Colins Place
Provincial Bus Company Ltd
© Colin Parker

Fleet History

        In 1878, the Gosport Street Tramways Company promoted a bill to develop tramways in the area, Gosport Street Tramways being a subsidiary of the Provincial Tramways Company. In 1882, a route of horse tramways commenced from Gosport Beach (Ferry) to Brockhurst. From 1906, the tramway was electrified and extended to Fareham Railway Station, and to Stoke Road from the ferry, 22 open top cars in an emerald green and cream livery being introduced. The fleet name Gosport & Fareham Tramways was used.

    Bus services were started from 1910, initially from Lee-on-Solent to Bury Cross, and later to Brockhurst. Both these services were withdrawn in 1914 but recommenced in 1919. In 1929, the tramway was replaced by buses and the name of the company was changed to Provincial Bus Company.

    Services were considerably extended in the 1930's and two operators were taken over in 1939. The establishment within the company's area of many military camps and factories involved with the war effort, provided a great deal of new work for the fleet and thirteen utility double deckers were allocated to help with the movement of factory workers and military staff.

    The services of four independent operators were acquired in 1949 and due to the impending threat of nationalisation certain assets were placed under the control of the parent Provincial Traction Company in 1947.

    Provincial Traction Company Ltd, the parent company of the Gosport & Fareham Omnibus Company, was bought by the National Bus Company on 1st January 1970, this came under Hants & Dorset control.

    Thornycroft products were patronised from 1910, Chevrolets from 1927, and AEC's from 1934. Guy Arabs were allocated during the war and continued to be favoured afterwards. From 1971, standard NBC vehicle types were introduced to replace the Guy and AEC double deckers which Gosport & Fareham had purchased in the previous decade, many second hand. The Guys included a number which had been rebuilt and had been fitted with air cooled engines. Just prior to selling out, Gosport & Fareham had purchased a fleet of Seddon Pennine 4 single deckers for one man operation, and these were also rapidly replaced.

    The once familiar emerald green and cream livery gave way to NBC green and white in 1972. In 1978, to celebrate the centenary of the company, a Bristol RELL was repainted in the old colours. 35 vehicles were transferred from the Hants & Dorset fleet and, combined with the 38 Gosport & Fareham buses, formed the new Provincial fleet. The Acquired vehicles were renumbered into the existing Provincial series.

In 1978, the government of the day, faced with falling passenger numbers, came up with a scheme called the "Market Analysis Project". The bus going public was consulted, via detailed questionnaires, about their bus service requirements, local authorities were also consulted. This information was processed by NBC's computer company. Hants & Dorset's conclusion was to split the company into twelve operational areas, marketed under seven local identities. The Provincial identity  was introduced on 28th June 1980, in the Gosport and Fareham areas.

   Hants & Dorset Motor Services Ltd  was broken up, on 1st April 1983, into three bus companies, a coach operator, an engineering company and a holding company.

 Provincial Bus Company Ltd, was the smallest of the three bus companies, a combination of the Provincial and part of the South Hants MAP areas, and west towards Hamble and Southampton, with its former depot at Hoeford and the ex Hants & Dorset bus station at Fareham.

    The new company was privatised on 8th May 1987, when it was sold in a joint employee and management buyout, led by the then General Manager James Freeman. The old emerald green, Brunswick green and County Cream colour scheme was revived, but with "Peoples Provincial"  fleetnames. All Bristol RELL's were quickly sold to develop a standardised fleet of Leyland Nationals. Iveco minibuses soon followed.

    Competitive services into Portsmouth commenced in June 1988 and services on contract to Hampshire County Council followed.

    In December 1989 Mr. Freeman left the Company to pursue interests in light rapid transit with Badgerline. He was succeeded by Piers Marlow, previously Basingstoke Area Manager for Hampshire Bus. A new livery of County Cream with Deep Royal Green skirts and bands was introduced in 1994, after some experimentation, but with Peoples Provincial fleetnames.

    On 9th October 1995 Provincial was sold to the First Group of companies. Apart from its new owners logo affixed to the windows of all its buses, there was no immediate change. 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. Another new livery of County Cream with Post Office Red skirts and bands was adopted and fleetnames changed to "Provincial", with the FirstBus "f" logo. The merger of the Admirals and Provincial took effect on 26th May 1996.

    The original tram depot at Hoeford remains the site of the present depot.