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Saturday, 28 August 2010

Derek Giles

Well I have been off this week so no new travels to tell you about.

However Friday was the funeral for Derek Giles, the former Traffic Superintendent (now you would say "Commercial Director") for Southend Transport who led it into the deregulated 1980s. Initially launching a joint service with Reading Transport between Southend and Reading in later years the London-Southend service grew to some 66 coaches each with slightly different routes and stopping patterns for the commuters of Essex at the expense of the unreliable and strike-prone London, Tilbury and Southend line of BR.

There seemed no end to the additional demand and services were continuously added. The core service struggled on to Heathrow but it was really from Central London eastwards that demand was so strong and remained so until the railway was rebuilt and upgraded. Eventually the service declined and the coach fleet gradually sold off.

Derek played an important part in our earliest days at London Pride Sightseeing. Whilst we waited for our first DMS he gave me the opportunity to provide three round trips a day using a layover coach. We agreed a Van Hool Astromega would always be provided and a special sign was made for it. On day 1 - which was 1st April 1984 - we loaded our first passengers in Coventry Street (before the Trocadero re-opened) and celebrated with burgers and drinks. Then it refused to start. We had to refund our passengers using our own money as we had already spent most of theirs! It took all day to fix it, a Stonebridge Metrobus eventually being sent to help.

When we took over Culture Bus (buying it at the eleventh-hour from the receivers) he spent the following day running an emergency schedule from a deck chair outside our office in St James' Street, London. The bankers and Gentleman's Clubs were amazed to see him in their midst. Later he took Culture Bus off our hands and again operated it on a marginal basis using laying over X1 coaches. This may not be true but it might have been the last ever briefing to staff typed by a bus manager on stencils and duplicated on a Gestetner duplicator machine. (Those of you too young to remember need to go and see one in a museum!)

There are a book-full of stories to tell - I well recall during the heavy snowfall of 1986/7 convoying some coaches out of Southend at night to have some service from Pitsea the following day. Derek, as ever, was down at 'the Corporation' making contingency plans for all his services. We, as ever, at Ensign Bus were ready to help him do it!

Derek was a lifelong enthusiast and a long standing member of the Omnibus Society. Even in retirement he was active. I recall he came to a speech I gave and was as forthright and determined with his views as ever.

He belongs to an old generation of traditional busmen but was always adventurous in seeking out new opportunities for his company.

I know Richard Delahoy won't mind me using his photo of Astromega 243, a regular performer on London Pride Sightseeing between its return journeys from Southend. Much more about X1 at 



  1. With the wonderful benefit of hindsight, the idea of running Astromega's on Culture Bus, was "outrageous". Metroliners on the other hand were ideal, and now of course I realise having worked in Hong Kong, that these were actually designed for service work rather than running up and down motorways, which explains a lot!

  2. Leon

    Many thanks for your comments about Derek, and of course it is OK to use my photo of a fully laden Astromega arriving in Southend full of day trippers ready for a day on the beach! Whilst the predominant traffic flow was to London, at times in summer the X1 could get very busy the other way as well. The original slide has suffered from scanning and reducing in size, but hopefully everyone will get an idea of what impressive beasts they were - one of my all time favourites to drive, in the context of what else was on the road in the early 1980s.

    Around 120 people attended Derek's funeral last Friday and I was privileged to take some of them there in Ensign's restored ex Southend Tiger/Duple Caribbean and on to the wake afterwards. Expect to see pictures in Buses mag and elsewhere in due course.

    I trust you won't mind that we've used a small quote from your blog entry as part of the obituary that will be in the next issue of Essex Bus News (monthly magazine of the Essex Bus Enthusiasts Group).

    Finally, I greatly enjoyed a cracking run on RT8 on Saturday, you certainly didn't hang around, although I saw that Ross eventually prised you out of the cab! I wonder how many people have spotted the extremely discretely mounted trafficators on RT8? A nice compromise between satisfying current regulations without spoiling the authenticity of the restoration.

    Richard Delahoy