Perhaps one of the more bizarre modifications on the bus fleet took place in 1960 when instructions from 'upstairs' mandated a sample rear open platform example be modified to a front 'exit' rear 'entrance' enclosed platform design, complete with enclosed rear platform doors and two staircases ! The Transport Department, or more correctly its accounting manager, was concerned at the loss of fare revenue in busy hours. The solution was deemed to be placing a seated conductor and fare collection on entry. This had been trialled by Glasgow Corporation in the early 1950s on single deck trolleybuses but found wanting; in part due to the lengthy 'dwell time' needed to access waiting passengers who needed to have their fares paid, ticket issued and change given.
Nevertheless the Rigby Road Body Shop took up the challenge with one of the Burlingham bodied 1957 deliveries, number 305. Quite radical redesign of the vehicle was needed. This involved changing the forward facing staircase from the platform to a rear facing layout on the offside with a conductors seated 'cabin' inserted somewhat awkwardly underneath the staircase facing onto the passenger loading area. At the same time the open rear platform was fully (and very neatly) enclosed with automatic doors. A second descending staircase was added on the nearside with a new exit doorway inserted immediately behind the driver's cab bulkhead.
Reconfigured Number 305 at the Grange Park terminus of a shortened Service 6 from Talbot Square. The nearside descending (EXIT) staircase clearly shows the depleted seating area in the lower deck of the bus. The photo was taken by the Author in its first few weeks of trial service. Photo : John Woodman
Quite understandably this reduced the total seating area on both decks - to 36 seats on the top deck and 14 downstairs. Standing room was also strictly limited on the lower deck due to the proximity of two staircases, one on either side of the bodywork. Bold lettering above the respective doors indicated the novel nature of the layout. Much like Glasgow's experimental seated conductor trials this was less than popular and the format was amended within a year omitting the front nearside staircase entirely. Even this proved unsatisfactory and 305 reverted to its original bodywork style in 1963. An expensive venture for the Department's capital costs.
With the exception of the 1970s 'OMO' tram design with thirteen operating examples and the two modified TS8 buses of 1940 for the light loading service to Midgeland Road (one per hour) - the Department's experiments with passenger flow were non starters. A 'Pantograph' car (176) was briefly given a front offside doorway at one end to test front entrance operation - but work was halted before the tram was placed in service (and subsequently scrapped). A prototype rebuild of a Brush car for one man (driver) operation did actually see the light of day but not before the trades unions tabled formal objections. The modified tram (638) was hurriedly returned to the Body Shop to have its new front entrance and internal seating modifications - removed and restored to centre platform layout for its remaining years of service. A side elevation drawing of 638 by the Late Ian Stewart can be seen in its modified form at the head of the Blog section. The tram was painted all-over cream in line with the newly delivered fleet of One Man (Driver) Operated single deck buses introduced during the 1970s to reduce need for roving conductors on services.