|Parent||Scottish Bus Group|
|Service area||East Dunbartonshire
Kelvin Scottish Omnibuses Ltd was a bus operating subsidiary of the Scottish Transport Group based in Bishopbriggs, Strathclyde, Scotland. It was formed in March 1985 from parts of Walter Alexander & Sons (Midland) Ltd and Central SMT, initially with six depots and a varied fleet of 381 vehicles.
The company expanded its operations in Glasgow prior to bus deregulation in 1986. New services were introduced in competition with Strathclyde Buses, many using Routemaster double-deckers operated by conductors. Kelvin suffered from vehicle maintenance problems, and on two occasions was forced to hire vehicles from other companies to ensure operation of all its routes. After Kelvin lost money in 1987, the depot at Milngavie was closed and many routes withdrawn.
In July 1989 Kelvin was merged with Central Scottish to form Kelvin Central Buses. This company was sold to its employees on privatisation, before being taken over by Strathclyde Buses. It is now part of First Glasgow.
Operating from its head office in Bishopbriggs and depots in Old Kilpatrick, Milngavie, Kirkintilloch, Kilsyth, Stepps and Cumbernauld, Kelvin Scottish had an operating area bounded by Loch Lomond to the west, Cumbernauld to the east, the Campsie Fells to the north and the River Clyde to the south. Kelvin was the largest operator in Dunbartonshire and north east Glasgow, and was responsible for urban, rural and interurban services. Its operating area had previously been served by Central SMT and Walter Alexander & Sons (Midland).
Kelvin was created by the Scottish Bus Group (SBG) as a limited company wholly owned by the group in March 1985 in preparation for bus deregulation the following year, and began operation three months later. It was the largest of the four new companies created by the SBG in 1985, with an initial fleet of 381 vehicles, of which almost 300 were sourced from the former Alexander (Midland) fleet.
In early 1986, maintenance problems saw a number of vehicles banned from use by vehicle examiners from the Ministry of Transport. The company was forced to hire eight vehicles from other companies to keep services running; they remained in the fleet for four weeks while the regular vehicles were repaired. Similar issues resurfaced in February 1987, when twelve vehicles were hired for three weeks.
Although deregulation itself took place in October 1986, Kelvin received permission to introduce its new routes from 31 August. A number of new services were started in competition with Strathclyde Buses, running from Glasgow to Clydebank, Drumchapel, Easterhouse and Springburn. Strathclyde responded by extending its services into Clydebank, Cumbernauld, Dumbarton, Kirkintilloch and Milngavie.
In 1987 Kelvin made a reported loss of £3 million, leading to the closure of the depot at Milngavie. Many of the competing routes introduced in 1986 were withdrawn in July 1987, and 70 vehicles were taken out of service. Two years later both Kelvin and neighbouring Central were severely affected by a strike by 700 of the companies' drivers, caused by the dismissal of four shop stewards.
In July 1989, it was announced that SBG was to be privatised. In an effort to make Kelvin Scottish more attractive on the approach to privatisation, Kelvin was merged with Central Scottish to form Kelvin Central Buses Ltd. Upon the merger, Kelvin Scottish ceased trading as a stand-alone subsidiary.
Following the privatisation of Scottish Bus Group in 1991, Kelvin Central was sold to its employees. In 1994 it was taken over by Strathclyde Buses, which was itself bought out by FirstGroup two years later.
Branding and promotions
The company initially adopted a simple two-tone blue livery with a logo incorporating the Flag of Scotland and the words "Scottish" and "Kelvin"; a more striking livery consisting of two lighter shades of blue and yellow applied diagonally was introduced in September 1985. This was revised in early 1988 to yellow and light blue with a dark blue diagonal stripe.
As a result of increased competition in Dunbartonshire following deregulation, Kelvin decided to introduce additional fleetnames to its vehicles to establish local identities. From April 1987 onwards Dumbarton BUS appeared on vehicles operating in Dumbarton and Loch Lomondside. In October Kirkie BUS was introduced onto Kirkintilloch-based vehicles and Cumbernauld's Buses onto vehicles stationed in that town.
In 1988 a new fares scheme, the Glasgow Gold Card, was introduced, offering weekly travel on all SBG routes in the city. A Kelvin Routemaster bus was painted in a gold livery to advertise the ticket, and remained in the livery until withdrawal by Kelvin Central in 1991.
The fleet acquired by Kelvin at its formation was very mixed. Of the 381 vehicles initially used, 135 were double-deck. Nine types of vehicles were operated. The largest constituent was 153 Leyland Leopard single-deckers; the first new buses were six Leyland Tigers ordered by Central Scottish prior to the creation of Kelvin.
A fleet of 40 Routemaster buses were purchased from London Transport in 1986 to launch the new services in competition with Strathclyde Buses. Kelvin had not previously employed conductors, but introduced them for these services. This meant the vehicles did not have to spend as long loading at bus stops as one-person operated buses and were able to offer quicker journeys through Glasgow. The Routemasters proved popular with both passengers and staff and continued to operate into the 1990s under successor company Kelvin Central, which was one of the last operators of the type in regular service in Scotland.
Although the original fleet did not include any minibuses, a large number of Mercedes-Benz vehicles were introduced from September 1986 on a high-frequency route in central and northern Glasgow; it did not prove profitable and was converted to full-size operation a year later, with many of the minibuses transferred to other SBG subsidiaries. Another unusual vehicle in the Kelvin fleet was the only Leyland Lynx bought by Scottish Bus Group, which was delivered new in 1989. Six rare Leyland Lion double-deckers were ordered in 1988, but owing to a large cut in Kelvin's peak vehicle requirement they did not enter service with the company and were instead sent to Clydeside Scottish.
- Fowler, Max (July 1995). "Buses Profile: Kelvin Central Buses". Buses Magazine (484): 17–21.
- Jenkinson (1991), pp.8–13
- Jenkinson (1991) pp.27-28
- "Perceptions of bus deregulation". The Scottish geographical magazine. Royal Scottish Geographical Society. 105-106: 153. 1989.
- "500 bus jobs face axe in fares war". The Glasgow Herald. 3 August 1987.
- vol. 126 col. 309-317 Hansard, 27 January 1988. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
- Jenkinson (1991) p.30
- "Peace hopes for buses". The Glasgow Herald. 19 May 1989.
- Booth, Gavin (September 1996). Morris, Stephen, ed. "SBG since SBG: what happened to the Scottish Bus Group subsidiaries". Buses Focus: 51.
- "Vehicle stock page: E186 BNS". Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust. Retrieved 4 February 2011.
- Jenkinson (1991) p.34
- Jenkinson (1991) p.28
- Jenkinson (1991) p.33
- Jenkinson (1991) p.38-39
- Train, Ian (1988). "Scots Minis". In Brown, Stewart J. Buses Yearbook 1989. Ian Allan Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 0-7110-1785-9.
- Jenkinson (1991) p.23-25
- Jenkinson, Keith A. (1991). Best Bus; The final years of the Scottish Bus Group. Autobus Review Publications. ISBN 0-907834-25-6.
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