The history of F.A. Phillips Bus Service of Cranbourne and the life of long standing BCSV member Bill Barrett are inextricably intertwined. We sadly lost Bill at the age of 69 in September 2009 (far too young). This article is based on Bill’s own recollections as recounted to myself, Ian Monteith and his family members over the years, backed up by material from the BCSV records and archives.
William James Barrett was born on 14 May 1940 as the eldest child of Thelma and William Barrett of Richmond. William (snr) was a bread carter (by horse), which meant working very long hours. This might already have given a clue to Bill’s direction in life given that bread carting is not unlike bus driving in some ways – as it usually involves a set route and specified drop off times. Early in the piece, the family relocated to Robinson’s Rd in Hawthorn, with Bill attending the Auburn State School. By 1948 at the age of 8 he was often wandering up to the corner of Ercildoune Ave and Auburn Rd to watch the Malvern – Kew local buses go by for hours at a time – these included Morris Commercials, Bedfords and Lend lease Chevs. Whenever his parents were looking for him, that’s where he would be.
Bill was followed into the world in subsequent years by sisters Barbara and Terri Ann and brothers Jim and Garry. On the 26th of July 1949 the family moved again to Cranbourne Rd, Frankston with Bill attending Frankston State School. The kids all got around either by bus or bike as the family did not own a car.
One of the local bus operators was Wood’s Bus Service, based at Frankston who had been in business since the 1930s and had a number of runs in the Frankston and Peninsula areas (essentially the forerunner of today’s Peninsula Bus Lines). Young Bill was fascinated by buses and got to know the drivers on the local routes. The family recalls little Bill lining up the family chairs, sitting up the front and “collecting fares” from his relatives who then had to sit there while Bill “drove the bus” during family gatherings.
From the age of 12 he was hanging around Frankston station getting cab rides on the steam locos as they shunted up and down the yard. He was also aware of the local bus depots and recalled the Frankston Passenger Service depot in Wells St, co-located with McCoombe’s taxis. In 1954 the FPS fleet comprised a 1954 Vulcan, a 1953 Ford and a 1939 Ford.
At the Wood’s depot he met Ross Thomas and soon began travelling around on the buses and at 14 even being allowed the occasional sly drive on quiet runs behind the wheel of one of Wood’s bonneted Bedfords, Reos or the Morris Commercial. Bill clearly remembered two Bedfords – a 37 model Syd Wood body and another by Symons & Fowler and was aware of their relative lack of performance compared to the Reos. The sly drives would include the outer end of the after pictures bus runs to Carrum Downs (also known as the “Dunrootin special”). By 16 he was also getting some sly drives on the outer end of the Mornington – Mt Martha runs – all of which were still semi-rural in those days with very little traffic. Bill recalled one bus with a big exhaust fitted to the nearside which would frequently cause shop windows to rattle when under load. It seems the police eventually banned that bus from night time operations.
Bill’s sister Barbara attended dancing classes at Miss Martin’s with another young girl who was the daughter of Mr Frank Phillips who Bill recalls first meeting around 1950. In 1953 Frank mortgaged his house and bought out the Frankston to Cranbourne and Dandenong to Cranbourne bus routes for just over ₤ 6,000.
The fleet comprised three Bedford OBs (one for each run) and a share of a 1937 Federal, which became the subject of a financial dispute with the co-owner. It was replaced by a bonnetted “jail bar” Ford, used on a school run to Devon Meadows. The Ford actually came from U.S. Motors at Belgrave – somewhat ironic in that some 50 years later it was the subsequent owners of U.S. who acquired the Phillips business. The Cranbourne – Frankston via Cranbourne Rd service had been started by Woods in April 1937 and carried local route no 3. By 1951 a second route from Frankston to Cranbourne Rd via Beach St had been added as route 9. The Cranbourne Rd service was sold to Frankston Passenger service in June 1953 then shortly afterwards they resold it to Frank Phillips.
The Cranbourne- Dandenong run had also been run by Woods since at least 1946 as route 4 with a second run Cranbourne – Devon Meadows as route 7. From January 1951 the route 7 trips went through to Dandenong effectively creating one run. This was sold direct to Phillips in August 1953. The Frankston bus was garaged at a BP service station in Wells Rd, with the other two buses being parked on the side of the road in Cranbourne.
