Eastbourne breaks world record with bus service

Eastbourne depot staff and the classic buses.
Eastbourne depot staff and the classic buses.

The local bus company is celebrating Eastbourne’s place in the Guinness Book of World Records as Friday April 12 marks the 110th anniversary of the world’s first ever municipal bus service.

Eastbourne’s pioneering bus service started on April 12 1903 and ran between the railway station and Meads. Today, that service is known as route 3 and is run by Stagecoach which took over operation of Eastbourne Buses in 2008.

To celebrate the anniversary, Stagecoach has painted a modern bus in the vintage Eastbourne Buses livery and has also restored a classic 1950 AEC Regal single decker and a 1967 Leyland PD2 double decker which will be on display at Eastbourne Carnival next month.

Paul Southgate, managing director of Stagecoach in East Sussex, said, “Eastbourne is recognised for its historic and pioneering role in the development of our national public transport system. As well as celebrating the history of buses in Eastbourne, we are also looking forward to the future and can announce that we will soon be investing £1.3million in brand new vehicles to improve services for local residents.”

Among those helping in the celebrations are long-serving Eastbourne depot staff who have worked a combined total of 110 years. They include Ian Stringer, assistant engineering manager, Peter Cooper, engineer, driver Nigel Hollands and Richard Pells, a controller.

Eastbourne holds a very special place in the history of bus transport because its corporation was the first municipality in the world to receive consent for a motor bus service. Their first vehicle, a 14-seat Milnes Daimler, operated in April 1903, which was even before the days of registration number plates.

The town’s bus service, later known as Eastbourne Buses, exceeded 100 years of continuous operation before its takeover by Stagecoach in 2009, and certainly operated a wide variety of interesting vehicles around the resort, ranging from Clarkson steam buses and open-top De Dion Boutons to ‘gearless’ Leyland Titans.

There then followed a steady stream of Leyland products through the 1930s, building a fleet which was sadly to suffer so heavily from the ravages of enemy action, as the town took a heavy toll in the ‘hit and run’ raids that the German air force inflicted on south coast towns during World War II.

Stagecoach South East headquarters are in Canterbury and the company currently runs nearly 440 buses, employs more than 1,200 staff and carries more than 45.4 million passengers per year.