The history of Jersey Motor Transport

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A JMT bus at the Weighbridge in 1928

Jersey Motor Transport, or JMT as it was universally known, dominated public transport in Jersey for nearly 80 years.

Luxurious vehicles

It was launched in 1923 in Jersey's Royal Court with a share capital of £4,500, largely owned by F T Hare and his relatives, owners of Devon Motor Transport Company, and was intended to provide a high quality service to compete with the large number of small operators struggling for business through the 1920s. It's first five buses - dual entrance 30-seater Bristols, were described by a local newspaper as "luxuriously appointed saloon coaches, proof against all weathers, mud or dust".

Seven routes covered most of the island and with a minimum fare of 2d, and more on country routes, this was no cut-price operation. In the event it was not the other bus operators who found the newcomer a major challenge but the Jersey Railway and Tramway company operating trains from St Helier to Corbiere. So much was their business suffering that they bought their rival on 5 August 1928. At first JR & T's own bus fleet operated separately from the JMT vehicles in their familiar green and cream livery, and gradually the railway company's route network was reduced.

JMT acquired Yellow Bus Service in 1930 and a 'bus war' with Safety Coach Service began. This saw both companies operating 'chasers', buses which ran just before the scheduled service of the rival company to pick up passengers waiting at stops. Fares were slashed and so much were standards allowed to drop that it was no surprise when a JMT bus overturned at the bottom of Mont Felard in June 1931, after its brakes failed, resulting in three deaths and many injuries.

JMT introduced the first double-decker motor bus in the 1930s and continued to operate them until the early 1970s

New manager

F H Blakeway was brought in from Leyland Motors in Lancashire to replace JR & T and JMT manager W N Poingdestre. He made major changes to the 1932 timetable to combat the challenge from SCS, and brought the first modern double-decker bus to the island to operate on the through service from Gorey to St Aubin.

Such was the proliferation of bus services and the resulting traffic congestion, particularly in the town, that the States decided to legislate to control the situation. However, in October 1934, before the introduction of the Motor Traffic Law, JMT and SCS came to an agreement to split the island between them, JMT taking the west and SCS the east. Fares rose and routes settled down, with the two large operators progressively swallowing up smaller competitors.

The introduction of the new law in 1935 transferred licencing of bus services from the parishes to the Defence Committee, and twice-yearly public hearings were held at which the various companies' proposals were considered. Dissatisfied applicants had the right of appeal to the Royal Court. Further acquisitions of smaller companies by the JMT continued as they attempted to establish the route network they desired by one means or another.

Horse-drawn town buses were still in use in 1946

During the second half of the 1930s the traffic congestion brought about by competing bus services and a proliferation of private vehicles proved to be a serious problem for the Defence Committee, and one they failed to solve. But then war intervened and the whole picture of public transport was changed during the German Occupation.

Fuel was in short supply, or unavailable, and buses were converted to run on gas, wood, charcoal and finally to be drawn by horses. The Germans changed the rule of the road from driving on the left to the right, and JMT buses were forced to set down and pic up their passengers in the middle of the road.

Post-war acquisitions

When life began to return to normal after the Liberation, the JMT acquired one of their few remaining competitors, Slade's Blue and White Bus Service, in May 1946. Later in the year, SCS, which had restarted operations with only 12 vehicles out of a pre-war fleet of 30 fit for use, decided to give up the struggle and sold out to JMT. This was followed in 1949 by the acquisition of Tantivy's bus operations.

Gradually the JMT modernised its fleet, as it settled down to operate an all-island service for the first time for 12 years, using the Weighbridge terminus and the former SCS headquarters at Snow Hill, abandoning the congested Minden Place terminus in 1948.

The JMT continued to absorb any remaining competition, taking over the Promenade Bus Service 'toastrack' operation, which used open-top buses in the summer months, and finally, on 1 January 1960, Joe's Bus Service, the only remaining independent operator.

The JMT enjoyed a monopoly on all bus services for the next 42 years, but when the route network was put out to tender in 2002, the company lost out to Connex and 79 years of operations came to an end.

We are not certain of the date of this photograph, which shows demolition work under way before the construction of the Weighbridge terminus. The car on the left in front of the Royal Yacht Hotel, a Morris Minor convertible, would appear to date the picture to the very early 1960s
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