Matt Harrison | Mar 15, 2021 | 3
5 things I’ve learnt from #AYearOfBuses
That’s it! We’ve almost completed one whole year of #AYearOfBuses. There’s only one day to go.
365 days, 365 bus routes – granted, not all of them still around any longer – but regardless, we’ve come to the end of a meandering path across all four corners of the UK charting some of the greatest, quirkiest, most scenic bus routes our country has to offer.
#AYearOfBuses was a fascinating exercise to undertake – and I’ve learnt so much about the wheels which make our country turn whilst going through this process. I thought I’d get some of the things I’ve learnt down on paper, ready to share with you all today.
Bus routes should be marketed as tourist attractions.
Almost every bus route we’ve featured (outside of London – and some within) are examples of stunningly scenic bus routes, taking in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, coastal vistas and mountainous hikes. See Stagecoach’s 555 (day 5), Coastliner 843 (day 143), Devon’s 165 (day 165) and Loch Lomond’s 309 (day 309).
Many of Britain’s most scenic routes, though tourist attractions in their own right, are often undersold. We should be shouting about these bus routes – and shouting loudly. Yet bus operators seem almost unwilling at times to shout about the view from the top deck. Why?
And then, there’s the opposite end of the spectrum. A lack of green fields en-route hasn’t stopped some of the more ballsy bus operators claiming their routes as tourist attractions – none more cheekily than Birmingham’s Outer Circle (day 11).
Bus routes change frequently. All the time.
The UK bus market is turbulent. So much so, that some of the routes we’ve featured already this year have become – in some cases – unexpected casualties.
Some have changed hands – see former bendybus route 135, which became part of Go North West after the sale of Manchester’s Queen’s Road depot to First (day 135).
Writing one article about the same subject every day is hard.
Don’t get me wrong, this has been one fantastically rewarding journey on a personal level, but the temptation to throw in the towel has been immense at times. At the beginning of this process, we set out with good intentions to write several articles at a time (usually on a Sunday afternoon), ready to schedule for the week ahead.
That all fell to pieces rather quickly, and once you fall behind, the rot sets in. You’re living day to day, often leaving the writing until the last minute (notice how most articles after around May were posted post-9pm? There have been some real shoehorned routes, too). And when you’re devoid of inspiration, struggling to find a route to feature that day, the temptation to pack it all in is high.
Taking on a ‘do something everyday’ challenge takes time, effort, endurance and willpower – and I applaud anybody who sets out on a similar journey.
The UK bus industry is full of fantastic people running buses to fantastic places.
Wow, this one is true. Many of the very best bus routes we’ve featured aren’t those being run by mega-corporations using a fleet of two hundred state-of-the-art double deckers, but those being run on a shoestring by community groups, volunteers and people who quite simply, live for the cause. See the Wensleydale Voyager (day 156), the X19 (day 119), Devon’s 177 (day 177), the 352 (day 352), and others.
Of course, there are plenty of bus routes which are run by large bus companies employing fantastic people, too – we’ve featured hundreds of them.
And there are one or two routes we’ve featured which exist not only to keep the spirit of nostalgia alive and well, but to raise money for good causes in the process of doing so. See the 23A (day 23) and the X55 (day 55).
We couldn’t have done any of this without you.
Speaking of fantastic people – we literally could not have completed #AYearOfBuses without you. You have offered in droves your photos, ideas, suggestions, fact-checking services, nostalgia, memories, experience and expertise – and it’s only through sharing your knowledge that we have been able to compile this list.
Special thanks to Mark Lyons, Andi North, Ray Stenning, Andrew Garnett, Daniel Wright, Andrew Wickham, Matt Kitchin, Stuart Vallantine and many, many others, all of whom provided ideas a-plenty during the early days and throughout our series, and thank you to everybody else who sent in their info.
So there it is. The end. If you’ve stuck with us over the last 365 days, thank you.
We really couldn’t have done it without you.