The Valletta Internal Minibus Service (1970s)

The Valletta - Marsamxett Service

What we know so far ...

Not a lot is known about the Valletta internal minibus service that operated in the mid-to-late 1970s. The roads within Valletta are very narrow, and even in the 1970s when car ownership was a lot lower than it is these days, there was not room to get a full sized bus down most of the roads. So at some point a service started operated by a number of small minibuses, mostly converted from vans of some sort. Some bodywork built by the same body-builders who built the full sized buses and coaches that operated on the island - mostly on chassis on ex-military trucks. Others were built using BMC / Morris J2BM vans. 

So far research has only uncovered two photographs depicting the route. They show the vehicles carried a white base livery with a red band, in a similar style to the full sized route buses. The also carried a "VALLETTA - MARSAMXETT" name (again like full sized buses).

Other than these two photos, the only other mention so far is in the PSV Circle's "O54" fleetlist published in 1980, based on observations and research carried out in the late 1970s by well-known historian Mike Fenton. The following lists the vehicles known to have operated on the route at some point:

13941 - built on a Bedford MWD chassis with a locally built body, seating 16 passengers.

Additional Notes - The vehicle's official file suggests it was purchased from the Navy in 1955, operated as a van until around 1974 when it was noted as converted to a minibus. The file states the bus had been declared scrapped by May 1979. 

17445 - BMC J2BM, seating around 11.

Additional Notes - New in the UK where it was registered EHV 794J, it arrived in Malta in July 1974 fitted out as a two-seat van. The official file for the vehicle only has a brief mention of it as a minibus around 1975, though it believed to have operated as such until the late 1970s when it was converted back into a van and gained registration C-7445. The last document in the file is dated 1996 when it changed owners. It was probably scrapped shortly afterwards. 

30037 - Morris J2BM, seating around 11.

Additional Notes - New in 1955 in the UK where it was registered SJW 751, it arrived in Malta in April 1961 fitted out as a two-seat van. The official file for the vehicle only has a brief mention of it as a minibus around October 1974. It was reported as being painted green and licenced as a "Private Car", seating 8 passengers plus the driver in 1978. It was converted back into a van by March 1983, having gained registration C-0037 around 1980. By October 1997 it had been further reregistered to CAH 801.  It was officially declared scrapped in November 1999. ​

38148 - Morris J2BM, seating around 11.

Additional Notes - New in 1962 to the RAF in Malta, it was purchased by the Milk Marketing Undertaking in Hamrun in March 1966, at which point it was described as being a "Morris J2 “Passenger / Cargo Vehicle”". The official file for the vehicle only has a brief mention of it as a minibus around 1979, noting it had been converted to such by a previous owner without official permission. It was reported as being painted green.  It was officially declared scrapped in May 1984, having been reregistered D-8148 around 1980. 

45250 - Morris J2BM, seating around 11.

Additional Notes - none currently available - official vehicle file not yet examined.

68175 - Morris J2BM, seating around 11.

Additional Notes - Purchased by a dealer ex-the military in mid-May 1973. Sold on at auction in October 1974. Listed as being a 14-seat minibus painted in white and red. In November 1974 a document stated that it was to be used on a “temporary basis” to perform trips around Valletta (the only mention in any of the vehicles files to the Valletta minibus service and the red and white livery). Reregistered T-8175 around 1980 and declared as having been scrapped by March 1987. 

At least one other locally bodied bus was operated, as two are shown in the rear-view photo. The front one may be 13941, and the registration of the rear one cannot be read. 
ABOVE: This undated photograph forms part of the photographic archive of the Omnibus Society. It shows a front on view of the J2BM 38148 in the white and red livery, and the "VALLETTA - MARSAMXETT" route name can just be viewed. Something else is written in smaller lettering above - does anyone know what it said (or have a clearer photo of this area of a bus ?

BELOW: This rear end photo was posted on Facebook by Glyn Bowen. Again it is undated, and shows the rear ends of three buses. On the left of the image are two of the locally bodied buses (the front one *might* be 13941. The registration of the rear one cannot be read. The bus on the right of the image is again 38148, the J2BM in the front view above. 


Your help is required to find out more about the service. Can you help with any of the following :

(a) do you have any photographs of the minibuses used on the service (even if it is just in the background of the subject being photographed).

(b) do you know the year the route started ?

(c) do you know the year the route ceased ?

(d) do you know of any other vehicles that were used on the service ?

(e) do you know what route was followed by this service ?

If you can help (even the smallest piece of information may be useful) please click on the "contact us" button below and get in touch

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21st Centuary Revival

Since July 2011 when the bus routes passed initially to Arriva Malta, then subsequently the the Government owned, and now Spanish owned MPTS, a Valletta internal bus service has once again operated (although at times rather intermittently). This will be covered separately at a later date. 
** Update 1 - 30th August 2016 **
A further photograph has come to light - on Keith Till's photo website. It is undated and was taken by Graham Wescott. It is a slightly blurry nearside view of J2BM 17445 and shows the red paint added to the wheels. 

Click on this button to view the photo.

Do you know of any other photos ? Click on the "Contact Us" button at the bottom of the page.
17445 photo
** Update 2 - 30th August 2016 **
I have been reminded that a discussion was held on the Malta Buses and Coaches Facebook page about this subject and the following pieces of information came to light. When time permits I will re-write this page to incorporate this information, and any other additional information that comes to light.

Carmel Schembri said that the fare charged was 2 Maltese pence. The route was withdrawn once "big bus" routes started, which ran around the peninsular, though not into the narrow city streets.

Stuart Abela pointed out that a J2BM minibus was noted at the Aviation Museum a couple of years ago. The origins of this bus is not known and the photo that Stuart had found online does not show a registration. Does anyone know the origins of this vehicle ? Is it one that operated on the Valletta internal service ? Click on this button to view the photo. 

Stuart also found a photo online of another example at the Aviation Museum - this time a green one seen inside one of the hangers, and was reported as due to be restored to RAF livery. Several J2BM are known to have been operated by the RAF in Malta. 

Stuart also suggested that J2BM 22046 (later K-2046) might have operated on the route. The official vehicle file stated the vehicle was new in the UK in 1958/9 and arrived in Malta in August 1963. Having been used for a while as a van, permission was sought in 1976 to convert it to an 8-seat minibus. It is not known if the conversion took place, but by 1985 it was back to being a van. Around 1995 it was reregistered JAJ 279, and having been stored for a while, was returned to the UK for preservation in recent years. Does anyone know for sure if this operated on the Valletta internal service ?

Finally, looking through my own research notes I have found mention of two other J2BM that ran as minibuses in the late 1970s, but I have no proof one way or the other as to if they ran on the Valletta internal route. One was registered 8463 (new to Malta in 1964 ?). Converted to a minibus in 1972. Scrapped in 1984 (by which time it would have been registered B-8463). The other was an Austin version of the minibus that was registered 12006 in Malta. It was new to the UK as 143 YMH in 1960, it arrived in Malta in August 1962 and the seating capacity was described as "2 to 7". By march 1979 it was listed as being a 12 seat minibus. By 1980 it had become B-2006 and was painted red. Around 1995 it became BBB 115 and by then the seating capacity was down to 8. The bus was garaged in March 2005 and may still exist. Does anyone know any more about these two vehicles ?

Aviation Museum photo 1
Aviation Museum photo 2