Medieval Bridge over Exe
Medieval Bridge over Exe


Talk by Richard Holladay
Thursday, 11 August 2022


Richard presented a well-illustrated talk featuring his Red Bus Services and in particular the inaugural run of the sightseeing tours. He began with an introductory slide as well as images of Exeter in the 1990s with the City’s single-decker buses in various colours, Princesshay as it was before redevelopment, and Devon General double-decker buses.


Red Bus Services was formed in 1992 with four double-decker and four single-decker buses.  The inaugural run was in 1993 and 1996 was the final year. Following the acquisition of VDV 818, extensive work was needed before it could be used for a sightseeing tour. The top was removed, rails installed plus new flooring by Stoneman & Bowker, a public address system in the cab and. where the conductor normally stood, a destination board.


Peter Thomas (creator of Exeter’s Red Coat Guides) and several of the Guides were photographed prior to boarding the top deck of the bus in Bedford Street on Saturday 1 May 1993 and the bus was also photographed at the Acorn Roundabout.  Access had been granted to the loading bay at Marks & Spencer and Mayor Yolonda Henson commemorated the plaque which had been installed next to the stairs of the bus. Richard showed a list of those who attended the launch, and also a picture of the bus stop sign that featured at Central Station.


In 1994 the route extended to Crossmead and new routes also featured in 1995 and 1996. Another image showed the route though the University and a “Spy in the Sky” image showed the bus at the Quay.  1996 was the final year for the sightseeing tours as Exeter City Council stopped the Red Coat Guides from being involved, although many former Guides continued to give commentaries. In 1997 Richard had to re-tender and wasn’t successful.


Red Bus Services had also been involved in the opening of Hatherleigh ByPass on 12 October 1995 and the opening of Tiverton’s Great Western Way on 24 May 1994. An event also commemorated Exeter’s Rail Fair 1844-1994 to take in the stations in the City, also the 50th Anniversary of VE Day. Other (non open-topped) buses in the fleet were used in bad weather, and over 1,000 passengers had used the service.


A delightful image showed a member of the Highways Department travelling upstairs on the open-top bus.  This enabled him to mark trees which needed to have their branches removed.


The evening ended with a video of the Inaugural Run.  This included Richard’s excellent driving skills  when reversing into the Marks & Spencer loading bay.  The video was followed by a lively series of questions from an enthusiastic audience - many of whom had strong memories of seeing the Sightseeing Bus on the streets of Exeter. 

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