Monday 29 September 2014

Brighton, UK

Excluding London, bus usage in much of the rest of Britain has been a story of decline stretching back for decades.  There are nevertheless some places which buck this long-term trend.  One such place is Brighton, on the south coast of England, where bus usage has doubled over the last 20 years or so.

Brighton and its immediate western neighbour Hove form a combined city which is home to around 270,000 people.  The city has an extensive network of bus services, many of which operate at high frequencies, and the highest level of bus usage in England outside London.

Current legislation in Britain (outside London) allows any bus operator to operate whatever services they choose, wherever they wish to operate.  Nevertheless, most services within Brighton are operated by one operator, Brighton&Hove.

In most cases, the buses used are double-deckers with a single set of entrance/exit doors.

Many of Brighton&Hove's buses are named after deceased people who had a personal connection with the city or the surrounding area.

Buses on a number of Brighton&Hove's core routes carry colour-coded, route-specific branding.

Although visually very similar to Brighton&Hove's latest standard diesel-powered double-deckers, this vehicle (right) is one of a small fleet of hybrid-powered buses in the fleet.
Branding buses for specific routes does have its drawbacks.  In theory, it means that buses can be deployed less flexibly.  In practice, however, branded buses do stray from their intended routes.

Brighton&Hove is no exception to this, as these images show.


The Brighton&Hove fleet presents a uniform image, with almost the entire fleet wearing the company livery.  There are nevertheless one or two notable exceptions to this rule.  This vehicle wears the colours of Brighton and Hove's local football team.

Although much of Brighton&Hove's fleet comprises double-deckers, a small number of single-deck buses also operates.

When London got rid of its articulated buses, the capital city's loss was Brighton's gain.

A number of articulated vehicles were cascaded to Brighton&Hove to provide greater capacity on route 25, linking Hove and Brighton city centre with the universities to the north east of the city.

Route 25 runs to a very intensive frequency, up to every 3 minutes during university term times.

Although these buses had been built with three sets of doors, one set was removed when they were redeployed to Brighton.

Double-deck buses do make frequent appearances on route 25, particularly at weekends when fewer students are travelling and when the articulated buses may be used for special park-and-ride services to and from the football stadium.

I guess it was predictable that the double-deckers appearing on route 25 would include vehicles branded for other services.

A sign of how busy route 25 can be is shown by these vehicles, which were displaying that they were full.  These images were taken on a Sunday afternoon.

Within the city Brighton and Hove, the fare on Brighton&Hove services is generally £2.40 at 2014 prices, although some shorter distance fares are also available.

As well as cash fares, Brighton&Hove also offers smartcard and mobile phone ticketing.

Although Brighton&Hove have done much to make a success of their bus network, it would be wrong to suggest that they have achieved this in isolation.  Brighton&Hove has benefitted from the local authority, Brighton & Hove Council, which has generally pursued a pro-public transport agenda.

This has included investing in infrastructure such as realtime bus information displays at stops.

The local authority has also invested in traffic restraint and bus priority measures such as this bus lane, along part of the main arterial road into Brighton from the north.

As a further alternative to car usage, the council has also invested in cycle lanes.

On the Lewes Road corridor, the cycle lanes pass behind bus stops at a number of locations.  This reduces the need for buses and bikes to make conflicting movements around bus stops.

Brighton also benefits from an active bus users' group, Brighton Area Buswatch, which has built good relationships with the council and with bus operators.

So far, I have focussed on Brighton&Hove, as the city's main provider of bus services.  A small number of local services within the city are provided by other operators.  These services receive funding from Brighton & Hove Council, as neither Brighton&Hove nor any other operator is willing to run them commercially.

Route 52, serving Ovingdean and Woodingdean, is operated by The Big Lemon.

The Big Lemon's vehicles are powered using bio-diesel, produced from waste cooking oil collected from the city's restaurants.

Most other council-funded services are operated by Compass Bus.


Compass Bus route 37B is closely related to Brighton&Hove's routes 37 and 37A.

Routes 37 and 37A provide an hourly service linking Brighton station and city centre with a local housing estate to the east of the city.  These services operate without subsidy.

The 37B, which is subsidised, also runs hourly.  Its timetable is co-ordinated with the 37/37A to provide an even half-hourly service over almost the full length of the 37 and 37A.

However, while Brighton&Hove's routes 37 and 37A terminate at Brighton station, the 37B runs beyond the station to serve the city's north-eastern suburbs.

Brighton lies close to the South Downs National Park.  A partnership between Brighton & Hove City Council, the South Down National Park Authority and the National Trust funds three leisure bus services which climb from Brighton up onto the Downs.

Route 77 is the longest-established of the three services, linking Brighton with Devil's Dyke.

Double-deck buses are used on the 77.