By the time he left school at fourteen and a half (as many did in those days), the idea of driving buses for a living was firmly implanted in Bill’s mind. This was backed up by the “on-the-job” training he had experienced at the wheel of Woods’s buses. However there was a small problem – he was too young for a license. So he spent several years in retail working firstly in a clothing shop then at a newsagent, spending quite some time running the station kiosk at Frankston.
Bill started driving buses for a living in 1959 at the age of 19 1⁄2 despite “the rules” not allowing a bus license before 21. Back at Auburn, Bill’s dad had got to know a Joe Cumberland the local butcher, who became a drinking companion.
Years later Bill met his brother, who worked at Russell St Police Station, through working in the paper kiosk at Frankston Station. One day Bill asked him if he was related to the other Mr Cumberland and the two exchanged reminiscences. Mr Cumberland asked Bill what he wanted to do in life. Bill responded that what he wanted most of all was a bus driving license. He got it in 3 weeks after having been knocked back three times previously.
Bill then started work with Frank Phillips, driving one of the two OB Bedfords as his regular bus. Hi was trained by an existing Phillips driver Ian “Monty” Monteath who said that whilst Bill was a keen student he often had to remind him when going through intersections that “there’s still another 30 feet of it to come through behind you!” Monty and Bill became great mates.
Bill quickly became known to many in the bus industry. Monty recalls that when later being interviewed for a job at ESOS, the manager, Ray Arneil asked him if he knew Bill. When Monty replied that he had taught Bill to drive he was offered the job on the spot. Monty later moved to Mildura and, for a time, operated a horse drawn passenger trailer doing rides around the district. Bill would regularly visit him when in the area and the two remained firm friends.
In those days the services were fairly basic with a few trips per day on each run from 0610 onwards, the best loaded trips being the school runs to and from the Frankston and Dandenong Schools. Doubtless the lightweight OB Bedfords struggled with the heavy loads but were nevertheless reliable vehicles. It was also the tail end of the picture bus era and Bill recalls driving the fully loaded picture bus back from Frankston to Cranbourne on Saturday nights in the early years.
Bill recalled the buses being garaged at a service station in Cranbourne’s main street, owned by a Peter Buckland, before later moving to a depot yard with a single bus tin shed in Sladen St, Cranbourne. Other services in the area included a Hampton Park – Dandenong service run by Grenda’s, also using an OB Bedford, and a school run from Bayles via Cranbourne to the Dandenong and Doveton schools, run by Westernport Road Lines. He also remembered that at one stage the revenue on the Frankston run dropped by 50% during school holidays. It turned out that in addition to there being less passengers, another driver was fiddling the till. That bloke didn’t last much longer. In fact it was a bad time all round for the bus industry with private cars seriously encroaching on bus patronage – the Phillips runs being no exception.
Despite this, 1960 saw Phillips buy their first new bus – a “wrap round” style CAC Bedford SB3. During the 1960’s the company started to grow further as more school runs were developed in the Cranbourne district. More petrol Bedfords were added – now with Comair bodies, in 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1971. There was also a Freighter bodied SB3 added in 1968 – this was an additional bus required at short notice which did not allow enough time for the building of another Comair. At a later time it was repainted yellow and blue with “Crannibus” signwriting during an early experiment with running a Cranbourne town service.
These buses allowed replacement of the original fleet and also covered the gradual expansion of services, including Phillips replacing Grenda on the run between Hampton Park and Dandenong. Under Grenda’s this was a market days (Tuesday and Friday) only service.
Bill recalls how he and Frank walked the streets to get support for new routes from locals. They also tried unsuccessfully for a Cranbourne – Pearcedale run at one point.
A couple of Bill’s stories from the early years:
Driving the Dandenong Market bus of a Tuesday would require two drivers – one driving the bus and the other helping the ladies on with their prams and jeeps. One day in the 33 seat OB, with a load of about 60 passengers plus assorted prams and jeeps, Bill, who was driving called out to Monty that there was a funny noise down the back. This was nothing unusual inasmuch as the OBs were prone to mechanical troubles at the best of times. Monty went to check and found a New Australian with a live goat in a bag that was struggling to escape!
