Buses and coaches on the island of Jersey (Channel Islands) by David Slater (August 2019)
The Bailiwick of Jersey comprises the island of Jersey and a small number of uninhabited islets and rocks situated about 14 miles (22 km) from the French coast of Normandie and 85 miles (137 km) south of the English mainland.

Jersey is the largest of a collection of islands defined as the Channel Islands – a geographical rather than a political definition – which is a British Crown Dependency defended and internationally represented by the United Kingdom Government although it is not part of the UK. Neither is it fully part of the European Union but has a special relationship for free trade. Currency is the Pound Sterling and whilst

Jersey issues its own banknotes and coins these are freely mixed with coins and notes from the mainland (Bank of England and the various Scottish Banks) along with the neighbouring island of Guernsey. The local TV channels are regions of the BBC and ITV and the school curriculum follows the English model.

Jersey has its own self-governing parliamentary democracy, The States of Jersey, with its own financial, legal and judicial systems. The Lieutenant Governor on the island represents the monarchy.

The island has a land area of 45.5 square miles (120 square km) being 5 miles (8 km) north to south and 9 miles (14.5 km) west to east. The most recent census was taken on 27 March 2011 and the total recorded resident population was 97,857. Ten years earlier it stood at 87,186. There are 12 local parishes and the capital is St. Helier located on the southern coast.

English is the main language although the first traditional language of Jersey was Jèrrais closely related to French although not so widely used nowadays. During the German occupation during World War 2 Jèrrais was important as it allowed the locals to converse without being understood by the Germans. In the 2001 census 2,874 people were recorded as speaking the language (3% of the population) although around 15% have a basic understanding of the language.

Jersey Airport is located on the west side of the island. In summer the island is connected by services to neighbouring Guernsey as well as to many British destinations (22), Northern Ireland (1), the Irish Republic (1) and Germany (2).

During the winter months the number of such destinations is reduced.
Condor Ferries Limited operates high speed passenger services and conventional passenger/freight ferries linking Jersey with Guernsey; Portsmouth and Poole (England); and St. Malo (France).

The island’s economy and industries have centred upon agriculture, tourism, finance and legal services. The finance and legal businesses represent around 40% of the island’s economy.

Bus services

Motor buses first began on the island in 1909 but they were short lived as a result of vehicle unreliability followed in 1914 by World War 1. At the end of the war motor transport started to change.

A service was established by the short-lived Channel Island Motor and General Engineering Company which sold out to the St. Aubin’s Motor Coach and Car Company in 1920. The latter traded as Blue Bus Service which is one of the ancestors of what became todays Tantivy Blue Coach Tours of which more anon.

After 1918 quite a number of motor vehicle owners started bus services which had ceased to be by the outbreak of the Second World War and the German occupation of the island in June 1940. After liberation on 9 May 1945 most didn’t start up again and those that did so only ran for a limited time.

The first real attempt to establish an all island bus network was made by the Jersey Bus Company in 1921 but by 1925 the collection of Ford TT vehicles was in poor condition and the operation closed.

The business that was around the longest began in 1923 and eventually to become the sole operator of the island’s bus services was Jersey Motor Transport Company Limited. The company existed for almost 80 years albeit with subtle re-namings as ownership of the business changed. (The name changed to JMT Limited in 1973 then to JMT (1978) Limited finally to JMT (1987) Limited). Latterly the business traded with the name ‘Jerseybus’. One of the most significant changes to JMT occurred in 1970 when the business was purchased by Robert Lewis the owner of Trimdon Motor Services (TMS) in north-east England. Mr. Lewis set up a Jersey registered company named Diamond (Jersey) Limited to acquire JMT. Under this ownership a number of 8 feet wide buses were subsequently transferred from TMS to JMT after the States of Jersey changed the rules that had demanded a width limit some 6 inches less.

Initially Jersey Motor Transport vehicles carried a dark green and white livery which later changed to a lighter green and cream layout. Under Lewis ownership white with blue relief was adopted and then in the 1980s most of the new fleet additions came in base white to later receive a varied number of different sometimes garish all-over advertising liveries.

Following the model of regulation introduced in mainland Britain in 1930, the States of Jersey introduced The Motor Traffic (Jersey) Law in 1936 which covered vehicle safety inspections together with vehicle and service licensing. This was prompted because of the large number of second-hand vehicles being purchased from England many of which were in poor condition from the start and ongoing maintenance was second rate.

