Hornibrook Bus Lines

Following the expiration of its toll franchise over the Hornibrook Bridge in October 1975, M R Hornibrook Pty Ltd sold its Hornibrook Highway Bus Service business to Victorian bus proprietors Geoff Mountjoy (owner of US Bus Lines in Belgrave) and Mrs Noele Cook (owner of IJ Cook & Sons in Geelong). This opportunity arose when the company’s Secretary, Jack Amies, engaged Geoff Mountjoy to consult on how the Hornibrook buses could be made a more profitable concern. It was at this time that the Transport Department started subsidising the operation of passenger services to prop up businesses which had traditionally received no financial support from government. The Hornibrook Highway Bus Service operated a co-ordinated passenger service between Sandgate Railway Station and Scarborough on the Redcliffe Peninsula, using a fleet of 26 vehicles (largely consisting of Leylands) which were stored at two depots in Sandgate and Redcliffe. The company also operated a spare parts business out of its Sandgate premises.

The last new vehicle purchased by Hornibrook Highway Bus Service prior to the sale to Mountjoy and Cook, was this Athol Hedges bodied Hino RC320P coach completed in July 1974. Photo: Athol Hedges Pty Ltd

Sale of Sandgate depot

On 18 February 1977, the Sandgate depot including a service station and spare parts business were sold to R. & W. White Nominees Pty Ltd (a company owned by Red and White Coaches proprietors Phil and Ray White), in exchange for two 1969 Freighter bodied Hino RC320P coaches. The sale of these premises greatly reduced company overheads by centralising operations at the Klingner Road depot at Redcliffe near the high school. This marked a significant shift for the Hornibrook operation which had been run from Sandgate until this time. In September 1977, a new company, ‘Hornibrook Bus Lines Pty Ltd’, was incorporated with shareholders including Russell Penfold of Greyhound Coaches and Ken Grenda of Grenda’s Bus Lines in Victoria.

The Sandgate premises were sold on 18 February 1977 to R. & W. White Nominees Pty Ltd, a company owned by Red and White Coaches proprietors Phil and Ray White. The spare parts business was then renamed Leyspares. Photo: Ray White

Purchase of Redcliffe-Brisbane Motor Service

It was at this time that Rex and Elva Elson, owners of Redcliffe-Brisbane Motor Services Pty Ltd, decided to retire and approached Geoff Mountjoy to purchase their long established family business. Rex Elson’s father Hubert had pioneered the first bus from Redcliffe to Brisbane on 8 December 1924. The takeover completed on 14 November 1977 and involved the acquisition of 20 relatively modern Leyland vehicles and one Toyota minibus. The Leylands were largely of identical design and build to the Hornibrook buses except that they were fitted with underfloor luggage compartments to carry freight. The Elson’s operated the only bus service between Redcliffe and Brisbane which serviced the areas of Petrie, Strathpine, Lawnton and Bald Hills. The Elson’s depot in John Street, Redcliffe was leased to Hornibrook for the next 9 years until new premises were built at Clontarf. A travel agency under the name ‘Hornibrook International Travel Centre’ was formed by the company at Elson’s depot at John Street, and operated in association with Greyhound International Travel.

One of the 20 Leyland buses purchased from Elson’s Redcliffe-Brisbane Motor Service was (5) NNL-421 a 1961 Leyland Leopard with Athol Hedges bodywork. Photo: Geoff Foster
(13) NXZ-256 in Elson’s fleet was a 1965 Leyland Leopard PSU3/1R built by Motor Body Specialists. It is pictured at Elson’s former John Street depot. Photo: Geoff Foster
The original Hornibrook depot at Klingner Road after the takeover of Elson’s Redcliffe-Brisbane Motor Service. Photo: Geoff Foster

New trading name

With the two businesses of Hornibrook Highway and Redcliffe Brisbane now sharing common ownership, a new trading name of ‘Redcliffe Peninsula Bus Lines’ was registered on 14 February 1978. The fleet was accordingly re-branded into a new colour scheme of red, orange, yellow and white. In May 1978, the company purchased its first new buses under Mountjoy and Cook ownership with the delivery of three new Volvo B58s with Domino-Hedges 49-passenger bodies. These vehicles were built to a semi-coach specification and featured: individual seating with head rests and arm rests, carpet lined parcel racks, large roof hatches for natural ventilation, incandescent lighting, radio, public address system, two-way radio, a tape music system and non-slip steps. In January 1979, Ray White sold his interest in Red and White Coaches at Sandgate to join Hornibrook as a Company Director and General Manager, positions he would hold until 1996.

