Bus service harks back to bygone age
BUS passengers travelling from Wells to Bristol or Street on New Year’s Day are in for a treat.
The usual First 376 service will not be operating on that day, and is being replaced by a fleet of vintage buses and coaches run by a group of enthusiasts who will not charge the passengers a penny.
Buses will operate on an hourly frequency and a selection of buses and coaches will be on display in the bus station for most of the day.
“We got together last New Year’s Day to run a skeleton bus service on the 376 route,” said John Hitchings, who will be the conductor on a Bristol double-decker this year.
“It was all a bit of fun but we were blown away by the number of people we carried.”
Last year there were four buses, this year there are planned to be eight. The oldest Bristol double-decker being used is one of several vehicles owned by a local enthusiast from Dinder, while others will come from as far afield as Chepstow and Hampshire.
One of the newer buses being used was operated by Badgerline and for much of its service life was based in Wells. It went on to work for First and has now been restored to the well known Badgerline livery.
The oldest bus is a single-decker - now affectionately known as Daisy - that started in service in 1948 and has been in the present owner’s family since 1974. This will be operating the shuttle from Wells to Street on January 1. Some Wells residents will recognise this vehicle as it regularly takes part in the May Day celebrations, transporting people on bus trips around the city.
The vintage vehicles are often seen at transport events and some have been involved in film work as well as sometimes being used for weddings – and occasionally funerals.
John said of the New Year’s Day service: “It’s run as a proper timetabled bus service but is totally free. All of the owners and drivers are providing the buses, the fuel and their time themselves.
“If we see people at a bus stop we will stop although buggies are actively discouraged due to space limitations. We would also ask that passengers do not eat or drink on the vehicles as they are all privately owned.”
His own interest in buses was sparked when he lived in Farrington Gurney and caught the 376 to Bristol, getting to know a lot of the drivers from the Wells depot, one of whom owned a vintage coach.
This spurred him on to own and drive vintage buses and to organise events around the Bristol area.
He said: “Come along for a ride on New Year’s Day for a bit of nostalgia... and it’s all free.”