During the 1930s there was intense competition between Jersey Motor Transport and Safety Coach Service (Red Band Bus) on various routes which ultimately led to the two companies reaching an agreement in 1934 whereby Jersey Motor Transport would serve the west side of the island and Safety Coach Service the east. Despite having survived in business through the war years SCS closed in 1946 and JMT took over its remaining vehicles and services.

Over the years there had been many smaller businesses most of which had been taken over by Jersey Motor Transport/JMT and by the 1960s this left JMT with a monopoly. The last businesses to be acquired were JBS (Joe’s Bus Service although originally Jersey Bus Service) and Promenade Bus Service in 1960.
However, the business found it harder to remain financially viable through the 1980s and 1990s without State subsidiary. No suitable agreement was reached with the Jersey Government and in September 2002 the company ceased trading. The States of Jersey took over the responsibility of the network inviting tenders for its operation.

The French owned Connex Group was the successful bidder and was awarded a seven year contract which was extended by a further three years. The operating company was named Connex Transport Jersey Limited and latterly it traded as ‘Mybus’.

In September 2012 the network was again put out to tender and the successful bidder was the London based HCT Group which created a Jersey based company registered as CT Plus Jersey Limited trading as ‘Libertybus’. The contract, again for seven years with a possible three year extension, began on 2 January 2013.
The Libertybus fleet comprises 91 vehicles (fleet details outlined below)

Bus Stations past and present

Whilst a number of JMT’s services from the east terminated at Snow Hill, buses to the west were centred on an area close to the seafront known as the Weighbridge. In addition to this being a departure/arrival point this area was also used for 24 hour bus parking. The garage in Caledonia Place overlooked the area but latterly was too small to hold the fleet and was in the main the maintenance and administration facility. The garage has now gone and the site is occupied by an extension block of the Royal Yacht Hotel. The area once used departures and parking of buses is now pedestrianised.

A new bus station (Liberation Station) was opened in 2007 a short distance away in the Esplanade on land where the railway tracks and station platforms once stood as part of one of St. Helier’s two railway stations. This railway closed in the mid 1930s. Built as part of a low rise apartment building constructed The passenger waiting area of the bus station stands on the ground floor along the street with the buses loading behind the building in a dark enclosed underground like atmosphere beneath an outdoor recreational area forming part of the residential facilities. The height of the roof access is 3.5 metres and so is restricted to use by single deck buses. The bus station is only used by the public bus services, coach operators load outside or close by at kerbside stops.

In April 2010 Connex, the island’s public bus operator at the time, had an Alexander Dennis bodied Dennis Trident double decker on demonstration for a month which was trialled on the busy service 15 from St. Helier to the Airport via St. Aubin. (It had been close to forty years since JMT ceased to operate double deckers on the island). In June 2011 that ADL demonstrator and a second similar also former ADL demonstrator were acquired. It was planned for more of the type to be introduced but this didn’t take place before Libertybus was awarded the tender to operate the island’s bus services. As it later transpired Libertybus bought six new ADL Enviro400D double deckers to the island followed later by a further five secondhand Scania OmniCity double deckers transferred from CT Plus in London.

As a result of the low height of the vehicle access in the bus station the loading stands for the services on which the double deckers are used are located at the kerbside on the street outside the bus station. In addition to Airport service 15 the double deckers were also seen on service 12 to Corbière, 14 to St. Brelade’s Bay and 22 to L’Etaq – all destinations on the west of the island and popular with visiting tourists. Libertybus actively markets its services for tourist use but on some services to the popular tourist destinations like the Jersey War Tunnels/Underground Hospital, Botanic Gardens, Jersey Zoo etc which are only served by single deckers space can be at a premium at busy times. The Optare Solos seat 33 with capacity for a further 12 standing (provided that no wheelchair users are on board) and on a few occasions a number of buses were seen displaying ‘Sorry bus full’ on their destination indicators. The Dennis Dart single deckers only accommodate a few more passengers than the Optare Solos.

Coach operators

Jersey has been always been a very popular holiday destination and the local coach operators on the island handle virtually all the incoming coach tourist business. There are very, very few visiting coaches brought to the island. Those that do visit are small types as it is impractical to operate larger touring coaches on the many narrow roads of the island. (Under the States of Jersey Motor Traffic Laws vehicles wider 7 feet 6 ½ inches (2.3 metres) and longer than 30 feet 6 inches (9.3 metres) require a permit. Where a vehicle is issued with a permit that vehicle may only be used on specified roads).

In the height of summer there is a regular flow of foot passengers arriving at St. Helier on the morning ferry from St Malo (France) which are met by the island’s coach operators. The fast ferry service takes just 85 minutes and arrives around 0800 each day. The evening return service departs around 1900 so gives visitors a lengthy day on the island.

