Top 5: Transport TV shows


Sometimes roads, railways and vehicles can be the stars of small screen programmes as much as the people in them. Today we’re celebrating our Top 5 transport TV programmes.

1) The Black Stuff

In the circumstances, Surveyor/Transport Network simply has to put this 1980 Play for Today straight in at No 1. Written by Alan Bleasdale and starring Bernard Hill, Michael Angelis, Tom Georgeson and others, The Blackstuff had an engaging storyline and great characters. IMDB’s synopsis, ‘a gang of Liverpudlians goes to Middlesbrough to lay a tarmac road’ very slightly undersells it.

The play spawned the perhaps better known series Boys from The Blackstuff, which followed the various stories of the gang of Liverpudlians and is perhaps best known for the character of Yosser Hughes (Hill) and his catchphrase ‘gissa job’, which seemed to sum up the early 1980’s. A Birds Eye Steakhouse Grill advert from 1983 also paid homage.

2) Eddie Stobart Trucks and Trailers

Life imitates art: a train dresses up as Thomas

They’ll make a reality TV series about just about anything these days and one of the more surprising hits was a seven series documentary ‘lifting the lid on the fascinating world of haulage legend Eddie Stobart’. The series ended in 2014 but outlived Mr Stobart himself, who died at the age of only 56 in 2011. The BBC reported that he was bankrupt when he died.

In a similar vein, the 1970’s BBC drama series The Brothers was based around conflict within the Hammond family over the direction of the family firm, a London-based road haulage business called Hammond Transport Services, after the death of patriarch Robert Hammond.

3) On the Buses

Back to the 1970s again for this long-running ITV sitcom about the unfailingly funny goings-on at the Luxton and District Bus Company. It featured Reg Varney as bus driver Stan and Stephen Lewis as Inspector Blakey. The programme ran for seven series, totalling 74 episodes, and spawned three feature films and a stage show.

In a 2004 poll to find Britain's Best Sitcom, On the Buses was rated 53rd.

4) Top Gear

The long-running BBC motoring magazine show closed in 2015 after the bad behaviour of star presenter Jeremy Clarkson and a succession of diplomatic incidents finally outweighed the income the show brought the BBC through massive worldwide sales...As if.

Having ditched the previous troublesome presenters, the show changed approach and rather than offend foreign nations, the Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc re-boot decided to insult Britain instead by driving a car too close to the Cenotaph for media comfort.

Continuing this new found form, rumours abound that instead of falling out with producers, the show's hosts now fall out with each other. 

Top Gear features presenters driving flash cars very fast, stars in reasonably priced cars and a tame racing driver in a white suit and helmet. Just as MTV used to play music, it may be hard to recall but the show actually started out reviewing cars rather than smashing them up. 

5) Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends

Any number of children’s classics could have filled our number 5 spot but the Fat Controller has 'given a road' to this absolute classic, based on The Railway Series of books by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry and his son, Christopher Awdry. The books and show follow the adventures of a group of anthropomorphised locomotives and road vehicles on the fictional Island of Sodor.

The series, which became known simply as Thomas & Friends in 2003, has had a succession of well-known narrators, beginning with Beatle Ringo Starr and including Blackstuff star Michael Angelis and ‘guest narrator’ Pierce Brosnan. In 2014, in an example of disharmony that would not be out of place in a Thomas episode, Martin T Sherman, who had voiced Thomas and other characters for five years, quit the US version, claiming to have been ‘bullied’

Have we got this right? Have we missed any transport TV classics? If you don't agree, please do let us know.


Also see

Register now for full access

Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

comments powered by Disqus