Southend Corporation Transport
Buses 1932-53
This page has been adapted from Richard Delahoy's book, Southend Corporation Transport, Trams, Trackless and Buses. Copyright Richard Delahoy 1986.
This short history is split into five parts, Trams 1900-42, Early Buses 1914-16,
Trolleybuses 1925-54, Buses 1932-1953 and Co-Ordination 1954-55
Further details .Click here for details of the Southend Bus Fleet from 1931 up to the end of the sixties.
T he uncertainty hanging over the future of the tramway in the late 1920's and the vast improvement in reliability of motor buses since the Corporation's unfortunate experience of 1914-6 led the Council to consider reintroducing bus services to supplement the trackless operations. The initial plan in the mid 1920's was for a fleet of 14 seat buses working to a frequent headway, but those plans did not meet with the approval of the full Council. It was not until late in 1930 that an order was finally placed, for seven AEC Regals with 30 seat, dual door, bodies by English Electric. They were delivered in 1931 with fleet numbers 150-6. Meanwhile consideration was given to the route that they were to operate, but the hapless Corporation had failed to appreciate the full significance of the new Road Traffic Act of 1930. This had established a national system of service licensing for bus services (but not trolleybuses, which were under the direct control of the Minister of Transport) administered by regional Traffic Commissioners, replacing the former haphazard licensing by local authorities (which in Southend was controlled by the Watch Committee, who were not always known for their impartiality in such matters!).
T he upshot was that Southend's application for a licence to run a service from Leigh, Walker Drive to Southchurch Park was refused because of opposition from the established private bus operators; the buses therefore had to be stored. An application was then made for a shorter route, from Alexandra Road to the Park, but only the section from Seaway to the Park was authorised. However on June 14th 1932 the Minister finally allowed the Corporation's appeal against the Commissioners' decision and the service duly commenced on July 5th, from Prittlewell Square/Alexandra Road (near the Bandstand on the Cliffs), via Heygate Avenue, York Road, Ambleside Drive and Kensington Road to a terminus in Shaftesbury Avenue at the entrance to Southchurch Park, a few yards from the sea front.
M eanwhile the Council had reluctantly to accept that further bus routes could only be introduced with the consent of the private operators and as a result a territorial agreement was negotiated with the three principal companies; the east of the town becoming the Corporation zone and the west the companies'. Southend purchased a number of company services - Westcliff MS 14 to Sutton; Edwards Hall Motors A to Prittlewell Chase and B & C to Southchurch (these three being transferred to Westcliff first); and the Borough Services Eastwood route - with effect from January 1st, 1933. The recently introduced Fairfax Drive and North Avenue trolleybus routes and other company routes effectively covered all but the 14, which was replaced by a new Corporation bus route from Central (LMS) Station to Sutton Cemetery via Sutton Road from January 1st, 1933. As part of the agreement, 12 company buses were purchased by the Corporation but were then immediately resold back to the companies.
A period of relative stability followed. The Southchurch Park route was withdrawn for the winter of 1933/4 but was then increased from every 30 minutes to a quarter hourly frequency for the summer of 1934. The Sutton route generally ran every 15 minutes (every 10 minutes on Saturday and Sunday afternoons) and was extended through Southend to a summer terminus at the Pier (Sunken Gardens, now the site of Peter Pans Playground) from May 18th, 1934; in winter, buses terminated at the top of Pier Hill. A third route was added from December 1st 1934 from Victoria Circus to the Plough at Westcliff, via the Sutton route and East and West Streets; it was later extended to the LMS station, and Pier Hill top in summer. It is interesting to note that the Plough service exactly followed a large part of one of the routes which had been proposed in 1913/4. Authority was received in July 1935 to amend the Southchurch Park route to run from York Road into Leamington Road (away from East station) and Woodgrange Drive to Lifstan Way, terminating at its junction with Northumberland Crescent, but during the following year it was extended to the sea front at Bryant Avenue.
