Buses to Portland run by Portlanders

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

AHT206J Bristol RE
The bus services operated by Smiths of Portland in the 1980s and 1990s were descendants in part of bus services run between Victoria Square and Tophill Portland between 1924 and 1927 by Smith and Hoare; and the Portland Express operations which Messrs Fancy, Saunders and Tolman had run between Weymouth and Portland Bill from 1932 until 1936.  In both cases the services were bought out by the National, who sought to protect one of their prime routes from competition.

Richard Smith continued in business as a taxi proprietor and in 1947 his son Douglas bought a second hand Bedford coach.  Starting with private hire operations the coaching side expanded with tours and excursions from Easton in 1950. In 1962 Smiths took over the Saunders business, which still had a licence for a service into Weymouth.  The Saunders stage licence which Smiths took-over was restricted to "Navy Days / Week".  From 1962 until 1981 Smiths simply renewed the licence without modifications, except for up-lifting the fares ~ but during this period the route was not run.
AHT206J, a Bristol RE of Smiths parked at Victoria Square
in September 1997. New to Bristol Omnibus in 1971
and is now in preservation in Stroud
(photo Steve Oxbrow).

In 1981 when Smiths applied for a regular daily bus service the Navy Days/Week restriction was emphasised for objectors Western National by their advocate Jeffrey Jones at a Traffic Commissioners sitting in Weymouth.  Unfortunately the period of operation restriction had been omitted over the years by the Traffic Commissioners office when renewing the licence.  The Commissioner pointed out that Southern/Western National had not objected to Smiths taking over the licence from Saunders, nor to the subsequent renewals, and granted Smiths their regular timetable. 

In 1977 the operation had outgrown its base in Easton and moved to Southern National's former garage in Victoria Square, Portland.  As mentioned above, Smiths came back into the bus business in 1981 with three return journeys a day between Weymouth and Portland.  In 1982 this became ten journeys and in 1988 this had grown to sixteen return journeys a day.  The business was incorporated as Smiths of Portland Ltd in 1983.  Douglas Smith retired in 1987 and was followed in the business in turn by his son Rodney.  By now Weybus were also competing on Weymouth area routes - indeed competition between the three operators was fierce and sometimes aggressive.

Early in 1989 the Smith family sold the business to neighbouring Portland Plant Ltd who in turn sold the business in summer 1989 to the Cawlett group, who now owned Southern National.  A co-ordinated timetable was operated with former rivals Southern National.  Cawlett sold off the Smith business in 1994 to a Plymouth businessman called Rimmer.  With Weybus coming onto the Portland route with a fifteen minute frequency in 1995, Smiths introduced a joint timetable with Southern National to Portland and responded further with a competing half hourly service from Weymouth to Littlemoor Estate. In April 1996 this new service was extended westwards from Weymouth town centre to Hereford Road, creating further competition, and leading to progressive fare reductions as all three operators vied for trade.   

Such a situation could not continue indefinitely, and from June 1996 the Traffic Commissioner banned Southern National from the Portland route - which was immediately and somewhat cheekily registered by their sister company Dorset Transit!  So still three operators in competition on the Portland service.  In the autumn of 1996 Smiths withdrew from Littlemoor and then in December from Hereford Road.  Vehicles used included Bristol REs until 1996, and then some Freight Rover Sherpa/Carlyles and also some Dormobile/Ivecos.  In September 1997 more arrived from Cityline Bristol and ran for two years.

In January 1998 the Smiths business was repurchased by the Cawlett group and in July the Weybus services ceased to operate when their licences were revoked by the Traffic Commissioner.  So Cawlett had Portland to themselves again, albeit with two operations: Dorset Transit and Smiths.  April 1999 saw Cawlett acquired by the First group, and Smiths ceased to trade separately in September 1999, all services then coming under the First Southern National banner.

An impressive line up of competing minibuses at the Kings Statue on Weymouth seafront.
From the front Smiths D510OTA (ex-North Devon) followed by Weybus, Southern National, Weybus
and Southern National. Were there ever enough passengers for three operators? (Photo by Keith Newton)

a line up of minibuses at Kings Statue Weymouth

Smiths climbing towards Tophill Portland with the impressive sweep of Chesil Beach behind.
Not the best of places for the car driver to change a tyre on that bend! (Photo by Keith Newton)
climbing up to Tophill Portland with view over Chesil Beach

Cover of the joint SN + Smiths timetable for Portland for summer 1995
cover of joint timetable 1995

Part of the Smiths April 1988 timetable

1988 timetable