(20) PNC-741 was a Superior bodied Leyland Leopard PSU3/1R new to Elson’s in 1969. It is pictured here after being re-branded into the new colour scheme. Photo: Vic Hayes
The first new bus purchased under Mountjoy and Cook ownership was (71) a Volvo B58 with Domino-Hedges body completed in May 1978. Photo: Tony Winstone

Volgren Queensland

In 1981, Geoff Mountjoy along with Ken Grenda and Russell Penfold established a factory at Acacia Ridge in Brisbane in order to build luxury coaches and urban buses. This new venture was known as ‘Volgren Queensland’. In March 1982, Hornibrook Bus Lines received the first of three Volvo B59s with all-aluminium luxury commuter buses built by Volgren Queensland under licence to HESS of Switzerland. This vehicle was launched by Managing Director Geoff Mountjoy, General Manager Ray White, and his brother Terry White who was the state member for Redcliffe. Later that year, three second hand Freighter bodied Hino RC320P coaches were acquired from South Australia and Victoria to increase the company’s charter capability.

The first of three Volvo B59s with all-aluminium bodies built by Volgren Queensland under licence to HESS of Switzerland. Photo: Vic Hayes

Purchase of Sandgate Lutwyche Bus Service

On 1 January 1985, the Sandgate Lutwyche Bus Service was purchased from Bruce Mitchell which ended 45 years’ involvement in buses for the Mitchell family. A total of 13 vehicles were acquired from Sandgate Lutwyche which comprised eight AEC Reliances, two Leyland Panthers, two Denning Mono coaches, and one Hino RC320 coach. The vehicles were kept at the Mitchell’s 23 Baskerville Street, Sandgate property under lease. This acquisition greatly expanded Hornibrook’s route network into the growing areas of Bracken Ridge, Carseldine and Zillmere. The services operated by Sandgate Lutwyche Bus Service comprised:

  • Sandgate Station to Lutwyche Cemetery via Taigum, Zillmere and Geebung
  • Sandgate Station to Bald Hills Station via Bracken Ridge
  • Sandgate Station to Brighton, Shorncliffe and Deagon
One of 13 buses purchased with Sandgate Lutwyche Bus Service on 1 January 1985 was (3) NOG-361, a 1962 Athol Hedges bodied AEC Reliance 505. Photo: Vic Hayes
One of two Leyland Panthers in the Sandgate Lutwyche fleet was (12) PIE-402, built by Athol Hedges in 1968. Photo: Ian Lynas

Hornibrook Coach Tours

On 28 June 1985, the company registered the business name ‘Hornibrook Coach Tours’ in order to expand its involvement with long distance coach charter. In January 1986, Hornibrook purchased four Volvo B10MA articulated buses which had seen short service in Japan for the Tsukuba Expo. These high capacity vehicles were then deployed onto the highly populated city services.

Part of the Hornibrook Coach Tours fleet was (89) 089-ABR, a 1980 Denning Denair purchased from Polley’s Coaches of Gympie in December 1987. Photo: Robert Birrell
Minister for Transport, Don Lane (left), and General Manager, Ray White (right), pictured at Sandgate Station with the first of four near-new Volvo B10MA articulated buses bodied by Fuji Heavy Industries in Japan. Photo: Department of Transport

New Redcliffe depot

On 10 April 1986, a vacant block of land at Grice Street in Clontarf was purchased from the City of Redcliffe in order to establish a new depot and office facility. The new Clontarf depot officially opened in June 1986 at a cost of $1 million which was in part financed by the sale of the Klingner Road premises.

In 1989, three coaches from Ansett Pioneer were added to the fleet after that business ran into financial difficulties. These vehicles included an MCI MC8 and two Ansair bodied Mercedes Benz O303s which bolstered Hornibrook’s charter fleet.

Hornibrook Bus Lines moved into a new, purpose-built depot at Clontarf in June 1986 at a cost of $1 million. Photos: Ray White

Brisbane City Council subcontract

During 1989, an agreement was struck with the Brisbane City Council to handover the passenger licences acquired from Sandgate Lutwyche Bus Service, in exchange for operating these services under contract to the Council using leased buses. This unprecedented arrangement was the birth of ‘Hornibrook Transit Management Pty Ltd’. The changeover took place on 18 December 1989 which saw the Council operate CityXpress services into Bracken Ridge for the first time, with Hornibrook operating routes 25, 25A and 25B between Toombul, Sandgate and Bracken Ridge.

A fleet of 10 Volvo B59 buses were leased by Council to Hornibrook and stationed at the former Sandgate Lutwyche depot. This arrangement was driven by Geoff Mountjoy to demonstrate to Council how private enterprise could operate services efficiently and cost effectively on their behalf.

