On the buses

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A brief history of buses, trams and trolleybuses in Richmond

The first horse-drawn bus service started in London in 1829, but it took until 1844 for the service to start locally, opened by the Richmond Conveyance Company.

Not everyone was in favour of the service and it took until 1870 for Richmond Vestry to agree to allow a horse drawn-tram along Kew Road – however, it was banned from travelling over Kew Bridge.

Horse drawn-trams were very slow and an early 1890s joke was ‘Will you walk or have you time to take a tram?’. By then, the local tram companies were losing money so an entrepreneur, James Robinson, stepped in and founded London United Tramways (LUT), which covered a large part of south-west of London including Twickenham, Teddington, Kingston and Hampton. Robinson had worked in the USA and seen the success of electric trams. After a hard-fought campaign, he managed to persuade most local authorities to agree to the have electric trams and the first ran from Kew Bridge to Hammersmith in April 1901. Two years later LUT opened a huge tram depot at Fulwell, (now the bus garage), with eighteen tracks.

However, the Borough of Richmond continued to oppose electric trams and one councillor dismissed the suggestion that there should be trams up Richmond Hill with the words: ‘If trams come into the borough, the residents will almost be turned out of it themselves by the riff-raff of the East End.’

The horse drawn-tram service continued down Kew Road until 1912 and was then replaced by the Number 27 bus. (Pissaro‘s painting of St. Anne’s, now in the Impressionist exhibition at Tate Britain, shows a horse drawn-tram by the church.) However, motor bus services had been introduced in Richmond in 1905 and quickly expanded – an old photograph of George Street, dated 1912, shows as many buses there as today.  But, by the 1930s, LUT decided to replace local trams with trolley buses because of falling revenues. Some trams routes continued until 1951 but the trolley buses only lasted about thirty years.

In 1932 the London Transport Passenger Board took over all the routes, but in 1994 the bus services were privatised and the new bus company in this area used a similar name to the old LUT, calling the company London United Transport.

The diesel bus then dominated our roads, but these are now being replaced by hybrid buses, which cause less pollution and are better for the environment.
 © John Moses

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