Southern Vectis

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Southern Vectis
Southern Vectis 1151 HW09 BCV 4.JPG
Scania OmniCity in Cowes in August 2009
Slogan the island's buses
Parent Go-Ahead Group
Founded 1929
Headquarters Newport
Service area Isle of Wight
Service type Bus services
Fleet 105
Operator Go South Coast (part of the Go-Ahead Group)
Chief executive Andrew Wickham

Southern Vectis[1] is a bus operator on the Isle of Wight. The company was founded in 1921 as "Dodson and Campbell" and became the "Vectis Bus Company" in 1923. The company was purchased by the Southern Railway before being nationalised in 1969. In 1987, the company was re-privatised. Southern Vectis was accused of unfair trade practices and was investigated by the British Office of Fair Trading. In July 2005, it became a subsidiary of Go-Ahead Group.


Past Lettering & Logos
Tilling Group gold lettering pre-1972
After privatisation in 1986 until 1995
The logo used from 1995 until 2006
The logo used from 2006 until 2013

In 1921 in Cowes, the company was founded as "Dodson & Campbell".[2] In 1923, the company was renamed the "Vectis Bus Company". The buses were built by the London bus body builder, Christopher Dodson.

Double-deckers at Ryde depot in 1979
Eastern Coach Works bodied Bristol RE in post 1995 cream, red and green livery, June 2008

In 1929, the company was purchased by Southern Railway and was incorporated as "The Southern Vectis Omnibus Company Limited".[1]

In 1948, Southern Railway was nationalised and then in 1969, Southern Vectis became part of the National Bus Company.

In 1986, with deregulation after the passing of the Transport Act 1985, the business was sold in a management buy out.[3][4] Five new operators entered the market on the Isle of Wight.

In 1987, Southern Vectis started Badger Vectis in Poole, and Solent Blue Line in Southampton. The new operations used older Southern Vectis buses and second-hand double-deckers.[5] Southern Vectis also moved into other business areas on the isle of Wight. The company bought a self-drive van hire firm. It also bought two Ford Granada taxis, which it ran from the Cowes pontoon and began taxibus services which continued till 1989.[6]

In 2003, Southern Vectis started "The Pink Peril", a pink bus designed to take badly-behaved students to and from school.[7][8] The vehicle, an Iveco minibus (fleet number 283) was the oldest in the fleet.

In July 2005, Southern Vectis and Solent Blue Line were sold to the Go-Ahead Group and became part of Go South Coast.[9]

In April 2006, the network was changed with Newport the hub and other routes linking to it. Some routes, for example the "Island Explorer" were lost. However, the changes proved successful. Within 18 months, passenger numbers had increased by 45 percent. This included a 14 percent growth in fare-paying customers.[10]

In October 2009, Southern Vectis launched a website promoting a car scrappage scheme. This offered Island residents a season ticket of bus journeys for use in the next twelve months if they agreed to scrap their car. Southern Vectis announced that five vehicles had been scrapped within the first fortnight of the promotion and it had received around 6,000 enquiries.[11][12]

Business practices in the deregulated market[edit]

Gange's Minicoaches, late 1980s
Eastern Coach Works bodied Bristol LH at Ryde bus station on route 1A in June 1987

As a result of deregulation in 1986, several competitors started or increased existing services. These competitors included Gange's Minicoaches, Grand Hotel Tours, Island Travel (Cooke's Coaches of Porchfield), Moss Motor Tours, RedLynx, Seaview Services and Wiltax of Shanklin.[2][13] Island Travel and Gange's Minicoaches established routes between Cowes and Ryde.[2]

Southern Vectis responded with a number of new business practices. These practices raised the interest of the Office of Fair Trade who, in 1987, investigated the company.[2][14]


It was alleged that Southern Vectis was engaged in "duplication", running buses immediately ahead of the competitors' where routes coincided and of having their drivers lie in wait for competitors vehicles in order to beat them to waiting passengers.[15] In 1991, duplication tactics were seen again when Southern Vectis shadowed an Isle of Wight County Council contracted bus run by Norman Baker Taxis[14]

