D is for Delaine Buses

Saturday 25th February

It’s the archetypal family owned business. Delaine Buses is one of the very few left in the bus industry. Fiercely independent and hugely proud of its heritage which can be traced back to 1890 when the family’s carpentry and general contracting business began carrying people to local fairs and markets using their horse and cart.

The current Delaine family proudly displaying their most recent acquisition.

Fast forward 133 years and Anthony Delaine-Smith, is this year’s President of the Omnibus Society. He gave a fascinating address to a well attended meeting in London last month outlining the company’s proud history and modern day ethos.

Anthony Delaine-Smith giving his Presidential Address to the Omnibus Society last month

I spent yesterday enjoying the Delaine experience travelling on the Company’s network based on its home town of Bourne, Lincolnshire with two well established routes from there to Peterborough (101 direct via Market Deeping and 201 via Stamford) while route 301 runs between Spalding and Stamford via Market Deeping and there’s a cluster of less frequent routes (401-404) serving Bourne and surrounds.

You can’t fail to be impressed by the family’s dedication providing an outstanding bus service to residents of Bourne and the surrounding area. They and their predecessors have accumulated many decades of vast experience running the business from before the 1930s licensing era through over 50 years of regulation to 1986’s deregulation and the almost 40 years since then, seeing many local government reorganisations and changed funding regimes, experiencing the pandemic and now threats from the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority to introduce franchising.

It was instructive to listen to Anthony’s thoughts on all these challenges gleaned from a refreshing hands on experience of the industry which I couldn’t help thinking was in stark contrast to some well paid executives now heading up the big Groups, as well as politicians, industry onlookers and armchair commentators.

Despite the company’s proud public display of heritage – its livery and graphics haven’t changed much over the decades ….

…. this is a company which embraces the modern world with, for example, a website meeting all the needs of passengers with clearly laid out information including timetables, route maps, vehicle trackers, tickets (including mobile tickets using the MyTrip app) and for enthusiasts, details of the fleet and history. A few well resourced much larger companies and even one Group in particular could learn a thing or two about website presentation from Delaine. The company also uses social media.

The company’s 33 strong bus fleet has been dominated by Volvo B7TL double decks over the years but more recently five ADL Enviro 200s and three Enviro 400s have been purchased, the latter bought ‘used’ from Abellio in London.

My first journey yesterday morning was on the company’s flagship route 101 north from Peterborough to Bourne. In fact I caught the 102 variant which goes as far as Market Deeping before taking a tour of that area and returning to Peterborough. The route interworks with the half hourly 101 with the hourly 102 slotting in between one of the half hours.

From Market Deeping I caught the 101 that left Peterborough fifteen minutes behind us on to Bourne. Numbers travelling on both journeys were below ten but buses heading south towards Peterborough were noticeably busier.

Bourne has long been Delaine’s home town where its bus garage can be found on Spalding Road ….

…. as well as it’s very own Bus Museum on the same site.

There’s a small and basic bus station just to the north of the town centre which has Delaine’s timetables on display.

It’s a shame there aren’t any seats under cover in the bus station shelter.

I was very impressed to see full timetables with details shown of times in both directions at every bus stop passed on my travels. That’s very unusual these days, and a refreshingly welcome kick back against modern departure displays.

After spending some time in Bourne I caught the hourly route 201 back to Peterborough via Stamford. This includes a small circuit of the west side of Stamford before reaching the bus station.

We only carried half a dozen towards Stamford but the journey onwards from Stamford to Peterborough was the busiest with 25 on board, 16 of whom travelled through to Peterborough.

The 201 enters Peterborough via Werrington rather than sticking to the A15 as the 101 does but this doesn’t cost much of a time penalty as the road used runs largely parallel – it was probably the old A15 at one time.

What did cause a time penalty was where the 201 crosses the East Coast Main Line at a level crossing. We had about an eight minute delay there which meant a late arrival into Peterborough, although the 201 does have a generous recovery time of 21 minutes.

I had a ride on the company’s other main route – the 301 between Stamford and Spalding back in 2020. My recollection is of a very efficient journey which all went to plan.

As befits the company’s ethos the interiors of the fleet are traditional looking but with a smart moquette and the latest single decks have a wheelchair bay on the nearside and buggy space on the offside.

There’s no usb or Wi-Fi but there are next stop displays….

… and some rather official looking notices on the stairwell panel on double decks.

There are also cove panels promoting tickets and return times from Peterborough…

…. as well as a network route map although it’s difficult to make it out at the angle where it’s placed.

The Company promotes its three main routes on the sides of each bus outlining the places served.

In his presentation Anthony explained the company hasn’t sought to expand or overreach itself even though opportunities have presented themselves with retrenchment by other operators. Instead the company just concentrates on doing what it does well, serving the defined geographic market it always has done.

Long may that continue; the company is a beacon of excellence and residents in this part of Lincolnshire are very lucky to have Delaine providing consistent and reliable bus services.

There’s always a risk a traditional family owned business may succumb to takeover or sell out to a bigger company due to issues with succession. I was delighted to see Anthony’s family join him at his Omnibus Society Presidential Address indicating the next generation are already well established in the business and enthusiastic for the challenges that lie ahead.

That is really good to see and long may Delaine continue its staunch independence and success.

