East Kent Road Car Company was established on 1 September 2016. Sidney Garcke worked tirelessly to successfully start one bus company by amalgamating 5 local bus companies during WWI. With 40 roadworthy vehicles serving the Kent coast from Folkestone, Dover, Deal and Margate, and inland via Canterbury, East Kent ran a limited passenger service, with fuel restrictions in place during the war.
1916 to 1919
Following the end of the war, East Kent set to work to rebuild its fleet, many of which included vehicles from the War Department. The continuing takeover of smaller companies further replenished stocks and gave East Kent more prominence, including in 1921 creating the London Express services. East Kent concentrated on offering town services for local people, enriching this with deports for the buses to be stationed in prime locations for expansion into new services.
The Road Traffic Act 1930 regulated public service vehicles to include the introduction of a 30mph speed limit; rules on the conduct of drivers and passengers; and central regulation on coach services. East Kent expanded into Sussex with the purchase of Rye depot (1935) and in 1937, with more services being made available, introduced route numbers. However, as war in Europe escalated, so Kent was about to play an important role.
WWII changed the role of East Kent from a public service to helping troops - for example the brave soldiers arriving home following the Dunkirk evacuation. However, the war took its toll on East Kent, with the loss of its head office, garage and workshops in Canterbury; and garages at Dover, Deal and Broadstairs suffering bomb damage, as well as the loss of life of many of its staff. East Kent took on many women to cover the loss of men called up to war... and a new fleet to replenish stock.
The fifties lifted the spirit of Britain, with the exploration of new places. East Kent stepped forward by offering more variety in continental tours. Joining forces with Europabus, Skyways and Dan Air, East Kent offered the traveller new horizons, enhanced further with a direct links from London Victoria coach station. East Kent offered the stay-at-home traveller open-top buses form the seaside routes of Folkestone / Dover and Margate / Ramsgate. Folkestone and Canterbury benefited from new bus stations.
A more prosperous economy increased car ownership and the swinging sixties led to East Kent economising to address the falling passenger numbers. British Electric Traction (BET) sold its bus operations to the Government in 1967. Following the Transport Act 1968, the National Bus Company (NBC) was formed on 1 January 1969. The sixties also heralded the AEC Regent V, which served East Kent for three decades. AEC also provided East Kent's single deckers buses and coaches.
In 1972, the National Bus Company launched its NBC corporate identity. For East Kent, buses were uniformly poppy red, and coaches were painted white. Leyland Nationals - NBC's preferred single decker bus - featured heavily in East Kent's fleet. By reducing overheads, one man operated (OMO) buses meant the loss of the conducter on board. Competing with further increases in car ownership, East Kent had no option, but to raise fares and bring restrictions into some non-profit routes.
1920 to 1929
1930 to 1939
1940 to 1949
1950 to 1959
1960 to 1969
1970 to 1979
1980 to 1989
East Kent joined, albeit briefly, with Maidstone and District in 1980 to further reduce overheads. Revamped routes made little impact to rising costs and falling revenues. In 1983, both companies again went their separate ways. In 1986, the Government deregulated the bus industry to open up competition. East Kent was well established and introduced a new burgundy / cream livery throughout its fleet of buses and coaches. For the smaller routes, yellow minibuses (Minilink) for a time, increased revenues.
Just five years after deregulation, East Kent celebrated 75 years service to the public. However, celebrations were short lived, as Scottish bus group Stagecoach brought out the local company. Adopted as Stagecoach East Kent, the burgundy and cream liveries were soon to become white, with a orange / red / blue band - and much of the original East Kent fleet transferred to other parts of the country or sold off.
1990 to 1999
Stagecoach East Kent, remains established in Kent for bus services across Kent (and much of the UK). In new destinctive liveries and a much improved modern fleet, bus passengers can have the local bus service serving villages and out of town shops. However, the old East Kent buses and coaches live on through preservation thanks to East Kent Nostalgic Bus & Coach Trust and other preservationists around the country. A museum to celebrate the East Kent Road Car Company will be established for future generations by the Trust.