In December 1989, a fleet of 10 Volvo B59 buses (Council fleet numbers 730-739) were leased by the Brisbane City Council to Hornibrook Transit Management to operate the Sandgate and Bracken Ridge local services. Photo: Bill Blannin

The last new Leyland buses

In January 1990, Hornibrook purchased its first new Mercedes Benz buses with the delivery of three O405 models with Pressed Metal bodies. In June 1990, the company purchased their final Leyland buses in the form of two Austral bodied Leyland Tigers. This ended a 52-year old relationship since the delivery of their first Leyland vehicle. As Volvo had taken over Leyland, these vehicles would now be replaced by the Volvo B10M. Nevertheless, the company purchased five second hand Leyland National route buses from the ACT Government in November 1990. These vehicles were swiftly refurbished and were used on urban and school services throughout the Peninsula. In 1991, another four Council buses were leased to Hornibrook including two relatively new Volgren bodied Mercedes Benz O405s. In 1993, the leased Council vehicles relocated from Baskerville Street to a makeshift depot behind the Energex substation at 48 Depot Road, Deagon.

In June 1990, Hornibrook purchased their last new Leyland buses which ended a 52-year relationship with the British chassis supplier. Photo: Phil White
(67) 067-BCL was one of five second hand Leyland National route buses purchased from the ACT Government in November 1990. Photo: Tony Winstone
(66) 366-ATW was one of two Ansair bodied Mercedes Benz O303 coaches purchased from Pioneer Express during 1990 for Hornibrook Coach Tours. Photo: Ray White

New service to Brisbane

On 18 December 1995, Hornibrook Transit Management and Brisbane City Council commenced operating new CityXpress services from Redcliffe (route 540) and Brighton (route 541) respectively. The rationale behind this move was to prove that private operators could operate side-by-side with Council services. Concurrently, the Bracken Ridge and Sandgate services were re-organised with route 25B extended from North Wind Estate at Bald Hills to Strathpine Shopping Centre.

On 18 December 1995, Hornibrook Transit Management and Brisbane City Council commenced operating new CityXpress services to Redcliffe and Brighton respectively. Photo: Bill Blannin
Part of the Hornibrook fleet in the mid-1990s at the Clontarf depot. Photo: Ken Davey

In January 1996, the shareholders of Hornibrook Bus Lines established ‘Australian Transit Enterprises Pty Ltd’ and successfully lobbied the Western Australia Government to put their bus services out to tender. This was the birth of ‘Path Transit’ which involved the establishment of three new depots to eliminate dead running. Australian Transit Enterprises would quickly become one of Australia’s largest private bus operators.

New local Sandgate services

On 20 May 1996, the ‘Wiz’ service name was reintroduced to the people of Sandgate with the introduction of a new ‘hail and ride’ community bus service operated by a new, wheelchair accessible Mercedes Benz LO814 minibus with Alan B. Denning bodywork. This was a throwback to six decades earlier when Ray White’s father Bill operated the IBIS Bus Service with the local ‘Whizzer’ bus between Sandgate and Brighton from from June 1938 to June 1948. Another two of these vehicles were purchased in December 1996 for the ‘Wiz’ local services which operated between Sandgate and Brighton, Deagon, and Shorncliffe.

On 20 May 1996, the ‘Wiz’ service name was reintroduced to the people of Sandgate after having originally been associated with the IBIS Bus Service owned by Bill White between June 1938 and June 1948. Photo: Ray White

South West Transit

In June 1997, the company purchased South Western Suburban Transit from proprietress Ann Fitzgerald to form ‘South West Transit Pty Ltd’. This business operated local services between Inala, Darra and Oxley under contract to the Brisbane City Council. The fleet consisted of 11 buses owned by South Western as well four buses under lease from the Council, which were stored at a depot at Archerfield Road, Inala. The South Western fleet were replaced by six of the Council Volvo B59s originally assigned to Hornibrook Transit Management which the company purchased outright. In July 1998, South West Transit operations shifted from Fitzgerald’s Inala depot to the Brisbane City Council’s newly opened Richlands depot.

