In 2011, the old style Malta buses were taken off the road and replaced by modern vehicles. Most of the old buses were scrapped, a few were sold, and about 100 of them were put into storage with the hope of showing them in a museum at some stage.
A pre 2011 visit to Malta wouldn’t have been complete without a ride on one of the colourful buses. The routes radiated out like a star from the Valletta bus terminus, just outside the city gate. Until 1973 you could tell the destination of the bus just by looking at it’s colour – Sliema was green and white, Zabbar was red and white with a blue stripe etc. Check out Alan Edwards’ fascinating site for some more examples and a lot more historical information. Later, the buses all had numbers. For a while they were all painted green and white before the ‘final’ orange, yellow and white colour scheme pictured below.
In their heyday, walking around the Triton fountain at the Valletta bus terminus and (ignoring the newer types) you would have found it very difficult to find two buses of exactly the same design. Most of them had locally built bodies which have been modified and customised over the years. The badges and emblems on the front of the buses carried names like Dodge, Leyland, Bedford etc. Real bus buffs (I do not count myself as one) would have recognised that these were there mainly for decorative reasons, and were seldom an acurate reflection of the vehicle’s origins. It used to be common to find an elaborate shrine or statue of a patron saint mounted in the drivers compartment. In later years you were equally likely to find football penants and the like decorating the cabs.
Nowadays much more modern buses are to be found at the Floriana terminus. They are more environmentally friendly and possibly even more comfortable than the older types. Nevertheless, I miss the old buses. I remember when you boarded your bus, making sure that you had the correct change ready to pay the (usually) surly driver as you got on. If you were seated anywhere near the front, you would have noticed that most drivers sat well to the right of their steering wheel. The reason for this as any Maltese will tell you, was to leave space for their guardian angel to sit along side them. I wonder where the angel sits these days?