Operating local and country services in and around Grantham

            (including also 'Grantham after Reliance')

Please note this is a site of historical record and does not contain current service information

village sign great gonerby
The Reliance business was founded in Gonerby by the Simmons family when they bought their first bus in 1924 and the local routes from Grantham north to Gonerby and west to Barrowby started at that time. But there were other operators on these routes too such as Whipple, Pulfrey and Girdlestone. Wilfred Simmons acquired the Whipple business in 1930 bringing them also country routes to Ropsley, Corby Glen and Bourne and they also gained Girdlestone's timings on the Gonerby and Barrowby routes in 1933. Lincolnshire Road Car were also present in Grantham from 1928 and developed both town and country routes from their depot in Springfield Road, Grantham. The Reliance garage was originally at the top of Gonerby Hill, which was once reckoned to be the steepest hill on the Great North Road between London and Edinburgh. A preserved petrol pump, restored in 2003, adjoins the former garage site.

The timetable booklet  (illustrated below) from this Lincolnshire operator is undated, but would come from shortly before 1962 as the town service from Grantham to Earlesfield Estate started in that year is not included. Some of the timetables shown below have a rather odd imbalance of timings, this is because of shared operations with other operators (eg Road Car and the other operator then based in Gonerby, Pulfrey, who operated between Grantham and Newark via Gonerby).  The timetable cover has a hand written note that the Road Car route 19 has co-ordinated timings with Reliance. Much housing growth occured over the years in the Dysart Road and Earlesfield areas of Grantham, traversed by these routes. A trading loss was reported by the company in 1956, resulting in withdrawal of three vehicles and drivers. The former service to Bourne had a chequered history, being withdrawn in 1957 although it reappeared later.

Joseph Simmons (son of Wilfred) took over management of the business in 1958. Eight vehicles were then in the fleet. One man operation was the rule from 1962 and exact fare operation came in 1971, although drivers carried a float of change. The fleet size in 1973 was thirteen vehicles. In 1977 the routes in operation were Grantham - Corby - Swinstead - Bourne (weekdays, an extension of the Irnham and Swinstead services in the timetable below, and introduced in 1976 when Road Car withdrew service 20 Grantham - Bourne - Spalding); Grantham - Ingoldsby - Corby - Swinstead (Saturdays); Grantham - Ropsley (daily); Grantham - Gonerby (daily); Grantham town service south-westwards to Earlesfield, Goodliff Road / Stour Court (daily, joint with Road Car service 19, as mentioned above); and Grantham town service westwards to Heathfield Road / Barrowby (daily). The business became a limited company in 1978, W J Simmons (Coaches) Ltd.


Further housing development to the west of Grantham led to a new circular route to Barrowby Gate being introduced in May 1980. Two years later in 1982 Reliance introduced the Grantham - Bottesford - Bingham - Nottingham replacement route, running up to eight times a day, when through journeys on the previous jointly operated Road Car and Trent service ceased. 1984 was an important year when the old bus station on St Peters Hill was closed and replaced by the current facility in  Wharf Road from 19th March.

Fleet size in 1985 was sixteen, comprising four buses in a red and cream livery along with twelve coaches in black and cream (one of which was a 17-seater Ford Transit / Reeve Burgess mini-coach). Twelve of the vehicles had been bought new, the oldest in 1970 and the newest in 1985.  Deregulation of bus services in 1986 brought some changes with Reliance becoming principal operator to Earlesfield and operating competitively on a new daytime route eastwards to Alma Park estate as well as gaining council contracted evening and Sunday journeys on traditional Road Car town routes to Alma Park. 1987, the year after deregulation saw two areas of Grantham - Alma Park and Earlesfield - being served by the buses of three companies: Reliance, Pulfrey and Road Car. Routes were to come and go but from May 1993 Reliance and Road Car were co-operating again with joint operation to Earlesfield. The 1997 route list appears in a table below. A town office was maintained by Reliance in Guildhall Street, Grantham. The timetable for 2000 shows a half-hourly service on route 400 to Gonerby, a half-hourly service on route 501 to Barrowby and eight return journeys on the 625 to Nottingham, plus peak-hour short workings to and from Bottesford. Some 625 journeys are diverted to run via Gonerby and Allington; others via Orton and Aslockton.


