Halifax Corporation and Joint Omnibus Committee 1898-1974

After initial proposals for a cable tramway system had fallen through, the Halifax Corporation Tramways Act of 1897 paved the way for the introduction of an electric tramway system, which was inaugurated on the 9th June 1898.

A delay in the necessary inspection by the Board of Trade, however, delayed the official opening to passengers until the 29th June.

The first routes centred on the Post Office; travelling east along Horton Street to the Old Railway Station; south-west to Kings Cross Street; and west to High Road Well, passing the depot at Spring Hall, Pellon.

The services were operated by ten (Nos. 1-10) open-top Milnes’ double-deck tramcars. Over the next few years, as more routes were opened, a further 48 more (Nos. 11-58) Milnes’ tramcars were added to the fleet.

This necessitated the building of a new depot in Skircoat Lane, which opened in 1902, the old depot then becoming a works facility.

Between 1901 and 1903, thirty-six more Brush open-top cars were purchased (Nos. 59-94) and, in 1904, Brush supplied a further two single-deck cars for one-man operation (Nos.95 and 96). Many of the open-top cars were later fitted with top-covers and windscreens.

By 1905 the system was virtually complete and covered over 37 miles of route. The final new route was not opened until May 1921 when the section to Stainland came into service.

Because of the gauge chosen (3ft. 6ins.), the Halifax system was isolated from neighbouring systems who used the standard gauge and as a consequence through running was not possible.

In 1911, Halifax Corporation obtained the consent of Parliament to operate motorbuses as an extension to the tramways and as a result a single motorbus was obtained for trials.

The bus (a Daimler CC from the London firm of Commercial Car Hirers) created such an impression that the Tramways Committee recommended the purchase of three similar vehicles.

Thus, on Wednesday the 16th October 1912, the first motorbus service, from Parkinson Lane, via Pellon to Mount Tabor, was inaugurated, passenger service commencing the following day. At the same time, an order for two more vehicles was made.

The Halifax Corporation Act of 1915 granted the Corporation powers to run motorbuses anywhere within the borough and into adjacent districts, however, at this time there was no thought of tramway replacement and the bus fleet still consisted of the original three vehicles.

In March 1916 the Daimler Company submitted a tender for the supply of two Y-type chassis (later increased to three) which served as replacements for the original trio of Daimler CC-type buses. No substantial increase in the bus fleet took place until 1925 when 12 Dennis 50-cwt vehicles were purchased.

Between 1921 and 1929 the Corporation built 27 tramcars in their own workshops, but on 31st March 1929 the first route closure between Brighouse and Bailiff Bridge took place; the beginning of the end for the tramway system.

Over the next ten years the tramway system was slowly dismantled and the decision to abandon the tramway system was taken on 3rd August 1938. The last tram (No.109) finally ran on 14th February 1939.

The Corporation had a brief flirtation with trolleybuses between 1921 and 1926, but, eventually, they were replaced by motorbuses.

Only three trolleybuses were operated, two were second-hand from Dundee Corporation in 1918, purchased for use on a parcel service, which never materialised.

They were refurbished in 1921 as passenger vehicles and entered service on the Wainstalls route, along with a third vehicle, a Tilling-Stevens RC2, purchased new in 1924.

In common with other areas, Halifax Corporation routes suffered the attentions of other operators, one of whom, O. and C. Holdsworth (who were later to become Hebble Motor Services) operated illegally in the Halifax area.

Licensing arrangements were such that, although Halifax refused to licence the services, neighbouring authorities often did, adding to the confusion.

The company was regularly fined for operating illegally but continued to do so until 1929 when it was purchased jointly by the LMS and LNER Companies, at which time the fleet consisted of some 86 vehicles operating a total of 28 routes.

The entry of the railway companies into bus operation was sanctioned by the Road Transport Act of 1928 and provided Halifax with another competitor.

However, shortly after the powers were granted, the railway companies approached the Corporation about the possibility of joint working of motor bus services in the area and, after lengthy negotiations, an agreement for the joint working of certain services was reached.

This resulted in the setting up of the Halifax Joint Omnibus Committee, consisting of four representatives from each party.

Briefly the agreement meant that the revenue from all services entirely within the borough of Halifax (classed as ‘A’ services) went to the Corporation. All revenue from services that did not enter the borough (classed as ‘B’ services) went to the JOC.

The revenue from JOC services that did enter the borough was apportioned between the Corporation and the JOC by a complicated formula that was intended to account for the number of passenger fares taken on JOC vehicles wholly within the borough boundary.

In addition, other operators made compensatory payments to Halifax Corporation representing passenger fares taken within the borough.

A third category (classed as ‘C’ services) were the longer distance services operating beyond the ‘B’ category area that were operated by the railway companies (or their nominees).

The initial JOC fleet consisted of some 28 vehicles, all of which were previously owned by Halifax Corporation.

In fulfilment of their obligation under the agreement, 14 of these vehicles were purchased by the railway companies and placed under the control of the JOC, which operated as a separate entity.

Following the purchase of Hebble Motor Services, the local routes terminating in Halifax were transferred to the JOC along with a number of vehicles needed to maintain the services, although Hebble Motor Services continued to operate routes under the ‘C’ classification in its own name.

In November 1929 the first double-deckers were added to the Corporation fleet. Numbered 53-55, they were Short bodied AEC Regents and proved themselves so capable of negotiating the hilly terrain around Halifax that the Corporation immediately ordered more.

