I was delighted to read that the 840 Bus route between Leeds and the lovely seaside resort of Whitby, has been voted the most scenic bus route in the UK, the “Coastliner” route as it is known beat off stiff competition from across the United Kingdom to be crowned the nicest bus journey. The route is truly a pleasant experience with spectacular views, especially through the moorland from Pickering via Goathland and Sleights, this particular section of the route was what gave this service the well deserved edge.
I was personally delighted when I heard that this service had won the award which was devised by Paul Kirby from Bus Users UK, as it was a service that is operated from a depot that I had the honour of managing when I started my career in the bus industry. Malton is small market town that lies in the beautiful North Riding area of north Yorkshire, shortly after I started my career as a Senior Management Trainee with the National Bus Company I was thrown in at the deep end when at rather short notice I was despatched to go and spend a week with the young man who was then managing the depot.
Today that young man is one of the most highly respected MD’s of the First UK Bus Company, back then we were the same age and got on well from day one. Indeed we went out one night to the Green Man, and both had rather a lot to drink, as you do when you are young men. Back in the day Malton was a classic small bus depot, it only had about 20 drivers, and the Manager did everything, opened the depot at 0500, booked the drivers on, cleaned the place, opened the shop at 0800, sold tickets gave out lost property, did the rota’s and schedules, worked out the payroll, (which was paid in cash every Thursday morning including hand written payslips). You name it, the boss did it, the easy stuff and hard stuff, in fairness it was a super place to work, it was like a family, the drivers and engineers all got on well and worked as a team. The shop steward was an Elvis Presley look a like, and was of course known as Elvis or the King, and he had the DA haircut to go with it.
For someone like me it was an invaluable experience, it taught me a lot, but the best lesson was just treat people as you expect to be treated yourself. So when I was finally left to manage the place, all I was told by Elvis was simple ” Let me give you some advice young man do not act like a Pillock, if you do the lads will not help you, treat them right they will look after you”. Superb advice that I live by to this day. There were two things about Malton that I recall the first was the tracking down and shooting dead of a murderer by the SAS a bizarre scenario but true. The second thing was the rather bizarre events that used to take place every Friday afternoon, let me explain the background.
The depot was located on the banks of the river, Derwent, and every Friday afternoon there would be a most strange occurrence, basically opposite the depot on the other side of the depot was an abattoir, every Friday afternoon the tranquil peace and quite would be shattered as a most God awful noise would emanate from the abattoir as a group of horses would be unloaded from a lorry and then taken to what can only be described as the killing zone where they would be despatched by means of a bullet to the head. Clearly the poor creatures seemed to sense their fate, and their final cries of protest would echo over the river. Even more strangely a bit later on some sort of sluice would open and blood would flow into the river turning the water pink.
It is almost impossible to believe that such practises existed back in the early nineteen eighties, but that was how things used to be before the days of health and safety. So looking back I have nothing but almost very happy and positive memories of my days in Malton, and after all these years it is great to note that the depot is still going strong and that the efforts of those both past and present have been recognised. I have no doubt that my old friend Alex Hornby, the CEO of Transdev will be rightfully proud of the recognition of a bus route that is universally popular and attracts people from around the world to enjoy the beauty of the Moors and the coast. If you get the chance do yourself a favour and catch the 840, it will be a journey that you will enjoy.
In stark contrast when I reflected on the excellent concept behind the competition it got me thinking if maybe we should launch another competition to find the worst bus route in the UK. I have a few contenders myself of routes that I may not want to take. One that springs to mind is based in Birmingham, the 50 route serves the City centre to a place called Maypole. It sounds like a nice very English village type of place, cunjureing up images of Morris dancers and country pubs. The reality is starkly different, Maypole is a collection of those large depressing nineteen seventies style tower blocks, it has social deprivation issues and a very high crime rate. Some years ago when I worked for the Diamond Bus Company we started to operate a competitive bus service going head to head with National Express West Midlands, every 10 minutes all day. The route was nicknamed “The Cannabis Express” as it was a mobile drug dealing base. There were stories of pensioners getting on the bus and going upstairs and getting so stoned they just stayed on the bus unable to get off they were happy as Larry albeit very hungry as the munchies kicked in.
Anyway dear reader maybe you can suggest a bus route that you would not want to catch and why? I will of course share all donations so do not be shy, please do get on board as to just why you would not want to get on board as it were.