Buses and coaches have been serving our communities for hundreds of years. Buses provide a reliable, cost effective service for thousands of people everyday many of whom couldn't travel otherwise. The term coach was originally used to describe horse drawn carriages known as stagecoaches which wealthy families used to travel. In modern terminology a coach is similar to a bus but with more facilities and extra comfort.
Early Days
The name bus is derived from the Latin word "omnibus" which means "for everyone". This describes buses well as they are designed to accommodate large amounts of people and they are also designed to be accessible and affordable for all people to use.
The exact origin of the first bus system is hard to prove as there have been many different public transport systems which could be defined as buses. Some people believe that French citizens created the bus system when an entrepreneur created a free coach service to encourage people to use his bath house.

In 1900, most buses in London were still driven by horsepower, though an alternative was being sought. Horses were expensive to feed and care for, needing attention round the clock, while they worked only a small proportion of the day. There were many experiments in steam, with batteries and petrol engines, as engineers tried to find the most economic and reliable way of replacing horses.

Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square
239 Russell Square
239 Russell Square
London is a large and busy city which needs a strong public transport system to support its people. London's bus system has existed for over a hundred years, established to support London throughout its continuous development.
London General is one of London's most important transport companies. London General was originally known as The London General Omnibus Company which was established in the 1850s. The LGOC was in charge of horse drawn buses working in London. As London developed and progressed through the industrial revolution so did its people and their needs.
At the turn of the nineteenth century the LGOC started to develop new methods of public transport. Before long the traditional horse drawn vehicles were replaced by more reliable engine driven buses. These new buses were welcomed by Londoners as change for the better, offering more comfort and improved service.
Early London buses
Early London buses

The first bus to have a petrol engine was run by the Motor Traction Company between Kensington and Victoria in 1899. Such short-lived experiments paved the way for the first permanent petrol buses in service, which were introduced by Thomas Tilling on the Peckham to Oxford Circus route in 1904. Within a year, despite their unreliability, it was clear that motorbuses were the future of bus transport.

London Passenger Transport Board
During the 1930s the London Buses changed their image to the red bus which many of us still associate with London today. Service continued as usual with the London Bus system meeting the needs of its people. Around fifty years later the bus service was divided into several different companies. The majority of the new bus operators took their names from landmarks and local places of interest. However one acknowledged the transport systems heritage and became known as London General once more.
The B-type
The light and sturdy B-type, introduced in 1910 by the L.G.O.C, was the first reliable mass-produced motorbus.
The B-type had a wooden frame, steel wheels, a worm drive and chain gearbox. These features set the precedent for the best commercial bus chassis for the next 20 years. Its top speed was 16 miles an hour, which was above the legal speed limit at that time of 12 miles an hour. B-types could reach 30–35 miles an hour under the right conditions!
B-types carried 16 passengers inside and had seats for 18 on the uncovered top deck. These outside seats were fitted with wet-weather canvas covers. Electric lighting was introduced from 1912, and headlights in 1913. Before this, it was thought that interior lighting would render the bus sufficiently visible at night. The buses were so reliable compared to their predecessors that new routes were developed, linking train stations and connecting more of the suburbs and surrounding countryside to the City.
Night buses started running as early as 1913. Initially these were for post and shift workers, rather than for people returning home after leisure pursuits.
Bus stops were introduced after the war. By 1919, there were 59. During the 1920s, buses lost all evidence of their horse-drawn beginnings and began to resemble modern vehicles. Many innovations had to be approved by the Metropolitan Police. There was a gradual increase in seating capacity, which made buses more economical to run, and tickets became cheaper.

The next L.G.O.C. bus was the K-type, which was introduced in 1919. By 1921, 1,050 of these had been manufactured. The K-type could carry 46 passengers, 22 inside facing forward and 24 outside, still in the open air. The driver sat beside the engine, rather than behind it, but still in the open.

The new NS-type, also built by the A.E.C, was introduced in 1923 and not withdrawn until 1937. More luxurious, it had upholstered seats, rather than the wooden seats of the K- and S-type buses and the trams. It had a lowered chassis, which made boarding easier and lowered the bus’s centre of gravity, which made a covered top deck possible.

By 1925, double-deckers had enclosed top decks and all single-deckers had pneumatic tyres. From 1928, all buses had the new pneumatic tyres. These innovations greatly improved bus travel. By 1930, drivers were protected by the enclosed cabs.

In 1932, the diesel-powered S.T.L-type built by the A.E.C. went into mass production. This design classic was considered the first ‘really modern’ London bus, and over 2,000 were built.

In 1935, L.T. began installing fixed stops throughout the City, following a successful trial along the Euston Road all the way to Tottenham. By the end of the 20th century, there were around 17,000 bus stops in London.
Second World War
The next bus of note was the R.T. bus, which was first produced in 1939. This set the standard for a quality urban bus, but production was delayed by the outbreak of the Second World War.

Bus services continued throughout the war: without its transport systems, London would have come to a halt. In Blackout conditions, buses ran with reduced lighting, and drivers could see only two metres ahead. Windows were covered with anti-blast netting to stop them shattering in a bomb blast. Many petrol-saving measures were introduced. Some buses were converted to run on gas, and buses were parked in Hyde Park during the day. To save petrol, over 800 buses were withdrawn from public service from 1940. During the war, buses were overcrowded and there was an inadequate supply of parts for repairs.

By 1953, Bell Punch ticket machines used by conductors were being replaced by the new Gibson ticket machines. These could print a range of tickets onto a single roll of paper.

The Routemaster
The prototype of the famous Routemaster bus was built in 1954 and first tried in passenger service two years later. Production models were in service from 1959, and they replaced London’s trolleybuses from 1962. It was lighter, having an aluminium body and no separate chassis, which reduced costs and improved fuel efficiency. The Routemaster could also seat 64 passengers rather than 56.

In 1971, the first one-person-operation double-decker buses appeared in London. These were cheaper to run, needing only one member of staff, since the driver also took the fares. But the new vehicles proved much less reliable than.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, the popularity of bus travel plummeted and car use continued to rise. Across London as a whole, the great majority of bus passengers were children, women, and pensioners. Most people with access to a car never used the bus and it became seen as poor people’s transport. Public spending on public transport was generally in decline.
Smaller vehicles such as the Optare Citypacer, Optare Starrider, and Dennis Dart were introduced in the late 1980s. These midi- and minibuses were able to use narrower, more local routes than some double-deckers and provide a service more tailored to local needs off the main routes. Night bus routes were also expanded. In the late 1990s, low floors became standard for new buses, making them accessible for prams and wheelchairs.

London became the only place in the country where the government’s targets of getting people out of cars and back onto public transport were met.

Modern Buses
London bus
London bus

The red double decker buses (pictured below) are famous all over the world. You can see loads of them in London.

Double Decker bus
Double Decker bus

There are two main kinds of buses in London: the red double-decker and the red single-decker.
Single decker bus
Single decker bus

The main places a bus goes to are shown on the front of the bus. Some double-deckers have automatic doors and you pay the driver when you go in. On single-deckers you sometimes buy your ticket from a machine in the bus. Most London buses have a conductor who will come round and collect fares.

Sightseeing buses
There are many sightseeing, open top, buses in London and other cities.
Open top bus
Open top bus

The buses are mostly seen around London hotspots, such as Trafalgar Square. During colder weather, the buses can still be used, as they have fold-down roofs. This function is mostly used during colder weather in the Summer.

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