Mass Transit

Turning to the more recent story of the town services in and around Grantham, the Reliance business was acquired from Joe Simmons by Mass Transit of South Anston near Sheffield in mid-2003 (the name comes from the founder Michael Alan Strafford). They opened a new depot in Tollemache Road on the southern outskirts of the town in spring 2004 and extended their operations beyond the original Reliance routes by taking over some of the Road Car services from 31st May of that year, when the Road Car depot in Grantham closed.  This followed a dispute with local staff over trade union recognition. Road Car still worked some routes into Grantham from their Lincoln and Newark depots. Operations by Mass Transit proved to be unreliable and was the cause of much public complaint; they withdrew after but nine months because of a deteriorating financial situation with the Reliance subsidiary in liquidation in November; with hindsight they may have over-reached themselves. They continue, however, as substantial school bus providers in Yorkshire.


From 12th February 2005 the Grantham town services passed to Centrebus, an operator with other networks in Leicestershire, Hertfordshire, Derbyshire and St Albans. Initially taking over eight vehicles and twenty staff from Mass the Grantham routes were then rationalised to a core operation of viable services. Some of the areas of the town did seem to  have been overprovided for at times. The town service to Barrowby Gate was being operated by Pulfrey at this time (previously, since 1980, it had been provided by Reliance - date of change not recorded) and this passed to Centrebus in July 2005 as their route 3. But there were still two local routes - town service 620 to Sunningdale via Belton Avenue and country route 605 to Woolsthorpe via Denton - that remained with Pulfrey's until April 2010.

In April 2010 the Grantham town network of Centrebus was considerably enhanced and expanded as part of the county council supported 'IntoTown' services already provided in several Lincolnshire market towns including Sleaford, Boston and Spalding. Working in partnership with Lincolnshire County Council, a fleet of seven brand new low floor buses was purchased for use on routes around Grantham. The popular cross-town Alma Park to Earlesfield service was increased to run every 20 minutes whilst other areas such as Great Gonerby, Barrowby Gate and Sunningdale also benefitted with the introduction of half hourly services running throughout the day, six days a week. A service to the rail station was provided for the first time in recent years. This £850,000 investment was backed up by improvements at bus stops, and the rolling out of a real-time satellite-based passenger information system funded by the county council. So Granthamís local bus network was transformed to ensure that the 21st century transport needs of residents and visitors could be met sustainably. 

Then in July 2011 Centrebus took over long established independent operator Kimes of Folkingham when the co-operative formed in 1997 came to an end following the sudden death of Paul Brown the operations manager. The Kimes rural routes melded well with the Centrebus network although subsequently the 58 and 59 passed to Brylaine of Boston when the Folkingham depot was closed at the end of August 2013, with route 9 passing to the Melton Mowbray (Saxby) depot of Centrebus whilst the 12 went to their Corby operation.

Further adjustments to the Grantham town service timetables took place in April 2013, with an overall reduction in the offering. Centrebus Commercial Manager David Shelley commented "in January 2010 Centrebus entered into a funded arrangement for the experimental enhancement of a number of bus services in Grantham. This included investment in new vehicles, improvements to a number of existing services, and experimental services in parts of the town not well served by bus. That arrangement came to an end in March 2013, and as a result Centrebus carried out a detailed review of what services can continue given that funding is no longer available. The scheme has been very successful in a number of areas, and passenger numbers have increased significantly in the town. As a result a number of the enhancements are able to continue even though subsidy has stopped. Service 1 in particular retains a 20 minute frequency throughout the daytime period, and buses to Great Gonerby are considerably better than they were three years ago, with a half-hourly service from Grantham for much of the day, and additional buses through to Newark. Areas such as Barrowby Gate, Sunningdale and Somerby also retain a service, in many cases not having many buses at all three years previously. Frequencies have reduced compared to what had been offered during the past three years, but this simply reflects the pattern of usage and the level of public funding that is now available."

The 2013 changes would appear to have effected a reduction of three buses from ten scheduled to seven in the daytime run-out for the town services. Sunningdale and Somerby saw even greater reduction in service levels from April 2014, reducing to only four journeys a day on route 9 (which also includes a rural element to and from Denton and Woolsthorpe). August 2015 saw some further reductions at school times and the withdrawal of the Saturday service on route 2 to Alma Park.