Bus station use[edit]

Competitors using stops outside the Newport bus station

In 1986, Southern Vectis acquired Newport Bus Station as part of deregulation. Southern Vectis refused competitors access to the bus station.[16] The Office of fair Trading report, published in 1988, found Southern Vectis' behaviour to be anticompetitive. Southern Vectis was told to either allow competitors to use the bus station or appear before the Competition Commission. Gange's Minicoaches, the plaintiff, was offered use of "Stand F" in Ryde bus station, and was also offered a stand in the Newport bus station. However, Gange's did not find the charges set for either station agreeable, and continued to operate from the opposite side of Ryde bus station on council land and the South Street bus stop in Newport, until their service discontinued.


Southern Vectis started to franchised its routes.[14] For instance, Southern Vectis franchised Solent Blue Line routes to Marchwood Motorways and the Newport Town Circular was franchised to M-Travel. The Traditional Bus Company and The Village Bus Company were franchised some open-top routes including the Shanklin Pony. The Alpha Group was franchised the Newport Town Circular after M-Travel closed.

School bus services[edit]

In 2008, after its sale to Go-Ahead Group, Southern Vectis competed directly with the Isle of Wight Council's Wightbus school services. It duplicated routes and claimed term ticket fees for student passengers from the council.[17] In September 2010, the Isle of Wight council engaged Southern Vectis to operate many school bus routes. Under the terms of the contract, the general public were not able to use these services.

Operations in 2000s[edit]

In 2009, Southern Vectis operated fifteen standard bus services,[18] the most frequent being route 1, running every 7–8 minutes.[19] Night buses ran on some routes on Friday and Saturday nights:[4]

Open-top buses[edit]

Island Breezers liveried Northern Counties Palatine bodied Leyland Olympian open top bus at Yarmouth in October 2007
Shanklin Steamer liveried Northern Counties Paladin bodied Volvo B10B in July 2011
Plaxton Premiere bodied Volvo B10M in Island Coaster livery

Southern Vectis's "Open Top Tours" (orange and yellow livery) ran two circular summer routes to tourist destinations. In 2007, "Open top Tours" was rebranded to "Island Breezers" (yellow and blue livery). Other open-top tours operated by Southern Vectis included "The Needles Breezer", "The Downs Breezer", "The Sandown Bay Breezer" (finished 2012).

In 2007, an "Island Coaster" service started between Ryde and Alum Bay with a ten pound all day ticket or longer period tickets for local residents.[20][21][22] The Island Coaster followed the route of two former services, the "12" from Ryde to Sandown and the "7/7A" from Sandown to Alum Bay. Stops were at Freshwater Bay and Blackgang Chine, linking them with Ventnor, Shanklin, Sandown and Ryde. To get between Blackgang Chine and Brook near Brighstone, the service used the Military Road.

The 2008 season began on 15 March and finished on 2 November 2008. Some changes were made. Route number "X40" was removed (although still displayed on buses). There was no stop at the Bembridge Coast Hotel or Sandown Esplanade. In 2009, there was only one morning and one afternoon journey each way, one of which terminated or started in Shanklin rather than Ryde and reached from Freshwater Bay to Yarmouth, but not reaching Alum Bay. Coaches were used rather than buses.[23][24][25]

Tourist road trains[edit]

An Isle of Wight Council Dotto road train formerly operated by Southern Vectis

Until September 2009, three tourist road trains operated along the seafront of three island towns, Ryde, Shanklin and Sandown. The services were run by Southern Vectis under contract to Isle of Wight Council. In April 2010, it was announced that the vehicles would be retired due to increased maintenance costs. In January 2011, the Dotto Trains were sold to a dealer in Llandudno.[26]