One of 11 buses owned by South Western Suburban Transit was (2) 330-NGK a 1978 Domino Hedges bodied Leyland Leopard PSU3C/2R. Photo: Ian Lynas
One of four Council buses delivered new to South Western Suburban Transit under a lease arrangement was (314) 314-BRU a 1993 Austral bodied Volvo B10M. Photo: Robert Birrell
(88) 088-EUF was one of two Volgren bodied Mercedes Benz O405s originally leased by Brisbane City Council to Hornibrook Transit Management, and then purchased by the company in 1997. Photo: Paul Garred

In 1998, the company purchased the Kallangur and French’s Forest to Strathpine passenger service from Kangaroo Bus Lines. On 14 December 1998, the Brisbane City Council’s northern route network was overhauled with Hornibrook’s services being re-numbered as follows:

  • Route 311 – Sandgate to Brighton (formerly route 342)
  • Route 312 – Sandgate to Brighton (formerly route 344)
  • Route 313 – Sandgate to Shorncliffe (formerly route 343)
  • Route 314 – Sandgate to Deagon (formerly routes 25C and 25D)
  • Route 315 – Redcliffe to Brisbane City (formerly route 540)
  • Route 326 – Bracken Ridge and Sandgate to Toombul (formerly route 25A)
  • Route 327 – Strathpine and Bracken Ridge to Toombul (formerly routes 25 and 25B)
One of 11 Volvo B10M buses leased from Brisbane City Council to Hornibrook Transit Management for over a decade. Photo: Paul Garred
One of four Volgren bodied MAN 15.220 low floors was (103) 103-FKC, built in March 2000. Photo: Paul Garred

In April 2000, Australian Transit Enterprises secured significant government bus contracts in South Australia under the banner of ‘SouthLink’. In October 2000, the Hornibrook Bus Lines fleet consisted of 39 buses (excluding those operated by Hornibrook Transit Management and South West Transit). In March 2004, the company purchased its first Scania buses in the form of two Volgren bodied L94UB models. In July 2004, a new era of passenger transport began when the Queensland Government introduced TransLink in order to manage and co-ordinate services in South East Queensland.

(107) 107-IFS is one of two 2001 Custom Coaches bodied Mercedes Benz O405NH low floors ordered by the King Bros but never delivered. Photo: Paul Garred

On 22 January 2005, the Deagon depot closed with buses relocating to leased premises at 66 South Pine Road, Brendale. On 20 June 2005, the northern route network was overhauled by TransLink with routes re-numbered into a new three digit series:

  • Route 680 – Scarborough to Brisbane City (formerly route 11)
  • Route 681 – Mango Hill to Strathpine via Petrie Station (formerly route 10)
  • Route 682 – Peninsula Fair to Strathpine (formerly route 12)
  • Route 690 – Redcliffe to Sandgate Station (formerly routes 20/21)
  • Route 693 – Redcliffe Jetty to Peninsula Fair (formerly routes 50/55)
  • Route 696 – Redcliffe Peninsula Loop (clockwise) via Redcliffe, Woody Point, Margate and Kippa Ring (formerly route 40)
  • Route 697 – Redcliffe Peninsula Loop (anti-clockwise) via Kippa Ring, Margate, Woody Point and Redcliffe (formerly route 45)
The Hornibrook Transit Management fleet were depoted at 66 South Pine Road, Brendale between January 2005 and November 2008. Photo: Nick Wilson

First three-axle low floors

Coinciding with these network changes were the delivery of the company’s first three-axle low floor bus for the route 315 CityXpress service. Between May 2006 and March 2013, Hornibrook purchased an additional 36 new Volgren bodied Scania low floors under TransLink funding arrangements. In July 2007, Hornibrook Bus Lines were the first government operator to have a vehicle painted into the new green and white TransLink livery. This colour scheme has been applied to all new government funded buses since that time.

(44) 146-ITK is the first of four, three-axle Volgren bodied Scania L94UB low floors built to operate the route 315 CityXpress service. Photo: Paul Garred
(111) 161-IOJ was the first bus of two buses to be painted into the TransLink livery of green and white. Photo: Paul Garred

New Lawnton depot

On 29 November 2008, Hornibrook Transit Management operations relocated from Brendale to a new, custom-built depot at 55 Lawnton Pocket Road, Lawnton.

On 18 October 2010, major network changes were implemented to Hornibrook’s network including the truncation of route 680 from Brisbane City to Chermside. This marked the end of an era for the Redcliffe to Brisbane service that Elson’s had pioneered 85 years earlier on 8 December 1924. Additional changes saw a major restructure of the services operating in Petrie and North Lakes:

