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Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Another anniversary

Over at the Omnibuses blog there is a good story today about critical dates for bus route changes. I was so focused on writing about the Blitz I nearly forgot another important anniversary - namely 42 years since the start of the Reshaping of London's Bus Services which commenced on 7th September 1968.

On that date the first single-manned flat fare routes in Wood Green and Walthamstow, the new Red Arrow network, and other major bus service changes were all introduced. This heralded a conversion programme every few weeks although nothing again ever as large as this one. Long overdue due to protracted negotiations with the Trade Union it was further postponed for a week to capture the new 25% bus grant being offered by Government to speed up one-man operation.

Some of us will remember where we were then and it heralded what was to become a growing problem for many years to follow. The buses were unreliable, the fare collection system frequently defective, and journey times protracted giving a less attractive service. The shorter routes should have helped reliability but the 'satellite' flat fare routes broke many traditional links and were not welcomed by passengers. Lastly the revenue from the flat fare routes was disappointing and added to the financial troubles.

In time the major changes were scaled back and in due course the "Reshaping Plan" gave way to the "one-man conversion plan" with simpler fare collection regimes and slightly better buses (but still as unreliable as ever). There are hardly any remnants of the major schemes - route 507 still exists more or less in its original form, as does the W3 from the Wood Green scheme. Parts of the Ealing network also remain, not least the E3 which was a simple conversion from the existing route 55 and so had rather less to cope with in terms of disruption.

The full story of this is contained in Capital Transport's excellent book "Reshaping London's Buses" by Barry Arnold and Mike Harris - now long out of print but often available at events*.  I hope neither Capital Transport nor Colin Brown the photographer mind me using his picture of MBA19 here at Victoria Bus Station from another of that publisher's tremendous library of books - this is from "London Buses in the 1960s" by the late Ken Glazier

Incidentally I use the phrase "one-manned" not out of chauvinism but as it was the phrase widely used at the time.

* I see three copies of this book listed by alone for sale, secondhand and in good condition.


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