Another was the proverbial little old lady who would get on the bus early in the day brandishing a ₤10 note for a fare of only a few pence – for which the driver of course had insufficient change. Bill got sick of this and one day when she tried it on, Bill was ready with a bag of coins for the entire amount!
At the age of 27, Bill was made the foreman for Phillips Bus Service and occupied that and other operational management positions as the company grew, for the remainder of his almost 50 years service. Bill considered Frank Phillips to be a fine gentleman and a great employer and would not hear a bad word said about him. He always said that Frank and his wife both treated him like one of their family. It was also at 27 that the family moved again to Warrandyte Rd, Langwarrin where Bill and his father jointly bought a house. Unfortunately William senior died just six years later, leaving Bill with the twin responsibilities of the mortgage and looking after his mother.
In 1970, Frank and Bill applied for a school run from Blind Bight / Warneet to Cranbourne about 1970 – this was later extended to Cannon’s Creek and was doing quite well until badly damaged by the service cuts inflicted by the Kirner Government in the late 1980s. In 1971, the Frankston and Dandenong services were renumbered as Routes 791 and 792.
The timetable of September 1972 shows services as follows:
Route 791 Weekdays:
0730 ex Cranbourne to Frankston and schools the Frankston
0822 to Stanhill Dr and return
0915 to Langwarrin and return
1000 & 1100 (and 1135 Fridays only) all to Teri St, Karingal
1220 to Langwarrin (to Stanhill Drive Wed & Fri)
1325 to Teri St, Karingal
1420 to Stanhill Dr & return (Wed & Fri only)
1515 to Teri St, Karingal
1600 & 1645 to Stanhill Dr
1740 to Teri St, Karingal
1800 to Cranbourne.
Route 791 Saturdays:
0815 Cranbourne to Frankston
0915, 0945 & 1015 to Teri St, Karingal
1105 to Langwarrin
1145 to Teri St, Karingal
1215 to Cranbourne
Route 792 Weekdays:
0622 Devon Meadows to Dandenong, arrival 07:00
0722 Dandenong to Devon Meadows, arrival 07:55
0755 Devon Meadows to Dandenong, arrival 08:50
0915 Dandenong to Hampton Park, arrival 09:30
0930 Hampton Park to Dandenong, arrival 09:50
(0955 Devon Meadows to Cranbourne shopper service on Tuesdays & Fridays using a second bus)
1050 Dandenong to Cranbourne
1130 Cranbourne to Dandenong
1205 Dandenong to Hampton Park
1225 Hampton Park to Dandenong
1400 Dandenong to Cranbourne (extending to Devon Meadows Tuesday and Friday)
1530 Dandenong to Hampton Park
1600 Hampton Park to Dandenong
1635 Dandenong to Cranbourne
1705 Cranbourne to Dandenong
1740 Dandenong to Cranbourne and Devon Meadows
Route 792 Saturdays:
0755 Devon Meadows to Dandenong
0915 Dandenong to Hampton Park
0930 Hampton Park to Dandenong
1100 Dandenong to Cranbourne
1135 Cranbourne to Dandenong
1215 Dandenong to Cranbourne and Devon Meadows.
These service patterns, with just minor timing changes, remained in place through the 1970s.
In 1972, Bill first met the man who was to become another great mate – Ian Johnson. They met when Ian was a passenger on a charter job Bill did into Melbourne for the Hampton Park Primary School (Ian was a parent – not a pupil!). Bill discovered that Ian worked in the Grenda’s workshop in Dandenong as a mechanic. With a common interest in buses the two became firm friends – both being early members of the Bus and Coach Society of Victoria. Over the years they did many bus hunting trips away together and also shared a mutual interest in old trucks.
The Phillips fleet kept expanding with the first diesel bus, a two door Comair bodied Bedford VAM 70 pur- chased in 1973, followed by an Ansair bodied one in 1974 – allowing a modern two door bus to be on each run. Bill was very proud of these two buses and reckoned they were as good as anything on the road – perhaps apart from the propensity of the Ansair to leak around the windscreen in bad weather.
As the Hampton Park area continued to develop more buses were required. An extra school bus was added to Frankston and further runs added south of Cranbourne.
