Replacement Bus Services

tbtc

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These days, if a line is closed we sometimes see services diverted and sometimes we see replacement bus services - a lot of the time the existence of such buses is blamed on "privatisation"

I know that they didn't start post privatisation (although they seemed to become more high profile, maybe because Fraser Eagle were a convenient stick to beat TOCs with) but when did replacement bus services start? Were they something provided pre-1923? 1923-1948? At some time under BR?

Obviously in earlier years there were fewer services per mile of track, and lots more lines with (practically) no passenger services on them, so more scope to divert trains via different lines

(I've always known a railway that used some replacement buses, it's just part of the rigmarole, but was there ever an are when there were *no* replacement buses and every services over a closed bit of line was either diverted another way or the railway didn't provide any alternatives whatsoever?)
 
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nw1

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I first used one in 1983, but can't comment on further back than that. It was a coach from Farncombe to Guildford on a wet October Saturday. I can also say that on that day they didn't try diverting any Portsmouth to Waterloo services via Eastleigh, though as the line was non-electrified in the 80s, that would have required a drag which, while not impossible given the compatibility of 33s and Southern EMUs, would still have been difficult.

I presume they must have started around Beeching at the latest, as the capacity for rail diversions would have been limited from then on. And for EMU networks like the Southern, presumably much earlier than that, as finding electrified diversionary routes might have been difficult.

I can say that 'interesting' diversions used to be more common up to and including the 90s, both under BR and early privatisation. In the 90s I travelled on an XC from Birmingham to Reading via Worcester, and Reading to Birmingham via west London and the WCML.
 
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Magdalia

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In the 1970s a lot of engineering work was done with single line working so that routes did not need to be closed.

Where routes did need to be closed, diversions were usually in operation, so buses were only needed for the short sections where the engineering work was actually taking place. For example, if the ECML was closed between Huntingdon and Peterborough, the buses only ran between those two stations, with a train service between Hitchin and Huntingdon, and the longer distance services diverted via Cambridge.
 

6Gman

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I would assume that RRBs go back a long way - the earliest I recall using was late 1960s when work was being done on the Royal Albert Bridge. I would note, however, that the bus was Saltash - Plymouth North Road; these days it would be (at a minimum) Liskeard - Plymouth. Even pre-Beeching I doubt they would have used the only diversionary route - Bodmin Road - Wadebridge - Halwill Junction - Okehampton (RR) - Plymouth!
 

Dr Hoo

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I know that they didn't start post privatisation (although they seemed to become more high profile, maybe because Fraser Eagle were a convenient stick to beat TOCs with) but when did replacement bus services start? Were they something provided pre-1923? 1923-1948? At some time under BR?
Whilst this thread is predicated on engineering works it is worth noting that there was extensive interavailability of rail tickets on 'parallel' stage carriage bus routes. These were obviously far more extensive and 'generous' in the past.

So, for example, the Western Region timetable for the summer of 1954 includes 'Table 200' at the back, listing all the applicable routes. Besides esoteric branch lines, perhaps with minimalist rail services, these included more significant routes, even those with diversionary options - such as Plymouth-Exeter or Plymouth-Tavistock.

The 'answer' in those days may well have been: "No trains today so just get the [service] bus instead. Your ticket is valid".

Again, not an engineering possession issue but am always struck that the world's very first passenger rail service from Swansea to Mumbles on the Oystermouth Railway (that began around 1807 and was regarded as terribly uncomfortable) was withdrawn in the face of competition from greatly superior road coaches as soon as a parallel turnpike road was constructed around 1826.
 

RT4038

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Whilst this thread is predicated on engineering works it is worth noting that there was extensive interavailability of rail tickets on 'parallel' stage carriage bus routes. These were obviously far more extensive and 'generous' in the past.

So, for example, the Western Region timetable for the summer of 1954 includes 'Table 200' at the back, listing all the applicable routes. Besides esoteric branch lines, perhaps with minimalist rail services, these included more significant routes, even those with diversionary options - such as Plymouth-Exeter or Plymouth-Tavistock.