I n 1937 after protracted negotiations with Westcliff MS a licence was granted for a new route, Central (LMS) Station to Shoebury Common (Ness Road) via Pier Hill and the sea front. This duplicated the seafront tramway from the Kursaal to Thorpe Bay Corner but then continued on for a mile to Shoebury beach. The Corporation had intended to continue right into Shoebury itself (for which trolleybus powers were held) but Westcliff successfully blocked this as they already served Shoebury by inland routes. Southend now found themselves in the opposite position to that which they had suffered in 1931, as the Shoebury licence was granted in March but they had no spare buses and the service could not start until September 9th, when four more buses (AEC Regents 157-60) had been delivered!
T he arrival of a further seven AEC Regents in 1938 enabled the boulevard trams to be replaced on July 7th by a bus service from Southend to Thorpe Bay via Southchurch. The circular tour from the Kursaal was also replaced by buses for the remainder of the 1938 season, with the buses working in both directions in contrast to the trams which had always operated anti-clockwise only (due to the lack of a north to east curve at the junction of Southchurch Avenue and Road). Other revisions in the late thirties saw the Sutton service diverted via Bournemouth Park Road (instead of Sutton Road, which was still served by the Plough route) from 9/9/37 and in 1938 the Plough and Southchurch Park routes were combined, except during the summer months, leaving the Alexandra Road terminus at the bandstand unserved for most of the year.
E xpansion was to come in 1942 in the final stage of the closure of the tramway, but only after a battle with the Regional Transport Commissioner, Sir Haviland Hiley. A temporary service from Warrior Square to Southchurch started on January 8th to permit the tramway east of Southchurch Avenue to be closed and the materials reclaimed for use on the trolleybus extensions. On April 9th this service was revised to run from Southchurch through to Leigh following the complete closure of the tramway. In March 1944 the Corporation successfully persuaded the Commissioner to permit integration of the Leigh to Southchurch (White Horse) and Southend to Thorpe Bay and Southchurch Park routes, with the latter being extended along the sea front to Thorpe Bay.
T his allowed the introduction of two basic services from April 3rd: Leigh Church - Victoria Circus and then to Thorpe Bay Corner via either Southchurch and the boulevards or via Woodgrange Drive, Lifstan Way and the sea front (to some extent re-inventing the pre 1938 tram services!). Permission was also given to divert some buses on the Sutton route to Priory Crescent instead of the Cemetery, to serve the important Ekco factory near Cuckoo Corner, one of the town's biggest employers. The new terminus was on the eastern edge of Priory Park and therefore still some distance from the works, but it was not until October 1946 that Southend were able to extend the service right to the factory gates. From October 7th 1946 a further Ekco Works Service also commenced, from Chalkwell Schools, via the Fairfax Drive trolleybus route.
T he post war years were dominated by the attempts to co-ordinate the municipal and company operations, as will be explained shortly. However the Corporation was able to introduce three routes to serve new housing in their eastern zone. Firstly, from June 3rd 1948 a route was introduced to Hamstel Road top from Central Station, via Bournemouth Park Road and Eastern Avenue; the second route started on May 10th 1951 as a summer only service along Hamstel Road and Lifstan Way to terminate at Bryant Avenue; after coordination this was linked up with the ex Westcliff sea front routes and was operated by open toppers. Finally from 21st June 1953 the 64 started, connecting the Newington Avenue estate to Central Station via Southchurch Road.
I t is worth recording that route numbers finally came into general use around 1949. The 1944 decision to use the series from 50 upwards was not followed completely, but those below were chosen to fit in with Westcliff's numbers. Most of the numbers have already been mentioned in the text, or will be shortly. Those not mentioned elsewhere are:

