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‘Move back please’: Remembering Malta’s vintage buses

Description

Loved and hated in equal measure, Malta’s vintage buses were a tourist attraction in themselves.

Run as independent businesses by their drivers, they were lovingly customised with handmade parts and decorations.

On the other hand, they probably also contributed to Malta being the most car-dense country in Europe.

The bone-shaking, charming, brightly painted vintage buses that were so characteristic of Malta were taken out of service in 2011, to be replaced by more efficient modern buses with disabled access.

Buses started being imported to Malta from Britain in 1901.

By 1910 Malta had its own bus manufacturing industry, with carpenters, mechanics, upholsterers and decorators joining forces to produce coaches with a high degree of customisation.

The unique nature of the Malta buses was mostly due to the tradition of ownership by their drivers.

This resulted in a sort of love affair between the buses and their proud owners leading to a high degree of individual decoration.

You still occasionally see an old bus on the roads.

The classic Bedfords, Thames, Leylands and AECs dating from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in bright liveries have not completely disappeared.

A few are now used for weddings and special tourist trips.

One has even been revamped into a colourful souvenir shop next to the Sliema Ferries.

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