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Gloucestershire’s buses in Stroud since the 1900s
The Country Dual Purpose
Otherwise known as a “semi-coach”, the country dual purpose vehicle was ideal for longer distance bus work, occasional private hires & express work, and popular throughout the British country operating industry in its time. Bristol Omnibus, known for its long haul bus services, had a number of them, from early Bristol Ls to LSs, MWs and REs. Stroud had six LS dual purpose vehicles in its time and a total of seven MWs. By the late 1960s the RELH came as replacements and it was these comfortable and powerful machines that more than any other marked out the dual purpose as special. Even with the REs, however, Stroud boasted three down- graded, coach seated B39F MW former DPs. The first Stroud RELH arrival would often see work on express services. The RELHs also doubled as private hires or for tours work. In all, there were over 40 RELH DPs in the Bristol fleet with either bus or coach shell ECW bodies and, of these, 12 were based at Stroud at one time or another. The bus as opposed to coach shell versions attracted Bus Grant at the time, because of their door width. Unlike some National Bus Company subsidiaries, the RELH DP fleet was always high floor, enabling the stowage of luggage. In addition to the REs, for a short spell up to 1980, Stroud under Bristol Omnibus also operated two Leyland Leopards with Plaxton C47F bodywork which, like the REs, were used on stage carriage and the “Pursesaver” branded Xnn limited stop services. There followed a number of Leopards and Tigers under Cheltenham & Gloucester ownership before such vehicles disappeared along with coaching activity in 1993. Today, well before the Disability Discrimination Act set new standards of access by way of ultra-low floor buses, there has been little to replace the country dual purpose vehicle. Buses are buses and coaches are coaches—as bus operators tend to stick with their core businesses. With the collapse of the excursion market and express duplicates usually provided by hired in full coaches, there simply isn’t the same need for such vehicles. In the 1970s, Bristol Omnibus operated a minimum of six dual-purpose RELH6Ls in Stroud. Although seeing a variety of duties, one was almost certainly to be on the service from Stroud to Bristol (400) with its journey length of two hours. There was also inevitably one from the Bristol (Marlborough Street depot) end, operating the second vehicle on this service. The Limited Stop 702 (later 830 and X30) to Bristol (Saturdays, via the M5) was similarly a dual-purpose. Before the introduction and subsequent scaling down of Limited Stop 7nn, 8nn and Xnn services, Stroud depot operated an extensive range of tours during the summer, all bookable through the Bus Station booking office. There were many destinations
offered, all of which saw dual-purpose RELH6L operation. It was not unknown in the 1970s high summers for three such vehicles to depart at a time for Weston-super-Mare on these excursions. Featuring slightly less bright trim than their full coach counterparts, in 1967–8, Bristol Omnibus took delivery of a batch of RELH6L ECW coach-shell dual purposes. These fine vehicles were enhanced by a so-called Bristol dome which incorporated a T-style destination and service number indicator in a T- arrangement. Generally, at any one time, three vehicles of four would be on strength at Stroud. There was also a fifth, a down-graded full coach. Sadly, none of these found their way into preservation. The best we can do to illustrate such vehicles is by using these full coach versions. AFM 103G bears Bristol Greyhound livery but, of course, was not native to the area and when new would no doubt have looked like AFM 106E. Last Throw of the Dice The creation at Stroud of the “Cotswold” coaching sub-brand alongside Cheltenham & Gloucester assuming control of Black & White was the swansong of local coaching. The small number of Cotswold vehicles included minibuses to, latterly, a Leyland Tiger. Any or all could be seen on local bus service work. The unit folded in 1993.
Whatever happened to…
Modern Dual Purposes? The introduction by Stagecoach of “Gold” standard double decks and saloons from 2016 could be said to offer a similar standard compared to the dual purposes of old. The vehicles are obviously not high floor but they do offer higher backed seats… and accoutrements never before dreamed off in the days of the DP, such as free on-board wi-fi. The deckers are fine but the MAN saloons can be a little uncomfortable when full. Cotswold Green RED & WHITE RED BUS _____
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ECW Bus shell dual purpose no. 2073  spent much of its life at Stroud Mainly at Bath, 2062 worked eight months at Stroud Two RELHs with bus shell bodywork at Minchinhampton RELH Coach-shell Dual Purposes That on the left cheekily wears Greyhound’s livery contemporary with its age