The AEC Regent was to prove the mainstay of the Halifax and JOC fleets until well into the 1950’s and even influenced the choice of livery. The fleet had worn a blue and white livery until, in 1924, the new General Manager prompted a change to red and cream.

The Glasgow Corporation livery of green and orange worn by former AEC Regent demonstrator MT2114, delivered early in 1930, so impressed the Tramways Committee that it was adopted as Halifax Corporation’s standard livery.

On the 4th November 1932, a new depot at Elmwood was opened (although due to a delay installing a boiler it was not officially used until the 29th) to house the Corporation and JOC’s increasing bus fleet, which now stood at 90 vehicles.

In December 1933 the JOC commenced negotiations with local independent operators, Ripponden and District Motors, Slater and Son and J.W. Halstead, for the purchase of their local services, although, in the event, Slater and Son eventually sold their operations to the Yorkshire Woollen District Company.

5 vehicles were acquired from the Ripponden and District concern along with several local routes with an option for further purchases later.

Given Halifax Corporation’s penchant for AEC vehicles, it was not surprising that (on 1st March 1934) the revolutionary AEC ‘Q’ type made an appearance.

However, its side-mounted engine was prone to overheating and the vehicle suffered a lack of adhesion on wet roads; it proved unpopular and was withdrawn in 1938 after only four years.

By 1936 the increase in motorbus operations had made the Council consider opening a bus station in the town centre. Two sites were considered, one at Crossfield, and the other at a site bordering Market Street and Union Street.

Eventually the Crossfield site was used, initially as parking for PSV’s, before application was made to use it as a bus station.

The railway companies were unhappy with this, however, since it was in their interests to co-ordinate services with their trains and these necessitated buses serving the railway stations.

The arguments over the Crossfield site continued until 1949, when the Council finally approved the establishment of a bus station there.

In 1938 Halifax Corporation placed an order for 34 new AEC vehicles to speed up the tramway replacement programme. By December 1938, the first 16 buses (AEC Regents 59-65/8/72-9) were in service.

They were followed early in 1939 by 18 more (53-6/8/66/7/9/70/1/80-7) and this enabled the final abandonment of the tramway system to take place on 14th February.

The onset of the Second World War in September 1939 caused a reduction in services, largely due to fuel rationing, meaning many services were curtailed early. The windows of Corporation and JOC buses were painted over to prevent light spillage during hours of darkness.

Following an appeal to provincial operators for buses for London Transport, Halifax sent eight vehicles (4 from each fleet). When they returned in July 1941 they all sported ‘London 1940-1941’ plaques as a visible token of their service to the capital.

In March 1942 three vehicles were loaned to West Yorkshire Road Car Company for use in the transportation of essential workers. By 1943 the maintenance costs of the fleet had risen, partly due to the ageing of the bus fleet and partly due to the shortage of parts.

With this in mind an order was placed with AEC for 76 buses in total for both Corporation and JOC fleets, but it was not until November 1946 that the first of the new buses began to arrive.

This resulted in some of the pre-war vehicles being given an extended lease of life, but by the end of 1947 all of the ordered buses had arrived, prompting the mass withdrawal of the pre-war vehicles.

Among the post-war deliveries were six all-Leyland PD2/1’s (Nos.335-341). In 1948 the first 8ft wide buses, AEC Regents Nos.235-45, entered service, with the remainder of the batch arriving the following year, although 7ft 6ins vehicles continued to be supplied.

On the 29th August 1954, the Crossfield Bus Station opened.

An experiment with one-man-operated buses commenced in 1953, even though several vehicles in the mid-1920’s had been so operated, and this led to the introduction, in 1957, of one-man-operated vehicles.

In 1958 the first of a batch of nine Leyland Royal Tigers, suitable for one-man-operation, made its appearance, although wholesale change to one-man-operation was not reflected in the new vehicles that subsequently arrived.

In 1960 a batch of forward-entrance AEC Regent V’s was put into service between January and March, and, in 1962, sixteen forward-entrance PD2/37’s were purchased.

By 1966, however, the first of the inevitable rear-engined vehicles had arrived in the shape of Daimler CRG6 No.105 which, along with the rest of the batch (Nos.99-104), set the pattern for new buses for the remainder of the life of the Corporation and the JOC.

On the 1st January 1969, the former LMS and LNER railways’ assets and liabilities in the JOC, which had been vested in British Railways since nationalisation in 1947, came under the control of the National Bus Company.

During this year talks were opened with Halifax’s close neighbour, Todmorden JOC about a possible merger of the JOC fleets and, in April 1971, the two borough councils agreed in principle to the merger.

On the 6th of September 1971 the fleets of Todmorden JOC and Halifax JOC were merged to form the Calderdale JOC, which operated in tandem with Halifax Corporation until the creation of the West Yorkshire PTE on the 1st April 1974, which swallowed up both the Calderdale JOC and Halifax Corporation, thus ending over 75 years of Corporation transport in Halifax.

In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
The Directory of British Tramways (Keith Turner, PSL 1996); Halifax Corporation and Joint Omnibus Committee and their Successors (David Bentley/Autobus Review Publications 1998), PSV Circle Fleet History PB23 (1989).

Tram Fleet List 1898-1939 | Halifax Corporation Bus Fleet List 1912-1974 | Halifax JOC Bus Fleet List 1929-1971 |