Brighton & Hove’s Transport History Trail

Organised horse bus routes first began running in Brighton and Hove around the middle of the 19th Century particularly once the London railway arrived in 1841.  It was towards the end of the century in 1884 that the Brighton, Hove & Preston United (BH&PU) bus company was formed as a consequence of the amalgamation of a number of smaller horse bus companies and became the main transport operator and the forerunner to today’s company.


Seventeen years later in 1901 Brighton Corporation began running trams within the Borough from a new garage in Lewes Road and in 1903 BH&PU started running the first motor buses which were initially frowned on by local shopkeepers annoyed at the mud splashing on to their windows in the narrow streets as well as the consequential petrol fumes and vibrations.


In 1915 the South Coast Motor Services Company took over the Brighton to Worthing route from BH&PU and renamed themselves Southdown Motor Services.  That company went on to develop services throughout Sussex as well as in new developing residential areas of Brighton.


Another significant development in 1915 saw competition beginning from the expanding Thomas Tilling empire who were running an extensive network of buses in London as well as other parts of the south east and had set up a garage in Holland Road, Hove.  The following year, in 1916, Tilling took over the Brighton, Hove & Preston United Company and replaced all the remaining horse buses in the town with motor buses and included the Tilling name on their sides.  The town’s transport was therefore provided by Tilling and Southdown’s motor buses and Brighton Corporation’s trams.


It was in 1935, on 26th November, that Tilling formed a new separate company the Brighton, Hove & District Omnibus Company Ltd (BH&D) as an autonomous subsidiary of the parent group.  Buses were branded as Brighton, Hove & District and continued to run alongside the Corporation’s trams and the motor buses run by Southdown.


It’s pleasing that seventy fives years later in 2010, the Company is still locally branded and, as then, is an autonomous subsidiary of a London based parent – the Go-Ahead Group – which, like Tilling, has transport interests in London and other parts of the UK.  Much has happened in the intervening seventy five years though.  None of which could have been foretold and this book aims to provide a resume of that journey from Tilling to Go-Ahead, but concentrates in particular on the most recent 25 years when the Company began its rejuvenation period and moved back into the private sector.


The seventy five years of BH&D can be divided into four eras.  The first, lasting thirteen years, saw the Company prosper as a private company within the Tilling empire.  The second period lasted for twenty-one years and began when Tilling sold out to the British Transport Commission in 1948 as part of the post-war Government nationalisation programme.  In 1964 the BTC was replaced with a Transport Holding Company which five years later in 1969 led to the National Bus Company being formed.  Bus companies such as Southdown which had become part of the BET empire had become nationalised as BET sold its portfolio of bus companies to the Government that year and also became part of the new National Bus Company.


This third era, which lasted for sixteen years from 1969 to 1985, saw the bringing together of both BH&D and Southdown under common local management within the National Bus Company.  As both companies had head offices in the towns it inevitably led to rationalisation and savings of overheads as the organisations were merged.  As Southdown’s empire stretched from Portsmouth to Eastbourne and as far north as Petersfield, Crawley and Crowborough that company became the dominant force and BH&D became formally dormant as a company.


Gradually the head office at Conway Street in Hove was downgraded to a divisional office in the larger Southdown who moved from their cramped offices in Steine Street to a new purpose built six storey office block in Freshfield Road, Brighton adjacent to the coach garage.  The buses themselves changed from red to the Southdown green and soon to the National Bus Company corporate green and it wasn’t long before the BH&D fleetname gave way to Southdown too after a brief period when both were displayed.


Meanwhile the Corporation buses continued as part of Brighton Borough Council’s Transport Department.  Bus routes had been coordinated for many years with an operating agreement between BH&D and the Corporation as early as 1939 with all buses carrying the same fleetname ‘Brighton, Hove & District Transport’ and wore a red and cream livery.  This was replaced with a new BATS (Brighton Area Transport Services) Agreement in January 1961 which also brought in the services run by Southdown in the town for the first time.