Further two-door Ansair bodied VAM70s were added to the Phillips fleet in 1975 and 1976 followed by single door school bus / charter ones in 1978, 1979 and 1980 with a Freighter Bedford BLP2 bought in 1977 becoming the second (1) in the fleet replacing the wrap round. The single door units were fitted with fixed coach seats making them suitable for day charter work and Phillips buses could often be seen heading into town with school loads during the day – often with Bill at the wheel of one. All buses in the fleet were bought new.
Bill hated the Freighter BLP (1) and always reckoned the body had been badly mounted as it went along the road “sideways”. Up until this time, Phillips buses were in a livery of black with a white stripe. This was subsequently reversed to white with black bands which continued to be the colour scheme until Cranbourne Transit adopted a more colourful combination at the end of 2010 – though banding patterns and signwriting styles naturally evolved over time.
I got to know Bill from about 1973 onwards when I became a regular at BCSV meetings, then held in Malvern. As Mentone was more or less on the way back to where Bill and Ian lived, they would often give me a lift home from the meetings, an opportunity for sharing further stories about buses and for Bill to recount his latest batch of dirty jokes – many of which he claimed to have got from the schoolkids on his bus!
I also started to sometimes visit Bill when he was out on the run on Saturdays. If he was on Dandenong I would get the Grenda bus over from Cheltenham, meet Bill on his first arrival in – do one run to Cranbourne and another to Hampton Park leaving him at 1200 before his last trip back. Similarly if he was on the Frankston run I would catch the train down there. Sometimes I would continue on and we would do something else in the afternoon and he would either drop me home or at a station. We even did a road trip away together one Easter to visit the Pichi Richi railway in South Australia.
Upon Frank Phillips retirement, his son Dennis took over running the business having already spent some time there.
Unfortunately Dennis and Bill did not relate in the same way as Frank and Bill. Bill says he even threatened to resign at one point early in the piece when he thought Dennis was undermining his position as foreman by issuing conflicting instructions. Fortunately Frank managed to talk him out of it. During Bill’s last period of hospitalisation, Dennis had a long visit with Bill and this appeared to give him some closure. Bill also got to know Ernie Pope, a school bus operator from the Mornington Peninsula. Ernie and his wife also became friends with Bill and travelled with him on numerous occasions.
Early 1980s upgrades:
Service improvements began in the early 1980s on the Dandenong runs. From 2 February 1982, the Dandenong service expanded to require three buses in peak hour. There were now two trips commencing at Clyde and four at Devon Meadows with another 10 from Cranbourne and a further 9 from Hampton Park. There were now 27 departures from Dandenong between 0635 and 1850. The Saturday morning service was now three return trips from Cranbourne to Dandenong.
By 12 March 1984, the Frankston service had also altered with extension of the Teri St trips to Long St, Langwarrin. There were a total of 11 departures from Frankston between 0755 and 1802 weekdays and the afternoon peak service now comprised a 1555 trip to Stanhill Dr, 1700 to Stanhill Dr and finally 1802 to Cranbourne.
With the demise of the Bedford marque, Phillips vehicle purchasing policy needed to change for the 1980s.
The replacements for Comairs #2 and #3 were Hino BX341s with 1982 Domino bodies, with a third one added in 1983 as #16.
Just prior to that came the sold second hand bus – #15, a 1968 Newnham bodied Bedford VAM70, which was ex Sita (who had acquired it with the West Newport Bus Service business). This was bought when a bus was needed at short notice after one of the Comairs was involved in a bad smash.
The Hinos were followed by a pair of Newnham bodied Isuzu ECR570s in 1984/85.
A further switch was made to Mercedes with the remainder of the 1980s seeing various Ansair and Newnham bodied Mercedes OH1316s added as additional and replacements. By the end of 1987 the fleet had grown to 20 buses.
In 1985 Bill’s mother died. He sold the family house and bought a new house not far away which was to be his home for the remainder of his life.
Bill’s role at Phillips included constantly reorganising the school runs as pupil numbers grew, creating the improved route service timetables and also creating the company’s driver shifts and rosters. He was also heavily involved in the move to a brand new purpose built depot at 24 Rundle St, Cranbourne as the fleet had well and truly outgrown the Sladen St premises.