During the summer season, most journeys on route 77 are provided using open-top buses.

Single deck buses are used on routes 78 and 79, to Stanmer Park and Ditchling Beacon.


Routes 77, 78 and 79, which are marketed under the "Breeze up to the Downs" banner, operate at weekends all year round.  A daily service operates on route 77 from mid-June to the end of August.

Route 77 runs every 45 minutes during the summer, and about every 60-70 minutes during the winter season.  Routes 78 and 79 operate hourly throughout the year. 

A number of longer-distance interurban services operate into and out of Brighton.

Brighton & Hove provide services eastwards along the coast to the towns of Newhaven, Seaford and Eastbourne.

Routes 12, 12A and 12X are branded as Coaster.  Between them, they provide 6 buses per hour (4 on Sundays) between Brighton and Eastbourne.  Extra buses run as far as Seaford at certain times.  

An additional limited stop service along the coast road to and from Eastbourne operates as route 13X.  Buses operate hourly on Sundays all year round, increasing to daily during the summer.

Routes 28 and 29, branded as the Regency route, run north-east from Brighton towards Lewes, Uckfield and Tunbridge Wells.

Two operators provide services on the corridor north from Brighton to the towns of Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath.  Two services are operated by TheSussexBus.

Competing services are operated by Metrobus.

Route 270 operates from Brighton to Haywards Heath, and onwards to East Grinstead.  Buses run hourly on Mondays to Saturdays.
Metrobus operate two further routes, 271 and 273, north from Brighton to Crawley.  Between them they provide an hourly service on Mondays to Saturdays.  Route 271 operates every 2 hours on Sundays.

Double-deck buses are used on many journeys.  Unusually, some have two doors, having previously operated in London.

I have also found single-deck buses used on the 271 on certain Sundays.

This image was taken in the village of Ditchling, to the north of Brighton.
Stagecoach operate routes into Brighton from the north west and the west.

The route from the north westerly direction is the 17 from Horsham, passing through rural settlements on its way to Brighton.
The 17 is operated commercially, but only on Mondays to Saturdays.  The Sunday service is provided under contract to West Sussex County Council.  Compass Bus provide the Sunday service, which operates every 2 hours.

This vehicle carries the livery not of Compass Bus, but of its previous operator.

Route 700, branded as Coastliner 700, heads west along the coast from Brighton to Hove, Shoreham-by-Sea, Worthing, Littlehampton and Arundel.

Coastliner 700 is operated with a mix of single-deck and double-deck vehicles.

From Brighton, Coastliner 700 operates every 10 minutes to Littlehampton with alternate buses continuing to Arundel.  Services run less frequently during the evenings and on Sundays.

But there is more to Coastliner 700 than this.

Coastliner 700 is actually three routes stretching along England's south coast from Brighton to Portsmouth.   Buses from Brighton run to Littlehampton and Arundel.  A second service provides connections from Littlehampton to Bognor Regis and Chichester, while the third leg of the service links Bognor Regis and Chichester with Havant and Portsmouth.

A journey from Brighton to Portsmouth takes over 4 hours, requiring two changes of bus along the route.

As a seaside city, Brighton attracts large numbers of day trippers from London and other parts of South East England.  Catering to this market, Go-Ahead London operate regular excursions to Brighton and other south coast destinations.

Route 775 operates one journey on Sundays during the peak summer holiday season and into the autumn.

National Express provides regular, daily long-distance coach services to and from Brighton.

Brighton's coach terminus is at Pool Valley, a stone's throw from the seafront and pier.

A hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour of Brighton and Hove is provided by City Sightseeing.  The tour operates from early April until late September.

Also aimed at visitors, Brighton & Hove introduced a service linking Brighton station with the seafront in 2014.  On many dates, this service was operated by a former London Routemaster bus, dating from 1965.

The bus carries the name Colin Curtis, after a key member of the team responsible for the Routemaster design.  Colin Curtis was born in Brighton.


Other heritage buses can be seen in Brighton on occasions.

This one is another former London bus, withdrawn from service in the 1960s.  Nearly half a century later, it still earns its keep being hired out for wedding parties.

This vehicle has a more local history.  It was one of a fleet of convertible open-toppers which operated in and around Brighton from the 1960s until the 1980s, in the same green and cream colours it wears today.

This image was taken on the seafront at Brighton, where the bus had been attending a motorcycle gathering.

A more permanent feature on the seafront is the Volks Electric Railway, which runs for about 2 kilometres from a station near the pier eastwards towards Brighton Marina.

The railway dates from 1883, and claims to be the world's oldest operating electric railway.


The railway operates from Easter to the end of September.  Trains usually run every 15 minutes.


I am grateful to Andrew Boag of Brighton Area Buswatch for his valuable help with this post.

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