Bus running day celebrates Victoria Coach Station’s 90th!

Posted by Chris Graham on 17th February 2023

Mike Neale reports on the bus running day that was organised to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Victoria Coach Station, in London.

Bus running day

Bus running day: London Transport AEC RT 4779 and Royal Blue Bristol LL6B captured outside the Art Deco Victoria Coach Station during celebrations for its 90th anniversary..

On July 24th last year historic coaches were running every half-hour on route 090, from Victoria Coach Station to Hammersmith Lower Bus Station, in celebration of Victoria Bus Station’s 90th anniversary. In addition, 1980s/90s buses operated the Airbus A1 service every half-hour, via Kensington to Hammersmith Lower Bus Station.

Bus running day

A Royal Blue Bristol LL6B with Duple body in front of the Coach Station passenger entrance.

Coaches that visitors could ride on included a 1951 Bristol LL6B half-cab with Duple bodywork in Royal Blue livery (LTA 729). This was the first 30ft-long coach delivered to Royal Blue when the maximum permitted length was increased. It operated on express coach routes from Bournemouth, Plymouth and Penzance depots until 1963, when it passed through two Somerset bus operators on school runs before being sold for scrap. Fortunately, it was saved for preservation, being bought by its present owner from Maidenhead, in 1972.

Bus running day

The 1951 Royal Blue Bristol LL6B rounding the corner into Buckingham Palace Road.

Other coaches included a 1951 Bristol Greyhound LWL6B with 8ft-wide, 35-seat, full-fronted Eastern Coach Works body of Bristol Tramways (NHY 947), which spent a few years in preservation in Holland before returning to the UK in 2007. A 1951 Leyland TD5 with bodywork by JC Beadle of Dartford, in East Kent livery (FFN 446), was built on a lengthened chassis and running gear from a Leyland TD5 double-decker bus dating from 1938.

Bus running day

An AEC RT 1702 rounds Parliament Square in front of the Elizabeth Tower containing Big Ben.

A 1952 Bristol LS6G, with ECW body in Royal Blue livery (MOD 973), was one of a batch of 79 Bristol LS coaches supplied new to Western and Southern National between 1952-57; this one for express Royal Blue services operating out of Bournemouth.

An AEC RT 4779 on Route 11 in the Aldwych.

Also present was a 1947 Bristol L6B with Beadle bodywork built in 1949, which was then rebuilt in 1957, in Wilts & Dorset livery (EMW 284). This vehicle was acquired by its present owner in 1983. More modern coaches in attendance included a Leyland PLSC3/4E with Plaxton body in the white National livery supplemented by Royal Blue logos, marking the firm’s centenary year when it was new in 1980 (FDV 803V).

A 1951 Bristol Greyhound LWL6B en route to Hammersmith.

The coach station, situated in Buckingham Palace Road, opened in 1932 as the headquarters of London Coastal Coaches Ltd, a consortium of coach operators, with services to various seaside resorts. The architects were Wallis, Gilbert & Partners who also designed the Hoover Building and the Firestone Tyre Factory (the latter sadly demolished), and the Art Deco coach station building is now Grade II Listed.  

Then and now; a 1952 Royal Blue Bristol LS6G in front of its modern counterpart.

Services stopped during 1942 due to World War 2, with the building suffering some bomb damage, recommencing in 1946. Demand for coach travel increased during the 1950s, and the site was enlarged during the 1960s, now serving destinations across the UK and abroad. It became the headquarters of the newly-created National Bus Company in 1972, and the 3.3-acre site is now run by Transport for London, operating 24/7, 365 days a year, even on Christmas Day.

A 1947 Bristol L6B in Wilts & Dorset colours turning in front of an AEC RT.

The event was supported by the London Bus Museum, Thames Valley & Great Western Omnibus Trust, the London Transport Museum, TfL and Flixbus. Commemorative merchandise was on sale in the waiting area alongside historic photo displays.

An AEC RT stops to pick up some surprised tourists in Whitehall, by Parliament Square.

This feature comes from the latest issue of Old Glory, and you can benefit from a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE


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