The 'answer' in those days may well have been: "No trains today so just get the [service] bus instead. Your ticket is valid".

Again, not an engineering possession issue but am always struck that the world's very first passenger rail service from Swansea to Mumbles on the Oystermouth Railway (that began around 1807 and was regarded as terribly uncomfortable) was withdrawn in the face of competition from greatly superior road coaches as soon as a parallel turnpike road was constructed around 1826.
I don't think that the answer was ever "No trains today so just get the [service] bus instead. Your ticket is valid" These interavailability arrangements were fairly little used in practice.

I suspect that RRB's were used a lot less in the past because:
  • Much more work was carried out on single line working, which is not permitted today.
  • Passenger trains ran on most lines much less frequently, particularly on Sundays when there would often be many hours between (if any service at all), and work was done over much shorter sections (labour intensively) which could be completed between trains.
  • Trains would run over temporary structures at reduced speeds much more than would be permitted today.
  • There were fewer passengers travelling outside peak periods, when the work was being done. [e.g. Much less 'leisure' travel aside from a summer peak]
  • Crossovers and sidings for engineering trains, and turning passenger trains, were more prevalent than today.
 

30907

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RT4038 is correct except that SLW with pilotman would have been little use in the suburban area where trains were rather more frequent. For an extreme example:

I have just dug out the Special Traffic Notice for the major resignalling/relaying between Shortlands Jn and Swanley (been meaning to do so for ages, so thanks!).
RRBs (Special Bus Services) operated:
Beckenham Jn-Orpington
Beckenham Hill-Eynsford
Ravensbourne-Bromley S*
Bromley S-Lee/Eltham
Dartford and Swanley-Farningham Rd
Swanley-Otford.
Numerous diversionary routes were in use, and it helped that Ravensbourne and Eynsford had signalboxes and crossovers.

(*for those who don't know. Ravensbourne station is still very difficult to reach from Beckenham Hill, except on foot, and the roads round it were all unmetalled back then, as I remember vividly; TBH I'm surprised a bus was allowed there at all!)

I strongly suspect that RRBs go back as far as frequent Sunday trains!

Now back to my STN....
 

32475

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I used Southdown replacement bus services in the mid 70s on a number of occasions when there were Sunday engineering works on the London- Brighton line (between Burgess Hill, Hassocks and Brighton). There were also other occasions such as after the crash at Patcham and a freight derailment at Hassocks which was in 1981 if I remember correctly.
 

Revaulx

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When the Oxford Road to Altrincham line was converted to AC and resignalled in 1970/71, all Sunday services were suspended and RRBs run. This went on for several months.
 

Pigeon

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I would assume that RRBs go back a long way - the earliest I recall using was late 1960s when work was being done on the Royal Albert Bridge. I would note, however, that the bus was Saltash - Plymouth North Road; these days it would be (at a minimum) Liskeard - Plymouth. Even pre-Beeching I doubt they would have used the only diversionary route - Bodmin Road - Wadebridge - Halwill Junction - Okehampton (RR) - Plymouth!

Come to that, where did the bus go? On the chain ferry? I don't think the road bridge was up then, was it?
 

RT4038

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Come to that, where did the bus go? On the chain ferry? I don't think the road bridge was up then, was it?
The bridge was built in the 60s. Unofficially opened Oct 61, official opening by HMQ in April 1962.
 

WesternLancer

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I used Southdown replacement bus services in the mid 70s on a number of occasions when there were Sunday engineering works on the London- Brighton line (between Burgess Hill, Hassocks and Brighton). There were also other occasions such as after the crash at Patcham and a freight derailment at Hassocks which was in 1981 if I remember correctly.
Yes, I was going to say that i recall buses on the Southern Region certainly in the late 70s onwards, and no doubt before that I'd have thought. Tho travel on sundays was probably less common then, so fewer people disrupted.

