Meetings

Meetings

Club meetings usually take place three times a year, usually towards the end of the month in January, March and October.

SEC publications, photographs and other items are usually available for purchase at our meetings.

Transport enthusiasts who are not members of the SEC will be welcome to attend our meetings.

2024 Meeting Dates confirmed.

The next meeting is due to take place on Saturday 23rd March 2024, in the main hall of the Shoreham Centre, 2 Pond Road, Shoreham-by-Sea BN43 5WU. This is an evening meeting and doors open at 18:00, with guest speaker Marc Reddy, Managing Director, Stagecoach South.

Other meetings planned (evening meeting, doors open at 18:00):
Saturday 26th October: Guest speaker James Freeman, giving a presentation on King Alfred Buses and FoKAB (the Friends of King Alfred Buses).

The usual fee of at least £3.00 will be levied at the door, to help off-set the cost of hiring the hall. Our sales stand will be present selling SEC publications and other items.

Report on the October 2023 Meeting:

Despite poor weather during that week, about 35 members attended the Club’s Autumn meeting held at the Shoreham Centre to hear about the work of The Big Lemon group of companies. It was most unfortunate that in the days immediately before the meeting there was uncertainty about whether the expected speaker, Ryan Wrotney, would attend and in the event his place was filled at very short notice by Diana Bednika from the company. Meantime a few members of the committee pursued an emergency “plan B” to provide a power-point show covering bus services and vehicles run by independent operators in and around the Brighton area. Diana Bednika explained that having been parachuted in at the last moment she would only be able to speak to the prepared slides but would answer questions to the best of her knowledge.
Although a little nervous she hoped that all would be well. On this score she need not have worried, in front of an audience that understood and was sympathetic to her plight, she in fact gave an assured performance and handled the situation in a remarkably mature way. Introducing herself she said that she had joined the company from school under a job placement scheme and had continued on day release from university and now as a post-graduate in accountancy. She works two days a week at Black Rock for The Big Lemon CIC and another two days at Hailsham for Seaford & District Motor Services. From the slide show she outlined how The Big Lemon was set up and has developed as follows: 

• In the beginning a public meeting was held in a local pub in October 2006, approximately 20 people attended; a diverse cross section of the community and three main concerns emerged:
– Sustainability (use of “clean” buses), Engagement with the community, Passenger experience.
– These findings and ideas were then taken to Brighton & Hove Buses and the local city council.
Both organisations met with The Big Lemon (TBL), but at that stage neither was interested in the concept. However, it was reported in the local paper, word started to spread, and more people took an interest.
• TBL decided to go it alone and create a bus service that ticked all of our boxes. The main strategies we used were:
– Ongoing public meetings
– Involvement from the community in
– setting up the organisation
– developing the service and deciding on routes, fares, timetables etc. and
– in advertising the services / spreading the word

The opportunity to take things forward came from three things:
– dissatisfaction around existing bus fares, and a sense that it was all for profit and not for the community
– a feeling of disempowerment; nothing anyone could do about it, nobody would listen
– the amount of help that was offered; this presented us with an opportunity to follow through
• At the beginning various issues had to be overcome:
– the Regulatory regime
– Finance
– Expertise – Knowledge
– Existing transport framework in the city
– Public perception that there was only one bus company people could use
As explained in the second part of the presentation (below) The Big Lemon started work on routes serving the University with some vehicles being run on fuel derived from used cooking oil. Later TBL took on tendered services for Brighton & Hove City Council and now have a good number of battery-electric vehicles using power generated by solar panels on the depot roof. Diana Bednika summed up the present position as follows:
• TBL run three local urban public bus routes and four private contract services
• Additionally they have a specialised coach division (Brighton Horizon based at Ringmer) and run the Brighton & Hove City Council Community Transport service.
• There is a total fleet of 70 vehicles
• The coach division provides coach hire for any occasion, in the UK and for trips abroad, as well as rail replacement, school and college services
• TBL has its own workshop and EV charging stations; solar roof panels provide recharging
• It runs the United Kingdom’s first solar powered electric bus route, launched in 2017
• One of the largest independently operated fleets of electric buses
• Acquired Seaford & District in 2021 (just recently moved from Ringmer to Hailsham) and they launched in Bristol in October 2022
• They have operations in Bristol and Bath, as well as Brighton and Hove.

In answer to questions, Diana confirmed that the electric buses were not able to operate for a complete day without being recharged. Thus double the usual number of vehicles is needed to run the complete schedule (compared to diesel-fuelled buses). Three of the routes pass the depot so vehicles can be exchanged mid-route. Service 16 at Portslade would therefore be more likely to see a diesel bus to avoid dead-running to Black Rock. It was not possible to say if the energy supplied from the solar panels was enough to cover the total operation of the electric buses – Diana thought that TBL did get an electricity bill, but it was certainly reduced. The battery power of the latest Higer STEED buses do not appear as durable as the Optare Solos and investigations about this are being pursued with the makers. With regard to Seaford & District Diana confirmed that the fleet and the work taken on had been reduced slightly because of the (national) difficulty in obtaining driving staff. The all-yellow double-deck buses recently purchased will soon be branded as The Big Lemon and that the name change would soon be made official with the Traffic Commissioners. 

After the break, Paul Gainsbury gave a Powerpoint presentation covering the operations of independent operations locally. Prepared in haste, it was made up of some early views scanned from negatives and more recent digital images. Some of the coverage was a therefore a little random given that not all of the available negatives, by far, have been scanned. A brief review of the early days of TBL was provided by Chris Warren which noted that operations had started in September 2007 with service 42X between the University of Sussex and Brighton Station geared towards the student market. The regulatory problems mentioned by Diana meant that this service was withdrawn in the November.

