Yellow Buses open-tops are back

Friday 2nd April 2021

It’s good to see Bournemouth’s Yellow Buses running open-top bus services again after a Covid enforced absence last year. My friend Ray Stenning and I took a trip to the lovely south coast resort today to have a ride.

There are two routes this year, numbered 11 and 12. The former operates between Bournemouth Pier, Boscombe Pier and Hengistbury Head before continuing to Christchurch, around the Harbour to Somerford and terminating in Mudeford near the Quay. The latter runs from Alum Chine and Bournemouth Pier then parallels the 11 to Boscombe Pier and for the next few weeks continues to Hengistbury Head. Both routes began the season yesterday with the 11 a weekend, bank holiday and school holiday only affair operating two-hourly and the 12 operating hourly seven days a week.

Yellow Buses have continued their Buster’s Beach Bus banding first launched in 2019 adorning the buses with images all over the bodywork as well as on bus stop flags all along the route and timetable displays.

The company are using five buses obtained through Ensign which are converted ex London Volvo B7TL Wrightbus Gemini Eclipse buses similar to those used on East Yorkshire’s Beachcomber in Scarborough. There are also two older open-tops in the fleet to act as back ups.

We caught the first journey from Bournemouth Pier through to Mudeford at 10:40 and it was encouraging to see passengers boarding throughout the journey as far as Boscombe making for a very respectable load with only a handful being dedicated ‘first day riders’ and others being a good cross section of families, couples and oldies.

Even more impressive was only two passengers got off at Hengistbury Head with everyone else continuing on to Mudeford to enjoy the extended route through Tuckton, Christchurch and Somerford.

Journey time is around an hour from Bournemouth to Mudeford which on a breezy day is about the limit for a relaxing and enjoyable open top ride before needing a rest.

At Mudeford we walked to the end of the Quay and took the passenger ferry for the short trip back south across the mouth of Christchurch Harbour to Mudeford Spit.

The ferry provides a frequent shuttle charging a cash only fare of £2 and only takes a few minutes but makes for a very pleasant trip across the harbour.

After landing (docking?) at Mudeford Spit it’s a very pleasant stroll southwards past some amazing beach huts (it’s said they’re the most expensive and luxurious beach huts you’ll find anywhere in the UK – many even have two floors and are ‘double fronted’!) then either continuing westwards along the beach or the upper cliff top to the road end at Hengistbury Head where there’s a cafe and toilets and you meet up with the bus route again. There’s also a land train through the nature reserve if you don’t fancy the walk.

It’s a great circular route that takes around two and a half hours from Bournemouth; longer if enjoying a picnic stop or refreshments at either or both Mudeford and or Hengistbury Head as we did. Simon Newport, commercial director at Yellow Buses, told me they’re hoping to arrange an integrated ticket to encourage people to take the bus and ferry on a circular trip, which I mentioned in my recent ’round-up’ blog series.

The eastern end of route 11 includes a detour to serve Somerford Sainsbury’s which seemed a bit of an odd destination to include especially as it means negotiating a busy roundabout on the A35 twice, although it does provide a connection with Yellow Buses’s route 1a.

Somerford Sainsbury’s aside, you get some really great coastal views from the bus on a clear day (such as today) along the route, including the Needles on the Isle of Wight, Sandbanks Beach in Poole and Old Harry Rocks at Studland. The route westwards from Bournemouth to Alum Chine on route 12 is also worth a ride, although we didn’t include it in our itinerary today.

Spot The Needles (photo courtesy Ray Stenning)

Yellow Buses plan to increase the frequency of route 11 to hourly as well as operating it daily from the late May bank holiday when the 12 also increases to half hourly running between Alum Chine and Boscombe Pier. Further frequency enhancements are in line for the summer school holidays.

With the boom in people taking UK based holidays this year there’s no doubt bus routes aimed at the leisure market such as these will do well offering a great way to savour Bournemouth and Boscombe’s glorious seafront as well as enjoying Hengistbury Head and Mudeford on a quirky circular trip including the ferry.

