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Last Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Steam bus is ready for passengers
Lake District steam bus
The bus starts operating on 23 May
Britain's first scheduled bus service powered by coal-fuelled steam is to begin operating in the Lake District.

Special government approval had to be sought because of the 74-year-old vehicle's exhaust emissions.

The 32-seater bus will run four days a week between the tourist information centre in Bowness and the Windermere Steamboat Museum until 29 October.

The vintage vehicle, called Martha, uses 50kg of coal and 50 gallons of water for every 10 miles it travels.

The service is the culmination of a four-year dream by father and son operators Stuart and Chris Harrison, from Broughton-in-Furness.

Restoration work

They succeeded in getting the service registered with the Traffic Commissioners and arrange, through the Department of Transport, for a special Act of Parliament to be passed to amend public service vehicle exhaust regulations to include steam vehicles.

Stuart said: "Martha is the only steam bus in the UK, and possibly the world, that runs to a scheduled service.

"She is named after Chris's grandmother, who sadly died the same week we brought the bus to Cumbria in 2002.

"The vehicle required a lot of restoration work and it took us more than two years to get the law changed so fare-paying passengers could be carried on a steam bus."

Rebuilding the dilapidated bus, which arrived in Cumbria minus its coachwork, was a major challenge. An exact replica of a Sentinel bus body was constructed with only the help of some old photographs, as no design drawings remain.

The work was carried out by experts at Appleby Heritage Centre, near Penrith, with the aid of a 16,000 government grant.

Henry Conn, an advisor with the Rural Development Service based in Penrith, said: "This will turn the clock back to a memorable era in travel history and give local people and visitors a wonderful experience."

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