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Monday, 21 September 2009

Kingsbridge Running Day

Saturday and I am on the road at 7.30am headed for Kingsbridge Devon for the 7' 6" running day organised by the West of England Historic Transport Trust.

This is old Western National territory and of course 2009 is the centenary of Great Western Railway's bus operations. Western National's retreat in this area really started in 1971 as ridership in rural areas fell and car use became more widespread.

We bought Western National as part of Badgerline and inherited the route network. Now of course quite a bit of the service is provided by smaller operators with smaller buses but First still has a major service through Kingsbridge operated with low-floor double-deckers.

First is pleased to support this event and I was under the direction for the day of Colin Billington who has personally organised and funded the restoration of a good many former west country vehicles.

I had last seen Colin in Aberdeen. He organised a commemorative run of the longest ever Royal Blue coach service- from Penzance to Aberdeen. We arranged for it to run via Taunton, Bristol, Stoke on Trent, Manchester, Glasgow and Aberdeen. You can see the cavalcade of vehicles leave Muller Road Bristol on YouTube. Search for "Royal Blue Aberdeen".

I beat them to Aberdeen by a few hours and we welcomed them into our King Street HQ site on the Friday afternoon in torrential rain.

So that was the last time I had seen Colin an now we were in Devon - he brought out for the first time his 1934 Bristol H, fresh for restoration and there were numerous other vintage vehicles in service. The local population was hugely supportive of the event and it brought back great memories of times gone by.

I drove a 1950s Bristol LWL - a 30' long and 8' wide manual gearbox rear entrance single-decker for a bit including a trip out to the former Regional Seat of Government at Soar. What a way to spend a fine autumn evening and the photo above shows it as the RAF station terminus.
People do hark back to these "good old days". I am not so sure they were quite so good - we had fog, smog, people living in asbestos prefabs, cigarettes were popular and life expectancy shorter than now. But people do miss the train and bus services of 50 years ago but that was an age when car ownership was low and people did not move about for business and leisure like they do today.
Sadly there are far too few people using the local bus services in some rural areas and someone has to pay, and it's either the user or the taxpayer. As we made our way around the villages of Devon on Saturday it was entirely clear that there is not much demand for the village bus any more and I have to say that we have been there until people stopped using it - not the other way around.
But also to say there are some outstanding places to visit across the length and breadth of Britain and with a little planning you can use public transport to enjoy it.

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