A solution to the somewhat vexing problem of having the registration for your prime bus route cancelled


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

Dorset Transit is best known as the innovative solution that was adopted by the Southern National company when their route registration for their prime Weymouth to Portland route was revoked by the Traffic Commissioner in 1996 following a period of intense and somewhat hostile competition with local independent operator Weybus.   This revocation of the right to operate on this main route at the start of the summer holiday season could have been extremely damaging to the viability of the Weymouth network.  But the penalty was imposed only on the Southern National company and this left the way open for another associated company within the then Cawlett group - Dorchester Coachways (West Dorset Coaches) - to proceed to register the route from June 1st.  This still meant three operators on the route, the third being Smiths, the Portland independent.

The new operation was given a high profile and adopted the new  Dorset Transit fleet name.  Under the able management of Henry Frier, and with benefit of his many years experience in running buses, the operations on the Portland route proved very successful with increased clock face frequencies operated by midibuses in an eyecatching new livery, supported by skilful marketing and attractive publicity.  The services continue to this day but now as part of First Bus which acquired the Cawlett group of companies in April 1999, trading originally as First Dorset Transit.  Subsequently the erstwhile Dorset Transit operations were merged into the Weymouth Metro network of First Bus (see below).

In the new bright livery of white and grey with orange roofs and stripes, the Dorset Transit services were provided by 29-seater Mercedes 709 midibuses with Carlyle bodies.  Ten of these were transferred from the Southern National fleet, and worked on the main route 1 from Weymouth to Portland.  Route 2 to Wyke Regis was normally operated by an Iveco F588 OOU and there were several Ford Transits as well.  The only big bus in Dorset Transit livery was Leyland National 2882 FDV 778V, transferred from the Atlantic Blue operation in North Devon. 

The daily express coach service to London, started originally by the Bere Regis & District  company in June 1983, and then later operated by Dorchester Coachways, was subsequently operated under the First Dorset Transit banner.   In 2002 First dispensed with booking agents for the service and relied only on on-bus issue.  This may have contributed to the demise of the service the following year, and it ceased on 22nd November.  However the operation was taken over on a daily basis from Monday 24th November 2003 by Bluebird Coaches, another long established Weymouth coach operator, and ran by them for several years.

A Dorset Transit Mercedes midibus picks up passengers at the Kings Statue departure point in Weymouth.


The map below shows the development of the Dorset Transit routes between Weymouth, Wyke Regis and Portland.


The Dorset Transit repertoire of services expanded beyond the Weymouth - Portland urban corridor to include the 101 - 104 network of rural routes eastwards from Dorchester towards Crossways, Wool and Bovington, which were greatly improved to an hourly headway (and extended to include Lulworth Cove in the route) by Dorset County Council in March 1999 using money awarded through the government's Rural Bus Subsidy Grant.  New low floor easy access Plaxton bodied Dennis Darts were dedicated to this group of routes.  These services had previously been operated by their sister company Dorchester Coachways as successor to Bere Regis & District.

Changes were in the air in however, that were to affect both Dorset Transit and Dorchester Coachways.  From 22nd April 2001 the separate existence of both identities ceased and they were incorporated into the main First Southern National operation from Weymouth depot.  The 101 - 104 network from Dorchester eastwards was improved, with better service to Broadmayne and Crossways as route 101 every hour; with a two-hourly service on route 102 to Bovington also extended to Wareham; and a two-hourly service on route 103 via Lulworth Cove to Wool, extended to the Dorset Technology Centre at the former nuclear power station site at Winfrith.

At the same time a major reorganisation of the local town and Portland services took place with the local network revised as "The Weymouth Metro", promoted by means of an underground style route map leaflet and clock face frequencies.  Dorset Transit route 1 to Southwell became the Red Line of the Metro.  The route 2 Wyke Regis service now became route 6 of the Metro. 

And then in the autumn of 2002 history repeated itself with competition returning to the Portland route with the start of operations by Sureline on Portland-Weymouth-Dorchester services.  Competition that was to last even after the Sureline operations were acquired by South West Coaches of Yeovil and Wincanton in October 2009.

Dorset Transit ticket

Mercedes 709/Carlyle 29-seater H914 WYB in 1996, nearing Fortuneswell

Dorset Transit Mercedes minibus

Dorset Transit's only big bus at the start of operations in 1996, Leyland National FDV 778V, climbs to the top of Portland

Climbing to Portland

The picture below was taken at West Stafford on the day of inauguration of the 102 / 103 group of routes
from Dorchester to Crossways, Bovington and Lulworth in March 1999. The fleet of full sized vehicles had grown
by now with several Dennis Dart / Plaxtons in Dorset Transit livery.


Dorset Transit climbing from the heathlands over the hill to East Chaldon - T828AFX again (photo by Keith Newton)
Dorset Transit climbing to East Chaldon

102_103tt   And the last picture shows my old friend the Dorset Transit manager Henry Frier with the Southern National open topper that was named after him when he retired in 1999