|Administrative History||By the mid nineteenth century a number of private horse bus services operated in Aberdeen but the transport network was still underdeveloped. The passing of the 1870 Tramways Act encouraged a syndicate of Aberdeen businessmen to establish the Aberdeen District Tramways Company in 1871, and the Company became operational in 1874. Its development coincided with the wider development of Aberdeen city itself, as the city's boundary lines were signficantly extended over the next twenty years. Originally the horse tramway lines ran between Queen's Cross and North Church, and St Nicholas Street and Causewayend; extensions to the Mannofield area, King Street, and the Rosemount viaduct followed. |
The District company ran horse bus services but maintained a focus on trams, despite an uneasy relationship with Aberdeen Corporation. In 1889 the Corporation adopted a new set of bye-laws relating to tramcars and these by-laws were enforced by the police, although general safety provision remained poor. Other areas of contention included fares; the Company was statutorily obliged to offer reduced fares to the poor but these regulations were never satisfactorily enforced. Ferryhill and Torry had no tram service provision at all, and investment by the Company was piecemeal. Finally, the issue of electrification of the track forced the issue and the District Company was bought out by Aberdeen Corporation in 1898. By 1902 all lines were electrified and transport development in the city became a politicial issue, planned in response to other public concerns such as housing development. Municipal control of transport also resulted in more attention to safety inspections and staff conduct: the District Company had not introduced uniforms or a rule book, perhaps reflecting the fact that many of its drivers were from farming communities, whose skills lay in managing horses. The drivers of the electrified trams were predominantly from the city.
In 1901 the outlying suburban areas of Deeside and Donside came under the service provision of the Aberdeen Suburban Tramways Company (AST). The AST was an independent operator but remained dependent on the Corporation Electricity Company for power supplies. It also paid Aberdeen Corporation for the privilege of using some of its track. After the Company was wound up in 1927 the suburban tramway tracks fell into disuse but by the late 1930s, as the borough boundary expanded, some of this track gradually came into use again.
In 1907 the Tramways Department was established as a distinct local authority department and this pushed for new extensions and investment for the tramways. Aberdeen Corporation pioneered some new transport policies: for example, the first 'pay as you enter' tramcars in Britain were deployed in Aberdeen in 1912. The First World War resulted in large-scale problems, however: outdated stock and track needed to be replaced and the workforce was more diverse and organised. Mass housing developments after the war required extensions to the existing tramway system but the Corporation diverted resources to the buses, which were more profitable and technically efficient.
The first Aberdeen Corporation bus fleet began operating in 1920, and initially faced stiff private competition. Aberdeen Corporation passed omnibus bye-laws in 1926, which substantially strengthened the position of the muncipal operator against its private competitors. By the late 1920s bus services were outperforming tram services, and the bus network became strongly established across the city in areas such as Torry and Hilton.The relative performances of the tram and bus services became the subject of the Royal Commission on Transport in 1929, with tram services being considered in 'a state of obsolescence.' The Torry and Ferryhill tram routes ran for the last time in 1931 and bus revenue exceeded tram revenue in 1937.
The Second World War finally terminated council investment in tramways. In 1954 the Town Council requested the General Manager prepare a report with proposals for the abandonment of the tramcar service rather than signficant capital investment; the Frazer report of 1955 duly recommended this as transport policy and the last trams ran in 1958. The Transport Department of Aberdeen Corporation now became solely a bus operator. Due to the end of petrol rationing and the rise in private motor transport the buses themselves recorded falling passenger numbers in the mid 1950s; to reverse this trend, the Transport Act of 1968 awarded municipal operators a new bus grant scheme and a 'rural bus grant' to support outlying bus services. Another development was the introduction of one person operation (OPO), which phased out the role of conductors and reduced labour costs: this was introduced in Aberdeen during the late 1960s.
The re-organisation of local government in 1975 meant transport became a regional concern; the municipal transport fleets now came under the aegis of Grampian Regional Transport Department. Further change resulted from the 1985 Transport Act, with its new emphasis on 'deregulation': it was now no longer necessary to obtain a Road Service Licence to operate a bus route. Grampian Regional Transport Limited became a stand-alone municipal company in 1986 and faced competition from the privately-run Northern Scottish. Finally, in 1988, a management-employee buy-out of Grampian was undertaken in agreement with the regional council and in 1989 Grampian Regional Transport Ltd. became a subsidiary of GRT Holdings PLC.
GRT Holdings continued to expand by acquisition and by late 1994 Grampian Regional Transport became an operating subsidiary of the GRT Group, with its own management. In 1995 GRT Holdings merged with Badgerline to create FirstBus plc.
|Description||The survival of the business records of the organisation has been very piecemeal, and as a result most of the records deposited here are ephemeral, comprising principally printed papers such as posters, plans, timetables, newspaper cuttings, medals, tickets, travel passes, bus view cards and catalogues, etc. A comprehensive collection of printed acts and proceedings provides a framework for understanding the development of the local public transport network in Aberdeen from the 1870s - 1980s, and this is complemented by several printed and typescript histories, and public transport surveys, dating from the 1960s - 1990s. There is also a large photographic collection, comprising around 500 images of horse cars, trams, buses, staff, and local views of the city, late 19th c - late 20th century.|
|Publication Note||Aberdeen Suburban Tramways by M J Mitchell and I.A. Souter (N.B. Traction, Dundee, 1980)|
'The Aberdeen District Tramways by M.J. Mitchell & I.A. Souter (N.B. Traction, Dundee, 1983)
Fae Dee to Don and Back Again: 100 years of Public Transport in Aberdeen by Michael J R Mitchell, (Aberdeen: First Aberdeen Ltd., 1998)
Martin Helm, An Incredible Journey: The First Story (Cambridge, 2009)