Colins Place
City of Portsmouth Passenger Transport Department
© Colin Parker

A Fleet history

   The Landport & Southsea Tramway Company was authorised, by Parliament in 1863, to construct a horse tramway between the LSWR railway station and Southsea pier. The line opened in 1865, and the network was steadily developed, until in 1900, the company owned 58 tramcars, 249 horses and 14 miles of route.
    The company sold its undertaking to Portsmouth Corporation in 1901, for £205,964. The Corporation commenced electrification at once, the last horse tram was withdrawn in 1903.

    The first trolleybus route, between Cosham and South Parade Pier, was opened on 14th August 1934, and was so immediately popular that the whole tram system was replaced with trolleybuses in the following two years. However, with the post-war development of housing estates on the mainland north of Portsea Island, the motor bus came into its own. A co-ordination agreement was signed with Southdown in 1946 to serve new areas such as Paulsgrove and Leigh Park. Although a trolleybus extension to Paulsgrove was planned in 1947, it was never built, and the trolleybuses remained confined to Portsea Island. Inevitably the limited role of the trolleybuses led to their abandonment, which was completed in 1963, just 100 years after the 1863 Act had authorised  street tramways for Portsmouth. The 1946 agreement expired in 1967, but there was continued joint-working and co-operation with Southdown. Until D-Day (26th October 1986) that is.

The livery was maroon and white. The head office was at Highland Road, Eastney and the garages were at Eastney and North End, there was also an out-station at Leigh Park.

    Under the Transport Act 1986, Portsmouth City Transport Ltd, was formed to take over the operation of the fleet, on 26th October 1986 (D-Day). The new company became a week days only operator, deregistering all its Sunday workings, which passed to Southdown. The new company had a trading loss of £69,000 in the first 6 months after deregulation.

    Badgerline and Southampton CityBus jointly established a new company, Red Admiral, to operate bus services in the Portsmouth area, initially using minibuses. The name of the company was Quayshelfco 179, trading as Red Admiral, but this was changed to Pathfinder UK Ltd. They both had an equal stake in Red Admiral. Services began in December 1987, based at Venture Industrial Estate, Hilsea.

    Southampton CityBus inaugurated a new coaching division at the beginning of 1988, called Red Ensign. This used dual purpose, coach seated Leyland Olympians, and an open top Leyland Atlantean, used for sight-seeing work, all painted in a new livery, of allover red with black skirts, white stripes, with Red Ensign lettering and logos.

    Portsmouth City Council, as owners of Portsmouth City Transport Ltd, decided to privatise the company.  Tenders were invited, the successful bidder was Southern Vectis, from the Isle of Wight, they were due to take it over in April 1988, but could not agree terms and the sale fell through.

    It was eventually announced, on 1st June 1988, that the company was to be sold in a joint bid by PCT employees and Southampton CityBus, for £730,000. This figure included £450,000 in liabilities. This was the first privatisation of a former municipal bus operator. The company was renamed Portsmouth CityBus. Southampton CityBus had a 75% share in the new company. The company was reputedly losing £10,000 a week at this point. The deal included a three year lease on Portsmouth's Eastney depot.

    The Red Admiral operation was acquired wholly by Southampton CityBus in July 1988.

    The coaching activities of Portsmouth CityBus were marketed under the Red Ensign name from October 1989, including a Leyland Leopard and two open-top Leyland Atlanteans, repainted into Red Ensign colours and logos.

    Southampton CityBus sold its share in Portsmouth CityBus and Red Admiral to Stagecoach in October 1989, but this deal was referred to the Monopolies & Mergers Commission, who decided that there had been no adverse effects from the merger between Southdown and Portsmouth CityBus. Nicholas Ridley, the then Secretary of State for Trade & Industry, overruled the MMC`s decision, and demanded that they should dispose of the Portsmouth CityBus operations.

    Stagecoach therefore sold its Portsmouth CityBus and Red Admiral operations to Harry Blundred`s Transit Holdings Group early in 1991. This was renamed Portsmouth Transit. The old Portsmouth CityBus services were renamed Blue Admiral. The old corporation offices, at Eastney, saw their last workings, after  59 years on 29th May 1991. Portsmouth Transit then operated its Blue Admiral services from Hilsea West depot, opposite the former Southdown depot, and Red Admiral services from the Harts Farm depot, Havant. The former Portsmouth CityBus routes were all converted to minibus only operation, by the summer of 1991.

  Firstbus took charge of Red Admiral and Blue Admiral, the former by then dormant, on 2nd April 1996, in a deal with Transit Holdings Ltd. Provincial therefore absorbed the Transit operations. The merger of the Admirals and Provincial took effect on 26th May 1996.