The Malta Independent 20 November 2018, Tuesday

‘The Story Of the Malta Buses 1931-2011’: A must-have publication

Malta Independent Friday, 29 July 2011, 00:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

Book Distributors Limited have published The Story of the Malta Buses 1931-2011.

The colourful book, written by Michael Cassar, takes readers through the ages since the first army vehicles were first introduced in Malta and started to transport people.

This public transport reform that was launched on 3 July was not a first for Malta and the book’s author, a transport historian, takes the reader through the changes in public transport undertaken over the years.

The various buses that ran the service, the development of bus termini at Porta Reale and Castille, the indigenous bus body building industry and the flair for individual bus decoration that turned ordinary utility vehicles into mobile works of art, are recorded in detail.

The unique 80-page publication that will be out on 5 August celebrates the passage of the Maltese buses “so that, as they fade away, they remain in the twin realms of the nation’s collective history and memory,” the book synopsis says.

A pre-publication offer is available until Thursday 4 August and reserved copies are available at the pre-publication price of €8 per copy.

Although not lengthy and very colourful, the publication gives insight of a people and its changing culture, the relationship between people, bus drivers and buses (that had a life of their own), and perhaps food for thought on why this year’s reform did not turn out as expected.

Besides the drivers’ Mediterranean temperament, the missed character of the old buses definitely comes from the unique mementos and the famous quotes on the buses’ rear and inside like: ‘Counting the days’, ‘Verbum Dei Caro Factum Est’, ‘Long Life’, ‘Forever Young’, ‘I Don’t Care What People Say’ and ‘Missing You Dad’. Names of loved ones and nicknames also made each vehicle unique.

It was 1905 when the Malta Motor Omnibus and Transport Syndicate started a regular bus service between Valletta and St Julian’s but the service was suspended the next year and buses were returned to England.

In 1915, several motor ambulances were imported to carry the wounded from the Gallipoli Campaign and five years later, British Motor Co. was set up. Ford/Chevrolet ambulance chassis were converted into ‘matchbox’ buses.

The following year, the Cottonera Motor Car Co. was set up and over the years, the bus service was extended to St Julian’s. In 1927, continuous services to Żebbuġ, Birkirkara, and Cospicua were introduced.

Following the success of the public transport system, the tram-operating company Malta Tramways closed down in 1929.

New bus regulations were consequently issued and the service was extended to Rabat.

As the British Motor Co. was bought by a British company, annual testing was introduced for all buses.

While the bus service started becoming ever more popular, plans were made for congestion at Porta Reale in Valletta to be eased by transferring some routes to Castille.

As the railway was shut down and replaced by Rabat Service Co., British Motor Co. was sold to Maltese entrepreneur Gasan and its buses were exported.

The famous colour schemes were then introduced and became obligatory by 1935.

In 1940, buses fell under government control and after capping on licences was introduced, a proposal was made for the service to be amalgamated into a single company.

After Gasan bought Wayne bodies and fitted them on Ford V8 models in 1946, development slowed down in the subsequent years.

In 1954, the General Transport Union replaced the Malta Bus Owners Union. A new bus terminus was opened at Porta Reale. The book then goes on about the more recent developments of the bus service as we used to know it until earlier this month.

The publication is a must have for any family and will definitely be useful for children’s school projects.

Further information is available on phone number 2138-0351 and website: www.bdlbooks.com.

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