Here’s a BTF film called Mishap from 1958 which refers to “special buses” ie RRS.
Thanks for posting another great BTF film!
 
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Rescars

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RT4038 is correct except that SLW with pilotman would have been little use in the suburban area where trains were rather more frequent. For an extreme example:

I have just dug out the Special Traffic Notice for the major resignalling/relaying between Shortlands Jn and Swanley (been meaning to do so for ages, so thanks!).
RRBs (Special Bus Services) operated:
Beckenham Jn-Orpington
Beckenham Hill-Eynsford
Ravensbourne-Bromley S*
Bromley S-Lee/Eltham
Dartford and Swanley-Farningham Rd
Swanley-Otford.
Numerous diversionary routes were in use, and it helped that Ravensbourne and Eynsford had signalboxes and crossovers.

(*for those who don't know. Ravensbourne station is still very difficult to reach from Beckenham Hill, except on foot, and the roads round it were all unmetalled back then, as I remember vividly; TBH I'm surprised a bus was allowed there at all!)

I strongly suspect that RRBs go back as far as frequent Sunday trains!

Now back to my STN....
I remember going over Shap when the OLE was being installed. SLW, pilotman, setting back to gain the wrong line, etc. All good fun - and certainly no buses on the fells.
 

30907

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I remember going over Shap when the OLE was being installed. SLW, pilotman, setting back to gain the wrong line, etc. All good fun - and certainly no buses on the fells.
And assuming it was a Sunday, hardly any trains till mid afternoon.

Post electrification class 1 trains had 15min or so for engineering work added north of Carnforth 0300-0800 to allow for regular SLW. IIRC the two trains involved started from Carlisle so weren't busy anyway (and there wasn't anything northbound that early) - how things have changed.

BR(S) went so far as to install temporary facing crossovers West of Southampton to facilitate the Bournemouth electrification, with 15 min added all day every day. It was, of course, relatively busy, with at least 3 trains per 2h, and there were still plenty of trailing crossovers.
 
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Welshman

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Growing-up in Halifax in the early 60s, I can't recall any rrb services, as there were still many alternative routes available and the local drivers seemed to have a vaster route-knowledge.

Diversions I can still remember travelling on include Halifax-Huddersfeid-Penistone via Sowerby Bridge [reversing just west of the station] when the Dryclough-Greetland spur was closed; Halifax to Manchester via Huddersfield and Diggle when the Calder Valley was closed; Sowerby Bridge to York on a Sunday via Gascoigne Wood, Selby and the old EC main line when the route via Sherburn was closed, and Bradford Exchange-Kings Cross via Low Moor, Heckmondwike and Wakefield Kirkgate when the usual line via Drighlington was closed.

And as has been stated, if no alternative route was available, it was set-back over a scotched crossover, and slowly over the bang line with pilotman - a procedure which could add up to 30 minutes to a journey, but still quicker than any rrb!
 

Roger1973

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I am told that my first visit (accompanied by parents) to grandparents in Reading involved a rail replacement bus for part of the journey in the form of an Alder Valley Lodekka or Loline somewhere round Ascot. I was a bit too young to be taking much notice of my surroundings, let along taking bus numbers.

There's a few photos of LT (country area) buses on a rail replacement job in October 1967 on the 'sct61' website - not clear what the actual line closure was, but it seems to have involved double deckers at Orpington, and single deckers at Sole Street.

LT blinds included 'Railway Emergency Service' for many years - it became 'Special Railway Service' during the 1970s.
 

exeter 50044

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I remember when the Waterloo to weymouth overnights had bus replacements from eastleigh to ether basingstoke or working back in the day as they were loco hauled.
when i did it one particular night i had the usual 73 to eastleigh and bailed for the up which arrived with a 50 on the front so i thought i have this to working then do the petersfield and back for the train as it left eastleigh turned left towards sailsbury then before sailsbury tunnel it took the new chord line(at the time it had just recently got reinstated) to the exeter - Waterloo route thinking this was rare on a service train at that time to go this route upon the approach to basingstoke we got diverted via the fright avoidance spur at that time to the north of the station and we where sent in the direction of reading and from reading to Waterloo arriving some 2 hours after we normally would.

this as far as i know was the only time that this diversion was used for this train but i could be wrong if somebody would like to update me.

being a basher back in the later 70s early 80s was a very interesting time.
 