Once Southdown and BH&D merged in 1969, their share of the BATS Agreement extended to a combined 79.5% of all the operations in the towns and the Corporation became a minor partner with 20.5%.  The parties aimed to operate that proportion of mileage each year and agreed to pool all the revenue irrespective of what route it was taken on before sharing it out in those agreed proportions.  The arrangement was way ahead of its time as a system of integrating transport in an area.


By 1985 privatisation returned again to the Agenda and we enter the fourth era of the Company’s history.  The ensuing twenty five years between 1985 and 2010, saw the recreation of BH&D trading simply as Brighton & Hove and has seen deregulation of bus services in 1986 and privatisation of the company in 1987.  This was initially through a management buy-out from NBC and lasted until November 1993 when the Company was sold on to the Go-Ahead Northern bus company.  In Spring 1994 Go-Ahead floated on the stock market as the Go-Ahead Group plc and has gone on to become one of the most successful UK transport groups.


Meanwhile in December 1993 Brighton Borough Council sold its transport undertaking which had become an arms length company, Brighton Transport Ltd back in January 1986.  Just over three years later in May 1997, the Go-Ahead Group purchased Brighton Transport and merged it with Brighton & Hove by the end of June 1997.


In September 2005 Go-Ahead purchased the buses and goodwill of the routes operated by Stagecoach from its garage in Lewes and outstations at Uckfield, Eastbourne and Seaford.  The staff transferred to Brighton & Hove and the Seaford outstation moved into the Brighton & Hove operation based at Newhaven.


More details of the Company’s recent history during the period 1985 to 2010 can be found in Roger French’s book Pride & Joy available from the Company.


This history trail is dedicated to the memory of Jim Jones. Jim worked for the Brighton & Hove Bus Company and Southdown all his working life for 38 years until his untimely death in 2000. He took a keen interest in the history of the Company as well as its modern day operations. Much of the content of this section of our web site is only possible through the work he tirelessly carried out with such great dedication.





Railway line between Brighton and Shoreham opened.



Railway line from London to Brighton reaches as far south as Haywards Heath, passengers completing journey by coach.



Railway completed from London to Brighton.



Railway opened between Brighton and Lewes.


These railway developments had a bearing on the trade of local horse drawn cabs and carriages, and helped create demand for local public transport.



First regular horse bus service between Hove and Kemp Town.



Kemp Town branch line opened.



Volks Electric Railway opened, the first in the world.



Shoreham Tramway opened between Shoreham and New Church Road, (Hove Boundary) using steam traction until 1893. Experimental battery power was tried unsuccessfully, before settling for horse drawn vehicles which survived up to the closure of the line. The trams connected with horse buses to Castle Square, an arrangement which was continued by Brighton, Hove & Preston United when formed in September 1884.



Major horse bus operators William Taylor Beard, William Mayner and Henry Thomas amalgamate to form Brighton, Hove and Preston United Omnibus Company based at Conway Street. Walter Tilley, who was originally going to join them, remained independent but his Lewes Road route later succumbed to Brighton Corporation Tramways.



Devils Dyke railway branch line opened. Originally steam hauled stock, but operated with a Sentinel steam railcar from 1/5/1933 to 1/5/1935.



Dyke Aerial Cableway opened (1,200ft long).



Volks Brighton & Rottingdean Seashore Electric Tramroad opened. Wrecked by the same storm that destroyed the Chain Pier in Dec 1896.



Rebuilt Brighton & Rottingdean Seashore Electric Tramroad reopens.



Dyke Steep Grade Railway opened.





Brighton & Rottingdean Seashore Electric Tramroad closed.



Brighton Corporation Tramways using electric cars commences service.



Brighton Hove & Preston United Omnibus Company introduce first motor bus (Milnes Daimler CD 103).