December 1987 upgrades:
This was also a big period for the route services as a major reorganisation was implemented on 7 December 1987. Route 791 became a true Frankston – Cranbourne service with 9-through trips plus 8-short workings from Quarry Rd Langwarrin to Frankston. Saturday saw three return Cranbourne trips and three Quarry Rd shorts, however the service still finished at 1335. A hourly Saturday afternoon service to Cranbourne was soon introduced on 23 April 1988.
Route 792 was truncated to Dandenong – Cranbourne with 25 weekday trips, some travelling via the new Merinda Estate. Dandenong – Hampton Park became a separate route 793 and now travelled via Hallam Station instead of Cranbourne Rd. There were 24 weekday trips. On Saturdays the two were combined with nine return trips (including Saturday afternoon services for the first time).
A new route started as 794 Cranbourne – Hampton Park – Hallam – Fountain Gate with 10 weekday trips to Hallam of which three extended as shoppers services to Fountain Gate.
South of Cranbourne separate routes were created as 795 Cranbourne – Warneet – Tooradin (7 weekday trips) and 796 Cranbourne – Devon Meadows – Clyde (7 weekday trips of which three were school days only).
A Cranbourne town service was also re-introduced as 797 with 7 trips on weekdays, three of which were early morning feeders from Camms Rd to Cranbourne for the trunk runs and the remaining four were shoppers services between 0945 and 1500.
Like most Melbourne bus companies, Phillips had a hiatus for bus purchases during the protracted dispute between bus operators and the Victorian Government in the late 1980s and it was not until 1991, with the resolution of that dispute, that the next new bus appeared. (21) was a Volvo B10M with automatic transmission and two-door Volgren aluminium body. This and subsequent similar units bought Phillips Bus Service into the modern era.
Bill’s mate Ian Johnson had been moved from Grenda’s workshop to the fledgling Volgren body building enterprise nearly 10 years before and was now well involved with the production of Volgren bodies. Whilst liking the new buses Bill always reckoned that “automatics are for people who can’t drive properly”.
Deliveries of Volgren Volvo B10M route buses continued until 1995. No buses arrived until a pair of school bus Volgren Mercedes OH1418s in 1998.
From 1999 onwards purchases moved across to low floor route buses firstly four Volvo B12BLEs in 1999 – 2000 then Mercedes 0405NH units from 2001 – all with two door Volgren bodies and finally a Volvo B7RLE/ Volgren in December 2002.
April 2002 service levels:
After only modest growth during the 1990s, the April 2002 service levels were as follows:
- Routes 790 and 791 (Cranbourne – Frankston): 15 Cranbourne trips + 8 from Quarry Rd on weekdays to 1930 and 9 Cranbourne-Frankston trips on Saturdays between 0800 and 18:00. The Frankston service was now divided into two routes with 790 services travelling via South Gateway, Langwarrin
- Route 769 (Frankston – Langwarrin): Introduced in March 1998, just over a year after Sunday trading was deregulated, this service provided 4 return trips on Sundays (between 0930 & 1500) incorporating parts of Route 770 along Beach St, Ashleigh Ave and Karingal Dr. As such, the service was jointly operated with Frankston Passenger Service.
From 1999 services through-routed into a limited Sunday timetable on Route 775 to Lakewood
- Routes 792 and 793 (Cranbourne to Dandenong) (792 via Hampton park and 793 via Lynbrook, Hampton Park and Hallam Station) – total of 40 weekday trips (last at 1938 and 8 Saturday trips (792 only) last at 1740.
- Route 794 (Narre Warren South – Hallam Station – Fountain Gate) – four AM and four PM peak trips between Narre Warren South and Hallam Station and four off-peak trips between Pound Rd and Fountain Gate shops on weekdays. Seven Saturday trips ran between Pound Rd and Fountain Gate.
- Route 795 (Cranbourne – Devon Meadows – Warneet – Tooradin – Cranbourne) had 8 weekday trips along various paths
- Route 796 (Cranbourne – Clyde) two weekday school trips
- Route 797 (Cranbourne Town service) had been reduced to the four off peak trips
The extension of electric train services to Cranbourne had also seen the introduction of two new town routes in March 1995:
- Route 798 (Cranbourne to Cranbourne West via Cranbourne Station) with 20 weekday and 14 Saturday trips
- Route 799 (Cranbourne to Cranbourne North via Merinda Park Station) with 19 weekday and 15 Saturday trips.
