Lowestoft Corporation Transport 1903-1974

Although plans to construct a company-owned tramway were proposed, the first tramway in Lowestoft was eventually constructed and operated by the Corporation itself under the Lowestoft Corporation Act of 1901, and consisted of a single route, which ran in a north-south direction from Yarmouth Road, adjacent to the Great Eastern Railway’s Lowestoft North station, along High Street, London Road, crossing the harbour entrance by way of a swing bridge, and continuing along London Road South to its junction with Pakefield Street in Pakefield, where it terminated.

To the north of the harbour, a 1-mile branch line ran past Lowestoft Central station to Rotterdam Road, where the Corporation had its depot.

Opened on the 22nd July 1903, the total length of the system was little over four miles, although it had been the intention to extend the line around the town this never happened, and it remained unaltered throughout its life.

The original rolling stock consisted of eleven open-top double-deck cars (Nos. 1-11) and four single-deck cars (Nos. 21-24), all built by Milnes of Birkenhead. The following year four more open-top double-deck cars (Nos. 12-15) were added.

As with many systems elsewhere, when the track and overhead needed replacing in the late 1920’s, the town council decided to replace the trams with motorbuses.

In April 1931 the section north of the harbour was closed, and on 8th May of the same year the southern section closed, bringing to an end the tramway era in Lowestoft.

Buses had been introduced in 1927, when a summer-season only service from North Parade to the South Pier commenced, operated by two Guy BB single-deckers with Waveney B26F bodywork.

The following year a new service from Cemetery Corner to Rotterdam Road depot, via the town centre commenced, and three more Guy BB buses were delivered.

This service was, however, short-lived and was abandoned after a few months. Instead, the buses were used to provide a half-hourly service along the existing tram route, the service commencing in 1929.

When the first section of the tram route was closed in April 1931, it was replaced by the single-deck Guys, which connected with the trams running on the remaining southern section.

In 1931, eight AEC Regent double-deck buses (Nos. 10-17) with United (the forerunner of ECW, who were based locally in Lowestoft) H27/21R bodywork were delivered, enabling the southern section of the tramway abandonment to be completed.

The bus livery was maroon and primrose, with the tram livery being munich lake and crimson.

Further vehicles were not delivered until 1945 when six Guy Arab II’s (Nos. 1-6), with Massey H30/26R bodywork, were purchased to replace the ageing AEC Regents.

In 1947 a further nine AEC Regents with local ECW H30/26R bodywork were delivered. The fleet size was always small and rarely exceeded 20 vehicles.

In common with most operators, Lowestoft began to suffer from falling passenger numbers throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s and the Council considered merging its operations with that of local operator Eastern Counties Omnibus Company.

Discussions were held in the late 1960’s, but although Eastern Counties made an offer for the undertaking it was considered unacceptable. As a result, the Corporation decided to implement service changes and to serve areas that were not then served by buses.

Although alterations and new services were proposed, objections were raised by Eastern Counties, who, eventually, were awarded the new services to the detriment of the Corporation.

In 1969 the Corporation took delivery of 4 AEC Swifts (Nos. 1-4), with ECW B45D bodywork, with all subsequent vehicles being of this type, which were suitable for one-man operation, as staff shortages forced a move away from crew-operated services. 

In March 1974, agreement was reached that enabled all the services of Lowestoft Corporation to be integrated with those of Eastern Counties, with both the Company and the Corporation running on all the routes. The agreement was known as the Lowestoft Joint Services.

Just under one month later, on the 1st April 1974, Lowestoft became part of the new Waveney District Council. All the vehicles and services were transferred to the new authority, ending over 70 years of Lowestoft Corporation as a municipal operator in its own right.

In preparing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
The Directory of British Tramways (Keith Turner, PSL 1996); Municipal Buses in Colour 1959-1974 (Reg Wilson, Ian Allan 1997); PSV Circle Fleet History 2PF9 (1987).

Tram Fleet List 1903-1931 | Bus Fleet List 1927-1974 |