FROM ROUTEMASTER BOURNEMOUTH TO SHAMROCK BUSES
Buses of Bournemouth (formerly Bournemouth Corporation Transport) in
conjunction with the town's museum department had preserved examples of
municipal buses and trolleybuses that had operated in the seaside town
over the years. In 1991 they were having difficulty in continuing to
fund the collection which might have led to disposal of the historic
vehicles which were stored in the Mallard Road depot of Yellow Buses.
Long established Bournemouth Passenger Transport Association (BPTA) -
who had ambition to establish an operating museum in the town - then
status and took a caretaker role in respect of the council's vehicles
as part of a combined collection with their own. It was intended that
some of the
vehicles in the collection should return to PSV condition to earn
revenue to support the collection, and for that purpose an operating
company Macvent Limited was set up. It was even suggested that the
council might consider erecting overhead on a circular route in the
town centre linking the Pier to the Square to allow operation of the
collectionís trolleybuses as a visitor attraction. Starting in 1991
Macvent operated the Town Tour on behalf of Bournemouth Transport,
using vehicles from the Heritage Collection.
Relations deteriorated and the Heritage Collection was evicted from Mallard Road depot in 1992 and moved into a hangar at Hurn Airport on the outskirts of the town. Primarily with a view to raising revenue to support the Heritage Collection in 1993 Macvent expanded its operations to run commercial bus services in Bournemouth, renaming itself BHT Buses under the fleet name Routemaster Bournemouth, and initially using ex-London Routemasters as the name suggests. Later vehicles, as routes developed, included Leyland Nationals, Fleetlines and Ailsas. Financial support came through George Watson's company Clydeside 2000 in Glasgow.
Strong competition led to financial collapse of Routemaster Bournemouth in August 1994. To maintain an operating entity for the Heritage Collection another company was quickly established: Hants & Dorset Omnibus Limited. Local operator Wilts & Dorset were not happy with that so following objections it was renamed Green Buses Limited in November and the necessary O licence was granted in December 1994. Before potentially competitive operation recommenced there was an approach from Bournemouth Transport who bought out the debenture holders and the name was changed again in March 1995 to Vintage Yellow Buses Limited. This company was controlled jointly by both Bournemouth Transport and the BPTA, and had a twofold operation, running vehicles from the Heritage Collection on tours and heritage services on behalf of Bournemouth Transport, and also operating as a low-cost unit for school contracts and the like under the fleetname Christchurch Buses on behalf of Bournemouth Transport.
With this rapprochement between Bournemouth Transport and the Heritage Collection the operational Vintage Yellow Buses fleet was moved back to Mallard Road depot whilst by 2000 the Heritage Collection had moved from Hurn Airport to a former timber merchantís yard near the town centre of Poole. Another parting of the ways came quickly and BPTA ceased its connection with Vintage Yellow Buses and the Christchurch Buses operation was merged into the main Bournemouth Transport operation. Following this a third attempt to run bus services by the Heritage Collection was incorporated in April 2001 as Dorset Heritage Transport Services Limited, trading as Shamrock Buses. In 2003 the timber merchantís site in Poole where the Heritage Collection was kept was redeveloped and the Collection moved to a unit at Newtown Business Park formerly occupied by Poole Pottery. Shamrock Buses moved to a new depot halfway between Wareham and Poole at Holton Heath in 2006, BPTA having decided that with no local authority support forthcoming and with profits from the Shamrock Buses operation as the only source of funding, it was not viable to continue to rent a building just for the Heritage Collection alone, so the Newtown site was vacated in 2007. The company name was changed to Shamrock Buses Limited in August 2007. This was a different approach to commercial operation as the Heritage Collection vehicles were not used for the services. Using a fleet of somewhat elderly but well maintained vehicles on school services and contracts, a number of conventional tendered local bus services were introduced as well.
Subsequently BPTA reluctantly abandoned their original long standing ambition of many years to establish a transport museum in Bournemouth. A changed future role envisaged vehicle ownership, custodianship and restoration but for display elsewhere. The museum fleet Collection was dispersed with some vehicles going to WHOTT (West Country Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust) at Winkleigh in Devon, whilst some other ex-Bournemouth vehicles are with Yellow Buses Devon. The trolleybuses are split between the Winkleigh site, the East Anglia Transport Museum at Carlton Colville and the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft.