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January 2006
SBG Split Twenty years on Part 2
In 1985, the Scottish Bus Group (SBG) comprised of seven companies.   Nothing much had changed for years, but with the twin impending threats of de-regulation and privatisation looming, now seemed the time for a shake-up.   The plan was simple, but not foolproof - create smaller, leaner companies ready for the brave new world.   Three of the larger companies would basically be split in two - Strathtay being born from Northern, Clydeside coming out of Western, and Lowland being the Borders area of Eastern.   The final company was Kelvin - a mish-mash of bits of Midland, Central and Eastern around Glasgow.   How did it work out ?   Did they survive ?   Read on to find out the answers ..
How did it start ?
Kelvin put the hotch into potch.   Consisting of SBG depots on the north side of Glasgow, it fought a bitter battle with Greater Glasgow PTE, only for it to end up under the common banner of First Glasgow, its successor.

As a prelude to the new companies, in mid-1985 Eastern's Baillieston depot closed a vehicles transferred to Midland ownership.   When Kelvin was created, Baillieston's former stock was joined by Cumbernauld, Kilsyth, Kirkintilloch, Milngavie and Stepps from Midland and Old Kilpatrick from Central.   The ragamuffin company was designed to compete the PTE.
What happened next ?
Kelvin was radical.   It threw away its crown jewels by selling off its newest Leopards and replacing them with Nationals (upper left) from other SBG companies such as Highland and Northern.   It soon adopted a dynamic new blue/yellow stripey livery (bottom left to right).   It re-cast its routes at de-regulation buying new minibuses (middle) and second hand Routemasters to run the services.   The only full-size vehicles bought new were Metrobuses for Cumbernauld (upper right).
Where did it go wrong ?
Two words - Central SMT.   For many years Central had been a hotbed of industrial relations problems.   These culminated in a series of disastrous strikes in 1990 which left the company badly compromised with impending privatisation.   There was a quick and obvious solution - amalgamate Kelvin and Central and re-name them Kelvin-Central Buses (right).   It was an an unhappy time with independents sensing blood moving in on all sides. 
kcb-1787-leu255p-glasgow-apr93.JPG (54305 bytes)
Where are they now ?
Kelvin Central changed their name again and again, they bought second hand vehicles by the bucket load (above right) and were offered to their management for a nominal sum when privatisation came around.   After buying several competitors, KCB (as they were by then called) had begun to steady the boat when Strathclyde's Buses, the former PTE company, bought them.   They in turn joined the First fold in the late 1990's.   Today First Glasgow still operates as two separate units - the old PTE and KCB, but in reality to the public they are indistinguishable.   The only Kelvin depot left is Cumbernauld, and only a handful of routes remain recognisable from 20 years ago.   Competition still rages in Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire (above).   KCB RIP.
Click to enlarge photos.
Photo Facts (top to bottom)
Kelvin 1247 (MSO18W), an ex-Northern Leyland National, leaving Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow for Stirling in September 1986.
Kelvin 2679 (D679MHS), a dual-purpose Metrobus in Cathedral St. Glasgow, heading for Cumbernauld.   These were the only full-size new vehicles that Kelvin bought, and some have just recently come out of service.
Kelvin minibuses at Kirkintilloch depot in March 1987.   Kelvin flooded the east end of Glasgow, particularly Sprinburn, with these vehicles on short-lived high-frequency services.   Being robust buses, they went on to serve with other operators, Western in particular.
Kelvin T147 (B258TYS), an Alexander TE-bodied Tiger, at Balloch bus stance in September 1985.   The first livery was a rather drab two-tone blue, that was later livened up by the application of a yellow front.   This batch of vehicles was originally ordered by Central, but delivered to Kelvin.  Rather perversely, before the split no vehicles were re-positioned, so Kelvin inherited lots of odd-men-out.   These buses were re-united with the rest of the batch when KCB was formed.   Kelvin's first fleet numbering scheme was a simplified version of Midland's, using only the last letter of each vehicle class (T for Tiger, E for Leopard etc).   However they soon adopted a more revolutionary four digit sequence, which is remarkably similar to the five digit one used by Stagecoach today.
Kelvin O1 (ULS96X), an ECW bodied Olympian in Buchanan Bus Station in September 1985, sporting the then new stripey blue/yellow livery.   This vehicle was originally with Eastern Scottish, and passed briefly to Midland when Baillieston garage closed and the vehicles moved to Stepps.   It is operating route 100 from Drumchapel to Garthamlock, a connection of two routes that used to terminate in the city centre.   This service was a result of ScotMAP, which once again prepared the SBG companies for de-regulation.
Kelvin 2047 (EMS359V), an Alexander T-type Leopard, outside Buchanan Bus Station in June 1987.   After de-regulation in 1986, Kelvin moved almost all their services to Anderston X bus station, and only called outside Buchanan Bus Station.   This Leopard is wearing the final simplified version of the blue/yellow livery.
Kelvin Central Buses (KCB) 1787 (LEU255P), a Bristol VRT that started life with Bristol Omnibus, in Argyll St. Glasgow in April 1993.   KCB bought Dominators from Merseyside and Atlanteans from Hull amongst other oddities.
Clydebank bus station in December 2005.   Avondale, PJ Travel and McColl are all competing with First (just visible at the back on the right) in former Kelvin territory in Dunbartonshire.
First Glasgow
Central SMT enthusiasts
How did it start ?
