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This page is where I air my opinions, normally about buses. If some of them appear long-winded, it's probably because I AM long-winded. Agree or disagree, that's up to you. If you wish to comment on anything I say or if you have an opinion about any bus related matter, just send an e-mail expressing your views.



Does It Matter What a Bus Looks Like?



Comments

Peter Horrex, UK writes -"I have just read your latest page about bus liveries....."

Robert Tarling, UK writes -"Firstly, let me congratulate you on a very interesting....."

What prompts me to write this article is the prolifery of unsuitible bus liveries. Liveries which would be better placed on goods vehicles, or even on sweet wrappers (candy wrappers if you're American) than on buses. Liveries which are unsympathetic to the eye, and to the design of the bus bodies which are afflicted by them. Piccadilly Circus camouflage, clothes-boutique pinks and other highly fashionable colours, diagonal stripes reminicent of World War I battleships, are all finding their way onto our buses at the expense of good, tried and tested, elegant, dignified, familiar and much loved traditional liveries. The problem varies in degree around the world but here I will only comment on the situation in Norway and Great Britain. In the worst cases, unsuitable bus liveries are a source of visual pollution in towns and even worse out in the countryside.

The outward appearance of a bus can affect a bus-driver's pride in his or her job, it can
1967 Volvo/Larvik
NSB Volvo B58 of 1967 vintage. If the fronts of buses were a little overcrowded in those days, the exact opposite can be said now. The inclusion of the old NSB logo would do much to brighten up the fronts of today's NSB fleet.
affect how the driver thinks the rest of the world perceives him. From my experience as a bus driver and as a bus passenger, I believe it can affect how passengers perceive the level of service they are getting from the bus-operator. The passengers can either be made to feel like VIP's being chauffeured in an oversized limousine to their destination, or like livestock being freighted in a truck to market.

The livery on a town's buses was often the most visible sign that you were in a particular town, and this was often a source of great pride for the townsfolk. With local bus services being taken over by privately owned companies, there has been a tendency for buses to become an outward display their owners' corporate identity instead of a town's civic pride, with the same livery being used wherever the company in question operates, without any regard for town or country adaptations, and losing all sense of identity with the communities they serve.

I will begin with Norway. From what I have seen of bus liveries in other towns and cities in Norway, the situation in the Stavanger area generally reflects the situation in the country as a whole. I am happy to say that Norwegian bus companies have more or less held onto the traditional bus liveries. The traditional Norwegian bus liveries often reflect the colours of the houses, with reds, whites, creams, blues and yellows much in evidence. Not the greens which were so popular in the UK.

My main criticism of Norwegian liveries now, is that they have become over simplified. For
Some logos are just not made to be placed on buses.
Modern logos may look great on the company's letterhead, but not on the fronts of the buses, as on this SOT Renault in Stavanger city-centre.
example, the older NSB (
Norges Statsbaner) livery of blue-grey and blue has been replaced with an unrelieved blue livery. In addition to this, the old company double-winged logo has been ousted by an asymetrical modernised highly simplified logo. These factors coupled with simplifications in bus-body designs, especially on the fronts of the buses, have led to some very boring and anonymous buses. I believe the overall appearance of these NSB buses would be improved with the re-introduction of a little blue-grey onto the buses in the form of a waistband. Also the re-introduction of the old winged logo, placed on the front of the buses.

As far as SOT (Stavanger og Omegn Trafikkselskap)are concerned, their traditional white and yellow livery is very much part of the city scene in Stavanger. The company has experimented, and in my opinion been successful with a slightly modernised livery applied to some of their more modern dual-purpose vehicles. SOT have also replaced an old double-winged logo with a modern logo consisting of the company's initials. Again, an element has been lost to brighten up the
A traditional livery well adapted to a modern body.
SOT's traditional livery adapted to a modern body with pleasing result.
front of the modern buses, especially those models which don't have a radiator grille to add a little character to the bus's 'face'.

Norway's express coach network is operated by Nor-Way Bussekspress, which is jointly owned by some of the major bus operators in Norway. The owners have resorted to the use of large lettering coupled with some diagonal lines on the coaches in order to let the public know who the vehicles' owners are. This job could have been assigned to a prestigious livery, in line with the prestigious nature of the routes the buses ply.

Companies specialising in private hire and tours have generally been more prone to following the latest fashions and trends in liveries and choice of coachwork, and Norway is no exception. These liveries are very fashion orientated and can become out-dated within quite a short space of time and subsequently, are generally too short-lived to attain any sort of cultural or traditional status.

I now turn my attention to the UK, where the situation goes from bad to worse as I speak. The UK could once boast the finest bus liveries in the world, which went hand in hand with some of the finest buses in the world. Fine ageless bus liveries and generations of tradition have been sacrificed for the sake of corporate identity. Corporate identities which ruin the lines of our buses, shout abuse in our towns and desecrate our countryside, and one operator even has a name which suggests that the company is run by a bunch of cowboys (no insult meant to my American readers). Many an English town has had its soul ripped out by the removal of its bus livery. Some years ago you could have been taken blindfolded to any major town in Britain, and
Picture from Peter Horrex's British Buses
A good traditional livery.
Traditional liveries fit in with town and country. Can you picture this proud Bristol RE dressed as 'Barbie'?
subsequently still been able to identify the town solely by looking at the buses. Many municipal liveries had been a part of their respective towns' street scenes for the best part of a century and deserved the same status as the architectural heritage. But not now, the same multi-coloured stripes and zig-zags are gradually permiating the whole country. Venerable old classics like the Bristol RE can feel themselves lucky to have retired when they did and so be spared the indignity of being dressed up as Barbie!

The First Group, to mention just one company, and certainly not the worst offender, inherited a mix of liveries, which they initially retained, and just added their logo, thus maintaining a sense of local identity. Their new global 'Barbie' livery on the other hand, though it can look quite smart on certain vehicles, is too eccentric, for want of a better word, to be able to be used on all buses in all situations, and what's more, it removes that community connection.

Tradition is a dirty word for many of today's bus companies, as it was for many of the major breweries in England some years ago, and which they eventually learned the better of, to their expense. It is the public who will have the last word.

Despite all this gloom, there are some bright spots. Reading Borough Council, owners of Reading Buses and Ipswich Borough Council are local authorities, amongst others, still operating their own buses. Bearing a traditional livery, the buses are a source of pride for the townsfolk. There aren't many towns now that can still boast their own buses. London has retained regulation, and a degree of continuity, by insisting that buses operating London Transport tendered routes have a predominance of red in the livery. And the Go-Ahead Group operates buses in Oxford and Wycombe with a very attractive traditional livery which sits very well on modern buses.

Just to drive the point home, those of you who are old enough to remember the 'Royal Blue' livery of pre-NBC days, will appreciate how loudly a well chosen livery can speak, without the use of words, gaudy colours or patterns. It just oozed class and style. A livery fit for kings! If anyone has a suitible 'Royal Blue' picture I could use to illustrate this, I would be most grateful.

These are my personal views, but I believe they are shared by many others. There is a certain amount of sentimentality involved in this argument, there always is when traditions are involved, but first and foremost, the argument is about good-taste. Despite the National Bus Company's faults, one of which was their National Express coach livery, when it came to local bus liveries, they could have done much, much worse. If you would like to comment on this article, please e-mail me, and your opinions will be posted on these pages.



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This page was last updated on: 22 December 2001