Depot to be remembered

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Leyland National PCD80R passing the depot in Western Road, Crowborough on the last operating day of the depot on May 1980. JOHN ROBERTS

An appeal has been launched for any photos and memories of a bus depot in time for an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its closure, reports Nick Larkin

The Southdown Crowborough Depot 40th Anniversary Service Run in East Sussex is set for Saturday 16 May. The event is being organised by Paul Llewellyn, owner of the last service bus to run into the depot, Leyland National PCD80R. The historic duty was performed at 2342hrs on 17 May 1980, the bus having completed a 119 journey from Lewes. In company with sister Leyland National YCD78T the bus would be taken back to Lewes depot the next day as this was to be its new home.

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Paul said: “I am running this event as tribute to the depot and the people who worked there. No surviving drivers are known but any photos or memories of the depot would be most welcome.”

Born in Crowborough, Paul was a regular visitor to the bus garage, which stood in Western Road. “I got to know everyone there and it really was an important part of my childhood. On Saturdays I would get a Wanderbus ticket and go exploring. It was very sad to see the depot closed. It was apparently down to economies under the National Company’s MAP scheme that led to closure.”

Paul worked as a driver with Southdown, based at Uckfield and Haywards Heath depots, leaving in 1989 after the company was taken over by

1967 Leyland Leopard KCD187F on service 119 at the depot March 1977. PAUL LLEWELLYN COLLECTION

Stagecoach to work for Maidstone & District. He currently drives part-time for Compass Bus.

Four Crowborough depot routes will be re-enacted for the reunion, beginning at Lewes Bus Station to at 0920hrs and continuing until 1600hrs. These are the 119 Lewes Crowborough service via Uckfield, Isfield and Fairwarp, the 129 Crowborough local service, the 139 Crowborough to Nutley, Uckfield, Isfield and Lewes and the 149 from Crowborough to Lewes via High Hurstwood, Uckfield and Isfield.

As well as PCD80R, buses expected to operate include former Southdown 1963 Leyland Leopard Marshall-bodied Leyland Leopard 273AUF, now in East Kent colours, and two former Maidstone & District vehicles: 1972 Leyland Leopard/Marshall EKL456K and 1977 Leyland National VKE566S.

In the early 1970s there were three coaches, three single-deckers and a double-decker allocated to Crowborough. From 1977 only two single deckers were based there. All seven drivers and one running shift fitter/cleaner/ fueller were made redundant when the depot closed. A housing development now stands on the site.

As well as having been the last vehicle to enter Southdown’s Crowborough depot Paul Llewellyn’s Leyland National has had a long and varied career. New to Southdown Motor Services in January 1977, its first overhaul took place at Portslade Works in 1983, and in 1986 the bus was repainted green and cream with Southdown East and Mid Sussex fleet names, to be followed by another repaint in August 1988. After the takeover of Southdown by Stagecoach, PCD80R was operated in a blue version of the striped corporate livery with Eastbourne & District fleet names, which were replaced with standard colours in 1991.

The bus then served with Stagecoach at Basingstoke before returning to Eastbourne and after a period in storage was sold to Renown Coaches of Bexhill. Wealden PSV acquired the National in July, and passed it on to a new owner who intended to use it for spares. Instead, Paul Llewellyn bought the bus in 2010 and it underwent major bodywork restoration at South East Coachworks. Last July the bus was taken back to its restorer and had Beautiful Britain advertising decals applied, as used by Southdown in the 1980s.

If you have any Crowborough depot material or for further details of the event email Paul at [email protected]

What was MAP?

PPM208G, a new to Brighton, Hove & District 1968 Bristol RE, was in use at the depot for almost a year in 1975

In the late 1970s and early 1980s services were reviewed under a process known within instigator Midland Red as the Viable Network Project and subsequently more generally across the National Bus Company as the Market Analysis Project (MAP).

Each company carefully considered its existing and potential new demands, surveyed both on and off bus, and recast local networks to reflect the results, indicating to local authorities those services requiring subsidy. As part of the MAP local area identities were invariably introduced, with new fleetnames applied to buses, bus stops, timetables and publicity. The process culminated in the splitting of several larger NBC subsidiaries.

The passage of time has possibly hidden just how significant the MAP actually was to the industry 40 years ago. The nationalised NBC, formed in 1969, owned the vast majority of major non-PTE/municipal operators across England and Wales outside London. Faced with falling passenger numbers and rising costs as the 1970s wore on, NBC needed to react to the changing circumstances. The scheme, which ran into the early 1980s, took place in conjunction with the NBC’s consultancy services operations and independent consultants Colin Buchanan and Partners. A full review of services and passenger needs was carried out, with thousands of passengers interviewed.

The initial scheme resulted in local branding across Midland Red and a model for MAP schemes across NBC. Deployment of vehicles, cross subsidy and revenue support were all covered. As a result, several of NBC’s subsidiaries such as Western National and United were split into smaller units, and many fleets introduced identities for local service areas. The Scottish Bus Group was inspired to conduct a similar scheme, Scotbus.

MAP led to mixed reactions. Supporters felt it was a necessary pruning and a push for efficiency, but some opponents believed that the project was a bus equivalent to the Beeching cuts on the railways.

Many rural services were cut, and a spate of depot closures followed including, of course, Crowborough.