In 2011, "The Shanklin Steamer" (to Old Village, Shanklin Esplanade, Shanklin Chine and the Shanklin railway station), a converted Volvo B10B, started service. Due to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 compliance laws the Volvo B10B was withdrawn. It was replaced by a Leyland Olympian, then a Scania OmniCity N270UD 1111 (HW58 ASX) and then the "Phoenix" double decker bus (registration VDL 744).[27]

The routes of the road trains included stops at Ryde, linking the Esplanade with the beaches at Appley and Puckpool; Shanklin, linking the Esplanade with Queens Road, Old Village, Town Centre and Railway Station; and Sandown, linking the Pier and the Esplanade with Dinosaur Isle, Isle of Wight Zoo, and the beach at Yaverland.[28]

In 2013, during further negotiations with the Isle of Wight council, four double deck buses were transferred from the "events" fleet. They were redesigned for carrying bicycles and surfboards. Four return journeys were added in peak times.[29]

For the 2016 season, the Volvo double-deck buses fitted with bike racks were removed from the Island Coaster service following withdrawal of funding by the council. The Vectis Blue school bus Enviro400s took over the service instead, and the timetable was reduced to once a day in each direction between March and July, and again during September, and three times a day during July and August, to coincide with the six-week school summer holidays. This arrangement continued for the 2017 season.

For the 2017 season, the Volvo and Leyland Olympians were withdrawn, due to Disability Discrimination Act requirements, and replaced with three Optare bodied-Scania open-toppers, transferred from Wilts & Dorset at Swanage. They have been repainted and refurbished, and work all three open-top services; The Needles, The Downs and The Shanklin Breezers.

Vectis Blue coach transport[edit]

Coaches in Moss Motors, West Wight, Fountain and Island Coaster liveries in April 2010

In July 2012, a new £28m school transport contract was made by the Isle of Wight council with Southern Vectis. New vehicles, Optare Solo SR M920s were ordered and arrived in September 2012. Some buses were transferred from the Go-Southcoast subsidiary, Damory Coaches. New double deckers ordered from Alexender Dennis were delivered in January 2013. Southern Vectis' involvement in coaching had varied through the years; early in the company's history the firm took no interest in coaching, preferring to leave the field to other operators. However, the company became involved in coaching through acquisition and conglomeration.

Some buses had previously been acquired from Fountain Coaches. The company had been assimilated into Southern Vectis when the National Bus Company rationalised in 1969.[30] West Wight Bus & Coach Company and four of its coaches had been purchased by Southern Vectis in 1987.[31] Moss Motor Tours was purchased by Southern Vectis in 1994. Wightrollers' eleven coaches were purchased by Go South Coast in July 2011. Southern Vectis employed staff from the firm.[32]

Other services[edit]

The company has been involved in Isle of Wight events such as the Isle of Wight Festival and the Bestival. Additional buses were brought to the island. During the Isle of Wight Festival, extra shuttle services were run from Lymington to Yarmouth Wightlink ferry terminal; from the Southampton to East Cowes Red Funnel ferry terminal; and from the Portsmouth to Fishborne and Portsmouth to Ryde Wightlink ferry terminal and Fastcat passenger boat terminal.[33]

An Open Top Christmas Lights Tour has been operated. One of the company's "Island Breezer" liveried buses took a two hour journey past the most illuminated houses on the island.[34] For the 2008 tour, a stop at the Old World Tea Rooms in Godshill was added for a complimentary mince pie and a hot drink.[35]

In 2009, the company ran the "Sailbus" during Cowes Week.[36] There was decreased patronage due to new fares and the service did not run the following year.[37]

Fares and subsidies[edit]

Southern Vectis has increased its fares in reflection of its strong market position and lack of effective competition. Southern Vectis fares have also reflected the need to provide free transport to a relatively large population of elderly people who reside on the Isle of Wight.[38][39]

Students under 19, in full-time education on the Isle of Wight, have received discounted fares under the Isle of Wight Council's Student Rider scheme.[40] In July 2010 after cuts in funding from the UK government to local authorities, the scheme was ended.

