London River Bus Postcard

In late 1940 London Transport’s services were suffering from disruption as part of the ongoing Blitz. Not only were roads and railways becoming blocked by enemy action, but the buses and tube trains themselves were being depleted by the same bombs and the government began to worry that the work of the capital might grind to a halt as workers were unable to reach the City of London safely and quickly.

To counter this, the government requested that the London Passenger Transport Board set up a river bus service running up the Thames to help reduce some of the burden on the other forms of transport. The service was inaugarated in late 1940 and ran between Westminster and North Woolwich using fifteen tugs and small pleasure steamers, one of which is the subject of tonight’s postcard:

The vessels were crewed and stored by the Port of London Authority, whilst London Transport provided the conductors and inspectors, one of which can be seen in this contemporary photograph collecting fares from passengers:

In the end the service was too slow and was twice interupted by German mines that had been dropped in the Thames so was dropped after six weeks. It cannot be said to have been a success and London would have to wait until the 1960s for a regular River Bus to return, then aimed squarely at the tourist market who wanted a sight seeing tour of the river more than a quick way of crossing the capital.

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