Words by Olly DeHerrera, Print Editor

On Monday the 7th of November, the Brighton and Hove Bus Company’s Mercedes Citaro fleet, better known as the ‘bendy buses’, made its final journey around Brighton’s streets. 

Brighton and Hove buses released a statement on their website announcing: “On Monday 7 November we say farewell to the last bendy bus. We know there are some bendy bus fans out there and we wanted to give you the opportunity to ride a bendy bus for one last time with a stop off in Brighton for photos.” The final bendy bus ride was free of charge for those who booked- although donations to a local charity were collected as part of the trip. 

The 22 bendy buses were acquired from London in 2009 as part of then Lord Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans to shake up public transport in London. At a length of 34ft and 10 inches, the bendy bus was much loved or loathed by students trekking the 25 bus route which the bendy buses exclusively ran between Old Steine/Portslade and the two universities. Chair of bus watchdog group BusWatch, Andy Boag, told Brighton and Hove News that the choice to phase-out the bendy buses was partly due to the increasingly difficulty of acquiring parts for the 15 year old model, as well as its high fuel consumption and a drop in student numbers attending university in person since hybrid learning was introduced as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The bendy buses were well known for their decorative exterior, designed by different local artists in Brighton and Hove. Mike Dicks, illustrator, designer and author of the ‘Mike and Scribble’ children’s book series, lent his unique cartoon art style to the designing of the dog-themed bendy bus. Dicks also created a model replica of the bus bearing his artwork for the Brighton Toy Museum. In 2019, around 700 Sussex University students voted on two bright pastel designs by local artist Lois O’Hara, to adorn the side of two of the buses. On their website, Brighton and Hove buses explained: “Lois approached us because she wanted a large-scale canvas on which to promote positive mental health, a theme which often comes up in her work, as do motion and fluidity.”

The bendy buses enjoyed lots of adventures whilst serving Brighton- not always for their intended purpose. During August 2021, at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, one of the bendy buses was transformed into a temporary vaccine centre on Hove lawns. The buses began to be phased out of use in the summer of 2022, many of the buses have been sold off to private owners, with one being captured on twitter by user @Ste_Jones75 in Manchester, still with its full Brighton paint, after being purchased by Grey Line motor services. At least one of the buses has been acquired by the Bromley Bus Preservation Group.

Many took to twitter to express their sadness at the retiring of the Citaro model. Twitter user @MaclarenTurner reflected: “Brighton has been a stronghold for the bendy bus operation”. Brighton and Hove Buses shared a photo of passengers arriving at Old Steine via the bendy bus for a final time, user @BHCAFC responded to the news, commenting that this was the “worst day of his life”. The bendy bus was a nostalgic feature of Brighton students and locals alike, and its presence is sure to be missed.

Featured Image Courtesy of Les Chatfield from Flickr

Categories: National News News

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