LethalDrizzle

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this as far as i know was the only time that this diversion was used for this train but i could be wrong if somebody would like to update me.
I was on a Waterloo - [not sure, I got off at Bournemouth] newspaper train in the mid 80s that was diverted at Basingstoke via Andover thence to Eastleigh via the Chandler's Ford line, Compton hauled throughout. I'm guessing the people of Winchester will have received their morning papers via a lorry replacement service that night.
 

tbwbear

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Although not technically a replacement, there was the stage coach laid on to fill the gap on the London to Birmingham Railway during construction of Kilsby Tunnel in the 1830s wasn't there?

So they had the idea of transfering to road and back again during the rail journey there - I wonder if it was used anywhere else - and when it was used (if ever) in place of the train....
 

Bevan Price

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I think that back in the 1960s, the policy was to keep the replacement bus section as short as possible. I think my first was in about 1964 travelling between Guildford and Redhill, when we had to transfer to a London Country RF bus between Dorking (Deepdene , I think) and Reigate, with trains on either side of the blockage. Today, I suspect they would use buses all the way between Guidford & Redhill, taking ages to reach all the intermediate stations.

From 1963 to 1965, I worked in London, and visited my (late) parents in St. Helens about every 3-4 weeks; usually going north via various routes, but returning south on Sundays via WCML whilst it was being electrified. There were never any replacement buses, just diversions by alternative routes.

So between Liverpool & Crewe, apart from the normal route, there were diversions via Chester Triangle, or via Middlewich & Sandbach. South of Crewe, there might be Stafford to Nuneaton via Bushbury, Walsall, Sutton Park & Water Orton, or Stafford to Rugby via Bescot & Coventry. Northampton Loop use was frequent, and once we went to Kensington Olympia instead of Euston.

I think that sectorisation was a big influence in the extension of replacement bus use. Route knowledge started to contract, and there was a reluctance to pay to hire resources (staff, locos, etc.) from other sectors -- a trend which got even worse after John Major's great sell-off.
 

6Gman

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Although not technically a replacement, there was the stage coach laid on to fill the gap on the London to Birmingham Railway during construction of Kilsby Tunnel in the 1830s wasn't there?

So they had the idea of transfering to road and back again during the rail journey there - I wonder if it was used anywhere else - and when it was used (if ever) in place of the train....
There will have been parts of the railway where road replacement will have been the only, or only practical, option from the early days of the railway.

In North Wales, for example, if the line was blocked at Penmaenmawr they would hardly divert via Chester, Ruabon, Bala Jn, Barmouth, Afon Wen & Caernarfon!
 

Rescars

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Although not technically a replacement, there was the stage coach laid on to fill the gap on the London to Birmingham Railway during construction of Kilsby Tunnel in the 1830s wasn't there?

So they had the idea of transfering to road and back again during the rail journey there - I wonder if it was used anywhere else - and when it was used (if ever) in place of the train....
I believe there were issues with the Girvan and Portpatrick Junction Railway in the 1880s which resulted in all traffic between New Luce and Stranraer going by road for several months whilst revised operating arrangements received parliamentary approval. As the recent P&O ferry developments illustrate, there is nothing new about encountering challenges with travel arrangements between Galloway to Northern Ireland.
 

Jan Mayen

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On Redhill station there is an information board explaining the role the station played in Operation Dynamo (evacuation of the troops from Dunkirk at the start of the second world war). Local services were replaced by buses so troop trains could run unimpeded by stopping services.
 

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