  Long gone but obviously not forgotten!
  Even now in 2016 at least one of the stand signs at Grantham bus station still has the Reliance name.

bus station sign

front cover
rear cover


Note (1) about the timetables: the Aerodrome referred to above is RAF Spitalgate, now the Territorial Army's Prince William of Gloucester Barracks
Note (2) about the timetables: the Corby referred to below is Corby Glen, between Grantham and Bourne. The site of a famous annual sheep fayre


Reliance routes in operation in 1977
Grantham - Old Somerby - Burton Coggles - Corby Glen - Bourne

Grantham - Ingoldsby - Lenton or Burton Coggles - Corby Glen - Swinstead Saturday
via Lenton outbound, Burton inbound
Grantham - Old Somerby - Ropsley

Grantham - Great Gonerby

Grantham - Earlesfield: Goodliff Road / Stour Court (town service)
joint with Road Car service 19
Grantham - Heathfield Road / Barrowby (town sevice)

Two more Reliance tickets (courtesy of Simon Brown). On the left a TIM ticket from the period 1960 to 1971, on the right a later Autofare ticket.
TIM ticket

Autofare ticket

Leyland Leopard / Duple Dominant JAL573N of Reliance, seen at Grantham in 1978.
A one owner bus which operated here for some 25 years.
(photo with thanks from the johnmightycat1 collection)

leopard jal573n at grantham in 1978

Reliance routes in operation in 1997
Grantham - Dysart Road - Barrowby (town service) half hourly

Grantham - Dysart Road - Heathfield Road (town service) half hourly
15 minute frequency to Heathfield
Road services 500 and 501
Grantham - Earlesfield - Goodliff Road / Shaw Road circular (town service) half hourly
joint with Road Car service 202
to give 15 minute frequency
Grantham - Great Gonerby
half hourly

Grantham - Bottesford - Bingham - Nottingham 7 - 9 journeys

Grantham - Old Somerby - Burton Coggles - Corby Glen - Swinstead
4 - 5 journeys
extended to Bourne on Saturdays
and one peak journey pm M-F
Grantham - Ropsley 5 - 8 journeys

Grantham - Great Gonerby - Long Bennington
peak journeys
am and pm M-F

Grantham - Sleaford - Boston (Gliderdrome) one journey
Sunday evening
for bingo in Boston
Grantham - Alma Park circular (town service) one am peak
journey M-F
in 1990 this had been a frequent
service throughout the day

Timetable information from September 2000 for the
trunk route 625 from Grantham to Nottingham

1958 fares increases
cover of 625 timetable leaflet september 2000
Reliance fares were the focus of critical appraisal by the East Midlands Traffic Commissioners, as was reported in Commercial Motor in February 1958.
High bus fares were seriously disrupting life in rural districts and making it difficult for rural councils to let houses, the Traffic Commissioners were told. They were hearing objections by Great Gonerby Parish Council and West Kesteven Rural District Council to fare increases on six routes sought by W. J. Simmons and Co. (Reliance) of Great Gonerby. 
Mr. J. R. Morgan, for the councils, declared that bus companies should look round for ways of economising instead of increasing fares, which added to the cost of living. In West Kesteven, the usual pattern was a grant to the Lincolnshire Road Car Co. Ltd., then an application by Simmons to bring their fares into line, and later a similar, though reluctant, application by C. W. Pulfrey, also of Great Gonerby. 
It was claimed that a company as small as Simmons must have great room for economies. They had some very remunerative services between Grantham and Great Gonerby, Grantham and Ropsley, and Grantham and Barrowby, together with a town service and a works service.  "The fare from Grantham to Great Gonerby has increased from 3d. in 1955 to 5.5d. at the present time," he pointed out. "This is 83 per cent increase, yet no running costs have gone up by a similar percentage."

For Simmons, Mr. A. C. G. Rothera said the company lost £348 in 1956, which did not include interest on capital, or remuneration for the management. Three vehicles and their drivers had been dispensed with, but wages were still £41 higher than in 1956. The company wanted to come into line with Lincolnshire Road Car, and only in a few instances would the increases be higher than 2d. or 3d.  The application was granted.

timings from 625 timetable leaflet september 2000

The story of Reliance appears in 'The Independent Bus' by Keith Turns, published by David & Charles in 1974.

This page incorporates additional information from articles and publications

found in the press and libraries of Lincolnshire