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A classic is relaunched

The Mayor and Roger French at the Routemaster launch

On May 8th the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Councillor Garry Peltzer Dunn joined Brighton & Hove Buses managing director Roger French, to launch the newly renovated London Routemaster bus RML 2317.  The bus is resplendent in the original Thomas Tilling livery of red, cream and grey, just as it would have looked if the bus had been around, and Thomas Tilling had run it when the company operated buses in the Brighton and Hove area between 1916 and 1935.

The Mayor and Roger French at the Routemaster launch

Company started in 1846
Thomas Tilling first began running buses in London in 1846 when he was just 21.  He soon became one of the most successful transport entrepreneurs of that exciting era.  The Tilling family expanded their empire into the provinces by acquiring such companies as Thames Valley and Eastern Counties.  But they had a special eye on Brighton, establishing premises in Holland Road Hove, to run under their own name in 1914.  Two years later they consolidated their position in the area by buying out the larger Brighton, Hove & Preston United Company. In Brighton and London they chose to brand all buses as Thomas Tilling; all other Tilling companies ran under their local trading name.

You can ride the Routemaster
The bus will run various tours and be available for private hire.  So there you are all My Brighton and Hove bus enthusiasts, you will be able to ride this wonderful addition to the city’s buses.  Maybe if you do – you could take some great photos and write to tell us all of the experience?

Comments about this page

  • Oh dear, have I missed something?. The pictured bus was registered circa 1965, and if Routemaster buses were running round Brighton at any time from 1946 to 1984, other than the occasional private party trips which arrived in the summer, I sure as anything never saw them.

    By Jeremiah (09/05/2009)
  • Good luck with this beautiful bus.

    By Rital Robnel (09/05/2009)
  • Jeremiah, no you haven’t missed something. Routemasters never ran properly in Brighton and Hove. If I remember correctly, they were trialled in the 80s or 90s but their gearboxes couldn’t cope with the hills.  I love Routemasters and love to see them around and was horrified when LT withdrew them all, but it is wrong to have one in a Tilling livery. Mr French should have spent a bit of money buying the right sort of bus or left it running in its LT livery. It is after all ‘typically English’ and tourists would have still loved it. I fear this is another one of his PR exercises.

    By Allan (10/05/2009)
  • Oh dear, oh dear, I have just read my own comment, which was recently added, and well,.. it does sound pompous and almost dismissive. It was not meant to be. ‘Mental note to self’: Take the time to read mail, before selecting ‘Send’!

    By Jeremiah (11/05/2009)
  • What a bunch of clots, of course Routemasters never ran in service in Brighton, but they were not restricted to London Transport alone as several provincial Bus Companys used them in service as well as the fleet of B.E.A. You are quite right about the livery but let’s take on board that this is not only a way of preserving a bus that has now been consigned to the history books but also captures some of Brighton’s former transport history and yes it does look good, well done to all who were involved in getting this bus into the Brighton Aera.

    By John Wignall (12/05/2009)
  • Assuming I’m reading Jennifer’s interesting and accurate introduction piece correctly and I’m sure I am, then surely it must be the Thomas Tilling name and livery that’s being commemorated, not the pictured London bus that it’s applied on. The reason for using a Routemaster quite simply RML 2317 was available within the Go Ahead group and is still a working bus, the livery sits comfortably on this classic doubledecker, there is also a very close connection between LT buses and the red, cream and grey livery of the Thomas Tilling buses that ran in Brighton and Hove seventy or eighty years ago. Remember that this is also a commercial venture, the venerable old RML 2317 is still very capable of earning her keep. Congratulations to Roger French and his team for evoking memories of the name Thomas Tilling and bus liveries used in Brighton and Hove all those years ago. Good luck to Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company with this excellent venture. Thanks again for the memory.

    By Christopher Wrapson (13/05/2009)
  • Thank you for your response John. It would appear that I was after all being quite polite, tactful and open minded.

    By Jeremiah (13/05/2009)
  • John, I know they were not exclusive to LT as I have an extensive collection of Routemaster models in various liveries. They are however the ‘London Bus’ and models are mass produced, marketed and sold to tourists as such much in the same way as the black cab. Yes preserve the Tilling name but there must be a better way than creating a confusing hybrid. I do however agree it is nice to see this one preserved. I have seen another Routemaster in the Worthing area still in its LT livery.

    By Allan (14/05/2009)
  • As an ‘Energumen des Omnibus’ and without obsequious, praise of all things, ‘Roger French’ or My Brighton and Hove’, I too am delighted to see this wonderful, classic bus, in pristine condition and working for a living. But it is typically a ‘London Bus’, despite some other areas running, ‘London Buses’ and with the possible exception of some older AEC Regents on ‘The Corporation’, Brighton was not one such area. The marriage of the Thomas Tilling livery of yore, with what is universally recognised as a ‘London Bus’, is an incongruous mish mash akin to presenting bunches of bananas, in a display of British Agricultural History.
    The bus that would really typify Brighton’s transport, is of Course the Southdown liveried ‘Queen Mary’, the pride of this Brighton based subsidiary, and with few having been seen outside the South Coast in such numbers, or such pristine elegance.

