1980sCountry bus services in the 80s were dominated by three major events—privatisation, deregulation and MAP. The outworkings of the Market Analysis Projects (MAP) in all Bristol Omnibus operating areas stimulated the major changes of the early 1980s. The Bristol Omnibus MAP-inspired changes were first seen in October 1980 in Bath, with Gloucestershire country services and those in north Avon together being the third of the Company’s projects, introduced in July 1981, with Gloucestershire County Council contributing to and supported the Company’s Market Analysis Project.Following MAP, departures from Stroud were at 48 per cent of their 1960 levels, with few routes escaping some withdrawals. For example, services to Ruscombe, Randwick and on the edge of Ebley’s Foxmoor Lane, all via Cashes Green estate, were withdrawn or reduced drastically, as BOC concentrated on the estate itself, with an even, half-hourly service rather than to the villages beyond, where there were far fewer passengers. Only the 421, 564 and 556 saw any Sunday working. With fewer vehicles actually needed but the same number of passengers to be carried, MAP called for more flexibility in terms of seating capacity. To cope with loadings on some of the revised routes, double decks were back in demand and Stroud’s new VRs were delivered from August 1981. A total of six Bristol VRT3SLs joined Stroud’s one remaining double deck, also a VR. However, there was a short spell of dual-door City fleet VR operation pending the full delivery. The welcome reintroduction of deckers and the need for 50 seat saloons spelt the end of the B43F single deck Bristol LH6Ls introduced in Stroud from only 1975. At MAP, Stroud’s bus fleet reduced from 52 to 37. However, the ‘low point’ came two years later. Changes on 10 April 1983 saw the withdrawal of six RELLs at Stroud, the last of the flat-fronted examples, although two of these subsequently saw further National Bus Company service with the Potteries Motor Traction subsidiary. On a more positive note, between early 1982 and 1986, the limited stop Xnn network of services was strengthened from Stroud. One such was the X68 Stroud – Gloucester – Stratford upon Avon. Another, from April 1983, was the X26 Cheltenham – Gloucester – Stroud – Nailsworth – Bath service, which was only withdrawn in 2001. From 1982, there was a flourish in evening service activity for a few years until the closure of the bingo hall, including routes whose evening departures had previously been withdrawn. Buses left at around 2130 which followed the finishing time at Mecca Bingo, London Road.
As the bus industry geared up for deregulation in 1986, it saw another reappraisal of its operations which manifested itself in the 1986 network which, for a number of significant reasons, was introduced five months early. Meanwhile, it was in September 1983 that the “Bristol” name on Stroud’s buses was replaced with a local identity of “Stroud Valleys”, following the split from Bristol Omnibus in September that year of the Northern Division operations of Stroud, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Swindon. 34 vehicles at Stroud passed to the new operating company, retaining their green livery. They including seven double decks and two minibuses. This compared to a strength of 51 (six of which were deckers) in 1978. The new company, the Cheltenham and Gloucester Omnibus Company Ltd, had little immediate effect on operations. One year after the split, local management simplified the route number structure at Stroud, reverting to two digits rather than the traditional 4nn numbers. The company was privatised in 1986 having been sold to its management. It was at this point that Stroud’s buses adopted a darker green with a voguish mustard flash. Throughout the 1980s, as REs were progressively withdrawn, so came more Leyland Nationals and National 2s, now second hand. Stroud saw a number of short 10m Nationals, both 10135s and “B” series examples and the depot would eventually see Olympians, some of which continued in service to the early-2010s, for peak loadings at school times and also often to and from Gloucester and Cheltenham.
Those who wish to have a thorough understanding of Stroud’s bus history should seek out the book “Stroud’s Buses” by N P Daniels. Over 279 pages, it gives a comprehensive & illustrated history