Clydeside's is perhaps the saddest tale of all.   It lost not one, but two of its former operating areas.   It fought bitter battles with Strathclyde PTE and independent operators along the way.   Now it's been subsumed into the Arriva, a distant outpost of the aquamarine empire.
As with Kelvin, Clydeside in its original guise only lasted for three years - from 1985 to 1988.   Formed from the Glasgow area depots of Western (Greenock, Inchinnan, Johnstone, Paisley, Thornliebank, Rothesay and Largs), it too was designed to head of competition from Strathclyde PTE.   It adopted a vibrant red and yellow livery.
Clydeside purchased 70 London Routemasters and introduced several cross-river routes (lower right) as it went head-to-head with the PTE.   Another innovation was the Quicksilver branding (above right), applied to vehicles running local express services to such places as Paisley and Kilmacolm.   It only bought a handful of new vehicles and soon eliminated the erstwhile Seddon Pennine (above left).   It was attacked relentlessly in Paisley by the PTE as expected.   Meantime independent operators continued to niggle away in Greenock with up to 12 companies competing at any one time.
What happened next ?
The impending privatisation of the Scottish Bus Group companies saw Western assume control of Clydeside again in November 1988.   Clydeside was a true chameleon, having control of different depots under every re-incarnation.   Initially Rothesay (right) was somewhat surprisingly under their remit, however after 1988 ownership returned to Western along with Largs and equally surprisingly Greenock.   
This left the Glasgow area depots to function with Clydeside names but Western livery.   Western almost immediately disposed of the Routemasters replacing them with Fleetlines and National 1's from Kelvin.   Apart from these changes nothing much else changed until Clydeside was sold to a employee/management buyout with the assistance of Luton & District in October 1991.
When Clydeside was merged back with Western in 1989, they bought redundant Fleetlines from Kelvin-Central (above left) to help replace Routemasters.   The vehicles operating in the Glasgow area wore Western livery but carried Clydeside names (above middle).   When Clydeside went its own way again in 1991 they inherited most of these Fleetlines and repainted them in the revised red/yellow livery (above right).
Where did it go wrong ?
Clydeside 2000 as it was then known, consisted of depots at Greenock (returned to the fold), Inchinnan, Johnstone, Paisley, Thornliebank and Largs (also reunited).   Tough times lay ahead with Paisley shutting in August 1992, and Thornliebank following soon after.   A bright new version of the red/yellow livery (below right) could not disguise the problems and after
withdrawing from Glasgow routes, operated for more than half a century, almost the entire double-deck fleet was sold in November 1993.   Elderly second hand stock in the shape of ex-Kelvin and Lancaster Leopards (above) were bought as well as more minibuses to counter the relentless competition in Greenock.   Luton & District ownership passed to British Bus in 1994, and subsequently to Arriva in 1997.
Eventually Arriva was forced to accept defeat and in 2002 abandonned Greenock operation, with McGill (no relation to the former Paisley company) assuming control of many of the former routes.   Arriva today is a pale shadow of the original Clydeside company, with
more than 90% of its operation concentrated on Paisley (above left).   Only three other routes survive.   The fleet is now mainly based on Metroriders and Darts, with only a handful of double-deckers (above right).  The chameleon is now a mere tadpole.
Click to enlarge photos.
Photo Facts (top to bottom)
Clydeside 844 (KSJ944P), an Alexander bodied Seddon, at Kilmarnock bus station in June 1985.   The Seddons were not long for this world under Clydeside ownership.
Clydeside P401 (B401OSB), a Plaxton bodied Dennis Dorchester, slaloming through Buchanan bus station in June 1987.   This is one of the few vehicles that Clydeside bought new.
Western PL655 (TSJ55S), a traditional Y-Type Leopard in Clydeside livery, outside Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow in December 1989.   It is on the cross-river (16) service from South Nitshill to Garthamlock.
Clydeside R939 (DSD939V), an Alexander T-type Seddon, arriving in Buchanan Bus Station in July 1986.   This vehicle was one of three that were hastily converted to Citylink status for the Glasgow to Campbelltown service.   It is seen here operating for Rothesay depot on their summer only express service (835) to Edinburgh.   This may have been the only and only time that a Rothesay vehicle operated a through service from the island of Bute to the mainland.
Withdrawn Kelvin-Central Fleetlines at Kirkintilloch depot in September 1989.
Western JR374 (LMS154W), a former Kirkintilloch based Fleetline, operating for Johnstone depot in Glasgow in December 1989.
Clydeside 850 (LMS170W), being pursued by Volvo Ailsa 890 (KSD90W) in Paisley in December 1993.
Clydeside 777 (WCW312R), a Y-Type Leopard formerly with Lancaster, in Greenock in September 1996.
Clydeside 509 (M109RMS), an East Lancs bodied Scania, a British Bus inspired purchase in Glasgow in May 1995.   This vehicle still operates for Arriva Scotland today.
Arriva S860OGB, an Alexander bodied Dart, fresh in service in Paisley in December 1998.
Arriva 1885 (H670GPF), an East Lancs bodied Volvo Citybus at Inchinnan depot in December 1998, one of a small batch bought from Arriva London South that year.   These vehicles comprise the only double-deckers in the fleet.
Thanks are due to the Western Enthusiasts Club bi-monthly news sheets in the preparation of the Clydeside article.
Western Enthusiasts Club
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