Friday, 3 July 2009

Chapter 14 Closure of Tring Garage

As 1977 approached we began to hear ominous rumours of impending closures, but it couldn’t be Tring, surely not, the painters had just finished painting the whole garage. Ah don’t be fooled by those clever management techniques. We were called to a union meeting in the local village hall where it was announced that the Union had done all it could to avoid the closure of our garage but unfortunately the county council had to keep control of subsidies for public transport and Tring garage would close on Friday 31st March 1977.
Drivers and conductors were given the option of redundancy with appropriate payment or relocation to another garage with a disturbance payment for two years or help with house moving to another location near to a garage of your choice.
I believe all the conductors took redundancy. Of the drivers only twelve chose to remain with the company. Of the rest some drivers took redundancy and a few took early retirement. One driver however was very fortunate and that was Johnny Herculese. John who had taken me route learning on the 706 some five years earlier decide to take his redundancy money, and join the local Aylesbury bus company Red Rover. A few years later Red Rover were bought out by the major bus operator in Buckinghamshire, United Counties, When the eighties arrived and bus companies were being sold off at knock down prices United Counties became Luton and District under a management buy out. Time moved on and Luton and District took over what had been London Country North West. LCNW was of course operating the 301s out of Hemel Hempstead, and John was working out of Aylesbury. Luton and District being the main controlling company saw fit to transfer some of Hemel Hempstead 301 workings to Aylesbury. And so it came to pass that many years later I would pass John, smiling away, driving the same 301s he’d been driving at Tring.
As the fateful day approached we were interviewed by management with a union official present and asked to make a decision on our futures. I had already decided I wanted to stay with London Country, but I did not know whether to transfer to Hemel Hempstead, Amersham or High Wycombe. During the last week rumours had been flying around that either Amersham garage or High Wycombe garage was also to be closed. At an early morning meeting with management and a T&G 0fficer, we as drivers pointed out that it was no use transferring to either Amersham or High Wycombe only to find ourselves in the same position a few weeks later. We were told that management would get back to us after mid day.
By mid day, due to our pressure, High Wycombe garage learnt of its fate. High Wycombe was to close on the last day of the following September, six months later. How long this information would have been withheld from the staff is any ones guess, but at least it was now clear to us Tring drivers, we had three choices, Hemel Hempstead, Amersham, or redundancy.
Both garages were the same distance from my home in Aylesbury, 15 miles, a journey time of about twenty five minutes on a motor bike. The main incentive to transfer to Amersham was that Amersham operated the Bristol BL buses which were crash gear box vehicles.
As I has said earlier upon my return to the UK the Traffic Commissioners had made the obtaining of a full PSV licence only possible to those drivers who had passed their tests on a crash gear box vehicle. As I had taken my second test on an RT pre-select gear vehicle I now had a restricted licence. This then was an opportunity to regain a full PSV licence, for it was a requirement of the transfer agreement that all drivers would be upgraded to a full licence.
So papers all signed it was a sad farewell to Tring and all my friends and colleagues. Many drivers chose redundancy and took up other jobs. Two of the depot inspectors, Pete Letissier and Vic Cooper took up positions with London Underground, some took up work with local coach firms, my good friend Ted Goodchild went back to his first love, engineering. Of the remaining drivers six transferred to Hemel Hempstead and six transferred to Amersham. The odd thing was that of the six, including myself, who transferred to Amersham all left within two years, I being the last to leave. Whereas all the six who transferred to Hemel Hempstead stayed until they retired.
A few weeks before Tring closed our second child was due to be born. I wanted to be there at the birth as I was with Mark. So I carefully arranged with the other coach drivers to change my duties so that I would be resting when baby was due. Well baby had her own agenda, a false labour and then at the last minute 'here I come'. I finally changed to the last duty of the day in case baby came during the 27th Feb. But no, there I was at Watford at midnight and baby Heather was born at a quarter past midnight on the 28th.
Fortunately Annettes mum had come over from Australia to help out so when I came home at 1 o'clock mum was there to greet me with the news that I was the proud father of a baby girl. Now as it was late at night and Annette would be resting I thought it would be better to meet the new addition in the morning. Unfortunately Annette thought I would be so thrilled that I'd go and see her baby and straight away, so while Annette was awake waiting for me I was fast asleep. Never mind Mum and I took Mark around to meet his new sister first thing next day.
I was resting on the last day of operation of services from Tring but on that last day, 31st March 1977, I took my wife, our four year old son Mark and our new four week old daughter Heather (who much later accompanied me at another garage closure) along to the garage to say goodbye to all my old friends. The previous evening I had brought my last 706 from Chelsham to Tring, and now it was on to pastures new.

1 comment:

  1. By the way Dave. Do you remember George Bolton, who was an inspector at Hemel when we were at Tring. Well believe it or not, he is now the Chief Driving Test Examiner at Lincoln Head Office of Stagecoach. He conducts all the driving tests for the area covered by the former RoadCar company. We had many a good chat about the old days of Tring and Hemel. He was one of the first on the scene when "Poppy" Flanders fell out of the Leyland National when Ray Brooks was driving. There is another driver at Lincoln who was at Amersham when I was there. I don`t know if you`ll remember Clive Griffiths. There is also a couple of former LCBS drivers at Lincoln who were at Garston Garage.