The Southampton & District Heritage Trust paid a fitting farewell to the city’s heritage of red buses on February 19, the day that Go South Coast’s Bluestar operation expanded to fill the void left by First’s withdrawal of the last of the former municipal network.
Thus ended an era that began with the Southampton Tramways Company’s horsedrawn cars in 1879, the corporation’s acquisition of the system in 1898 and its electrification in 1900. Preserved vehicles ranging from a 1951 Guy Arab III to Leyland Atlanteans built in 1970 and 1981, and a 1995 Dennis Dart were joined by a London Transport AEC/ Park Royal Routemaster with the identity it carried when operated in Southampton and one of the Solent Blue Line Bristol VRTs that challenged the council-owned operation from 1987.
They operated half-hourly on routes 9 to Shirley, 15 to Portswood and 16 to Woolston and Weston. By agreement with Bluestar, they stopped only at Pound Tree Road in the city centre and at the outer termini, an arrangement that allowed for some relatively fast running where traffic conditions permitted.