61 Central Station - Sutton Cemetery
61A Central Station - Priory Crescent
61B Central Station - Eastern Avenue (Hamstel Road)
61C Central Station - Cuckoo Corner (Ekco Works)
62 Central Station - Plough.
(The Bryant Avenue summer service and the works service from Chalkwell Schools to the Ekco were not numbered until about the time of the co-ordination agreement).
A fter the problems of the early thirties it became obvious that the public of Southend would never be able to benefit from a truly efficient transport system unless the company and Corporation operations could in some way be co-ordinated. Westcliff-on-Sea Motor Services (WMS) was the dominant private operator and had acquired a number of the smaller company operators; in turn WMS came under the control of the Tilling empire at the end of 1934. Tilling's forceful Managing Director J F Heaton lost no time in trying to expand Westcliff's sphere of operations and in July 1935 he came to Southend to address the Transport Committee. He had to contend with municipal pride and his plans, which effectively amounted to a merger, were not acceptable. Attempts over the next few years to achieve some measure of joint working never succeeded until serious negotiations took place in the latter part of the war. The result was that by the end of 1945 an agreement had been reached for a co-ordination scheme between Westcliff, Southend (each of whom would run 45.9% of the mileage) and Eastern National (8.2%), covering an area bounded by Canvey, Vange and Wickford. As noted in the previous section, this would have included company operation of trolleybuses.
I n July 1946, following a public enquiry, the Regional Transport Commissioner gave the Corporation powers to operate beyond the town boundary, in conformity with the proposed agreement. This brought forth an immediate and very hostile reaction from the excluded operators - City Coach Company and the Bridge family Benfleet and Canvey companies. No acceptable basis could be found to include these companies and the whole scheme foundered.
I n an attempt to salvage something, WMS and the Corporation discussed a much more limited plan to link the municipal Leigh to Thorpe Bay services with the WMS 20A, then running from Highlands Boulevard to Leigh Station (originally a Thundersley, Hadleigh & District operation). This was agreed quite quickly and joint operation began on October 1st, 1947, although WMS were very much the junior partner, with only one bus (two in the peaks).
T he basic services following the 1947 coordination were numbered 25A and 25B, Highlands Boulevard and Thorpe Bay Corner via Leigh, Southend and then Southchurch and Bournes Green (A) or Woodgrange Drive, Lifstan Way and the sea front (B). Victoria Circus to Leigh/Highlands shorts were plain 25, whilst the C denoted Lifstan Way to Leigh workings. 25D was also used at times for Victoria Circus - Lifstan Way journeys. Confused?
A basic 5 minute headway was provided on the trunk Southend to Leigh Church section, even on Sundays. Buses on the through workings generally operated as a circular from Highlands, out to Thorpe Bay as a A and back as a B, or vice versa, a run of 1 hour 23 minutes.
A ttention then turned to the Southend to Shoebury routes. The Corporation ran from Central (LMS) Station to Shoebury Common via the seafront and they wanted to extend at both ends - to Victoria (LNER) station and to the Cambridge Hotel in Shoebury. The WMS 5 served these points but via a completely different route (Southchurch Road, Bournes Green and North Shoebury). Consequently the co-ordination here was limited to inter-availability of return tickets and a pooling of revenue, which was split according to the mileage run by each operator. WMS did not object to the route extension, and in return Southend permitted Westcliff to charge normal fares throughout their route; other services along Southchurch Road and on the London Road as far as Chalkwell Schools (except the joint 25 group) had a 3d protective fare which dated back to tramway days. This scheme came into effect from December 7th 1949.
A fter this 1949 agreement with Westcliff, the through Victoria Circus to Shoebury (Cambridge Hotel) Corporation service was designated 5A but 5B was retained for short workings to/from Central (LMS) Station. At one time there were complaints that some buses displayed '5B Shoebury Common' but then turned short at Thorpe Bay, passengers having to wait for the next bus and pay a second fare!

Further details .

Click here for details of the Southend Bus Fleet from 1931 up to the end of the sixties.
Continue with Part 5, Co-Ordination 1954-55

Click for full size photo Many thanks to Richard Delahoy for his kind permission to include textual extracts from his book in this site.

©1986-2007 Richard Delahoy and ©1961-2007 SCT61 Pages. All Rights Reserved.

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