Buses that pass in the night

PUBLISHED: 12:52 01 September 2006 | UPDATED: 22:10 28 May 2010

There is only one thing more boring than a train spotter and that s a bus spotter. Not surprisingly Fenland is some sort of Mecca for bus spotters. After all, it s where old buses come to die. Readers in Wisbech and March must be patient for a moment, but

There is only one thing more boring than a train spotter and that's a bus spotter.

Not surprisingly Fenland is some sort of Mecca for bus spotters. After all, it's where old buses come to die.

Readers in Wisbech and March must be patient for a moment, but so far as Whittlesey is concerned, it's quite exciting.

For 83 years, the local family firm of Morleys ran the 701 service to Peterborough, using a selection of third-hand old crates it bought from Scotland and apparently drove down the A1 in second gear.

That accounted for their distinctive noise and look (Morleys didn't spend a lot on paint) and also their fascination for bus spotters.

There were few other places in Britain where you could see such elderly vehicles - scrap heaps excepted.

Last November, Morleys sold out to a Northamptonshire firm, Alec Head. It spent a lot of money on light blue and white paint, but its buses did tend to break down.

Then, quite suddenly during August, Alec Head's buses didn't appear.

People stood and waited at bus stops. One source said the drivers had been phoned the night before and told not to turn up for work. They were being laid off.

I rang Alec Head's number to ask the truth. The lady who answered didn't like journalists.

"No comment," she said. "Print what you like." She put the phone down.

Since the Traffic Commissioners who police local bus services allowed them to stop at short notice, something serious must have gone wrong.

Anyway, Cavalier Travel stepped into the breach and improved its March-Peterborough service to provide buses every 20 minutes between Whittlesey and Peterborough.

Then Manea-based Judd Travel started providing a rival hourly service. Cavalier has replied by buying two brand new low-loaders, the sort of buses on to which you can wheel a buggy straight from the pavement.

If only old Fenlanders would claim (and use) their now useful bus passes and folk actually use the March to Downham Market 'Fenland Connections' service, we might end up with a desirable public transport system.

Meanwhile Judd Travel (also known as Emblings) continues to entertain bus spotters with its veteran fleet.

I've only just noticed many of its buses have names: Amelia, Celine, Deirdre, Yasmin.

I must be turning into a spotter.

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