On the Buses, then and now

The meeting took place at Tebay Methodist Church, when a rather small and select gathering was given a lively and interesting talk by Roger Davies, of Kendal.

Roger spent his career in the road passenger transport industry, much of it in the south of England, but was  delighted to be appointed in September 1975 as Assistant Area Superintendent (Northern) of Ribble Motor Services, and was based in Kendal. This was one of the largest bus companies in Britain , and its local buses served an area from Liverpool in the south to Carlisle in the north, with the exception of west Cumbria. Roger traced the history of the bus industry in this country from World War I onwards, illustrating this in the main with examples from Ribble, which was founded in 1919, near Preston, and expanded hugely and rapidly till within 20 years it covered the area described with more than 1000 vehicles.

The Secong World War was a time of great difficulty, with greatly increased demand because of the cessation of private motoring, the growth of factories for munitions and other war related production, and great shortages of staff, many of whom went to war, and new vehicles, because their factories were engaged in war work.

After the war, the big bus companies found themsleves in two large groups, one  completely state owned and the other partly. Much energy was spent in restoring the depredation of the war, and this period was just about at the peak of the industry. Two main factors caused the decline from then on: the rapid growth of private motoring, and increased government regulation, including the sudden imposition of fuel tax, which greatly increased costs as demand declined. In  the 1970's the two main bus groups were united as the National Bus Compnay, and then later sold off: hence the growth of Stagecoach and the other large groups, privately owned.

However, government regulation did not stop. The introduction of the elderly persons' bus pass, without warning, has made it very difficult for local authoritis to fund, and none pay the bus companies the normal fare in recompense - 25% is a not unusual proportion. Some counties, Like Cumbria, have decided to cease all subsidies for uneconomic routes, so that all routes must pay for themselves.

With a talk illustrated richly with many anecdotes from his own experience, Roger Davies presented a story which stimulated memories for many in the audience, to give an interesting and informative evening.