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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why are you called the Thames Valley and Great Western Omnibus Trust?
    Great Western Railway Road Motors and the Thames Valley Traction Co. were pioneers in establishing bus services in the early 20th century. They served communities north and south of the main railway line fro’ Paddington to Penzance and their development has shaped bus operations across the region today. It is the bus heritage along this transport corridor which the Trust enjoys, learning lessons from the experience of bygone travel and revealing the progress and innovation through to 21st century services. GWR formed joint ventures such as Western National in the West Country in the late 1920s and had significant shareholdings in Thames Valley so the connections are more than geographical. Today GWR, as part of FirstGroup, continues to have major influence on the development and operation of passenger transport services (bus & coach as well as rail) across the region.
  • Can we come and see the Collection?
    There are many ways you can see and enjoy the Trust’s Collection. We specialise in bringing our vehicles out to you to give an enjoyable experience of bygone travel on authentic buses & coaches on traditional routes. We have public events each year along the line fro’ Paddington to Penzance offering free bus rides and we produce programmes giving the local history using material from our archives. As a wholly volunteer run charity, our bases in South Devon and Berkshire are not routinely open to the public but we have occasional open days. Registered Supporters also have the opportunity to join working groups there either helping in the archives, working on vehicles, or doing admin. We also host visits, by prior appointment, for interested groups.
  • Can you provide a speaker for a group / society?
    Yes, with pleasure – what topic would interest you? Across our Thames Valley & Great Western heritage buses theme, we can provide illustrated talks, in-person or online, relating to a local area, a particular type of bus or company, or the Trust (or a combination!). We can also include a presentation on heritage buses as part of a group visit to see the collection in Berkshire or South Devon. Do Contact US to discuss your ideas and plan ahead.
  • Would you be interested in adding my (or an available) heritage bus to the Collection?
    We are honoured when someone recognises the Trust as an appropriate custodian for a special bus. The board of Trustees gives enthusiastic and serious consideration, while acting responsibly in the long-term interests of the Trust. As a regional charity our mandate restricts the Trust’s interests to certain counties fro’ Paddington to Penzance as set out in our Collection Development Policy. Trustees also have legal duties to ensure the future sustainability (financial viability) of the Trust and any acquisition has to be affordable for the long-term. It costs several thousand pounds a year to keep a bus (e.g. undercover storage, insurance, annual testing and maintenance) even before any restoration is carried out or it is fuelled to give rides for public benefit. This means the Trust cannot just say ‘yes’, no matter how desirable a bus may be, unless there are means to cover ongoing costs whether from an accompanying legacy, funding pledges or a donation scheme, for example. Trustees also have to ensure that the ability to care for the existing Collection is not undermined by the burden of new additions. The important corollary is that the Trust will not take on a vehicle it cannot afford and just leave it to deteriorate. The Trust is a responsible custodian and respectful of the investment of previous owners. If you think your (or a particular vehicle) could have a place in the Collection, do please Contact Us to explore the possibilities (in confidence) before the sale / transfer is imminent. We would encourage this particularly in the case of potential legacies so that plans can be agreed within the donor’s lifetime for eventual implementation easily by family or executors.
  • I have (a friend or relative has) some bus memorabilia that I need to find a home for – can you help?
    Yes, very much so. Please Contact Us to tell us more (without commitment and in confidence). The Trust’s Collection covers everything from tickets and timetables, scheduling records, official documents, badges and uniforms, to advertising posters, photographs and cine film as well as real buses. We use these to chart the development of our bus and coach heritage from the past to the present day. As a regional charity our mandate focuses the Trust’s interests on certain counties fro’ Paddington to Penzance as set out in our Collection Development Policy but we have links to other bus collections in other areas if they are a more appropriate custodian for you. The Trust is a member of AiM (the Association of Independent Museums), listed on the National Archives database Discovery and working to industry standards to achieve accreditation. We can appraise your collection and document its donation or loan to suit your wishes. We can help you with wording for your Will if you intend this to be a legacy so that your wishes are clear and easy for your family/executors to fulfill. We recognize the significance of collections that those from the transport industry and enthusiasts have amassed, even if they sometimes mystify family and friends. We are honoured to give material a permanent home, to preserve the collector’s endeavours, and ensure collections aren’t assigned to the dreaded skip.
  • How can I find out about getting involved with the Trust?
    We are always pleased to welcome new Supporters who can get involved in many ways – details can be found here. There are working groups relating to archives and vehicles at our bases in Berkshire and South Devon, as well as public events to organise fro’ Paddington to Penzance and the charity to run. If you have existing skills you’d like to use that’s great, but if you’d like to try something new that’s fine too. Our magazine To and Fro’ will be an impressive read each quarter and contributions are always welcome.
  • Can I access the Trust’s Archive for research purposes?
