Busways Travel Services

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Busways Travel Services Logo.png
Busways bus 268 Leyland Atlantean SCN 268S Metrocentre rally 2009 pic 1.JPG
Preserved Leyland Atlantean in May 2009
Slogan An Employee Owned Company
Parent Stagecoach North East
Founded 1986
Headquarters Sunderland
Service area Tyne & Wear
Hubs Sunderland
Newcastle Upon Tyne
South Shields
Depots 4

Busways Travel Services[1] was an English bus operator that operated services in the Tyne & Wear area. In July 1994, Busways was purchased by Stagecoach.

Company history[edit]

PTE divestment[edit]

To comply with the Transport Act 1985, in October 1986 the assets of Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive's bus operations were transferred to a new legal entity named Busways Travel Services.[2]

Employee ownership[edit]

In 1989, Busways was sold to its employees and management as an Employee Share Ownership Plan company, with the management owning 51% of shares and employees owning 49%.[3] During this time fleet names carried the strap line An employee owned company.

In late 1993, Busways management considered an offer from the employee board members to buy out some of the management shares using one of the employee share trusts. With the fast paced development of the industry this was not thought to be in the long term best interests of the company.

By March 1994, it was considering options of geographic expansion, merging or acquiring other companies, and selling to a national group. The company had become concerned at its proximity to the recently floated Go-Ahead Group, and the fact that United Automobile Services to the south, and Northumbria to the north, were also possible targets for the larger groups. It believed that independently it would struggle to defend the company against expansion by these neighbours in the future.[4]

The Busways board came to the conclusion that a merger with one of the larger groups was the only viable option.

Stagecoach Ownership[edit]

Alexander PS bodied Scania N113 in the first version of Stagecoach corporate livery with Busways fleet names

Stagecoach acquired Busways in July 1994.[5] This takeover had to be accepted by around 1,700 employee shareholders, 99% of which accepted. Stagecoach was the preferred and recommended bidder out of two national groups.

Busways was relatively unique amongst new Stagecoach subsidiaries in that it kept its identity for a few years, before the corporate livery was rolled out. During this period fleet names carried the new strap line 'Part of the Stagecoach Group'. On eventual adoption of the striped scheme, the Busways, Blue Bus Service and Economic names survived in the red Stagecoach strap lines. Busways was eventually dropped with the emergence of the second generation Stagecoach livery.

Darlington Controversy[edit]

In January 1994, employee owned Busways had been considering expanding in the Darlington area, although by March this study was suspended while other possible futures were being considered. In the months following the Stagecoach takeover, the Busways subsidiary was a key player in the Darlington Bus War.

Stagecoach North East[edit]

The Busways Travel Services name still exists as the legal entity behind Stagecoach North East.[1] Buses are liveried as Stagecoach in Newcastle/Sunderland/South Shields. The Busways travel shops in Newcastle have since been closed. Byker Bus depot has been demolished[6] and replaced by a brand new facility at Walkergate.[7]

Fleet history[edit]

Busways inherited a large fleet of panoramic windowed Leyland Atlanteans and Daimler Fleetlines from the PTE, although these had been substantially renewed in 1986 with 65 Alexander RH bodied Leyland Olympians. Busways also inherited several Bristol LH single-deckers from the PTE, many of which were scrapped or converted to driver trainers. Some examples survived into 1994, used in the main fleet, Blue Bus Services and Favourite Services, and the type was added to in this time with many second hand examples. In PTE ownership the company acquired several 1987 Mercedes-Benz 709D minibuses, and 1989 Leyland Lynxes.

In 1989 and 1991, employee owned Busways standardised on the Scania N113 chassis, on Northern Counties and Alexander RH double-deck bodies, and Alexander PS single-deck bodies.[8] The double deck fleet was also added to with purchases of some Northern Counties-bodied 1987 Leyland Olympians new to London Transport's Bexleybus operation. In 1992, Busways moved into the midibus market, purchasing Alexander Dash bodied Dennis Darts, although 1993 batches were augmented with Plaxton bodied examples.

Dart purchases continued into the Stagecoach ownership. In 1994 some second hand Bristol REs were acquired for the Blue Bus Services and Economic fleets, all of which were withdrawn by 1998. The double-deck fleet was again augmented with 40 Alexander RL bodied Volvo Olympians in late 1995/early 1996.



