The traditional Malta Bus was literally something else!
This type of bus was one of the first things that a visitor to Malta noticed! These unusual buses were also one of the many unforgettable holiday memories that most tourists treasured.
Many in fact, raved about these quirky buses that they got to ride, as soon as they got home. So much so that these old buses have almost become an “unofficial” national symbol.
Incredibly cheap and overall very efficient, these buses often got negative comments from locals though, because let's face it ... travelling daily to work on an old bus with no A/C in the middle of the Maltese summer is not exactly an enjoyable experience!
Still, nobody could deny that they did "brighten" up Maltese roads with their vibrant colours and made the islands a little bit more unique ... at least to the eye of the visitor.
Some of the “newer” models dated from the 70s. Most were traditional British makes such as Leyland, Bedford and AEC.
However, the traditional Malta bus that used to get all the attention often dated back to the 1950s or 1960s!
Most visitors loved them ... some hated them.
As you might expect, "comfort" was not a top priority with these type of old buses. The seats were hard, no A/C in sight and wait for it … they didn’t have a door! On the other hand, if you took the ride in a light-hearted manner, chances are you saw the whole thing as a cute holiday adventure.
To the surprise of many, most of these buses were still in perfect working condition, thanks to their dedicated and knowledgeable owners.
Most of the old buses were built in Malta. In the old days, only the engine and chassis used to be imported - the actual body of the bus was made entirely in Malta by very skillful mechanics and carpenters. Rabat and Hamrun had some of the best mechanics for this type of work.
Painted light orange with a darker orange stripe at the side, these old Malta buses had the route number clearly displayed on the front behind the windscreen.
The buses were privately owned. The interior of the cab would usually be a “spectacle” in itself and you could usually see all types of pictures and stickers in there, ranging from “Jesus loves me” to “I love Manchester United” and even “Beware of the driver” :)
Up until a few years ago, cab interiors used to be littered with religious (Catholic) figurines and photos. Something you would kind of expect from a country that prides itself in being deeply religious. The local authorities had since put a damper on such “decorations” and so such things were kept to the bare minimum over recent years.
The Malta bus has become so popular over the years that you can find countless souveniers depicting traditional Maltese buses, from postcards, books to tiny model buses.
No doubt that car enthusiasts used to find the old traditional buses fascinating! And who wouldn’t when you think that some of these buses were some 60 years old but still in good working order!
Always the subject of controversy, the Malta bus has survived decades of protests from locals and words of adoration and fascination from foreign visitors to the islands. Up until July 2011 ...
No doubt the customer service skills of some bus drivers left much to be desired!
Although bad customer service can never be justified ... to their credit, these bus drivers often worked in excuriating conditions - a lot of times working some 15 hours almost non stop in the scorching heat with no A/C, sitting right next to an engine all day ... driving and manouvering their buses through traffic jams, narrow streets and unfavourable road conditions. All this with great skill and expertise.
The 2nd of July 2011 saw the end of an era ... the traditional Maltese bus graced Malta's and Gozo's streets for the very last time!
On the 3rd of July, Arriva took over public transport operations and the Malta bus as we knew it, is no more ...
Neil Halford, a frequent visitor to Malta, graciously shared this beautiful collage of Maltese Buses. Thanks Neil!
Where are the old Maltese buses now?
Sadly, many of them were simply scrapped!
Thankfully, many more were salvaged by Heritage Malta. The organization is currently in the process of setting up a Transport Museum where the buses will be on display in their full glory.
When complete, this museum is going to be a definite must visit - that's for sure!
Some old Maltese bus owners kept their buses and sometimes use them for school transport services and other group activities.
For a quick trip down memory lane, have a look at these wonderful videos on the old Maltese buses compiled by Johann Tonna ...