It’s well recommended if you’re down in Bournemouth in the coming weeks. An “Adventure Awaits“.

Roger French

14 thoughts on “Yellow Buses open-tops are back

Add yours

  1. I do love an Open Topper. As you touch on this this will be the year of them. Perhaps the most ever operated?


  2. As a child, I seem to remember a route 12 between Alum Chine and Hengistbury Head operated by open-top trolleybuses, which was a great fascination to me. I also loved the rather ‘posh’ statement on the relevant bus stops which said “This service may be curtailed in the event of inclement weather.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of those open-top trolleybuses has survived into preservation and is housed at the East Anglia Transport Museum, Carlton Colville, Lowestoft. Bournemouth Corporation no. 202 is believed to be the only remaining open-top trolleybus in existence in the world. It’s fascinating riding on it and being able to watch the booms operating.


  3. I’ve seen the phrase ‘inclement weather’ used this year too on a leaflet. I think the phrase is a bit old-fashioned now and not good in terms of people whose first language is not English.

    On the other hand ‘bad’ weather suggests that rain is always bad and of course for some people (farmers?) it’s good.

    Surely ‘wet weather’ / ‘wet or cold weather’ would be the best phrase?


  4. Open-top buses have definitely been making a comeback in South West England in the last few years, and bus operators here have their sights firmly fixed on the leisure travel market this year. Stagecoach South West is reintroducing its Torbay and Exmouth open-top routes on 12th April and also has its Dawlish route and a new route to Croyde planned for the Summer. Meanwhile First South West is creating new leisure routes under the “Adventures by Bus” banner, these are all due to commence on 16th May and include open-top bus rides along the Exmoor coast (Lynmouth-Watchet), around the West Cornwall coast and in Exeter City. Finally Plymouth CityBus, although its “Ocean City Sights” tour was not a success, is putting its open-top Enviro400s to good use by allocating one each day to circular route 25, which trundles round the historic Barbican and West Hoe areas and offers stunning views across Plymouth Sound. And for the gentleman above who asked, I can confirm that the Stagecoach routes and the Plymouth route all accept ENCTS passes.


  5. I don’t recall either Alum Chine or Hengistbury Head being equipped with overhead wiring, or maybe it’s my memory! But certainly the regular 17 to Alum Chine and the open-top 12 were run by non-trolley buses. Did the open-top trolleys run between Christchurch and The Square via Boscombe, Bath Road and Exeter Road?


    1. The open top trolleybuses ran on a circular route that took in Christchurch, Southbourne and Bournemouth Pier which was the only point that it ran by the coast. It also went along Castle Lane and would have allowed passengers to see the depot at Mallard Road (which is now a DIY store!). It didn’t cover Alum Chine or Hengistbury Head.


      1. Thank you so much for putting me right. I knew we went to both Alum Chine and Hengistbury Head by open-topper and I had assumed they were trolleybuses.


  6. Yellow Buses fare statement below.
    Presumably valid all day on Sats, Suns and Bank Hols?
    Concessionary fares
    Concessionary customers with passes showing the English Rose may travel for free on routes 11 and 12 after 09:30 (Monday to Friday). Unfortunately, concessionary passes from customers travelling from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are not valid.


  7. Just a small correction the open toppers are ex London converted Volvo B7TL Wrightbus Gemini Eclipse not E400’s. Good to see leisure bus services like this returning for the summer. Have Yellow Buses produced any printed timetable leaflets.


  8. No buyer has been found for Yellow bus and it is to cease trading. I assume other operator will register replacemenr serices for many of the routes

    The Yellow bus Coach business and Falcon coach business incuding the Engineerring operations have been sold to National Express


    1. It appears to be slightly more complex. NatEx appear to have purchased the depot and coaches and Engineering but not the Brand. The Brand has been purchased by Xela

      I assume the NatEx interest is for Express Coach work


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