August 2002 upgrades:
The Hampton Park services were totally revamped on 5 August 2002, with the three existing routes replaced by 5, expanding coverage in Hampton Park East & Narre Warren South and improving access to Fountain Gate Shopping Centre.
Complementary upgrades were also implemented by neighbouring operator Cardinia Transit (Grenda Group) on the same date, including the new 840 Berwick Circle service.
Funding constraints however meant there was little care to co-ordinate headways to match the then infrequent trains beyond Dandenong outside of peak times.
The new routes were:
- Route 892 (Dandenong to Narre Warren South via Dandenong South): Operating hourly all day weekdays (0550 – 1850 ex Narre Warren South & 0615 – 1912 ex Dandenong) & every 90 mins Saturdays (0748 – 1648 ex Narre Warren South & 0845 – 1749 ex Dandenong)
- Route 893 (Dandenong to Cranbourne via Hallam & Lynbrook): Operating roughly every 40 mins al day weekdays (0508 – 1905 ex Cranbourne & 0556 – 1950 ex Dandenong) & every 90 mins Saturdays (0755 – 1655 ex Cranbourne & 0825 – 1755 ex Dandenong)
- Route 894 (Amberly Park to Hallam, with off-peak extensions to Fountain Gate): Operating roughly every 40 mins in peaks (4 AM peak buses arriving Hallam between 0627 & 0827 with 6 PM peak buses ex Hallam between 1605 & 1922)
Buses to Fountain Gate via Hallam Station ran every 65 mins interpeak (first bus arriving Fountain Gate at 0949 & last departing at 1517) and every 65 mins Saturdays (first bus arriving Fountain Gate at 0841 and last departing at 1709)
A peak shuttle operated 3 AM & 4 PM peak trips between Hallam & Hindrichsen Dr, through-routed with Route 895 – this estate was covered full-length Route 894 trips offpeak.
- Route 895 (Hampton Park East to Hallam (peak) & to Fountain Gate (off-peak): Operating roughly every 40 mins in peaks (4 AM peak buses arriving Hallam between 0616 & 08:14 with 5 PM peak trips ex Hallam between 1652 & 1922)
Buses to Fountain Gate via Narre Warren Station ran every 65 mins interepeak (first bus arriving Fountain Gate at 0849 & last departing at 1603) and every 65 mins Saturdays (first bus arriving Fountain Gate at 0828 & last departing at 1719)
Off-peak 895 trips served parts of Hampton Park West previously covered by Route 794 but made for a very hard to understand timetable, with train connections at Hallam or Narre Warren depending on the time of day.
Interpeak Route 790 shortworkings between Frankston & Quarry Rd, Langwarrin were also extended through to Cranbourne, doubling the daytime headway between Langwarrin & Cranbourne to about every 40 to 45 mins.
March 2003 upgrades:
The following Bracks’ Labor government state budget in 2002 included a major upgrade to the Frankston services. The changes were implemented on 24 March 2003, less than two months into the new Pulitano Group/Cranbourne Transit ownership (see below) and included:
- Introduction of Route 789 between Frankston & Woodlands Estate in Langwarrin North, extending to Cranbourne West on Saturdays. Offering a 40 min service on weekdays, dropping to 80 mins on Saturdays.
- The trunk 790 route to Cranbourne was extended over Route 798 to Cranbourne West, rectifying an eight-year long oversight of the Frankston buses failing to serve Cranbourne Station after the introduction of electric trains on 25 March 1995.
- Weekday services between Frankston & Langwarrin doubled to every 20 mins all day (instead of just the peaks) with the last bus now leaving Cranbourne West at 1850 & Frankston at 2010.
- Saturday services were increased from 70 mins to 40 mins, alternating in Langwarrin between Woodlands (789) and Southgateway (790) with the last bus now leaving Cranbourne West at 1728 and Frankston at 1843.
- The shared Route 769 arrangement between Frankston & Langwarrin on Sundays (see above) was replaced with seven trips running as Route 791 between Frankston & Cranbourne, with the last bus leaving Cranbourne at 1750 & Frankston at 1830. (Route 769 continued until November 2009 but now travelled through Karingal to Dalpura Cct)
Other timetable changes were also undertaken:
- Interpeak & Saturday services on 799 to Cranbourne North (which previously interlined somewhat with 798) were downgraded from 40 min to 50-55 min headways, breaking train harmonisation at Merinda Park with the then 40 min weekend trains on the Cranbourne Line
- Occasional 893 deviations through Merinda Park estate were discontinued
- 895 trips extended 1km east along Ormond Rd to Amberly Park, now forming an (unadvertised) loop with 894 services. A footnote in the August 2002 timetable had previously stated Route 895 would be extended to Lynbrook as the road network developed, but this plan never evaluated.