Both the Dyke Aerial Cableway and Steep Grade Railway closed about this time, following the promoter James Henry Hubbard emigrating to Canada in 1907.



Portslade Station to Westbourne Villas section of Shoreham Tramway closed.



Thomas Tilling starts motor mail van service between London and Brighton, with a base at Holland Road, Hove.



Final closure of Shoreham Tramway.



Brighton Corporation Trolleybus trial using Leeds Railless Traction vehicle with under running system. Vehicle arrived on 23/12/1913 by train, It was used on tram tracks with a return skate and also on a special route from Rose Hill Terrace to London Rd, Trafalgar Street in January 1914.



Hove Corporation Cedes Stoll Trolleybus trial in Goldstone Villas and George Street. The vehicle was soon sent for use at Keighley on their Cedes Stoll system. No other trolley or tram has ever run in Hove.



Thomas Tilling starts motor bus service in Brighton and Hove with vehicles transferred from London and based at Holland Road.



Brighton Hove & Preston United Brighton-Worthing route and excursions transferred to South Coast Motor Services (renamed Southdown from 2/6/1915).



Thomas Tilling buys out Brighton Hove & Preston United Omnibus Company. Tilling moves to Conway Street from Holland Road. The latter becomes the coachworks, and remained as such until being bombed out in March 1945.



Last horse bus withdrawn.



Southdown receives its first Leyland TD1’s.



Thomas Tilling begin replacement of the Brighton fleet with new AEC Regent buses.



Kemp Town branch passenger service withdrawn, becoming freight only.



Brighton, Hove & District Omnibus Company replaces Thomas Tilling’s Brighton division as a new Tilling subsidiary.



Brighton, Hove & District receives its last AEC Regents and first Bristol K’s.



Devils Dyke railway branch line closed.



Operating agreement between Brighton Hove & District and Brighton Corporation. Adoption of common red and cream livery and fleetnameBrighton, Hove & District Transport’ with Corporation vehicles carrying the Borough Crest.



Brighton Corporation start operating AEC 661T trolleybuses and AEC Regent motor buses as tram replacement.



Last Corporation trams withdrawn.



Brighton, Hove & District AEC 661T trolleybuses first used from Lewes Road after wartime storage.



Brighton, Hove & District trolleybuses transferred to Whitehawk on completion of wiring.



Brighton, Hove & District becomes part of the British Transport Commission.



Last AEC Regents withdrawn by Brighton, Hove & District.



Brighton, Hove & District receives its last Bristol K’s.



Southdown receives its first Leyland ‘Queen Mary’ PD3’s.



Brighton, Hove & District receives its first Bristol Lodekkas.

Brighton Corporation receives its first Leyland PD2’s.



Brighton, Hove & District trolleybuses withdrawn.



New Brighton Area Transport Services agreement became effective incorporating Brighton Hove & District, Southdown and Brighton Corporation.



Brighton Corporation trolleybuses withdrawn.



Brighton Hove & District becomes part of the Transport Holding Company.



National Bus Company formed, Brighton Hove & District merges with Southdown Motor Services with head office at Freshfield Road. Gradual adoption of Southdown and then National Bus Company standard livery in green.



Ten Bristol VR’s ordered by Brighton, Hove & District are delivered, the first rear engined double deckers to operate in the Brighton area.



Brighton Corporation Transport withdraws its last AEC Regent.



Southdown withdraws the first of its Leyland PD3’s. However, it was ten years before the bulk of the type had departed, and two convertibles passed into Stagecoach ownership in 1989 with the rest of the Southdown fleet.



Brighton Corporation Transport adopt new livery of light blue and white.



Brighton Corporation Transport receives its first Leyland Atlanteans.



Kemp Town branch line closed.



Southdown receives its first Leyland Nationals.



Brighton Corporation Transport becomes Brighton Borough Transport.



Last Bristol K disposed of by Brighton, Hove & District, after several years use as a training vehicle.



