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Grading the Nation's Historic Buses & Coaches

The Project

The United Kingdom boasts a collection of more than 10,000 historic buses and coaches, each one telling its own special story about people, places and time.

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to take a ride on a vintage bus, you’ll know what amazing time machines they can be, bringing back the sights, sounds and smells of times past... and a visit to any transport museum will show you how buses have formed an important part of our social history – who we are and where we live – locally, and as a nation.

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The Bus Inspectors are on a mission to make sure the historical significance of each bus is properly understood and documented for generations to come. They are touring the UK’s museums and collections to see the vehicles, hear their stories and collect information that will enable the National Association of Road Transport Museums to grade the nation’s heritage buses and coaches.

Our Mission

The Need for Grading

Grading is a tool that is widely used in many parts of the UK heritage sector. It helps us all to recognise and protect important survivors. Historic buildings have a grading system that is well known, as do many forms of heritage transport, such as preserved ships and planes. Their grading helps owners, custodians and potential funders to prioritise and protect the more historically significant examples so they continue to survive and thrive.

Encouraged by bodies such as the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the National Association of Road Transport Museums has created the world’s first Scoring and Grading system for historic buses and coaches. It has been carefully devised to consider design, operational and social aspects of bus travel, and to recognise those survivors which best tell the story of how these have evolved in the UK.

As museums, charities and private collections evolve over time, it is hoped the system will help to ensure the vehicles which best tell the national story are given the recognition they deserve from owners, funders and the wider public who benefit from their survival.


How Grading Works

As they tour, The Bus Inspectors are carefully scoring each heritage bus and coach to determine its individual significance to the national collection.


The scoring system combines best practice from grading systems used all over the world, but has been specially designed for buses and coaches. It consists of a matrix of questions to 'test' different aspects of a vehicle’s design, operation and history. For example, how typical was the type across the UK? Does the vehicle demonstrate a particular design development?

The vehicle’s social and regional significance is also considered, as is the context of its construction – for example, is it a prototype? Its status within the current national collection is considered - is the vehicle a rare or even unique survivor? How authentic is the vehicle in its current form?

The points system is carefully structured and weighted so that the total score achieved by a vehicle may be seen as a solid representation of its importance to the national collection.

The Scoring system will be explored in more detail in our Episode 1 of our forthcoming podcast.

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