Century milestone for Qld operator

Mt Gravatt Coach & Travel is proudly celebrating over 100 years of providing transportation services

Century milestone for Qld operator
Mt Gravatt Coach and Travel’s Alan Howatson, Delcie Cole and Rob Brooker at the celebratory morning tea. Driver Leigh Herviou is in the background.

Mt Gravatt Coach & Travel is proudly celebrating over 100 years of providing safe and reliable transportation services to the Brisbane community and surrounding areas.

The Mt Gravatt Bus Service began as a horse drawn bus and after five changes of ownership, introduced the first motorised bus service in the 1920s with a Ford Model "T" bus.

The operation held a celebratory morning tea recently with guests including former owner Alan Howatson (93).

Frederick Howatson took ownership of the company in 1923 taking it from a small tram feeder service to a fleet of seven buses by 1978.

In September 1981, Delcie and Les Cole - the owners of Burbank Busways - took over the name and successfully continued to grow the organisation to the fleet of 39 buses and coaches and 58 staff.

Mt Gravatt Coach and Travel’s general manager Rob Brooker credits the family-based company ethos of treating each and every passenger with the same consideration and care they would give to their loved ones as the secret to this milestone.

 "I recently travelled on one of our school runs and the driver greeted every one of the 40+ students by name. I believe this demonstrates just how much our staff really care about each and every passenger that boards a Mt Gravatt Bus," he says.

Brooker says the company’s history is preserved in the book "Mt Gravatt, then and now" which was prepared and released by the Mt Gravatt District Historical Society in 2007.

After having become Licensee of the Mt Gravatt Hotel in 1878, William Ambrose Underwood was also a licenced omnibus proprietor between 1888 and 1892, according to the book.

Underwood operated a horse drawn bus, which was a wagonette with a canvas roof and basic seating, between his Mt Gravatt Hotel and Brisbane.

The family owned and operated omnibus service was used by Underwood to boost the patronage at his hotel.

Underwood’s bus service was taken over by a further 18 passenger horse drawn bus service operated by Jack Doolan from his stables located on the corner of Juliette Street and Logan Road, Stones Corner.

The horse drawn bus service again changed hands when it was taken over by Mt Gravatt resident, Dodger Heike, who operated the bus service from his stables located on the corner of Wecker and Creek Roads.

The service then changed hands to Stan Sherwood and Charles Levitt, who operated the buses from Heike’s stables in Wecker Road.

A further change of ownership occurred when the horse drawn service was taken over by John Durant who introduced the first motorised service in the early 1920s with a Ford Model "T" Bus.

The Howatson name became associated with Mt Gravatt motorised passenger bus transportation in 1923 when Frederick Howatson of Creek Road, who had married Durant’s daughter, Eva, acquired the Model "T" Ford bus and the Mt Gravatt to Woolloongabba Bus Service.

Howatson purchased the Model "T" Ford bus and the route from John Durant for the sum of £300, which consisted of a deposit of £200 and fortnightly instalments of £4.

Alan Howatson, son of Fred Howatson, joined the management of the bus service after his discharge from the A.I.F. in May 1946 and a partnership was formed in July 1947.

After Fred Howatson passed away suddenly in January 1952, Alan Howatson carried on trading as Mt Gravatt Bus Service.

There were ongoing disruptions from an expanding Brisbane City Council Transport Department, which had priority over State Government bus route licensing.

As a consequence of these disruptions, Howatson’s licence to operate a private bus service was voluntarily surrendered in September 1978, after having served the bus service needs of Mt Gravatt and a wide surrounding area for a period of 55 years.

Meanwhile in 1974, Delcie Cole solved the problem of transporting her children to school from the Burbank area by purchasing her own bus.

Cole’s Burbank Busways business grew steadily and in 1981 she purchased Howatson’s last Bedford Bus No. 4 and by agreement, carried on the use of the registered "Mt Gravatt Bus Service" signage and business name.

From there, the business has expanded to where it is established today.

Brooker has a few thoughts as to why the business has been able to sustain itself over such a long period of time.

"I think the first one would be is because it’s been a family business from day one," he says.

"Although the families may have changed, the family ethos has been part of the business the whole time."

He adds the company’s high customer service standards have also played a role, as well as the location of the operation due to constant demand of service out of necessity.

Mt Gravatt Bus Service’s core business has been city services and school runs, although the company does some additional commercial, school and special event charter.

In 2004 Mt Gravatt Bus Service was successful in its bid as an operator under the new Translink 3G contract which is still in place today.

This contract has had 2 extensions which will now expire at the end of September 2016 the operation has commenced the process of negotiations with Translink for a new contract from October next year.

Supplementary to the Translink contract, the Mt Gravatt Group of Companies also operates school, senior and commercial charters as well as transport services for special events such as the Sirromet Day on the Green, the Cancer Council ride and walk fundraisers, the Mt Coot-tha Classic car races and we are the preferred supplier for the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.

"It’s fair to say that little is achieved without hard work and tenacity and it is the people who make a company great," says Brooker.

The operator is also looking to acquire some additional vehicles within the fleet to keep up with growing demand.

"On behalf of Del and myself, I’d like to sincerely thank our suppliers, our supporters, our clients and especially to each and every one of our staff whose professionalism and honest hard work continue to enhance our reputation within the industry and with the passengers we are so proud to carry," he says.

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