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  WEB NEWS 55  

In this issue of WHOTT Web News we take a brief at Exeter Coach Station, Scottish Independence & Travelling the West Country by Bus.

  Exeter Coach Station 1974 - 1984 - The lure of the Westcountry as a summer holiday destination meant that Exeter became one of the country’s busiest coach stations. Stuart Andrews reflects upon his time working at Paris Street.

It was during the late ‘sixties that I used to pass through Exeter coach station whilst operating Royal Blue Express Services. The present coach station, opened on the 5th July 1964, forms the lower level of a sloping site, with the bus station above. It replaced the very cramped Paul Street station built in the early ‘thirties.

It was in June 1974 that I really became fully acquainted with the present coach station and its operations, as I had recently received promotion from driver to Royal Blue inspector. Initially I was to carry out my duties as inspector during the summer months and work for Greenslades Tours at 29 Paris Street in the winter. Due to operational changes, I was pleased to find that I would be able to permanently carry out my duties as inspector and so started a steep learning curve into the operations of Exeter coach station, one of the busiest in the country at the time. I was amazed at the number of services that operated through the station, especially during the summer months.

The Coach Station was staffed initially by four inspectors at the time, increasing to six in later years, and an additional ex Associated Motorways inspector on Saturdays. A chart room was on site for Royal Blue Express Services up to the middle ‘seventies, after which time National Travel controlled loadings. Duplicate vehicles would operate to Victoria Coach Station, London, and other destinations on a Friday to return on Saturdays, many of these utilising private operators in the South West such as Bow Belle of Devon, Turners of Chulmleigh, Terraneau and Geens of South Molton, Webbers of Blisland and many others. NBC operators such as Grey Cars and Greenslades were also regulars on weekend duties. Fridays were adequately covered by these duplications. Departures to London and Bournemouth were at 0820, 1020, 1250, 1430 and to Bournemouth at 1730. At 2330 Yelloways had their own departures on services X5, X15, X35, X65 to the Potteries, Manchester and Northern towns.
It was at this time that National Travel (South West) was formed, later to become National Express. Passengers travelling North would board the Black & White coaches to Cheltenham for connections leaving there in early afternoon. On Saturdays services were similar although carrying much higher numbers of passengers. These were augmented by through services run by Grey Green from Suffolk and East London ,South Coast Express, Ribble services from Blackpool and Liverpool, United from Newcastle upon Tyne, South West Clipper from Yorkshire and Eastern and Western Scottish from Edinburgh and Glasgow, all terminating in the Torbay area. Saturday night services from Exeter were quite considerable. It was possible to leave Exeter at 2330-2400 and travel to nearly anywhere in the country. Both Friday night and Saturday night services were loaded with passengers from South Devon and Cornwall, the vehicles having operated westwards during the afternoon.
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  Travelling the Westcountry by Bus - Sixty Years Apart -  Brian Thompson (Member 81) began his trip at Weymouth in WN52. The next two issues followed him around the south west peninsula as far as Barnstaple. In this concluding account of his journey, he now travels back home to Weymouth. Thursday 22nd August 2013 was day eleven of my journey and I join Filer’s service 310 for the 08.50 departure from Barnstaple to Lynton, worked by Optare saloon MX57CBV.

My early start meant I could not use my bus pass so had to pay £2-85 fare, which sixty years ago was half-a-crown (2/6d or 12½p). Southern National had two separate garages in this small town, on opposite sides of the road and one of them still exists as a car repair business.

In 1953 we had arrived in this place aboard Bristol JO5G 170.

Going down the 1880 cliff railway to Lynmouth cost £2-30 today compared with two old pennies in 1953 when bulldozers were still at work following the previous year’s disastrous floods. It was quite a surprise to see Volvo B10M ‘cabriolet’ belonging to Quantock Motor Services waiting to work the route across the edge of Exmoor and through Porlock to Minehead. Best described as “something completely different”, this vehicle, registered R928XVM, carries a modified Alexander body with open seating at the rear. Advertised as ‘England’s prettiest bus service’, with stunning views of the dramatic scenery along the Bristol Channel coast, I caught the 11.00 departure on this service 300 and as we climbed up through Countisbury I could see the cottage home of Ted Lethaby, my driver on this route in 1953 when the vehicle was Western National Bedford OB 436.