Southdown receives its last VR’s, which are also its last new double deckers under NBC ownership.



With deregulation in the offing, small is again beautiful, and Southdown’s Brighton & Hove operations become separated and managed as an autonomous unit within Southdown.



Fifty years on from the formation of Brighton Hove & District a bright new livery of red, cream and black is launched with restyled ‘Brighton & Hove’ fleetname.



Brighton & Hove formally separates from Southdown recreating the former Brighton Hove & District Omnibus Company Ltd which had been a dormant company since 1969 and still owned by the National Bus Company. All garages and vehicles based in the Brighton and Hove area as well as London operations pass to the reactivated Company.  The Brighton Area Transport Services Agreement ends.



Mercedes minibuses introduced to Service 7



Company legal name changed to Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company Limited.



Almex electronic Timtronic ticket machines introduced.



Deregulation Day.

London operations cease.

Brighton Borough Transport becomes Brighton Borough Transport Ltd.



Brighton & Hove privatised by management buy out.



Southdown privatised by management buy out.



Bus Times published for first time.


Spring 1988

Moulsecoomb Garage ceased to be operational.



Brighton & Hove receives its first Scania’s.



Stagecoach acquire Southdown.



Radios fitted to buses.



Brighton & Hove’s involvement on National Express 064 ceased.



Freshfield Road garage closes. Most buses move to Whitehawk with coaches and some buses to Conway Street, Hove.



A Passenger Charter is introduced for the first time.



SAVER tickets are introduced.



First real ‘outside’ competition to Brighton & Hove is experienced from Haven Coaches, between Brighton and Newhaven.



Brighton Borough Transport Ltd withdraws its last Leyland PD3’s



Three Mercedes 608 minibuses introduced on a new CentreBus service in bright yellow livery.



New Almex Eurofare ticket machines introduced.



CentreBus service withdrawn in favour of 60p CentreFare introduced on standard services.



Brighton & Hove purchased by Go Ahead Northern Ltd - their first acquisition prior to the Oxford Bus Company in early 1994 and floatation as the Go-Ahead Group plc in May 1994..



CentreFare reduced to 50p



Brighton Corporation Transport sold to employees, becoming Brighton Transport (1993) Ltd, and using Brighton Blue Bus as a fleetname.



New bus lanes introduced in Victoria Gardens, Brighton.

New segregated bus lanes introduced alongside St Peter’s Church in Brighton.



Updated B & H livery introduced on Dennis Darts.



The first low-floor vehicles in the Brighton area enter service, in the form of 15 Dennis Dart SLF’s for Brighton Blue Bus.



Services 1/1A: Whitehawk-Mile Oak with new Dennis Lances in Burgundy livery with a ‘1’ in ‘starburst’ logo on the sides.

Service 7: George Street-Bristol Estate with repainted Mercedes Mini-buses in Purple livery, and branded as ‘The Busy Bees’(a name which had been used on red vehicles since 3/86). From 4/97, Dennis Darts were also repainted purple, and in 5/97 the service was enhanced by a new leg to Brighton Marina (Service 7). The Bristol Estate service was renumbered 7A.


May 1996

Service 25 :Portslade-Sussex University with new Scanias in Jade Green plus some repainted Bristol VRTs, and branded as ‘Unibus’.


January 1997

Services 5/5A/5B:Hangleton-Patcham/Hollingbury with new Scanias in Tangerine plus some repainted Scanias and Nationals branded as ‘The Famous Fives.


Night Buses introduced to run on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.



Go Ahead Group purchase Brighton Transport (1993) Ltd, and merge it with Brighton & Hove by the end of June 1997. Fleet quickly painted in Brighton & Hove colours, with Service 49/49A vehicles receiving dark blue livery for the METRO launch.



Brighton Transport Ltd formally absorbed into Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company.



Bus services cease running from the Lewes base inherited from Brighton Transport. Certain routes centered on Burgess Hill retained and transferred to the Lewes Road, Brighton garage.