Island residents and visitors living in England over the qualifying age  or with a disability have travelled for free in the council area at any time of day, under the Government's England-wide scheme. In 2007, the Isle of Wight council reduced its reimbursement to Southern Vectis for free travelling passengers from 76 percent to 46 percent.[41] In 2009, concessionary travel now made up just under half of all journeys made on Southern Vectis buses.[10] In 2010, free travel was restricted to off-peak times..[42]

On 17 March 2008, Southern Vectis ended several evening, night and Sunday routes.[43][44] More details about the service cuts emerged soon after.[45] On 1 September 2008, routes 27, 28 and 29 ended.[46]

In 2009, another subsidy decrease occurred. Routes 4 and 5, some journeys on route 6, routes 14 and 16 were withdrawn.[47] In 2009, southern Vectis staff went on strike for three days over pay.[48]


Plaxton Pointer Two bodied Dennis Dart at Cowes, May 2009

In 2014, the company had 105 vehicles. These included Enviro 200's single deck buses replacing the Dennis Dart SLF's; seven Volvo B7TL/Plaxton Presidents double deck buses of which two are open-top; twenty-eight Scania OmniCitys of which one has been converted to open-top following an engine fire; and sixteen Alexander Dennis Enviro 400's, of which six are on loan.

Vectis Blue, the coach fleet had twenty Alexander Dennis double deckers and around fifteen Optare Solos as well as a few vehicles acquired from Go South Coast subsidiaries. Some of the coaches have seat belts.[49]


