Doncaster delights

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The open day featured a line up of heritage liveries from across South Yorkshire. FIRST











Over the Jubilee weekend, First South Yorkshire held an open day at its Doncaster depot to mark 120 years of buses in the South Yorkshire city

The Platinum Jubilee weekend was a time for many celebrations in Doncaster. Besides the Jubilee itself, the town was one of seven awarded city status as part of the Jubilee celebrations. An integral part of the new city’s lifeblood is its transport network, of which a large part is currently operated by First South Yorkshire under the new ‘Doncaster’s Red Buses’ brand and using a livery which harks back to the red and purple used by Doncaster Transport in the 1970s; the original version was designed by students at Doncaster Art College, whilst its 2020s equivalent is a take on the standard First Bus design in local colours.

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First South Yorkshire Managing Director Nigel Eggleton explained: “It’s a pleasure to be celebrating two milestones – 120 years of buses in Doncaster and, of course, HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. I was fascinated to see an old image of a Doncaster bus specially decorated for George V’s silver jubilee – and we’ve spruced up a more modern vehicle for this occasion.

“Buses in Doncaster have been through many changes since introduction, replacing trams and trolleybuses and with many identities – from Doncaster Transport, SYPTE, Mainline and First Bus. Of course, the one thing that’s united all of these is the dedicated team of drivers, engineers and others behind the scenes committed to keeping the people of Doncaster moving.

“I’m proud to be leading our Doncaster team at a time of great change and innovation within the bus industry. We’ve recently started rolling out our new local brand – Doncaster’s Red Buses – and are leading the way with new payment systems such as tap & cap. Our Leger Way depot open day is a great opportunity to throw open the doors and show what goes on when they’re usually closed. From depot tours to bus wash trips, I’m sure it will give an insight into our world – whilst having a bit of fun, too.”

The new brand for Doncaster. FIRST












Trams first appeared in Doncaster streets on 2 June 1902, at which time the town was already changing from a small market town to a centre of industrial importance thanks to the coming of the railway. Services used 15 trams, initially open top but fitted with roofs in 1915.
The route was gradually extended, but by the end of the First World War much of the system had come into disrepair and as elsewhere, faced increased competition from motor buses.

Trolleybuses replaced all bar one tram route by 1931, the last making the change in 1935. The Bentley route was the first to move to trolleybus operaton in 1928, and also the first to be converted to motor bus operation in 1955. The last trolleybus ran on 14 December 1963.
Doncaster’s bus depot was opened in 1938, originally using two former WWI Royal Flying Corps aircraft hangers, which formed part of the depot until their demolition in the late 1970s. A new maintenance facility was built and opened in 1984, with part of the old depot being demolished in 1993 to make way for a Wickes DIY store. At the same time, what had been known as Leicester Avenue depot was renamed Leger Way.

The network had expanded after the end of the Second World War to serve new housing estates along with schools and works services. Deliveries of new buses included the products of AEC, Daimler and Leyland with bodies by Roe of Leeds. The first rear-engined buses were Daimler Fleetlines, still with Roe bodywork, which were delivered in September 1967.

Besides the 1970s Seddon minibuses, which operated local routes including a shuttle linking the town’s two bus stations with the town centre and railway station, an unusual member of the fleet in days gone was the ‘corporation coach’ available to the Doncaster Transport Committee. The bus was not for use by the general public, and was a Leyland Cheetah with 16-seat Roe body, equipped with armchairs, sofa and a boardroom table. New in 1939, the bus remained in use until 1954.









The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) was formed in April 1974 and merged the operations in Doncaster with Rotherham Corporation and Sheffield City Transport. A new coffee and cream identity took hold, and the PTE championed low fares. These were based on the fares charged in Doncaster at the formation, and would remain unchanged for the next 12 years.

Towards the end of the 1970s, after trials with different types, the PTE started buying the Dennis Dominators for which it was well-known, the first of which went into service in Doncaster in 1981.

In 1985 the PTE chose to trial a new trolleybus in Doncaster in a joint venture with GEC and Balfour Beatty, using a mile of overhead wiring located across from the depot and a bus based on the Dennis Dominator. Despite testing, the project didn’t gain a foothold and was brought to an end after a number of months.

The highs and lows of deregulation saw the arrival of a large fleet of ‘Little Nippers’-branded Renault minibuses introduced in 1987 to try and win passengers back by serving estates where bigger buses wouldn’t fit.

Towards the end of the 1980s, the Mainline era began, initially as a way of denoting high-frequency routes with brightly-liveried buses. Mainline went on to become the operating name for the whole network, and privatisation in 1993 initially meant a management buy-out. Although Stagecoach took a 20% stake in the company, First would ultimately take control of Mainline in 1998, gradually adopting its own corporate identity for the business.

In June 2006 a new interchange opened on what had been the site of the North bus station, bringing all services into one location, the old South bus station closing at the same time, whilst more recent years have seen the return to local identities with First’s Sheffield and Doncaster liveries, along with a yet to be fully revealed red and yellow scheme reminiscent of the Mainline era for the X78 which links the two cities via Rotherham.

Afternoon tea aboard one of the refurbished X78 double-deckers. FIRST












Despite the rather dreary and wet weather, the open day at Leger Way proved a success, following a similar format to last year’s event at Sheffield’s Olive Grove depot. A very respectable £7,000 was raised for local charity St Johns Hospice, and visitors were able to enjoy afternoon tea on board two X78 buses, laid out with table cloths and decorated with Union Jacks. A depot engineering tour was also reportedly very popular along with the driving experience, both selling out in the first hour when the gates opened.

Hospice fundraiser Lindsey Richards from Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust thanked the team for their hard work: “Thank you for your magnificent support, from everyone at St John’s. The pandemic has really hit our fundraising activities very hard, and we’re only just starting to recover, so this fantastic donation from First Bus in Doncaster means so much to us. It will help to pay for extra comforts for our patients to make life a little easier for them as they go through a very difficult time.”

Somewhat more unusual was this converted American school bus, now a snack stall. FIRST