The majority of bus services were under the Busways fleet name, with an appropriate pre-name: Newcastle (Slatyford), City (Byker), South Shields and Sunderland. The livery adopted was based on the old PTE scheme of cadmium yellow (as previously used by Newcastle Corporation) and white, but with a coloured skirt, midline band, wheelhubs and fleetname according to division: maroon for City and Newcastle, blue for South Shields and green for Sunderland - colours previously associated with the former Corporation Transport liveries[9][10][11][12] - or black for ancillary vehicles. Minibuses wore a similar scheme, but with a black skirt, thin black, green, maroon and blue stripes, and black "Mini Busways" fleetnames in order that they could be quickly transferred between divisions.[13]

Blue Bus Services[edit]

This division, which shared the Newcastle Busways depot at Slatyford, was originally for the former PTE bus services which ran from Newcastle northwards into Northumberland, most notably the Ponteland and Darras Hall routes. It later expanded into PTE contract work, using older buses from the main Busways fleet. It was launched in advance of deregulation, in July 1986, and the name was a throw-back to the "Blue Bus Services" of Newcastle Corporation Transport many years before the PTE came along. Blue Bus Services vehicles, which were all dual purpose vehicles at the start, wore a dark blue and cream livery, with either dark blue fleetnames applied to the cream area.[14] or yellow fleetnames applied to the dark blue area,[15] while some buses transferred from Economic, Armstrong Galley Buses or even the main fleet were not repainted and just gained new fleetnames.[16][17]


The Favourite operation was introduced in certain parts of County Durham to compete with Trimdon Motor Services, whose subsidiary Tyne & Wear Omnibus Company had set up in Newcastle (and later Sunderland) in direct competition with Busways. It later expanded into contract work, including one of the town routes in Sunderland. Favourite buses wore a livery of white upper, dark orange midline and a brown skirt, with brown fleet names - essentially Greater Manchester PTE colours, as that was where much of the original fleet had originated.[18][19]


The name "Economic" had been used by the associated businesses of GR Anderson and EW Wilson of Whitburn for their services between Sunderland and South Shields. These had been acquired by Tyne & Wear PTE on 1 January 1975. Prior to deregulation, TWPTE had painted an Atlantean in the old Economic colours of maroon and off-white (with black lining) to mark the 60th anniversary of the business, and as deregulation approached two of brand-new Leyland Olympians were delivered to the PTE in those colours, and with gold "ECONOMIC" fleetnames.[20] At deregulation the Sunderland - South Shields routes 505 and 506 became Economic routes E1 and E2 (the E6 was introduced later), although Economic was in reality part of South Shields Busways. Econimic [1]

Armstrong Galley[edit]

On 24 August 1973, Tyne & Wear PTE acquired two associated Newcastle-based businesses, R Armstrong (Bus Proprietor) Ltd. and Galley’s Coaches Ltd., and immediately the "Armstrong Galley" name was adopted for the PTE's coaching and private hire division. Initially retaining the original PTE yellow and cream colours (of Newcastle Corporation),[21] a new colour scheme of mid-blue with yellow, orange and red stripes was adopted around 1980.[22] Armstrong Galley introduced a flagship service to London in the early 1980s, competing with National Express, and branded "Non-Stop Clipper".[23][24] and used the striking 3 axle double deck coach, the MCW Metroliner. The Armstrong Galley operations continued unchanged with the creation of Busways in October 1986, but in the early 1990s it expanded into low-cost bus operation (using other divisions' cast-offs),[25] culminating in an "Armstrong Galley Buses" operation being set up. These vehicles used a livery of mid-blue and white[26] After the Stagecoach takeover, the Armstrong Galley operations were closed down, with buses being transferred to Blue Bus Services.

Tyne & Wear Omnibus Company[edit]

Tyne & Wear Omnibus Company was an independent operator purchased by Go-Ahead Group, then immediately sold to Busways for £2m on 17 November 1989. [27]Tyne & Wear Omnibus Company wore a livery of a white upper, dark blue lowers, with a green and maroon double stripe, and yellow fleet names. The identity was short-lived, and used only on minibuses. It disappeared in the withdrawal of these vehicles, with services transferred to Busways and Blue Bus.[28]

Welcome Passenger Services[edit]

Welcome was an independent minibus based competitor in Newcastle using red and yellow vehicles. The company was bought by Busways in August 1993 and run as a subsidiary until the company was made dormant on 31 October.



