The end of permissive licencing for local bus services in Great Britain


Please note - this is a site of historical record and does not contain current service information

In these pages we have often made reference to the 'deregulation of buses'. From 1931 until 1986 buses operated under a permissive system of road service licencing administered by area Traffic Commissioners around Great Britain. Such licences for individual services protected the established operator from unwarranted competition and abstraction along their licenced routes.

This changed from 26 October 1986 (by legislation from the Transport Act of 1985 brought in by Margaret Thatcher's government) when bus routes were opened to competition from any other operator. Services now needed to be simply notified to the Traffic Commissioner under a new system called 'route registration' rather than seeking permission through licencing as before. In many parts of the country such competitive routes were soon introduced, some short-lived and some longer lasting. Over the years since things have in many cases settled down with little remaining on the street competition these days - but still vigorously pursued in some of our towns and cities (eg Oxford, Bournemouth, Swindon).

Sorting through old papers recently we found copies of some of the original route registration documents submitted to the Traffic Commissioner at that time, setting out the timetables that would be operated commercially going forward.  The opportunity then arose for the local county council to 'buy back' and financially support any routes or journeys that were considered by them to be neessary and that operators had not indicated they would provide at their own business risk.  Illustrated below are some of the copies of timetables that we have recently rediscovered.

BERE REGIS COACHES (Dorchester, Dorset)

A clever combination of the best three of their routes, Bovington, Crossways and Charminster.

Bere Regis timetable 1986

PEARCE DARCH AND WILCOX ('Comfy-Lux', Cattistock, Dorset)

A basic service on the best shopping and market days for the two routes, Cattistock and Sydling to Dorchester.

Cattitstock to Dorchester timetable 1986
Sydling to Dorchester timetable 1986

SAFEWAY SERVICES (South Petherton, Somerset)

A contrast to the two operators above, with virtually the entire pre-existing service registered on both routes, Crewkerne and South Petherton to Yeovil.

Crewkerne to Yeovil timetable 1986
  South Petherton to Yeovil timetable 1986