Our History

A collage of historical photos of Bournemouth Transport Ltd.

You’ve found the website of Yellow Buses, named Shire Operator of the Year in the UK Bus Awards 2009,  Shire Operator of the Year 2010 and Route One Operator of Excellence 2010

Each year we carry just under 15 million passengers on our 131-strong bus fleet, clocking up nearly five million miles across Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and East Dorset.

Our History

The tramway predecessors of the company that was to become Yellow Buses started trading in July 1902. By 1906 the tramway system had reached its full extent, although further vehicles were added up to a maximum fleet of 131. In 1913, following a referendum, trams began to operate on Sundays afternoons and it wasn’t until 1926 that the first Sunday morning trams ran too. The first bus services started as ‘feeders’ to the tram in 1906 and were expanded only on this basis until 1930 when the bus fleet was doubled when the Borough expanded to take in Kinson and Holdenhurst.

In 1933 the first trolley bus was run experimentally and over the next few years, the entire tramway system was moved across to trolleybuses.

Following the war years, large-scale fleet replacement and expansion took place and in 1950, Bournemouth Transport carried a record of over 64 million journeys. At the end of May 1950, petrol was de-rationed and there was a huge consequent increase in private motoring and a decline in the use of public transport.

To respond to this decline and the resultant increase in traffic congestion, one-person buses were introduced in 1958 and trolleybuses were replaced with diesel buses between 1963 and 1969.

During the 70s and 80s marketing was used to help slow the decline of bus use and coach operations were promoted outside the borough for the first time.

Under the transport act of 1985 Bournemouth Transport was forced to become a private limited company, with the shares being wholly owned by the Borough. However, the company took decisions independently through its board and profitability was now high on the agenda. In 1986 competition brought on by the above act started to appear, but the company successfully managed to fight off the various incomers and even took one over.

The original livery of primrose yellow and maroon was altered to primrose and azure blue in 1990.

In late 2005, Bournemouth Borough Council sold Yellow Buses to Transdev. Then in early 2006, the company left its Mallard Road home of 53 years to move to a purpose-built £5m facility on Yeomans Way. Among Mallard Road’s claims to fame was the fact that the garage had the largest span of pre-stressed concrete in the country when it was built in 1951. It became a Grade 2 listed building in 1999, which meant that when the depot became the Mallard Rd Retail Park in 2007, the garage had to be retained, becoming a Homebase DIY superstore.

After a comprehensive review, there were major service changes from July 2nd 2006, resulting in Yellow Buses running six core routes across the conurbation, with a supporting network of lower-frequency routes.

In 2009 and 2010 Yellow Buses were shortlisted and subsequently won the ‘Shire Operator of the Year’, an award much coveted in the industry. 2010 also saw the Yellows winning the Route One Large Bus Operator Of Excellence award.

RATP Group and its subsidiary RATP Dev take a new step forward

In March 2011 the ownership of Yellow Buses moved to RATP Dev when the merger between Veolia Transport and Transdev prompted RATP to withdraw from the shareholding in the capital of Transdev in return for a transfer of assets equal to the value of its equity investment (25.66%). Sixteen Transdev-Veolia companies and 6500 staff members joined RATP Group through its subsidiary RATP Dev, which focuses on managing transport network operations in France and internationally.

The integration was a strategic one for RATP Group, which is establishing a direct presence in Switzerland and the United Kingdom and is also bolstering its presence in Italy, where it has become the country’s No. 1 foreign urban transport operator. RATP Group is also consolidating its presence in France with operations acquired in new regions to offer their authorities responsible for transport, a new and credible alternative.


Since then, the company has continued in invest in new vehicles and innovative technology, whilst working closely with the local community, such as educational trips to schools and involvement with AFC Bournemouth. Local charities, community groups and good causes are also supported by the company, such as through the innovative Carbon Stoppers initiative, which since it was launched in December 2008, has raised £30,000 for good causes. It is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK bus industry and reduces congestion, improves the environment and benefits the people of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch. Further details about this scheme can be found at: https://www.yellowbuses.co.uk/carbon-stoppers

Since 2002, the fundraising by the company for a variety of local charities has raised thousands of pounds and additional awareness for good causes. For 2017 the money went to the ‘Wear It Pink’ charity. Drivers had collection tins on their buses and passengers were as generous as always. The company has several themed days throughout the year.

Yellow Buses also has themed buses dedicated to Poetry (‘The Poetry Bus’), artwork (‘The Gallery Bus’), AFC Bournemouth, a Wildlife Bus and the history of Yellow Buses and its predecessor Bournemouth Corporation Transport since its inception in 1902. These buses are decorated inside with impressive vinyl and photographs. There are also double-deckers with an advertising livery for a local radio station and the annual ‘Bournemouth 7s’ Festival. 

In 2017, the network was changed to introduce our new colour ribbon branding.

From 1 May 2017, six new double-deckers, described as the most environmentally friendly diesel vehicles on the road, went into service. The British-built Alexander Dennis MMC (Major Model Change) E400 vehicles have ultra-low carbon Euro 6 engines and the latest stop-start technology, which along with their lighter weight helps to reduce emissions, noise and fuel usage.

Other features of the £1.3 million fleet include leather seats and tinted glass, USB chargers for all seats, free Wi-Fi, audio and visual ‘next stop’ announcements, extra space for buggies and shopping trolleys and easier to read front destination displays. The buses also have full internal and external CCTV and Real-Time tracking which links to the journey planner on Yellow Buses’ app and website.