    We welcome research visitors to the Archive. Access is by appointment only, though, as the site is not currently open to the public. We suggest you email indicating the topics and any specific materials you would like to examine so availability can be confirmed and materials retrieved in advance. We operate standard archive practices to protect documents being handled in the workroom and provide (chargeable) reprographic and digital licence services. Details can be provided on request. The Trust requests that researchers make a donation towards the Archive running costs and that the Trust is acknowledged as a resource.
  • Does a Supporter get direct access to the Archive?
    Supporters are very important to the Trust. They contribute time and money so the Trust can deliver its charitable objectives. The Government, through HMRC, contributes a 25% Gift Aid uplift on eligible donations and Supporters receive our magazine To and fro’ to keep up to date with Trust activities. However, under the HMRC scheme, Supporters are not allowed to receive special access to the services or facilities the Trust provides for personal use. This means everyone (including Supporters) seeking access to the Archive is treated equally. The access arrangements and requested donation set out above apply. Clearly where Supporters are researching on behalf of the Trust to further its objectives, then monetary aspects do not apply. Nevertheless, prior arrangements and adherence to document care standards are required.
  • Can I advertise my books / services through the Trust?
    Our A5 event programme booklets carry advertisements from individuals and businesses relevant to the many people attending. We welcome advertising in this way and will work with you to ensure the content is impactful. There is a schedule of rates for 1/4, 1/2 or full page adverts and the revenue contributes to the Trust's general funds which keep the charity running. Please contact us for more details. However, we are not able to provide advertising space or services within our Supporters' magazine To and fro'. We respect that Supporters have come on board to be kept informed about Trust activities and it is inappropriate to devote limited magazine space to advertisers. Under the terms of becoming a Supporter, we are not at liberty to effectively give third parties access to our Supporters without their express permission. The situation applies equally whether the advertiser is a Supporter or third party so that Supporters receive no benefit beyond that permitted by HMRC in respect of donations to the charity.
  • What if I have a Question that isn't answered here?
    Please do Contact Us with any questions that aren't answered here.
  • Can we hire your buses to provide transport for weddings, school proms, private parties and the like?
    Sorry, we are not able to do this as the Trust, our vehicles and volunteer drivers are not licensed for hire and reward. ‘Hire and reward’ is the legal term where the right to travel in a vehicle arises in exchange for any sort of payment, directly or indirectly. It brings with it a complex regulatory regime. There are commercial operators who provide such services regularly and will be happy to help you make your event special with a vintage bus. Some contacts are given here (website link)
  • Why don’t you charge for rides on your buses at events or have a bucket for donations?
    Much as we might like to, it would be illegal for us to link bus trips to any payment or donation. Heritage buses are costly to restore, maintain and run and it probably seems crazy not to charge fares and let everyone ride for free. However, without an operator’s licence from VOSA (the Vehicle & Operator Services Agency), it is illegal to sell tickets, take donations or receive any sort of payment in exchange for the right to travel. The complexity and cost of the regime is disproportionate for occasional heritage services like ours. Our trips are therefore free, available to everyone, and operated in accordance with the National Association of Road Transport Museums’ guidance for free bus services.
  • Can you justify running old diesel buses given environmental concerns?
    We believe occasional use of vintage buses, each carrying many people, for an enjoyable heritage day out has significant benefits, encouraging greater use of public transport today. Technological progress means buses and coaches today are more environmentally friendly than their vintage counterparts, just as public transport is kinder to the environment than use of multiple private cars. Re-living the past on our free bus trips, reminds us of times when bus services first connected communities, opening new social and business possibilities before car ownership became widespread. Fun, heritage events giving enjoyable stress-free travel in comfort with a great vantage point today, provide impetus to leave the car at home and take the bus tomorrow. The heritage buses are a rich stimulus, attracting people for an enjoyable day out, and for understanding practice today. Mechanically vehicles have evolved from the innovations of the early pioneers as engineering has advanced; there are reciprocal lessons when plastic moulded interiors are compared to the wooden framing and panelling of yesteryear. Where one of the first motor bus services in 1903 enabled GWR to extend the reach of the railway from Helston to the Lizard, today GWR’s newly integrated ‘bus branch lines’ are flourishing (once again).
  • Are the buses available for film or TV appearances or as props at events?
    Possibly ….. but not necessarily. We love seeing old buses in period films, particularly when it’s the right vehicle for the location and era. If our vehicles fits authentically with your production, then we would be happy to discuss possibilities for making them available. Our collection is treasured and we would not consider situations where there was any risk of a bus being modified or damaged.
  • Are these old buses safe to ride on?
    The safety of public visitors is our top priority and the vehicles and drivers at our events are subject to stringent checks. All our vehicles used on the road in passenger carrying service are subject to annual MoT/roadworthy checks as required by law and with corresponding checks by competent contractors and volunteers prior to each event. Our drivers are required to have a current PSV licence and are only permitted to drive for the Trust after a competence check with heritage vehicles (e.g. with manual gear-boxes). For Trust and third-party vehicle entrants and crews at our events, the currency of insurance (including cover for free bus services), driving licences, MoT/roadworthy checks, and road tax is checked based on documentary and statutory registers online as appropriate.

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