Bus industry pioneer and founder of the huge Busways organisation, Richard (Dick) Rowe, who is affectionately known as Pop, has celebrated his 100th birthday today with his family.
Dick started the business back in 1942 as an enterprising 18-year-old, with just one car operating a passenger service between Rooty Hill Station and Plumpton, along with a hardworking service ethic.
Under first Dick’s guidance the company grew, and then the stewardship of his sons Stephen and Richard, and today his grandson Byron, Busways is now the largest wholly Australian owned bus operator in the country.
“My aim – and that of Busways – was always to offer safety, quality, consistency and efficiency,” Dick explained.
“At 100, I could not have imagined the changes I would see with new, safer, stronger buses and the use of technology. What makes me most proud is that we are continually evolving to offer the highest levels of service in transport to the community,” he added.
“We’ve also tried to invest locally and repay something to the community. I know we’ll continue to do that and give back,” Dick said.
“I have greatly valued my involvement in the bus industry, and wish to thank everyone for their support, assistance and friendship. Especially the people at Busways – they have shaped my life. Many have influenced me and have helped make Busways what it is today.”
Back in 1948, 18-year-old Dick, with a keen eye for opportunity, observed a need for public transport in his local area and purchased a five-seater 1931 Chrysler 70 for the grand sum of £120 (almost $9,500 in today’s money).
With the help from his engineer dad, Cyril, Dick equipped the new vehicle with a wartime-mandated gas producer, a washing machine-sized device that converted charcoal – ‘black gold’ – to fuel. With this golden opportunity he started his omnibus-style transport service between Rooty Hill Station and Plumpton. During that time, lots of people didn’t own a car, and there wasn’t much public transport – it was almost like Western Sydney’s first on demand service – and the service went gangbusters.
This was the beginning of what would become Rowes Bus Service, and later Busways.
“By just saving money, saving money and working hard, I had about four different cars by 1946. I had a seven-passenger 1930 LaSalle. They were a cheap Cadillac. A seven passenger 1929 Studebaker. And later on, a seven-passenger 1937 Dodge,” Dick said.
“We were meeting the needs of local communities in the area. They were growing and we grew with them,” Dick explained.
A couple of years later, he bought a 1935 Reo with a timber frame and canvas roof that could carry 21 passengers, whichwas his first bus.
In the 1950s and 60s Dick Rowe continued to grow his bus service through joint ventures, acquisitions, and delivering quality services that the public used. He also contributed significantly to the evolution of the fledgling private bus industry.
Dick Rowe has been a member of the Bus and Coach Association (NSW), now BusNSW, since 1947 and served for many years on the executive. In 1984, Dick was honoured with a Certificate of Life Membership by then Bus and Coach Association (NSW) president Jim Bosnak in front of 100 industry colleagues. Dick was recognised for his development of transport interests in Blacktown, St Marys, Parramatta, Villawood and Campbelltown areas and for the high quality of transport services he provided to the local community. Industry speakers at the event recounted his many kindnesses and acts of assistance to other operators.
In 1966, Sydney’s then largest housing estate was developed just past Plumpton – Mount Druitt. In a revolutionary move for the time, Dick placed bus stops throughout the new neighbourhoods before the houses were even complete, ensuring transport was at the centre of population growth.
The 1980s marked the beginning of a period of ingenuity, expansion and enduring partnerships with local and state governments. Sydney’s first contraflow bus lane was introduced in Blacktown after Rowes Bus Service successfully lobbied for infrastructure changes to Main Street, and in 1982, Rowes Bus Service became the second private operator in NSW to own an articulated, or ‘bendy’, bus.
Today Busways has a fleet of over 1350 buses with 2,600 employees providing more than 53 million passenger journeys a year across New South Wales and South Australia.
Since Dick founded the company in 1942, Busways has made a significant impression on public transport operations in Australia. Dick’s legacy and values of persistence, efficiency, and a continuing focus on improvement, mean Busways has always aimed to exceed expectations, especially when it comes to scheduling, safety, and fleet design and maintenance.
“I’m pleased that my family have taken up the mantle of providing high-quality services to the communities where we operate,” Dick said.
“They are continuing to play a role in shaping the public transport industry, especially as we explore zero emissions transport and future technologies that enable on demand passenger services and driverless vehicles.”
The endeavours over the last eight decades of an extraordinary bunch of capable and tenacious individuals have consistently striven for the best possible outcomes when it comes to quality, innovation and service. These dreamers and organisers established the backbone of Busways, bringing stability and creativity to the everyday running of our expanding services.
“I sincerely thank the people of Busways and the wider bus industry, past and present, as well as my family for their dedication,” Mr Rowe said.
Coach & Bus and Truck and Bus News wishes Dick Rowe many happy returns as he celebrates his century!