In April 2006, all the buses have been painted in two shades of green with a new logo and slogan, "The Island's Buses".[50] There were some exceptions to the new livery. In 2014, the Needles Breezer livery was refreshed. Two Volvo B7TL's converted to open-top were repainted. The remaining open-top routes had a blue and orange livery, with "Island Breezers" branding.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Companies House extract company no 241973 The Southern Vectis Omnibus Company Limited
  2. ^ a b c d The Director General of Fair Trading (1988). The Southern Vectis Omnibus Company Limited: Refusal to allow access to Newport Bus Station, Isle of Wight (Report). Office of Fair Trading. 
  3. ^ No. 2005917 Companies House data.
  4. ^ a b Who we are Southern Vectis
  5. ^ We are bluestar Bluestar Bus company.
  6. ^ Newman, Richard (1989). Southern Vectis: The First 60 Years. Ensign Publications. p. 44. ISBN 1-85455-025-X. 
  7. ^ "Iwight - pink bus press release". 2007. Archived from the original on 18 February 2006. Retrieved 18 May 2008. 
  8. ^ Lightfoot, Liz (20 May 2003). "Ride on pink bus drives unruly pupils to behave themselves". London: Retrieved 18 May 2008. 
  9. ^ Recommended cash o and became part of offer for Southern Vectis plc Go-Ahead Group 11 July 2005
  10. ^ a b "Isle of Wight County Press - "Island feels strain of rise in bus use"". Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  11. ^ "Scrappage scheme a success". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 30 October 2009. 
  12. ^ "Eco Island - Get wheels in motion" (PDF). Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 5 September 2011. 
  13. ^ Newman, Richard (1989). Southern Vectis: The First 60 Years. Ensign Publications. p. 43. ISBN 1-85455-025-X. 
  14. ^ a b c Maurice Leppard (20 September 1991). "Buses Rout of Small Rivals". Isle of Wight County Press. 
  15. ^ reynardbizzar (February 2008). "Gangebusters ready for action". Flickr. Retrieved 1 September 2010. 
  16. ^ "Vectis forced to share", Commercial Motor, 168 (4620), p. 13, 26 February 1988 
  17. ^ "Isle of Wight County Press - "Stop ridiculous ghost bus waste"". Retrieved 1 July 2008. 
  18. ^ "Southern Vectis route list". Archived from the original on 30 November 2009. Retrieved 6 October 2008. 
  19. ^ "Southern Vectis route 1". Retrieved 6 October 2008. 
  20. ^ "Southern Vectis - Island Coaster". Retrieved 8 October 2008. 
  21. ^ "Southern Vectis - rover and freedom tickets". Retrieved 28 November 2008. 
  22. ^ "No concessions on tourist buses". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 11 May 2009. 
  23. ^ "times050409.pdf" (PDF). Southern Vectis. 4 March 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2009. 
  24. ^ "the island's buses (SV forum)". Southern Vectis. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2008. 
  25. ^ "Southern Vectis blog - "Back to Blogging..."". Southern Vectis. Retrieved 3 March 2009. [dead link]
  26. ^ Dotto Trains Sold to Welsh Bidder On the Wight 11 January 2011
  27. ^ "Southern Vectis, Island Breezers - Open top tours". Retrieved 6 October 2008. 
  28. ^ "Southern Vectis - Road Trains overview". Archived from the original on 31 July 2008. Retrieved 8 October 2008. 
  29. ^ AZ services Isle of Wight council.
  30. ^ Newman, Richard (1989). Southern Vectis: The First 60 Years. Ensign Publications. p. 36. ISBN 1-85455-025-X. 
  31. ^ Newman, Richard (1989). Southern Vectis: The First 60 Years. Ensign Publications. p. 44. ISBN 1-85455-025-X. 
  32. ^ Perry, Simon; Perry, Sally (7 December 2010). "CABINET MEETING: LIVE COVERAGE (UPDATE 26)". VentnorBlog. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  33. ^ "Southern Vectis - Isle of Wight Festival additional shuttle services". Archived from the original on 2 July 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2008. 
  34. ^ "Southern Vectis blog - "Christmas cometh…"". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2008. 
  35. ^ "Southern Vectis - Christmas Lights Tour". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2008. 
  36. ^ "Isle of Wight County Press - "Sailbus will run at £1 a journey"". 12 June 2009. Retrieved 18 June 2009. 
  37. ^ "Fears that Sailbus could run aground". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  38. ^ National Economic Research Associates (December 1997). "The Effectiveness of Undertakings in the Bus Industry". OFT. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  39. ^ "Big rise in single bus fare". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 13 November 2009. 
  40. ^ "Isle of Wight County Press - "Joy on the buses for teenagers"". Retrieved 6 October 2008. 
  41. ^ "Isle of Wight County Press - "Cut in bus fares subsidy agreed"". Retrieved 6 October 2008. 
  42. ^ "End to unlimited free bus travel for over 60s". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 18 November 2009. 
  43. ^ "Isle of Wight County Press - "Weekend and night buses under threat"". Retrieved 6 October 2008. 
  44. ^ "Isle of Wight County Press - "Bus services under threat"". Retrieved 6 October 2008. 
  45. ^ "Isle of Wight County Press - "Buses slashed amid subsidies row"". Retrieved 29 September 2008. 
  46. ^ "Isle of Wight Council press release - "IW Council Steps in to Preserve Bus Routes". Archived from the original on 21 September 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2008. 
  47. ^ "Bus service cuts". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  48. ^ "Bestival buses will run despite drivers' strike". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  49. ^ "Southern Vectis fleet list - Correct to 23 March 2011". Retrieved 23 March 2011. 
  50. ^ " - Southern Vectis company profile". Archived from the original on 8 August 2007. Retrieved 29 October 2008. 

Further reading[edit]

  1. Newman, Richard (2004). Southern Vectis 1929-2004: 75 years serving the Isle of Wight. Colourprint books. ISBN 978-1-904242-24-6. 
  2. Kraemer-Johnson and Bishop, Glyn and John (2006). Glory Days – Buses on the Isle of Wight. Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-3114-2. 
  3. Booth, Gavin (2006). Bus Operators 1970: South-West and Southern England. Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-3034-0. 
  4. Haines, John (2001). Where in the world are the Southern Vectis Buses?. G&K Publications in conjunction with DTS Publishing. ISBN 1-900515-35-0. 
  5. Newman, Richard (1989). Southern Vectis: The First 60 Years. Ensign Publications. ISBN 1-85455-025-X. 

External links[edit]