch it when ambushing a friend I used to meet in Leeds for a drink).

The similar restrictions on the 36 Leeds - Ripon seem to have disappeared too (although, confusingly, at one point they were in some timetables and not others).
 

JRT

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I think X84 Leeds-Otley-Ilkley-Skipton still has such restrictions in the Leeds area too
Yes I it still does, but only the operator ppreferences, to make passengers catch the parallel service 1 (now renumbered 8).

Really, just who thought all these arcane restrictions were a sensible idea? No wonder bus ridership collapsed in the 60's...
Back then, frequency was fairly good on the local routes. Fare restrictions minimum applied on other routes at peak time only to encourage travel on the short workings. On my local route, restrictions didn't apply, so everyone piled on the normal bus, the following short workings would be nearly empty.
 
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Statto

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After Merseyside PTE was formed, the PTE negotiated with Crosville to end the restrictions in Liverpool & Wirral, but to keep to the timetables Crosville services became limited stop with Merseyfare marked at stops to show were Crosville stopped, Crosville services in Wirral were fully revised & renumbered in the late 70s that all services stopped at every stop, i'm not sure in Liverpool area Crosville routes still ran limited stop at least until d-reg.
 

SCH117X

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After Merseyside PTE was formed, the PTE negotiated with Crosville to end the restrictions in Liverpool & Wirral, but to keep to the timetables Crosville services became limited stop with Merseyfare marked at stops to show were Crosville stopped, Crosville services in Wirral were fully revised & renumbered in the late 70s that all services stopped at every stop, i'm not sure in Liverpool area Crosville routes still ran limited stop at least until d-reg.
More of coming to an agreement as Crosville would have been free to register its services as all stops.
 

Ken H

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Presumably the somewhat appallingly arrogant attitude of the bus company is that passengers will soon wise up when the bus drives past...
Worse, you are on the bus and it doesnt stop where you need to get off.
 
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RT4038

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Really, just who thought all these arcane restrictions were a sensible idea? No wonder bus ridership collapsed in the 60's...
These restrictions generally started as a (municipal) tramway protection against competition from (private) buses, morphing into protecting municipal bus operations (when the tramways were replaced) from company buses. When there were lots of passengers, the system worked reasonably well as short distance passengers in and out of town/city centres were directed to local services, with 'country' buses running a lot faster over these sections.
I don't think these restrictions had much to do with the collapse of bus ridership in the 60s - inter alia televisions, refrigerators, motor cars, abolition of resale price maintenance had a much greater effect.
 
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TheGrandWazoo

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These restrictions generally started as a (municipal) tramway protection against competition from (private) buses, morphing into protecting municipal bus operations (when the tramways were replaced) from company buses. When there were lots of passengers, the system worked reasonably well as short distance passengers in and out of town/city centres were directed to local services, with 'country' buses running alot faster over these sections.
I don't think these restrictions had much to do with the collapse of bus ridership in the 60s - inter alia televisions, refrigerators, motor cars, abolition of resale price maintenance had a much greater effect.
Bang on!

Those restrictions were very much to protect the municipalities from the evil buses run from out of town, often by nationally owned organisations!

And yes, you're right that the reduction in bus patronage had a number of different causes. The increase in television ownership meaning that cinemas closed = reduced evening bus travel. Refrigerators meant housewives (and yes, it was women) didn't have to shop everyday or every other day. Increased prosperity = increased car ownership.

Buses don't exist in a vacuum and this was one of the issues of regulation; it often failed to respond to the changes in society.
 

RT4038

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Bang on!

Those restrictions were very much to protect the municipalities from the evil buses run from out of town, often by nationally owned organisations!

And yes, you're right that the reduction in bus patronage had a number of different causes. The increase in television ownership meaning that cinemas closed = reduced evening bus travel. Refrigerators meant housewives (and yes, it was women) didn't have to shop everyday or every other day. Increased prosperity = increased car ownership.

Buses don't exist in a vacuum and this was one of the issues of regulation; it often failed to respond to the changes in society.
It wasn't only cinema attendance that dropped, but also attendance of other evening clubs and activities such as sports fixtures (Ice Hockey, 'the dogs', whist drives etc). TV, with increased car ownership, reduced the number of people on the streets at night, making them lonelier and more threatening, further reducing the desire to go out using public transport.

Abolition of Retail Price Maintenance in 1964 made supermarkets an economic proposition with cheaper prices (previously shops were only permitted by manufacturers to sell at one price), encouraging the 'big shop' and further reducing shopping journeys, coupled with people buying quantities of goods not convenient for bus travel.

Increased house building on the outskirts of towns meant that the tradition of going home for lunch faded away, as the journey time was impractical. This led to calls for lunch breaks to be reduced, meaning that those who had gone home no longer could.

All this of course against a background of stifling regulation (and its attendant inertia) that pretty much froze the services (route structure, timetable patterns and fares policy) to that of the 1930, and national wage agreements / government incomes policies that baked in crippling staff shortages in the areas of highest passenger demand.
 
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