The Country Area Garages


Harlow Garage Plate The Country Bus and Coach Department of London Transport had their work cut out in the post-war years, because the well-told story of declining mileage in the Central Area was the opposite of the situation in the peripheral belt. Government policy in the post-war period was crystallised in the New Towns Act of 1946, which mandated a policy of dispersing population from war-ravaged cities to new, planned settlements where housing would be of lower density and higher quality as an incentive. So far as we are concerned, the New Towns in the northern area were Harlow, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead and Stevenage. Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City were included, but had been in progress since the 1920s. By the early 1950s there was a great urgency to provide rolling stock and staff to augment the post-war allocation at existing garages, to complete work deferred during the war years and to construct new facilities where they were mandated by the Act. Hatfield was a deferred project, Stevenage was proposed due to its site being established early in the process, and Harlow was added once the plans matured a little later. These three will be referred to together as the "New Town Garages" because their design and construction became standardised and were essentially identical.

Stevenage Fisher's Green Garage Harlow Garage was not the first of the group to be completed; that title went to Hatfield (link), with Stevenage (link) opening shortly after.The garage at Harlow replaced a facility opened at Epping, which had in turn been a replacement for previous, unsatisfactory or inefficient operations from inherited bases, which will be described briefly.

Epping Garage was opened on 5th September 1934 on a 1.25 acre plot in the corner between Epping High Road and Crows Road. It replaced two premises that operated Green Line and National routes on the borders of Hertfordshire and Essex. The first was at Ongar, which was a small establishment known as Bridge Garage taken over with the fleet of Associated Coaches (Ongar) Ltd. in 1932. Their route to London became Route Green Line route AO. A small office building adjoined an entirely unsatisfactory open parking and maintenance area.

The other at Bishops Stortford was a larger establishement, and one of two properties belonging to the London General in the town. This had its origins in a garage in Dane Street, where National operated services to Harlow and Epping. From 1921 the service was extended to Ongar and Brentwood under the LGOC umbrella, and numbered N9. The garage was soon relocated to South Street, where it continued to serve the National routes operated for the LGOC and on their own account. Also in South Street was the original operating base of Acme Pullman Services, who ran coach services under their own name as part of the Green Line network for a while. In due course London General Country Services consolidated provision in Bishops Stortford, but it is not known exactly how! On the re-casting of the Green Line network in 1933 there were transfers of staff duties between these garages. Bishops Stortford also became responsible for bus routes N9, N10 and N11, albeit with difficulty from its remoteness. It continued in use by Eastern National. Although the code BS was allocated by London Transport, it was never used. The building was sold to Eastern National in 1935 and finally closed by Badgerline, who purchased the operations of Eastern National from the management buyout team, in April 1990.

Epping was the first new garage to open after the formation of the LPTB, and it was prioritised because considerable operating efficiencies could be obtained, thus offsetting the cost of the new build, which was 15,400. Undercover parking would be provided for all of the initial fleet of 38 vehicles, whereas previously only 18 had covered accommodation in the premises which were replaced. Much attention was paid to harmonising the buildings with the host town and minimising the impact on local roads and housing. It was intended that this would be the prototype of a facility to provide new premises in a number of locations in desperate need, such as Hertford, Amersham, Hemel Hempstead, Staines and Windsor. The building work was done by A.T. Rowley of Tottenham, and the architects were Wallis, Gilbert and Partners. Most of the allocation was for Green Line work, there being few local buses and ironically, the 339 ( previously N9) was withdrawn between Ongar and Bishops Stortford as part of service changes on opening day! The long run north was covered by bus fares on the Green Line route V. Whilst the number of vehicles allocated did not change a great deal, their nature certainly did as Green Line services were changed to bus routes during the war and T type coaches were replaced in time by 10T10 types and from 1954 by RF. In that year Epping operated the first Green Line route to a New Town, the 720A to Harlow from Aldgate. By 1957 Epping had a daily run-out of 17 RF coaches, and by 1962 there were 24 double-deckers in use on the 339 and 396 services which were covering Harlow routes, and the garage must have been bursting! Closure came on 21st May 1963 when the first garage building of the LPTB was replaced by the new Harlow building, the last London Transport garage in the country area.,