Torbay's last surviving Bayline minibus is back

Man with old minibus

Joe and his minibus - Credit: Submitted

More than 25 years after being taken out of regular service, the last surviving Bayline minibus has made a triumphant return to the streets of Torbay.

In Bayline’s heyday in the late 1980s, Devon General’s fleet of minibuses in Devon numbered more than 100.

After most of the Transits were decommissioned by 1996, many thought that the once-familiar cream and maroon livery had been consigned to the past.  

But Bayline is back -  the last remaining bus has been purchased from a Midlands-based enthusiast by Torquay resident Joseph Hawkins.  

Mr Hawkins said he has fond childhood memories of seeing Bayline buses plying local roads: "The introduction of Devon’s iconic minibuses in the 1980s heralded a new era in bus travel.  The ‘minibus revolution’ in Devon was such a success that it was replicated across Britain.  As the Bayline minibus is such an important piece of British transport history – and indeed Torbay history – I was keen to ensure that it is preserved in local hands.”

The minibus revolution initially led to a doubling of bus patronage in Torquay but by the mid-1990s, larger buses returned, providing greater capacity.

 Mr Hawkins’ minibus saw a variety of uses in the following years, including as a school bus near Gunnislake.

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In the early 2000s, the bus was saved from the scrapyard by a Midlands-based collector, who lovingly restored it to its original Bayline livery.  

Mr Hawkins said: "When an opportunity arose to purchase the bus from the collector at the end of last year, it was a dream come true. 

“The most rewarding part of driving the bus is seeing people’s reactions to it.  Many people smile and wave when they see it.  Some have even flagged me down and shared fond memories evoked by seeing the familiar but long-forgotten cream and maroon livery.

"Recently, I took my grandfather James Hawkins, who was a local coach driver of over 40 years, out for a drive in it.  He loved it."

Mr Hawkins can regularly be seen retracing the bus’s former routes throughout Torbay and plans to exhibit the bus at local transport galas.