  • Route 681 – changed to run between Mango Hill and North Lakes
  • Route 682 – changed to run between Mango Hill and Petrie Station via North Lakes
  • Route 683 – new peak-hour only route between Kallangur and Petrie Station
  • Route 684 – new route between Kallangur and North Lakes Shopping Centre
  • Route 686 – new route between Kallangur and Petrie Station via French’s Forest six days a week
  • Route 687 – new peak-hour only route between North Lakes and Petrie Station
  • Route 688/689 – new North Lakes loop services running clockwise and anti-clockwise respectively
  • Route 694 – new route number for the reverse of route 693
On 29 November 2008, Hornibrook Transit Management operations relocated from Brendale to a new, custom-built depot at 55 Lawnton Pocket Road, Lawnton. Photos; Nick Wilson
(133) 086-LWT is one of 36 Volgren bodied Scania low floors purchased between May 2006 and March 2013. Photo: Paul Garred

New North Lakes depot

On 28 November 2011, a new depot opened at 6 Willis Street, North Lakes which became the third and final purpose-built premises under Mountjoy and Cook ownership. On 20 January 2014, another major network overhaul came into effect with the following changes:

  • Route 315 – changed to pre-paid only fares
  • Route 680 – truncated to Redcliffe Jetty with no extension to Gerald Avenue
  • Route 681 – changed to a peak-hour service only
  • Route 682 – changed to no longer run to Petrie on Saturday
  • Route 684 – changed to a loop service from North Lakes to the eastern side of Old Gympie Road only
  • Route 685 – new service between the western side of Old Gympie Road and Petrie Station
  • Route 686 – truncated to operate between Petrie Station and French’s Forest only
  • Route 690 – changed to no longer service Newport Estate
  • Routes 698/699 – new loop services incorporating part of the old 680 between Redcliffe Jetty and Scarborough and the Newport Estate that was omitted from 690

On 1 May 2015, parent company Australian Transit Enterprises and all of its subsidiaries were sold to French transport operator, Keolis Downer. At this time, Australian Transit Enterprises operated 940 vehicles with operations in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

In June 2015, the last high floor vehicle was decommissioned as the fleet became completely low floor and wheelchair accessible. This also saw the company return to Mercedes Benz vehicles for the first time in almost a decade.

The delivery of (158) 473-VTG, a Bustech bodied Mercedes Benz O500LE, enabled a fully low floor fleet. Photo: Matt Browne

Major network changes

On 30 September 2016, the last route 315 service operated into Brisbane City as a result of network changes for the Moreton Bay Rail Link extension to Kippa Ring from Petrie. This marked the end of an era with Hornibrook no longer running any services from Redcliffe into Brisbane. Further network changes took effect on 4 October 2016 with several routes upgraded to 7 day services for the first time:

  • Route 315 – service replaced by route 691
  • Route 680 – changed to serve the new Kippa Ring Station
  • Route 681 – changed to a clockwise loop between North Lakes and Mango Hill (AM services only)
  • Route 682 – changed to be the anti-clockwise loop of route 681 (PM services only)
  • Route 683 – changed to run between Kallangur Station and Dakabin
  • Route 684 – changed to run between North Lakes and Kallangur via Lavercombe Street and Duffield Road
  • Route 685 – changed to run between North Lakes and Kallangur via Old Gympie Road
  • Route 686 – changed to incorporate Pine Estate near Petrie
  • Route 687 – changed to run to Mango Hill Station instead of Petrie Station
  • Route 690 – frequency upgraded to every 30 mins
  • Route 691 – replaced route 315 between Fifth Avenue and Sandgate Station
  • Route 694 – combined routes 693/4 and terminus changed to Kippa Ring Station
  • Route 696 – combined routes 696/697 and terminus changed to Kippa Ring Station
  • Route 698 – new route between Rothwell and Kippa Ring Station (part of route 695)
  • Route 699 – combined routes 698/699
The company purchased its first Chinese manufactured vehicle in 2017 in the form of this 28-passenger BCI FBC6850BRZ2 low floor for the Wiz services. Photo: Nick Wilson
Three of four new Volgren bodied Euro 6 Mercedes Benz O500LE low floors delivered in mid 2018. Photo: Matt Browne
One of 11 M.A.N. 18.310 diesel buses leased from Brisbane City Council between for Hornibrook Transit Management operations in the northern suburbs of Brisbane. Photo: Matt Browne

Loss of Council subcontracts

Hornibrook Transit Management Pty Ltd and South West Transit Pty Ltd retained its subcontracts with Brisbane City Council to operate passenger services until Wednesday, 30 June 2021, ending a partnership of 32 and 24 years respectively. The last buses operated were the 327 service departing from Strathpine at 5.58pm (operated by bus 1019), and the 122 service departing from Garden City at 6.20pm (operated by bus 1001). The fleet of leased M.A.N. 18.310 diesel buses were then returned to Council.

As of May 2022, Hornibrook Bus Lines operates 64 vehicles from two depots at Clontarf and North Lakes.