    By Jeremiah (14/05/2009)
  • Ok the routemaster looks good. Well done to Mr French for a piece of history recaptured. Maybe BHB & CC should buy up a few more of these lovely buses as there must be hundreds now that are going to rust, and replace those terrible tin can single deckers that the travelling public have to endure riding on day to day like packed sardines.

    By Sid (14/05/2009)
  • So what is The problem here? Over the years, London Routemaster buses have been painted in every colour of the rainbow from Stagecoach stripes to pink polka dots there is even one running around East Sussex in full Southdown green and cream livery, (Sadly lacking the Southdown Sparkle) hopefully Allan has it in model form? Our local bus company has apparently committed the most heinous crime, by daring to purchase one such bus and then tastefully given it a historical livery that commemorates BHB & CC past. RML 2317 will be garaged and professionally maintained, therefore extending its working life. It will also give pleasure to young and old alike. With great respect to Allan, what would be the right kind of bus?? I doubt any of the early AEC Regents etc, used by Tillings in the 1920/1930s have survived, even if one did it would be no more than a museum piece today. The Bristol K Type represents the BH&D era of the 1950/1960s, perhaps one of the companies many Denis Tridents in the current fleet could have been used? Fleet numbers 881/887 all started life as London buses, even in 2009 the London/Brighton link continues. Interestingly there is an excellent book by John Roberts, published by The Transport Publishing Company 1984 it covers BH&Ds early Thomas Tilling years, up to the merger with Southdown under NBC control. Here is a short extract from the book’s introduction. Thomas Tilling preferred to run the Brighton undertaking almost as if it were another, more remote, suburban bus garage and there was always a srtong London-like flavour to Tillings Brighton buses which lingered on well into the era of the separate Brighton Hove & District Omnibus Co Ltd from November 1935. There probably would not have been a separate Brighton company but for protracted moves, lasting through much of the thirties, to set up some form co-ordinated transport system in the area. Even then, BH&D continued to be managed from London. Surely all personal opinions on this subject should be respected.

    By Christopher Wrapson (17/05/2009)
  • Just found this site. Christopher Wrapson there is such an old ex Thomas Tilling AEC Regent 661 bus of the same batch that used to run in Bighton & Hove in the 30s. Tillings sent the first 12 to Brighton reg GJ 2001-12 the next 186 were kept in London GJ 2013-2100 ect ect. The London fleet of Tillings as is known was taken over by London Transport when it was formed in 1933. Brighton at the start had 110 of these vehicles, in all there were 296 made with the same open staircase bodies of which one remains preserved. GJ 2098 it was saved by a Mr P Marshall many years ago and rebuilt, I think it is still operational, at least it was when I last saw it at Cobham a few years ago and it still had a petrol engine.

    By Alan Southwell (21/05/2009)
  • Hello Alan. Thanks for that. It’s good to know one of the old Tilling Brighton Regents has survived and hopefully still turning a wheel at Cobham. I must admit I have not visited Cobham for many years. There are some great pictures of the GJ batch etc in the book I mentioned. You know, looking back now to the 1930s, those buses would have been viewed as the height of luxury when compared with the old open top Corporation trams etc, operating in the same era. I’m sure the good folk of Brighton and Hove must have thought they were most fortunate to have such posh buses to convey them around the town.

    By Christopher Wrapson (05/06/2009)
  • Maybe of interest but as an old Nottingham driver, Notts and Derby had some ex Brighton stuff as well. If you want to see all old Brighton vehicles in all colours, as they are now and were, make a note in the diary June 13th 2010 when BHB&CC are having a 75th anniversary on the seafront at Brighton

    By David Harrison (25/08/2009)
  • In fact a Routemaster did run in Brighton. This was with Haven I think, who ran it along the coast road in public service for a while before that company ceased trading - again I think around the 90’s. Interestingly, this bus was acquired from Metrobus who took over operations from Arriva at Crawley who were once part of London & Country who ran batches of RM’s in London area green livery.

    By Martin (30/05/2010)
  • I was the owner of Leisurelink that took over the East Sussex school contracts from Haven Bus and operated out of the same garage at Newhaven.  We did in fact run a open top Routemaster on loan from Cobham Bus Museum with our fleet name applied on our version of the 12 route along the coast road from Newhaven into Brighton, much to the dissatisfaction of Roger French who humoured me when I joined Brighton & Hove as a driver, then an inspector on their short lived rapid response team after Leisurelink closed. 
    I can relate to a comment made about the K types and the need for a snatch change from 1st to 2nd gear when turning right at the Clock Tower to go up to the station. Our ex Southdown Leyland PD3 Demountable Open Top Queen Mary was occasionally the only spare bus available in the winter with roof back on.  I quite often had the job of running a school contract in service from Seaford to Brighton railway station which attracted a standing load as it was the first bus to go to the station. At that infamous turn I would be brought to a dead stand in view of oncoming traffic until a Stagecoach bus would stop and wave me across as our bus was in Southdown livery evoking memories and it was that acute moment as the snatch change occurred just as the bus moved off. Was it going go in or not was the nagging doubt?  Fortunately I only clipped a cog once but it certainly was painful, but it still went in!

    By Clifford Jones (02/04/2015)

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