In the past taxi operators along with hotel/holiday camp owners had minibuses and mini-coaches licenced as public service vehicles. The latter owners provided this ancillary service for their guests but generally speaking this is not the case nowadays.

Today the largest coach operators on the island are Tantivy Blue Coach Tours (37 vehicles), Signature Coaches (17), Waverley Tours (15) and Jersey Bus and Boat Tours/Char-a-Banc (8) all with mixed fleets of vehicles seating between 14 and 43 passengers. (During 2018 the Signature Coaches and Jersey Bus and Boat Tours/Char-a-Banc businesses came under common management).

In summer Tantivy Blue and Waverley operate a range of advertised public tours departing from St. Helier town centre that also offer pick-up from main hotels. Tantivy has a kiosk in Liberation Square to sell its tours but Waverley sells through the hotels and by phone without having a public office. In addition to a kiosk in Liberation Square and another by the Marina near Albert Quay, Jersey Bus and Boat Tours/Char-a-Banc has an on street sales office in the Esplanade as part of the Signature Group building. That building is almost across the street from the first kerbside loading stand outside the main bus station used by the company for its vintage bus shuttle to the Jersey War Tunnels. This company also offers a full island tour in addition to a countryside tour. Signature Coaches doesn’t run advertised tours but focuses on incoming tour business and charters.

There is also a handful of smaller operators providing specialty tours. History Alive/Jersey Military Tours and Deutsche Sprachige Touren both have two small minicoaches. A particularly unusual operation licensed under the sphere of coach operation is Jersey Heritage Trust which runs two 32 seat amphibious craft licensed as road/marine vehicles. They provide a shuttle from the Esplanade to Elizabeth Castle which is on an island at high tide.

One particular vehicle combination that features in the fleets of all four of the main operators is the 43 seat Leicester Carriage Builders ‘Islander’ bodied Cannon Hi-Line, a model offering the optimum capacity in a vehicle of practical dimensions for some of the narrower rural roads used on tours of the island. Cannon is a vehicle manufacturer, builder and dealer based in Strabane, Northern Ireland. Its bus and coach chassis output is in the small and medium sized range. In 1999 the Cannon Hi-Line chassis was launched which featured componentry common with light truck chassis of the mainstream manufacturers. The model was bought by the welfare sector on the British mainland and as can be seen was a popular choice by operators on the Channel Islands who not only bought the model new but later acquired a number secondhand from the mainland. However, LCB closed in 2018. It will be interesting to see what future models will be used in the years to come when fleet replacement becomes necessary. Quite a number of the Wadham Stringer bodied Leyland Swifts in the Tantivy Blue fleet are now over thirty years old but are kept in very good condition belying their real age.

The Tantivy Blue Coach Tours Limited fleet comprises a number of Leyland Swifts (15) mainly with Wadham Stringer bodywork, Portuguese built Camo bodied Renaults (2), LCB bodied Cannon Hi-Line (6), Ford Transit mini-coaches (8) plus six Plaxton Pointer bodied Dennis Dart buses dating from the mid-1990s that had been new to Jerseybus one of which is partially open roof.

Tantivy Blue has origins from two lineages. The first dates back to 1897 when Arthur Pitcher began running horse carriages one of which was named ‘Tantivy’ (‘Tantivy’ is an archaic word with an equestrian association meaning ‘a rapid gallop or ride’). By 1968 the company had been registered as Tantivy Motors Limited and in April 1975 the business was acquired by Diamond Holdings (Jersey) Limited. Diamond owned JMT and its coaching subsidiary Rover Tours plus two other coaching businesses.
(I will mention here that in May 1964 Jersey Motor Transport Company Limited returned to coach operation establishing a subsidiary company named Jersey Coach Transport Limited that traded as Rover Tours. This was largely as a result of the increase in competing services to popular tourist locations by the coach operators).

In January 1993 Diamond acquired the business of Holiday Coach Tours merging that with Tantivy under the name Tantivy Holiday Coach Tours Limited. It was at this time that another old established operator, Mascot Motors Limited which started in 1923, was also acquired by Diamond and absorbed into Tantivy.

Blue Coach Tours had been started by St. Aubin’s Motor Coach and Car Company Limited in 1920 and saw five ownership changes prior to November 1996 when the business was acquired by Diamond. Diamond merged the Blue Coach business with Tantivy re-naming it as Tantivy Blue Coach Tours Limited, the name used today. One further significant acquisition occurred in November 2000 when the business of Pioneer Coaches Limited was taken over.

