By JOHN ROBERTSON
It is amazing what you end up with off eBay if you are not careful. Andy Holland of Sandwick says he really did mean to buy Shetland’s only double-decker bus although his wife took a bit of persuading that his £3,200 bid on the internet represented a bargain. He and a friend picked up his giant purchase from Birmingham earlier this month and it has since been parked in Leask’s bus yard at Gremista, turning heads.
The Gilbert Bain Hospital nurse is a self-confessed “bus buff” who grew up in Birmingham loving them. “I had been looking around for one for years and when I saw her it was an opportunity too good to miss – to the amusement of colleagues and friends.”
On Tuesday he took it for its first short spin in the islands with four children as passengers. “We got a few queer looks!” he admitted. Sadly, the thrill of double-decker travel is not set to return to Shetland after a gap of more than 20 years although Mr Holland is keen for friends and colleagues to join him aboard and he may even give in to requests.
Inevitably there are those who want to commandeer it for pub crawls. “We’ve got a few plans for summer trips and outings,” he said. “Whatever I do I can’t make a profit.” There are no plans to convert it to live in, although his wife had suggested he might like to do just that!
Double-deckers have visited Shetland over the years carrying travelling drama groups and an evangelist preacher but the only known example in public service was Shalder Coaches’ black and white Bristol Lodekka which ran between Scalloway and Lerwick in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It must have been interesting at the top of the Scord in a flying gale. The bus apparently ended up in Ethiopia and may still be on the road today.
Mr Holland’s bus is a restored 1978 Leyland Fleetline which was in service in Coventry. Apparently around £10,000 was spent by a previous owner returning it to its original glory and the dark blue and cream livery of the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive. It has a 10-litre Gardner engine and does about 45mph flat out. Fuel consumption is, he admits, “not the best” but at least its status as an historic vehicle means he only pays car tax on it and, amazingly, just £180 insurance.
Some people have already been asking Mr Holland for a go behind the wheel. He said any experienced driver over 25 with an ordinary licence could legally take up to eight passengers but he has a PCV licence and can carry the full complement of 77 passengers.
His purchase has left him with a problem – where to store such a tall object. He is hunting for storage for the 14½ foot (4.42 metre) bus either in the south or central Mainland, preferably year-round. He can be contacted on 07760 231820.