TBL restarted in February 2008 with a normal stopping service 42 with a restricted timetable running to Old Steine and to Churchill Square in the late evenings. By 2016 it had also been awarded a contract for a service UB1 by the University of Brighton to link its campus at Falmer with the accommodation at Varley Halls on Coldean Lane and Old Steine. The latter service is now run by Lucketts – Worthing Coaches with a blue Scania ex-demonstrator bus, an image of which was also shown. Finally a few years later TBL won Brighton & Hove City Council tendered services 16, 47 and 52/56, all of which are still competently run today. Single-deck vehicles illustrated started with a classic ex-Stagecoach Volvo/Alexander PS in full yellow livery, followed by ex-Bournemouth East Lancs-bodied Darts; Dennis Darts with SLF bodywork, one taking fuel at the local petrol station (a practice that continues); ex-London dual-doorway Enviro200s in both red and in yellow; and single-doorway buses in as-purchased white and then in yellow. Optare Solos in various sizes and liveries followed, culminating in the latest battery-electric SRs and the unusual Higer STEED buses, types presently in use. A short selection of TBL coaches included Volvo / Van Hool Alizees, a Berkhof and a Mercedes-Benz minibus, while the latest Seaford & District Scania OmniDekkas in plain yellow were also shown. TBL recently extended its operations to the Bristol and Bath area; Dave Chalkley gave a short explanation of how this came about and how the small operation, which is dependent on tendered work from the local authority is settling down. An extremely recent image of an Enviro200 illustrated this  operation. 

Moving to past independent operations more locally, a selection of Haven Bus vehicles in various colours was followed by the succeeding Blue Triangle and then Leisurelink vehicles. It was at this stage that memories of the sequence of operators became hazy and audience participation was sought (see appeal below). Guide Friday ran an open-top sightseeing service in the town with an ex-Portsmouth Atlantean – that service moved to the associated City  Sightseeing franchise and is now run by Brighton & Hove Buses. RDH services was then illustrated on its local tendered services and also over at Lewes, the latter town also being served by Autopoint with a series of ever-smaller minbuses. Brighton Borough Transport had taken over Lewes Coaches and a number of vehicles in that fleet were shown, as were those of rail company Connex which ran down from Uckfield and also on the local Newhaven town service. Early in the show we had seen an image of a Belson of Chichester (t/a Sussex Bus) ex-London Country Bristol LHS working on a Sunday journey of service 107 from Horsham in 1987 – that bus promoted the Evening Argus, as did many in that fleet. The Sunday tendered service on the route was later covered by Alder Valley and then Guildford & West Surrey until April 1994 when it was then taken back by Stagecoach. Latterly back to a Monday to Saturday operation by the main operator, until the recent pandemic the Sunday service was run by Sussex Coaches of Shipley. The cornucopia continued with a brief survey of the operations of Countryliner into Brighton, which were transferred to Sussex Bus which introduced the local NHS Trust’s sponsored 40X service to link
the Haywards Heath and Brighton hospitals. With the collapse of Sussex Bus that service was taken over by Metrobus, while the mid-Sussex services are now run by Compass Bus. The latter company also now runs the tendered 37/37B services in Brighton with Enviro200 MMC buses branded as CityBuzz, which were also illustrated. The final image was of the Brighton Regency AEC Routemaster which plies its trade as an “afternoon tea” dining experience.
Paul Gainsbury was thanked for putting on such an entertaining selection of images covering the 37 years since deregulation at such short notice. Thanks were also offered to Paul Snelling, Jim Smith, Dave Chalkley and Chris Warren for their behind the scenes help. Rayner Snelling is also thanked for manning the door and kindly collecting the admission fees on the night. With the little time available, the experience of putting a commentary together for Paul’s show
highlighted the fact that as a Club we have no ready-made chronology of the wider post-deregulation sequence of operators or of their operations within the “old” Southdown area. As indicated above some of the operations were of relatively short duration, while retendering by the local authorities at three- or
five-year intervals made the situation somewhat fluid. Much of the commentary was actually derived from quick reference to Roger French’s admirable summary in his book “pride & joy” for which many thanks are offered. Other sources already available include Peter Ticehurst and Alan Piatt’s book “From Tramshed to Go-Ahead” and Alan Lambert’s book on “Hants & Sussex”, while over recent years there are many and increasing references within the pages of the SEC Journal of the operations of the smaller operators in our area. We would like to pull all these together as a coherent record of these events and wonder if any reader has already made such a written summary, perhaps covering just their own local area or just over part of the period. If that could be shared with the Club (hand-written or typed records can be transcribed for computer use) these would provide reference points to look further and we could then make a start on formulating such a record. Once an outline has been established these could be linked with the photographs that are available as a cross-check on dates and routes. Any offers of written or computer records already to hand would be gratefully received by Chris Warren (details on page 3 of this Journal).

Getting to the Shoreham Centre.

By car, from the A27 take the A283 slip road to Shoreham/Steyning/Henfield/Horsham.to the Steyning Road/A283. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit on to Upper Shoreham Road. Turn right on to Mill Lane, which turns slightly right and becomes Southdown Road. Turn left on to Western Road and right on to
Pond Road.

By train, the nearest railway station is Shoreham By Sea, a 5-minute walk away. From the station approach, turn left onto Brunswick Road then right into Western Road and left on to Pond Road. Please check for engineering works on the railway nearer the date of the meeting.

By bus, Brighton and Hove Bus Company route 2 and Stagecoach 700 both stop at Shoreham High Street. From here it is only a 2-minute walk via Middle Street or Church Street to Pond Road.

Entry to the hall is via the main entrance on Pond Street, not directly from the car park.