The Signature Coaches Limited fleet is made up of LCB bodied Cannon Hi-Line (6), Caetano bodied Toyota Coaster (7) and one Turkish built Temsa Opalin. The other three vehicles are smaller mini-coaches. Signature Coaches ARL was registered in 2011 by the owner of Signature Executive Transport to takeover Minibus Direct Limited which had itself commenced in 2005. (Signature Executive Transport had itself only began in 2009).

The fleet of Waverley Coaches Limited is made up of LCB bodied Cannon Hi-Line (6), Wadham Stringer bodied Leyland Swift (4) and a variety of small mini-coaches (5). The Waverley Tours name was introduced in 1926 by Edward Slade who had commenced business four years earlier. In May 1946 he sold his bus services to JMT and his brother-in-law Ulric Noel took over the coaching side of the business. A further change of ownership in the 1960s saw expansion and in December 1974 the business had become a limited company.

The Jersey Bus and Boat Tours fleet is made up of LCB bodied Cannon Hi-Line (2), Temsa Opalin (1), Wadham Stringer bodied Leyland Swift (1) and a Ford Transit mini-coach (1) whilst its associated Char-a-Banc fleet features three elderly buses, a former Guernseybus owned and bodied Leyland PS1 (1951), a former London Transport Park Royal bodied Leyland RTL class double decker (1949) and an Eastern Coachworks bodied Bristol LH which had also been new to London Transport (1977). The two single deckers are partially open roofed using a canvas cover over a framework in inclement weather. These two operations were established in 2010 and the Char-a-Banc trio certainly adds variety to the island’s transport scene.

Former railways and their buses

No railways now remain on the island. During 1884 Jersey Railways Limited began passenger service running west from St. Helier to St. Aubin replacing two earlier companies that had run goods only lines. Following financial difficulties a new company Jersey Railways and Tramways Limited was formed in 1896 and extended the line to La Corbière in the far south western corner of the island in 1899. JR&T had apparently considered operating buses as early as 1905 but it was not until the 1920s after JMT came into being that they (J&RT) began operating feeder services to their railway line. In August 1928 the railway company made a successful bid for and then acquired JMT. The railway company continued to operate their bus services separately until they were merged into JMT in 1932. The railway itself closed after operation in 1936 in part due to declining passenger numbers but more significantly due to a disastrous fire in October that year at St. Aubin’s railway station when most of the station buildings were destroyed along with 15 passenger carriages.

The Jersey Eastern Railway ran east from St. Helier to Gorey on a line opened in 1873. In 1926 JER was running a few buses on a service between St. Helier and Fauvic. However, faced with competition from other bus operators notably The Safety Coach Service, the company ceased both its railway and bus services in June 1929. The St. Helier terminus of the railway was at Snow Hill station built in a gorge alongside Mont de la Ville and the town fort. After closure it became a bus station in 1935 and because of the restricted space for the turning of vehicles a turntable was installed at the head of the gorge. The bus station closed in 1964 and is now a car park with no reminder of its historical past.

19 August 2019

Libertybus fleet details (August 2019)

Single deck buses (Total 74)

Dennis Dart SLF SC Coachbuilders (Caetano)
1151-1155 (Transbus built chassis)*

Dennis Dart SLF Plaxton Pointer

Optare Solo M970 SR

Optare Solo M8570 SL

Double deck buses (Total 12)

Alexander Dennis Enviro400 Alexander Dennis Enviro400

Scania OmniCity N230UD Scania OmniCity N230UD

Dennis Trident Alexander ALX400 (open top)

Small buses (Total 5)

Fiat Ducato

Mercedes-Benz Vito113 cdi

Grand total of fleet: 91


* Formerly operated by Connex Jersey between 2002 and 2013 (1501-1509 had been new to Jersey Motor Transport (Jersey Bus), the operator of the island’s services prior to 2002)
** Formerly CT Plus, London having been new to work Transport for London contracts
*** Formerly Edinburgh Bus Tours

Further reading

Operator websites:

Deutsche Sprachige Touren www.jersey.com/de/special-tours-inseltouren-fuer-die-deutschsprachigen-gaeste

History Alive/Jersey Military Tours www.historyalive.je

Jersey Bus and Boat Tours/Char-a-Banc jerseybustours.com

LibertyBus libertybus.je

Signature Coaches www.jersey.com/signature-coaches

Tantivy Blue Coach Tours

Waverley Coach Tours

Other websites:

Former Jersey railways www.disused-stations.org.uk/j/jersey_railways/index.shtml

David Slater’s Jersey photograph collection:

20 August 2019