Busways introduced a travel card for just its routes, in competition with the previous PTE network wide travel cards. The FareSaver was heavily marketed with branded buses.

100 MetroCentre Shuttle[edit]

Since the creation of Busways coincided with the opening of the MetroCentre shopping mall in Gateshead, this saw the creation and subsequent continuous operation of one of the few south of the River Tyne services of the Newcastle division, the 100 MetroCentre Shuttle which commenced in February 1987, initially using Reeve Burgess minibuses and ex-London Country Bristol LHS buses.

100 Shuttle was operated in a dedicated livery of the newest delivered single deck vehicles. The livery has undergone several iterations, and now exists as a rather subdued route-branded version of the standard Stagecoach livery, albeit still operated by unique new Enviro300 single-deckers.

Low cost units[edit]

In deregulated operation, the Blue Bus Services and Favourite Services units were operated as low cost operations, in order to win the now tendered PTE supported services, and to operate on low margin commercial routes in the Busways area.

Magic Bus[edit]

In 1997, Busways was chosen by Stagecoach as the first location for trials of the Magic Bus concept in a currently owned operator's area. This was a new take on the low cost concept, but run on the company's existing high volume corridors, rather than on tendered or low margin routes. Routes were numbered as per the main services, but with an 'M' suffix, e.g. 12M, 39M.

The purpose of the operation was to compete with emerging smaller competitors, and provide a low-fare alternative to the main services, thereby increasing ridership by offering cheaper travel options. PTE and travel passes were not valid on Magic Buses, but Busways travel passes were.

Magic Bus vehicles as a consequence tended to be the older vehicles in the fleet, and were more prone to breakdowns as a result. Coincidentally, many of the first Olympians bought by the PTE and inherited by Busways, were re-deployed by Stagecoach onto Magic Bus routes in Glasgow.

Quality Corridors[edit]

Busways introduced a quality service concept using the 'Blue Riband' brand name, which appeared on buses a timetable leaflets. This saw a blue riband applied to certain vehicles on these quality corridors

Environmentally friendly buses[edit]

Busways trialled early versions of technology for cleaner, quieter buses, promoted by specially liveried 'Green Machine' buses. These included a Scania N113 and a Leyland Lynx.


  1. ^ a b Companies House extract company no 2295227 Busways Travel Services Limited
  2. ^ In Brief Commercial Motor 26 July 1986
  3. ^ Workers buy Busways Commercial Motor 11 May 1989
  4. ^ Company background Mergers & Monopolies Commission
  5. ^ Stagecoach continues expansion drive with purchase of Busways The Herald 28 June 1994
  6. ^ Byker Growth Property Week 11 January 2002
  7. ^ Architects Page for the new Walkergate bus depot (incorrectly named Byker)
  8. ^ BT takes transverse Scanias Commercial Motor 20 April 1989
  9. ^ Flickr Image of City Busways livery
  10. ^ Image of Newcastle Busways livery on a single decker
  11. ^ Flickr Image of South Shields Busways livery
  12. ^ Flickr Image of Sunderland Busways livery
  13. ^ Flickr Image of Mini Busways livery
  14. ^ Flickr Image of the original Blue Bus Services livery on a coach
  15. ^ Flickr Image of a bus in Blue Bus Services livery
  16. ^ Image of a Blue Bus Services vehicle still in Armstrong Galley Buses livery
  17. ^ Image of a Blue Bus Services vehicle still in Newcastle / City Busways livery
  18. ^ Image of Favourite livery
  19. ^ The Favourite pulls out Commercial Motor 26 April 1990
  20. ^ Image of Economic livery
  21. ^ Flickr Image of original TWPTE Armstrong Galley livery
  22. ^ Flickr Image of Armstrong Galley coaches livery
  23. ^ Image of a Clipper coach
  24. ^ North East-London overnight express Commercial Motor 7 July 1984
  25. ^ Flickr Image of an Armstrong Galley bus
  26. ^ Flickr Image of Armstrong Galley Buses livery
  27. ^ Busways moves on Tyne & Wear Commercial Motor 23 November 1989
  28. ^ Transformation set for Tyne & Wear Commercial Motor 22 February 1990

External links[edit]