BCV 40 years on

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Forty years after the closure of Bristol Commercial Vehicles, Martin Curtis considers the legacy of this influential bus builder and reflects on bus industry development over its 75 year existence

It is 40 years since the demise of Bristol Commercial Vehicles, one of Britain’s leading bus and coach manufacturers whose products could be found in almost every corner of the UK – with further examples abroad. The company was responsible for a number of revolutionary design features which shaped bus manufacturing for decades to come and still influence aspects of several manufacturers’ products. Working closely with Eastern Coach Works of Lowestoft, which itself closed a few years later, distinctive and functional vehicles were turned out by a highly skilled and motivated workforce, who enjoyed a close working relationship with operators.

All change!

The early 1980s were a period of considerable change for the coach and bus industry. Margaret Thatcher had become Prime Minister in 1979 and would remain for 11 years. During her premiership, not only British transport, but many manufacturing industries generally would decline or undergo enormous change.

In 1980, coach services were deregulated following fifty years of controls over express services, excursions and tours. It would be followed by further proposals to restructure bus services, reduce subsidies, and review efficiencies. By 1983, the state-owned National Bus Company had commenced a process of dividing its operating subsidiaries (which in due course would lead to the process of company sell-offs) while also ridding itself of its share of Bus Manufacturers (Holdings) Ltd, through which it maintained half ownership of Bristol Commercial Vehicles. This effectively released NBC from any future obligation to buy Bristol vehicles.


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