Owing to the extended distance, interpeak & Saturday services on both routes were downgraded from 65 mins to 75 mins (an interpeak upgrade to 45 mins eventually occurred in December 2010).
Sale to Pulitano Group
Some time after the death of Frank Phillips, Dennis Phillips sold the bus business to Joe Pulitano from 1 February 2003 and it was renamed Cranbourne Transit.
In April 2003 the operation became part of the newly formed Pultiano Group, pulling together the various bus businesses the brothers owned around Australia. Victorian-based businesses at the time included Australian Coach Travel (Highett); Northern Bus Lines & Road Runner Coaches (Glenroy); Mansfield-Mt Buller Bus Lines (Mansfield) & U.S. Bus Lines (Belgrave, later Monbulk).
Cranbourne Transit adopted a variation of the U.S. Bus Lines logo for letterhead, uniforms, bus stop signage and on the rear of vehicles.
Existing buses and new purchases continued to wear the traditional black & white Phillips colours until the delivery of five Northcoast-Gemilang Scania K230UB low floor buses at the end of 2010. A new livery with blue, teal & yellow stripes on a white base and yellow front was adopted, based on Bus Queensland colours.
Low floor deliveries coinciding with a suite of upgrades in November 2016 were the first to receive the standard orange & white PTV livery. The current fleet is a mix of all three colour schemes.
By this time the fleet comprised 24 buses, which built up to around 40 by the start of 2010.
Service growth into Clyde in the past decade, along with the acquisition of some small school bus operators on the Mornington Peninsula (namely Benton of Tyabb) saw the fleet balloon to around 75 by the end of 2016 – the Pulitano’s sure bought-in at a good time, effectively tripling the fleet in under 15 years!
The most noticeable change post takeover was a change to purchasing Scania chassis – a trend which has continued to the present date, plus continuing growth in services, expansion of the depot onto adjacent land and a renewed emphasis on charter.
Bill gladly continued on under the new management.
Unfortunately Bill was prone to some of a bus driver’s lifestyle issues, involving many cans of soft drink, ice creams, regular lunches of chips or hamburgers and not a whole lot of exercise over five decades. This made him a large man in his prime and eventually led to the onset of diabetes, which gave him many related health problems in his later years. He was also probably his own worst enemy at not obeying doctor’s instructions or regularly taking the medicines prescribed for him and this undoubtedly hastened his death.
Illness eventually led to him having to give up driving buses – a very sad time for him. Despite this Bill kept working in the office at Cranbourne Transit until ill health forced him to firstly abandon full time work and eventually even part time work from July 2009. During all this time he was generously treated and supported by the Pulitano family and the Cranbourne Transit management in recognition of his long service to the company and the industry.
Bill carried thousands of people on his buses over the years, and in many cases ending up carrying the kids of people he had carried when kids themselves. During a period of hospitalisation from July to September Bill was being recognised by various nurses who he had taken to school on his bus – which just goes to show how recognisable he was in the local community.
He was also known to many in the industry through his regular attendance at the Bus Association’s annual Maintenance Conference at Moonee Valley and for his trademark greeting “Whadda y’know”.
Bill Barrett passed away on 10 September 2009. His friends will remember him as a keen busman and a gregarious individual always ready to tell a good (but dirty) joke or tell a story. Without Bill still around to tell it any more, this probably concludes the recording of history of Phillips Bus Service history as well.
Bill’s funeral was just like Melbourne’s public transport system – every seat taken and plenty of standees.
There were over 150 in attendance, his family and friends augmented by large contingents from both Cranbourne Transit and the BCSV. Cranbourne Transit also sent two buses, including their newest Scania low floor, delivered only weeks earlier.
Ian Monteath and Geoff Foster spoke of our memories of Bill and the drivers formed a guard of honour for his last “trip to the depot”. We’ll miss you mate!