A BUS which first took to the streets of Bournemouth half a century ago returned to its old routes.

The Bournemouth Corporation vehicle is kept at Stoke-on-Trent but was brought back to the town by a group of transport enthusiasts.

It came to town bearing the number ‘1’ and advertising one of its destinations as ‘Bournemouth Pier via Richmond Hill’ – a route made all but impossible by the pedestrianisation of the Square in the 1990s.

The Leyland Atlantean bus was kept by Bournemouth Transport as part of a heritage collection until the bus industry was deregulated and the buses moved out of their Mallard Road depot.

It now belongs to the West of England Transport Collection but is on long-term loan to the Potteries Omnibus Preservation Society, which wanted it because it is identical – in everything but its livery – to buses used in the Stoke-on-Trent area Martyn Hearson, of the preservation society, drove the bus to Bournemouth with 27 enthusiasts aboard. He said it goes “flat out at 45mph”.

He said: “That particular bus is 50 years old. We thought: ‘Where better to go than back to the place where it lived initially and take it around a few of the old haunts it used to go to?’”

He said the bus – bearing the local number plate AEL 170B – had attracted a lot of attention around the area.

“When we were coming along the road, people stuck their hands out for it,” he said.

“In Christchurch in particular it attracted quite a large crowd. People ran out to have a look.”

Although the lack of power steering can make hard work for the driver, he said the bus was in good condition.

“Bournemouth looked after their vehicles quite well and with the work being seasonal, they weren’t worked very hard,” he said.

“Although it’s 50 years old, it’s probably as good as most people’s 25-year-old buses.”