The iconic open top bus operation returned during the Summer of 2017 and has continued in 2018 and 2019 with extended seasons.

As part of the celebrations of 115 years of continuous operation, a bus rally was organised in Kings Park on Saturday, 10 June 2017, where a selection of current and preserved vehicles operated by the company was on display. This was so successful that another bus rally was held in Kings Park on Saturday, 7 July 2018 and on Sunday 9 June 2019, again with some of the vehicles operating over former routes.

Over the winter of 2017/2018, Yellow Buses carried out an extensive makeover of its town centre Enquiry Office in Bournemouth. We are the only bus operator with a Travel Shop in Bournemouth town centre.

Our new customer-friendly Travel Shop is now open six full days per week, all year round, where our fantastic staff can help you with all your travel queries. There is a Real-Time departure screen and passenger kiosks, where we can assist you with our mobile app.  

From Sunday, 8 April 2018, a revised network was introduced. Some of the main features of this include improved punctuality boosted by realistic running times based on the extensive analysis of Real-Time data; simple route numbers with suffixes; a colour-coded fleet with bespoke route branding for the corridors, featuring free Wi-Fi, a revised website address and those buses employed on routes serving the station have station branding on the front.

There were also enhanced frequencies on Christchurch (Route 1) with up to 18 journeys per hour on weekdays, and more Sunday daytime buses, plus through buses to Poole are back. Boscombe Bus Station is now served by Route 2 from Bournemouth to Hospital via Holdenhurst Road. There were through journeys from Castlepoint to Poole as Route 3, with Kinson (Route 5) being now served by an increase in frequency.

The company was pleased to announce success in winning back three of the four routes that were tendered by Bournemouth and Poole Councils. The contracts have been awarded for seven years and the company aims to work in partnership with the Authorities to continue to develop the routes, encouraging more customers to use them. The routes that we will continue to run are Route 18 Bournemouth to Broadstone (formerly Route H1) operating hourly Monday to Saturday daytime, Route 33 Bournemouth to Christchurch (formerly part of Route D1) operating hourly Monday to Saturday daytime and Route 36 Talbot View to Kinson via Bournemouth (formerly Route U8) operating hourly Monday to Saturday daytime.

The B1 service to the airport continued to operate until 26th May 2018, when it became the new ‘Jetbus 737’.

The company was pleased with the result of its first ever customer survey, conducted independently by ‘Transport Focus’ in 2017. At an overall passenger satisfaction rating of 94%, the company was joint third nationally in England and ‘Top Operator In Bournemouth and Poole’.

The company supported The Christmas Tree Wonderland in Bournemouth Town Centre, which was held from 16th November 2018 until 2nd January 2019, and then again from 15th November 2019 to 2nd January 2020. This was voted the ‘Best Event In 2018’ in a national competition. 

From Sunday 7th April 2019,  further improvements to the timetable were introduced with the Summer Timetable. These included a Sunday and Bank Holiday service from Christchurch to Poole, the extension of the 1a service from Somerford to New Milton via Highcliffe and the extension of Route 6 from Bearwood to Wimborne. The frequency of services on route 5/5a was doubled to every 15 minutes during the evening, meaning that up to around 10pm, a bus operates every 7/8 minutes from the town centre to the railway station and Charminster between routes 3, 5 and 5a.

Other enhancements included new late-night buses, the ‘Night 1’, on Friday and Saturday nights operating every 30 minutes from 12.30am to 4am between Westbourne, Bournemouth, Boscombe, Pokesdown, Iford and Christchurch and the ‘Night 5’ service also running on Fridays and Saturdays every 30 minutes between The Square, railway station, Charminster, Winton, Moordown and Bournemouth University campus. The boosting of evening services and the launching of the new night bus were based on changes in the times that people are travelling by bus

The popular open-top service was back for an extended season, branded as ‘Buster’s Beach Bus’, now running from Boscombe to Boscombe Pier, Bournemouth, Westbourne and Alum Chine, through to Sandbanks.

The third Bournemouth Bus Rally was held in Kings Park on Sunday 9th June and was very successful, with over fifty buses and coaches attending, eleven of which represented the current fleet, including ADL E200 No. 30, which carries a special livery commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the last Bournemouth trolleybus, the theme of the rally.
Exciting news announced on 2nd July 2019 was the sale of the company to the management team of David Squire (Managing Director), Phil Pannell (Service Delivery Director) and Simon Newport (Commercial Director). The associated mon-trading company of Vintage Yellow Buses Ltd was also included in the sale.

The decision was prompted by RATP wishing to focus on their franchise operations in London, together with sightseeing and coach Businesses in London, Bath and the North West. The return to local ownership and management means that the company will still be able to react quickly to opportunities as they arise and will work with BCP Council and other stakeholders to deliver the vision of the ‘Transforming Cities Fund’ to ease congestion and promote a modal shift in the conurbation. 

Each year the company carries just under 15 million passengers on its 132 strong bus fleet, clocking up nearly five million miles across Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and East Dorset. National Express coaches operate the 035 service to London and private hire work is also undertaken.

We introduced a service linking Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch over a century ago, in 1905, using open-top trams with wooden seats. Today we are still operating the same through route, but it is now faster, more frequent and uses modern luxury buses with leather seats, Wi-Fi and USB ports. Always travel with Yellow Buses - the number one local bus operator.

The future for the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch area is bright and yellow!

The above short history has been compiled as a summary of the Yellow Buses centenary booklet, written by David L. Chalk, MILT, with revisions and updates by Dave Symes CMILT.