The tramway predecessors of the company that was to become Yellow Buses started trading in July 1902. By 1906 the tramway system had reached it’s full extent, although further vehicles were added up to a maximum fleet of 131. In 1913, following a referendum trams began to operate on Sundays afternoons and it wasn’t until 1926 that the first Sunday morning trams ran too. The first bus services started as ‘feeders’ to the tram in 1906 and was expanded only on this basis until 1930 when the bus fleet was doubled when the Borough expanded to take in Kinson and Holdenhurst.
In 1933 the first trolley bus was run experimentally and over the next few years the entire tramway system was moved across to trolley buses.
Following the war years, large-scale fleet replacement and expansion took place and in 1950, Bournemouth Transport carried a record of over 64 million journeys. At the end of May 1950, petrol was de-rationed and there was a huge consequent increase in private motoring and a decline in the use of public transport.
To respond to this decline and the resultant increase in traffic congestion, one-person buses were introduced in 1958 and trolley buses were replaced with diesel buses between 1963 and 1969.
During the 70s and 80s marketing was used to help slow the decline of bus use and coach operations were promoted outside the borough for the first time.
Under the transport act of 1985 Bournemouth Transport was forced to become a private limited company, with the shares being wholly owned by the Borough. However the company took decisions independently through its board and profitability was now high on the agenda. In 1986 competition brought on by the above act started to appear, but the company successfully managed to fight off the various incomers and even took one over.
The original livery of primrose yellow and maroon was altered to primrose and azure blue in 1990.
In late 2005, Bournemouth Borough Council sold Yellow Buses to Transdev. Then in early 2006, the company left its Mallard Road home of 53 years to move to a purpose-built £5m facility on Yeomans Way. Among Mallard Road’s claims to fame was the fact that the garage had the largest span of pre-stressed concrete in the country when it was built in 1951. It became a Grade 2 listed building in 1999, which meant that when the depot became the Mallard Rd Retail Park in 2007, the garage had to be retained, becoming a Homebase DIY superstore.
After a comprehensive review, there were major service changes from July 2nd 2006, resulting in Yellow Buses running six core routes across the conurbation, with a supporting network of lower-frequency routes.
In 2009 and 2010 Yellow Buses were shortlisted and subsequently won the ‘Shire Operator of the Year’, an award much coveted in the industry. 2010 also saw the Yellows winning the Route One Large Bus Operator Of Excellence award.
RATP Group and its subsidiary RATP Dev take a new step forward
In March 2011 the ownership of Yellow Buses moved to RATP Dev when the merger between Veolia Transport and Transdev prompted the RATP to withdraw from the its shareholding in the capital of Transdev in return for a transfer of assets equal to the value of its equity investment (25.66%). Sixteen Transdev-Veolia companies and 6500 staff members joined RATP Group through its subsidiary RATP Dev, which focuses on managing transport network operations in France and internationally.
The integration was a strategic one for RATP Group, which is establishing a direct presence in Switzerland and the United Kingdom and is also bolstering its presence in Italy, where it has become the country’s No. 1 foreign urban transport operator. RATP Group is also consolidating its presence in France with operations acquired in new regions to offer their authorities responsible for transport, a new and credible alternative.
Since then, the company has continued in invest in new vehicles and innovative technology, whilst working closely with the local community such as educational trips to schools and involvement with AFC Bournemouth. Local charities, community groups and good causes are also supported by the company, such as through the innovative Carbon Stoppers initiative, which to date has raised almost £20,000 for good causes. It is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK bus industry and reduces congestion, improves the environment and benefits the people of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch. Further details about this scheme can be found at https://www.bybus.co.uk/features-offers/features/carbon-stoppers
The year 2017 is proving to be another exciting milestone in the history of this remarkable company, From 15 January bus operations underwent the biggest transformation of its network in a decade, introducing eight colour coded lines: Bourne, Priory, Uni, Royal, Village, Coast, Dolphin and Heath. These lines reflect the company’s strong local connectivity and sense of community. Each line is denoted by the first letter of the name e.g ‘R’ (for Royal) followed by a service number.
The new network focuses on key hubs, including the Royal Bournemouth Hospital and Bournemouth University, while offering new off-peak connections to destinations such as Mudeford, Verwood and Ringwood. It reflects the changing life and work patterns of its customers as well as simplifying the network and addressing congestion. Extra early morning and late night services have been introduced on some routes to help shift workers at locations such as Bournemouth town centre, Poole town centre and the Royal Bournemouth Hospital.
From 1 May 2017, six new double deckers, described as the most environmentally friendly diesel vehicles on the road, went into service. The British-built Alexander Dennis MMC (Major Model Change) E400 vehicles have ultra-low carbon Euro 6 engines and the latest stop-start technology to reduce emissions, noise and fuel usage. Their lighter weight will also reduce environmental impact and improve fuel consumption.
Other features of the £1.3 million fleet include leather seats and tinted glass, USB chargers for all seats, free wi-fi, audio ‘next stop’ announcements, extra space for buggies and shopping trolleys and easier to read front destination displays. The buses also have full internal and external CCTV, visual ‘next stop’ interior signs, full wheelchair access and real time tracking which links to the journey planner on Yellow Buses’ app and website.
The iconic open top bus operation will return this Summer.
As part of the celebrations of 115 years of continuous operation, a bus rally is being organised in Kings Park on Saturday 10 June, where a selection of current and preserved vehicles operated by the company will be present.
Each year the company carries just under 15 million passengers on its 140 strong bus fleet, clocking up nearly five million miles across Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and East Dorset. National Express coaches are also operated, along with private hire work.
The above short history has been compiled as a summary of the Yellow Buses centenary booklet, written by David L. Chalk, MILT, with revisions and updates by Dave Symes CMILT.
For more information please visit the RATP Dev UK website