Roger French

Previous AtoZ blogs: Avanti West Coast, Blackpool Transport, Chiltern Railways

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

17 thoughts on “D is for Delaine Buses

Add yours

  1. Excellent article as always, thank you Roger. Long may companies like this one survive. Cost of a day rover ticket would be useful to tempt folk like me to make a visit.
    Looking at timetables online, it’s disappointing to see the last bus from Peterborough is at 20.15 and only one route running on Sundays. No evenings out for those without a car. Not Delaine’s fault, of course, local authority won’t subsidise those journeys no doubt.


    1. Looking at Delaine’s seven current registrations, only one is partly subsidised (301-302 Bourne-Stamford), and I rather suspect that the company’s preference is not to be beholden to local authorities.

      As far as any late bus from Peterborough is concerned, there will always be the problem of crossing a local authority boundary, with neither wanting to pay for what they perceive to be someone else’s loss/gain when the traffic is likely to be all in one direction.


    2. Delaine’s website has current saver ticket prices, although you so have to click through a few links on the website (which I find to be rather clunky although thankfully free of unnecessary images and pointless blurb).

      It’s perhaps worth noting that Delaine is one of the operators who aren’t taking in part in the underfunded English national £2 maximum fare scheme.


  2. I used the Spalding -Stamford line recently and immediately formed same valid opinion as youRoger. An excellent company. I had to ask why Bourne’ s interests face south as nothing goes north from there. Previous routes apparently never succeeded.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Delaine run a school service and weekly shopping service north towards Billingborough; Centrebus run south on a similar basis from Sleaford, although there’s no realistic connection between the two routes. It’s just about possible south from Sleaford on Thursdays and I’ll actually get round to doing it one of these days!

      Centrebus also run west from Billingborough to Grantham, which I suspect is probably more useful to the local community.

      There used to be a joint Delaine/Lincolnshire Road Car Bourne – Sleaford service but I think that had died by the end of the 1970s.

      Lincolnshire has always been fairly thin bus territory, even in the “golden years” of the 1950s, and the main road interurban routes today see some of the best service levels they ever have, despite early evening closedowns, as a comparison of a 1950s or 1960s Lincolnshire Road Car timetable with today’s equivalents will show.
      Most of the rural market-day type routes have long since fallen by the wayside, though, and the preference for closed-door school contracts has knocked out quite a few other routes too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve always admired Delaine Buses, the high standard of vehicle presentation, customer information, and network stability. They prove that buses work best when they are rooted in the area they serve. Shame about the early finish from Peterborough though.

    I am fortunate to live in the area served by another family owned independent, namely Faresaver Buses, based in Chippenham, Wiltshire. They saw off First from services linking Bath to Chippenham, Chippenham to Frome, and Bath to Melksham and Devizes. Wiltshire Council continues to subsidise two evening journeys on the Bath Chippenham service giving a last departure from Bath at 2300, which is usually well loaded as far as Corsham.


  4. I love Delaine’s cosy, red-hot interiors, but it’s silly they opted against USB charging on their brand new buses. Also way too many stickers at the front with ridiculously small text – same goes for the coving panel information. Sometimes things do change for the better!!


  5. Fowler Travel, Delanie Buses, Reliance Motor Services, York Pullman, Faresaver, Connexions Buses are the few Independent owned family Buses. Can ask will you be featuring this others.


    1. But not at the weekends as they’ve retrenched to running Monday-Friday only.
      A sensible move to ensure they can reliably run their core network during the current and ongoing driver shortages and not risk disrupting the important schools market, but not so good if you want to use the bus on Saturdays.

      Lincolnshire County Council has shown their true colours by tendering the Saturday Lincoln – Boston route B5 (formerly a “premium” InterConnect route) as two separate contracts with no connections.


      1. If there is no weekend service it make it far less attractive and existing passengers will drift away and they will not attract new passengers, Not a good plan if you want an ongoing business


    2. Nostalgia is a funny old thing. Hasn’t the small independents always been a volatile market, not least helped by the traditional behaviours of the big beasts, with comings and goings (and still is, Vectare is another good example).

      So as with so much of life, I’m not sure much has really changed. Just that the hard times, which we thought we’d banished for ever, are back, inevitably. And the resilience of the small “family” independents is amazing! Thankfully. Off-hand I can think of dozens around my local region (and I don’t believe the rest of the country is that much different), still going,though the emphasis is definitely on the word “small”.

      The amazing thing is it’s despite all the repeated attempts to get shot of them. People (passenger) power, indeed. If they cater for locals rather than tourists, so what? Maybe it’s another reason why they’re so resilient.


  6. Went on Delaine for the first time last year, taking advantage of the Great British Rail Sale to get to Peterborough!

    Fell in love with the company instantly, a testament to the value of local identity and service.


  7. As others have done, I could extol the various virtues of The Delaine but something that hasn’t been mentioned is their service frequency.
    When I first came across some smart blue buses on the A15 fifty three years ago in 1970, the Peterborough service ran once every two hours (hourly on Wednesday and Saturdays). Now it is every 30 minutes (15 minutes at peak times). The Stamford service had six journeys a day, now it has eleven. I think population increase has helped but that is still impressive.


  8. Roger’s blog is now out of date, The Delaine’s latest acquisition is no longer AD72 DBL as seen in the photo but is now AD23DBL which entered service today.


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