There was a time when Sheffield became a trendsetter in public transport.
Back in 1979, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) took delivery of five MAN bendy-buses, to be used on trial. This was a time when it was illegal to operate articulated buses on British roads, and SYPTE manoeuvred around this by carrying passengers around the city centre for free on the City Clipper route.
For younger readers, think of the Sheffield Supertram on wheels, basically two rigid sections of bus, linked by a pivoting joint, enclosed by protective bellows inside and out, allowing a longer length of bus and higher passenger capacity.
In 1980, the MAN bendy-buses were joined by four Leyland-DAB models, manufactured as a British-Danish joint venture.
The success of the bendy-bus trial led to a change in the law, and the introduction of them to other cities, but the Sheffield buses didn’t last much longer.
After being replaced by the Leyland DABS, the five MANs were loaned to the National Bus Company, originally used in Oxford, then to Midland Red at Redditch, and finally to Midland Red North, based at Cannock. Four of these were later sold and exported, used by Martin Coast Tours at Cairns in Queensland, Australia.
By 1983, the Leylands had been withdrawn and sold to McGill of Barrhead, which used them in service on its route to Glasgow. Subsequently, they saw further life with Hampshire Bus in Winchester.
Ironically, SYPTE bought fourteen brand new Leyland DAB bendy-buses in 1985, pressed into service with the newly formed South Yorkshire Transport (later Mainline) on the City Clipper route, and later as the Fastline route to Meadowhall.
The bendy-buses lasted until 1999, not replaced by First Bus which had taken over Mainline in 1998, although it did consider reintroducing them at one stage.
While bendy-buses have seen the light of day across the country (Leeds, Manchester, York, Southampton and Nottingham included) they have never been popular with the public.
A significant number were used in London, blighted by newly delivered Mercedes-Benz Citaros in 2003-2004 that tended to catch fire, and were nicknamed ‘chariots of fire’, later withdrawn in 2011.