Busways Travel Services

Busways Travel Services

Busways Travel Services
Slogan An Employee Owned Company
Parent Stagecoach North East
Founded 1986
Headquarters North Bridge Street, Sunderland, SR5 1AQ.
Locale United Kingdom
Service area Tyne and Wear
Service type Bus Services
Hubs Sunderland, Newcastle Upon Tyne and South Shields
Depots 4

Busways Travel Services Limited was a large bus operator in the 1990s in the north east of England. In July 1994 Busways was acquired by Stagecoach Group.

Company history

PTE divestment

Busways began trading in 1986 under the ownership of the Tyne and Wear PTA to take over the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive's bus operations as per the requirements of the 1986 Transport Act regarding deregulation of bus services.

Employee ownership

In 1989 Busways was sold to the employees and management as an Employee Share Ownership Plan company, with the management owning 51% of shares and employees owning 49%. 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 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.

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

Stagecoach Ownership

A Scania N113 Alexander PS Type, purchased in employee ownership, pictured repainted into the first version of Stagecoach corporate livery with Busways fleet names

Stagecoach acquired Busways in July 1994. This takeover had to be accepted by around 1700 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 was able to keep its liveries for a few years after takeover, as dictated in the terms of the takeover, rather than wholesale adoption of the corporate striped identity. Busways livery persisted until as late as 1998.[1] During this period fleet names carried the new strap line 'Part of the Stagecoach Group'.[2] On eventual adoption of the striped scheme, the Busways, Blue Bus Service and Economic names survived in the red Stagecoach strap lines.[3] Busways was eventually dropped with the emergence of the second generation Stagecoach livery.

Darlington Controversy

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

The Busways Travel Services name now only exists as a legal entity of the Stagecoach North East bus division as shown by the legal lettering on Newcastle based buses. 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[4] and replaced by a brand new facility at Walkergate.[5]

Fleet history

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.[6] 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 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. The double deck fleet was also added to with purchases of some Northern Counties-bodied 1987 Leyland Olympians new to London Buses' Bexley Bus 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[7][8][9][10] - 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.[11]

Blue Bus Services

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.[12] or yellow fleetnames applied to the dark blue area,[13] while some buses transferred from Economic, Armstrong Galley Buses or even the main fleet were not repainted and just gained new fleetnames.[14][15]


The Favourite operation was introduced in certain parts of County Durham to compete with Trimdon Motor Services, whose subsidiary Tyne and 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.[16]


The name "Economic" had been used by the associated businesses of G. R. Anderson and E. W. Wilson of Whitburn for their services between Sunderland and South Shields. These had been acquired by Tyne and 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.[17] 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

On 24 August 1973, Tyne and 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),[18] a new colour scheme of mid-blue with yellow, orange and red stripes was adopted around 1980.[19] Armstrong Galley introduced a flagship service to London in the early 1980s, competing with National Express, and branded "Non-Stop Clipper".[20] 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),[21] culminating in an "Armstrong Galley Buses" operation being set up. These vehicles used a livery of mid-blue and white[22] After the Stagecoach takeover, the Armstrong Galley operations were closed down, with buses being transferred to Blue Bus Services.

Tyne and Wear Omnibus Company

Tyne and Wear Omnibus Company was an independent operator purchased by Go-Ahead Group, then immediately sold to Busways for £2m on 17 November 1989. Tyne and Wear Omnibus Company wore a livery of a white upper, dark blue lowers, with a green and maroon double stripe, and yellow fleet names.[23][24] 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.

Welcome Passenger Services

Welcome was an independent minibus based competitor in Newcastle using red and yellow vehicles.[25] 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.[26][27][28]

100 MetroCentre Shuttle

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.

100 Shuttle was operated in a dedicated livery of the newest delivered single deck vehicles.[29][30] 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

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

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

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[31]

Environmentally friendly buses

Busways trialled early versions of technology for cleaner, quieter buses, promoted by specially liveried 'Green Machine' buses. These included a Scania N113[32] and a Leyland Lynx.[33]

PTE/ Busways in preservation

Several Busways vehicles exist in preservation, as listed below.

  • 838 RCU 838S [2]
  • 210 EJR 110W [3]
  • 268 SCN 268S [4]
  • 276 SCN 276S [5](Unrestored)
  • 111 EJR 111W [6]'111 is garaged at the Slatyford depot of Stagecoach North East.
  • 134 AVK 134V [7](Unrestored)
  • 160 AVK 160V [8](Unrestored)
  • 176 AVK 176V [9](Currently unrestored)
  • 413 JFT 413X [10]
  • 616 SVK 616G [11] (Unrestored)

See also


  1. ^ Fotopic site detailing last Busways livery
  2. ^ Fotopic Image showing the "Part of the Stagecoach Group" strap line
  3. ^ Fotopic Image of the Economic Stagecoach strap line
  4. ^ Property Week article about Byker regeneration
  5. ^ Architects Page for the new Walkergate bus depot (incorrectly named Byker)
  6. ^ Fotopic Image of a PTE liveried Olympian
  7. ^ Flickr Image of City Busways livery
  8. ^ Image of Newcastle Busways livery on a single decker
  9. ^ Flickr Image of South Shields Busways livery
  10. ^ Flickr Image of Sunderland Busways livery
  11. ^ Flickr Image of Mini Busways livery
  12. ^ Flickr Image of the original Blue Bus Services livery on a coach
  13. ^ Flickr Image of a bus in Blue Bus Services livery
  14. ^ Image of a Blue Bus Services vehicle still in Armstrong Galley Buses livery
  15. ^ Image of a Blue Bus Services vehicle still in Newcastle / City Busways livery
  16. ^ Image of Favourite livery
  17. ^ Image of Economic livery
  18. ^ Flickr Image of original TWPTE Armstrong Galley livery
  19. ^ Flickr Image of Armstrong Galley coaches livery
  20. ^ Image of a Clipper coach
  21. ^ Flickr Image of an Armstrong Galley bus
  22. ^ Flickr Image of Armstrong Galley Buses livery
  23. ^ Fotopic Image of Tyne and Wear Omnibus Company livery on a Mercedes minibus
  24. ^ Fotopic Image of Tyne and Wear Omnibus Company livery on an Iveco minibus
  25. ^ Fotopic Image of a Welcome minibus (behind a 100 shuttle)
  26. ^ Fotopic Image of a FareSaver branded Atlantean
  27. ^ Fotopic Image of a FareSaver branded Olympian
  28. ^ Fotopic Image of a FareSaver branded single-deck bus
  29. ^ Fotopic image of a 100 livery
  30. ^ Fotopic image of a 100 livery
  31. ^ Fotopic Image of a blue riband liveried bus]
  32. ^ Fotopic Image of the Scania Green Machine
  33. ^ Fotopic Image of the Lynx Green Machine

External links

  • MMC report - detailing the history of Busways
  • Bus Company purchasing records web site
  • Busways Atlantean 111 Restoration Group
  • Bristol Commercial Vehicle Enthusiasts - Busways LH and RE fleet list
  • A website detailing Busways South Shields operations
  • bus service. Heritage website