Brighton & Hove launch ‘METRO’ concept as a network of major routes drawing together previous route branded services 1/1A, 5/5A/5B, 7/7A and 25 with the former Brighton Transport service 49/49A. Previous route brand colours retained, logos altered to Brighton & Hove METRO. Diagramatic Underground style map launched.



First low floor double deckers join B & H fleet in the form of twenty Dennis Tridents (801-820). A new trend begins with the naming of vehicles.



13 Dennis Darts named with personalities from the Walk of Fame to be built at Brighton Marina.





20 more low floor Dennis Tridents (821-840) join the fleet.



Last Bristol VRT operates with the Company - their withdrawal is marked by a special running day on Service 6.



Last Leyland National operates with the Company.



Brighton & Hove celebrates 15 years of operation.



£1 flat fare introduced for a four month trial, which has now continued to operate.



24 new low floor Dennis Tridents (841-864) arrive for METRO Line 5.



12 new low floor Dennis Tridents (865-876) arrive, two are in special gold livery to celebrate Queen’s Golden Jubilee.



Flat fare increased to £1.20, and SAVER all day ticket reduced to lowest price of £2.40.



18 new low floor Scania Omnidekkas (601-618) arrive, two of which are convertible open toppers.



New Wayfarer ticket machines introduced.



A new style of livery is announced, with curves rather than straight lines, Trident 810 is the first to be painted.



18 new low floor Scania Omnidekkas (619-636) arrive for METRO Line 1.



Flat fare increased to £1.30 and SAVER increased to £2.50.



New N7 night service introduced between Brighton Marina and Hove’s George Street.



10 new low floor Scania Omnidekkas (637-646) arrive all for revamped Coaster 12 service.



Book detailing the Bus Names that have appeared on 140 Brighton & Hove buses published. Edited by Mike Cheesman and Adam Trimingham.



Flat fare increased to £1.40 and SAVER increased to £2.60.



Launch of the first 10 I’m on the bus adverts, featuring local passengers in photos 13’ high.



Routemaster RML2725 borrowed from London General to give Brightonian’s a last chance to ride on this type of vehicle before they are phased out in London.



8 more new Scania Omnidekkas (647-654) arrive, 2 for Coaster 12 and 6 for Metro 49. Some off bus SAVER ticket prices increased. BusID 30p fare increased to 40p.



12 more new Scania Omnidekkas (655-666) arrive, 6 for Coaster 12 and 6 for Metro 49.



Brighton & Hove take over Stagecoach operations from Lewes, Seaford, Eastbourne and Uckfield depots, involving Services 12, 23B, 28, 29, 92F and 137. 15 vehicles involved in sale. Vehicles parked at Seaford now use Newhaven and at Lewes transferred to Lewes Road depot and some parked at Uckfield. Some vehicles actually operated with B&H on Saturday 24 September as transfers took place.


Saver tickets split into two types CitySAVER and SuperSAVER (for travel to Eastbourne and Tunbridge Wells)



Flat fare increased to £1.50 and CitySAVER now £2.80.



4 more new Scania Omnidekkas (667-670) arrive, 3 for Coaster 12 and 1 for Metro 49. Also delivered are 2 12m long Scania Omnidekkas with coach seats and seatbelts fitted. One is normally seen helping out on the Coaster 12.



Some of the 18 new 12m long Scania Omnidekkas (901-918) start to arrive for Metro 25.



The second all night bus service is introduced on the N25.


Fares revised to £1.70 before 9am or £1.50 after 9am, with a CitySAVER being £3.20 or £3.00



A CentreFare is reintroduced for £1 for any journey in area from Palmeira Square to Preston Circus on a two month trial.



Camera enforcement of bus lanes begins in the City Centre.



Brighton & Hove begins operating the City Sightseeing franchise.



