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Author Topic: If we still had trolley buses - an answer for Reading General  (Read 321 times)
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« on: January 27, 2021, 12:29:30 pm »

In response to Reading General's query

As above. If a few systems remained till the point of deregulation, would they have been subject to the same conditions as all other bus routes? Or would they have had a separate situation because of their fixed path?

Had there still been a substantial trolley bus network at the time of bus deregulation, experience elsewhere indicates that this is probably what would have happened-

In the mid to late 1980s a group of treasury economists, merchant bankers, accountants from the big four practices and lawyers from the City’s “Magic Circle” law firms would have devised a plan for privatising the trolley bus industry. All the overhead wire assets would have been transferred to Wirenet PLC which would have been privatised. The buses would be transferred to TrolleyCos, owned by the banks who would lease them to new operating companies (TOCS – trolley operating companies) who would bid for time limited franchises.

In the early days these TOCs would mostly be groups of managers of the old bus companies, but within a decade First Group, Arriva and Stagecoach would own most of them, Connex having retreated back to France following bad publicity about poor performance.

What was left of the British trolley building industry would have collapsed due to a five-year hiatus in new orders during privatisation, leaving multinational German and Japanese manufacturers to fill the gap. As a token they will open assembly plants in South Wales and the North East, largely funded by EU regional aid (although their workforce will vote for Brexit in 2016).

After financial mis-management and scandals about the ever-increasing rate of poles coming off wires, Wirenet is renationalised on 11 September 2001. Its assets and the remaining assets of the National Bus Company’s residuary body (a warehouse full of old ticket machines, rolls of ticket paper, bus conductors’ uniforms; various intermediate leasehold interests in old bus stations and depots, a vast quantity of poppy red and green paint and a large pension fund) are transferred to the newly formed Network Wire publicly owned company. Its first chairman is a millionaire film director who was on the Edinburgh Student Union’s council with Gordon Brown, donated £1m to Tony Blair’s election campaign and who lived in Islington. When the coalition is elected he is replaced by a merchant banker who was Eton and Oxford with Boris and Cameron and who lives in Chipping Norton. In 2005 John Prestcott opens its new HQ, Reg Vardy House, built on part of the old Leyland National Plant in Workington.

For some unknown reason Reading Borough Council avoids nationalisation, and continues to run maroon and cream trolley busses on its number 15, 16, 17 and 18 routes until 2004, when they are rebranded “Whitley Warrior” “Northumberland Avenue Reivers” “Bear 23 Tuns” and “Kentwood Kings” and repainted in different bright colours for each route.

The new century sees a revival of interest in trolleys, now seen as a sustainable alternative to diesel. Richard Branson has a high-profile launch of his low-cost Virgin Trolley scheme (Virgin Trolley being 33% owned by National Express, 33% by Singapore Airways, 33% by HSBC and 1% by Virgin Media (BVI) SA). The buses will be staffed by glamorous “trolley dollys” and offer £5 fares from London to Edinburgh. The scheme fails to get off the ground, and the prototype Virgin trolley is believed to be rusting away in the back of the Virgin Spaceport.

In 2008 Mayor Johnson announces a London Hypertrolley running from Docklands to Henley. After the 2010 election the western end is changed to run along the hard shoulder of the M4 to junction 10 then down the A329(M) to Cemetery Junction in Reading. The project goes way over budget and timescale. Currently though you can use it to get from Cemetery Junction to Victoria Coach Station, while dozens of new trolleys lie idle at the newly rebuilt Willesden Bus garage. Mayor Kahn avoids any interviews on the project.

Ever tougher franchise terms mean that by 2019 it is difficult to find bidders for the franchises which come up for renewal. The Covid pandemic is the final blow, and in 2020 Network Wire takes over control and awards management contracts to First, Stagecoach and Arriva.

Trolleys do of course feature regularly in the “Buses and other ways of travel” board in the Coffee Shop. Long running threads include complaints about hard seats and lack of catering on Hitachi’s new generation trolleys, problems with Mayor Rees’s Bristol Super Trolley disrupting its cycle way network and discussions as to whether Go-op’s proposals for a new trolley link between Royal Wootton Basset and Dilton Marsh are viable.
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« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2021, 06:56:14 am »

Five start review.

Did we have this creativity in the Forum before lockdown?
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