It has been six years since the Postbus took its final journey. Find out how the Postbus came to be, and why it stopped running.

Across the United Kingdom, for people in rural areas where bus services were scarce or non existent, the postbus offered freedom to communities.

The postbus was used in other European countries decades before it began to be used in Britain. British postbuses operated for 50 years, until the closure of the final route in 2017.

Postcard of the Postbus in Suffolk, 1980, printed by Jarrold & Sons Ltd. E11832

Introduction of the Postbus

The postbus, much like its early predecessor the mail coach, was a means of delivering the post whilst offering transportation for passengers. It was suggested as early as 1961, in the Ministry of Transport’s Report on Rural Bus Services, that passengers could travel on post vans.

The postbus would combine the day-to-day work of postmen and women, whilst picking up and dropping off passengers along their route. In 1966 the Post Office agreed to trial six postal routes and the story of the postbus began.

A postbus route was only introduced if specific criteria were met: if the route fitted with current postal obligations, it didn’t compete with an existing bus service and there was a need within the community.

Scottish Postal Routes 1975, MPH.09

The Post Office could claim grants from the government, up to 50% of the vehicle cost, and local authorities covered any losses to the Post Office through the Rural Bus Grant.

The buses were mostly used by older people, women and children, helping them to access their local amenities. For those isolated or living alone, this was a source of connection, with many people getting to know their postbus driver.

Mrs Lewis, a passenger on the first postbus journey, commented to the Post Office Courier:

It is much more convenient than thumbing a lift or making arrangements with a neighbour who has a car. Now we can do our shopping every day if we want to.


The buses were also used by tourists. When visiting a rural areas, such as the highlands of Scotland, the postbus was a reliable mode of transport. Postbus drivers were often locals or knew the area well, acting as tour guides for the visitors.


The first postbus started its rounds on 20 February 1967. The route ran between Llanidloes and Llangurig in mid-Wales, covering about 5 miles. The first journey transported seven passengers, driven by postman Stanley Owen.

Until the postbus was introduced, the only service connecting these areas ran on a Saturday. The postbus allowed local residents to access the town and the shops during the week at a price of two shillings eleven pence (about £2.60 today) for a return ticket.

Image from the Courier (Royal Mail Magazine) showing Stanley Owen on the postbus March 1967

The Welsh route was followed by services in Devon and the Lake District, with the first Scottish postbus beginning on June 1968. Routes began popping up across the country and by 2005 there were 166.


The initial proposal was to use a seven-seater mini-bus. These buses were adapted to meet the security needs of moving the mail, housing a mail locker in the rear of the bus.

The Morris J2M16 minibus was the preferred choice by the Post Office, although the vehicle often needed to be selected specifically for the route, meaning the Morris wasn’t always the best option.

In Scotland it became apparent that smaller vehicles that could deal with the rough terrain were necessary. Land Rovers were introduced as postbuses, although they could carry fewer passengers than the Morris, they were equipped for the landscape and weather conditions of the highlands. In comparison, a route on the Island of Islay, Scotland, trialled a 24-seater postbus to meet the increased number of tourists during the summer months.

Postcard of a Land Rover Postbus in Scotland, MPH.69

Tickets and Timetables

Timetables of the routes explained where the buses would stop and at what time. The below timetable of the Llanidloes to Dylife route provides the customer with information in both English and Welsh. The route map also explains which stops are visited on the driver’s outward and inward journey.

Llanidloes Postbus Timetable 1980, MPH.09

The price of a passenger’s journey increased depending on how far they were travelling. The tickets issued also varied; some routes used ticket machines similar to regular buses and others issued white card tickets where postage stamps were affixed, paying for travel.

The stamps were cancelled (marked to prevent reuse) to prove payment, just like when posting a letter, and decorative handstamps were created for different routes.

Postbus Tickets, 1973-77 (2015-0016/03)
Postbus Tickets, 1973-77 (PH.27/09b)


The final bus journey took place on 19 August 2017, on the route between Talmine and Tongue in Lairg, Scotland. This postbus route had begun in November 1979 and was the 167th route to be added to the network. Driven by postwoman Ms Macleod, the final journey had only three passengers.

There are differing stories behind why this particular route ceased to run, with Royal Mail and the Highland Council each saying the other made the decision. Whoever made the final call to cease the service, this was the last in a long line of postbus route closures. With fewer passengers, reduced deliveries and the loss of funding, the postbus was simply slower than the post van.

The postbus was a smart repurposing of the mail coach format for a modern traveller. Giving people in rural areas the means of going about their everyday lives, the postbus was an invaluable service. Now, just like the mail coach, the postbus is as remnant of past postal transportation.

Come and visit The Postal Museum to see a Dodge Hi-line Postbus in person. Can’t make it? Take the Postbus home with you


  • Moving the Mail by Road by Julian Stray
  • Last Postbus reaches the end of the road, The Scotsman
  • The Postbus Handbook by Post Office Vehicle Club
  • Post Horn Magazine August 2017, by Post Office Vehicle Club
  • POST 92/756 The Courier, Headquarter Departments Editions (March 1967)
  • POST 157/130 Transport/Security: Proposed Postal Bus Experiment. Security Aspects
  • POST 157/127 Provision of 24 seater bus – Scotland 1974-1980
  • POST 157/131 Postbus review 1974-1977