Some of the new Scania Omnidekkas (671-688) start to arrive, very slowly! 4 for Metro 49, 5 standard and 9 for Regency Route 29.



Fares revised to £1.70 single, and Centrefare extended at £1.20, CitySAVER £3.20 or SuperSAVER £4.20, but day SAVER ticket available online for only £2.80



Route 29 between Brighton and Tunbridge Wells receives nine new Scania Omnidekkas and is rebranded the Regency Route.



The Englandwide National Concessionary Fares scheme began.



A special offer in The Argus linked to on-line sales of SAVER tickets saw a 7-day ticket for just £7 go on sale in connection with a special promotional code printed exclusively in the paper.



The first of thirty one Scania Omnicity buses with 27 branded for METRO 5 begin to arrive.  The order is completed in July.



Due to cuts in Council funding the bespoke Withdean Park and Ride operation ends.



The text service for real time information at any bus stop begins.



RML 2317 was formally launched in its wonderful Thomas Tilling tribute livery following its acquisition from Metrobus.



Europe’s oldest man Henry Allingham, a resident of St Dunstans, died aged 113.  Exceptionally a bus, 808 was named after him while he was still alive earlier in the year.



The A259 bus lanes between Peacehaven and Ovingdean are opened.



A London Bendy bus is used on trial on route 25.



Four Bendy buses arrive in the fleet before being given an extensive makeover and refurbishment and entering service in September.



On Route Radio is launched.



A new style bus stop flag is launched.



Roger French’s book Pride & Joy is published.



A hugely successful 75th Anniversary bus rally is held on Madeira Drive.



Brighton & Hove celebrates its 75th Anniversary with a luncheon at the Old Ship Hotel attended by civic dignitaries, city leaders and staff.  Cheques for £17,000 each are presented to The Martlets and the Argus Appeal.



New ERG Smart card enabled ticket machines are introduced.



The first of 21 Volvo Wright bodied Gemini double deck buses branded for routes 6 and 7 are launched.



The first match is played at the new AMEX Community Stadium.  Around 40 buses from Sussex and London are used to provide transport once League home games begin in August.



National Concessionary passholders begin using their smart card enabled passes on the readers.



The new smartcard, the key is launched initially to students and in spring 2012 more widely to adults and then on a phased basis to young people with busID cards.

Bus Times reaches it’s 50th edition.


4 more Bendy buses joined the fleet.



Further Volvo Wright bodied Gemini double deck buses branded for route 1 are launched and two Hybrid buses are introduced on route 7.


10 more Bendy buses arrive for Route 25.


11 more Hybrid buses arrive, eight for route 7 and 3 for use elsewhere.


M-Ticketing trial launched on routes 23/25.


2 Volvo Wright bodied Gemini double deck buses branded for route 49 arrive.


29 Volvo Wright bodied Gemini double deck buses branded for route 5 arrived over 6 months. Plus 1 for route 6 in November and 7 in standard livery.


6 more Bendy buses arrive for Route 25.


24 New Mercedes Streetdecks start to arrive in a new Coaster 12 livery of blue and green


24 New Mercedes Streetdecks start to arrive for Route 1.


31 New Mercedes Streetdecks start to arrive for Routes 7 and 49. 2 more Bendys arrive for Route 25.


3 New Mercedes Streedecks arrive for Coaster 12.


A new Panther Coach arrives for Spirit of Sussex fleet.


30 New Alexander Dennis electric buses arrive in new Live & Breathe livery and used on Route 5.


24 New Alexander Dennis electric buses arrive in Above & Beyond livery and used on Route 1.


Metrobus fleet now operated under Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company licence.


Last day in service for Brighton & Hove bendy buses.


Brighton & Hove ran buses on Christmas Day for first time on routes 1, 1A, 5B, 7 and 49.


Southdown PSV of Copthorne bus fleet acquired.


Metrobus take delivery of the first  20 Hydrogen powered single decks for use on Fastway services.