Alexander bodied Volvo B10M R928XVM suitably adapted for the scenic route that took Brian from from Lynmouth to Minehead [B Thompson]. In 1953 Duple bodied Bedford OB 436 (DOD534) had done the honours[CPC]. On arrival at Minehead Brian snapped former Western National Bristol LDL 1936 (VDV753) taking on passengers for the Exmoor Explorer run by Quantock Motor Services.

Upon reaching Minehead I observed former Western National Bristol LDL6G 1936 (VDV753) being used on Exmoor excursions. It is now an open topper carrying the name Sir Humphry Davy.

In 1953 Stuart Shelton and I had travelled direct from Minehead to Bridgwater on a new Western National Bristol KSW6B 1858, but today there are no buses connecting these towns, so I had to go via Taunton on service 28. First Wright bodied Volvo saloon 60913 left on time at 14.30 but on approaching Carhampton we came up behind a sister vehicle that had broken down. The lady driver, stuck in first gear, had been able to reach a layby but couldn’t report the matter because there was no mobile phone signal. About a dozen stranded passengers joined my bus, one irate woman heard to say “I’m glad I don’t travel by bus very often”. We left the lady driver to await assistance and a bit further on my driver stopped an oncoming colleague to report the breakdown, the two buses holding up traffic in both directions while they spoke to each other in the middle of the road
Filers Travel Optare Solo MX57CBV carried Brian from Barnstaple to Lynton on 22nd August 2013 [B Thompson].   The Southern National garage in Lee Road, Lynton, seen during company owned days, and still very much the same today as a motor repair garage.
Alexander bodied Volvo B10M R928XVM suitably adapted form the scenic route that took Brian from Lynmouth to Minehead   Brian will never forget the ride on the Stagecoach Optare Versa 25253 (WA09KWK) which took him from Chard to Yeovil with much accompaniment from a passenger
  Scottish Independence - Before you begin to think WHOTTs NEWS is turning to the political and abandoning the westcountry, it must be admitted that this article was inspired by the upcoming referendum for Scottish independence. It is a tacit reminder that politics did influence a major change in the bus and road haulage industry when, on 1st January 1969, much of it became Nationalised. It all came as a result of the 1968 Transport Act, enacted on 18th November that year, when the National Freight Corporation, the National Bus Company and the Scottish Transport Group were officially born. Notice that, even 45 years ago, Scotland was being treated in a different manner to the rest of Britain.
At the stroke of the pen, hundreds of companies became part of the above three. Some had already been part of large groups anyway, such as Tilling and BET, and others were of humble existence. Not all could be described as operators, for among the list were utility companies that had strong connections with the transport world. Let’s take a look at Scotland first. The largest ingredient taken over there was the Scottish Transport Group, itself created out of some former BET and Tilling companies. The STG contributed 4,700 buses and coaches and the Transport Holding Company’s securities of David MacBrayne Ltd which had 136 buses and coaches plus nineteen ships. Another portion came from the securities held by British Railways in the Caledonian Steam Packet Co Ltd (14 vessels) and the ferry service between the Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin. The first full time Chief Executive of the STG was W M Little, former Chairman of the Scottish Bus Group.
Moving south of the border into National Bus Company territory the situation covering England and Wales was not dissimilar. Here 65 operating companies became part of NBC, drawn from the former Tilling and BET groups which together contributed 19,700 vehicles. Tilling subsidiaries had been controlled by the Transport Holding Company since 1963 and BET’s UK subsidiaries since 1967. The Tilling Group’s manufacturing subsidiaries of Bristol Commercial Vehicles Ltd and Eastern Coach Works Ltd were also transferred to NBC with 25% of the shares of these two companies still being retained by the British Leyland Motor Corporation. BLMC also retained 28.8% shares in the former Transport Holding’s Park Royal Vehicles Ltd, which also transferred to NBC.
The period leading up January 1969 must have been intensely busy for the company’s legal department as each operating company had inherited rights that had to be retained or rearranged to suit the new Act. Examples of this occurred in the creation of Passenger Transport Authorities that emerged from the municipally controlled operations of buses in larger cities. In these situations NBC had the obligation to co-operate with PTA executives in the re-organisation of services to the extent that in some instances it may involve the complete transfer of bus services from one to the other. Another interesting point in the Act was the removal of Traffic Commissioners within the PTA areas. The NBC had to be run on commercially viable lines and would have the power to voluntarily acquire other bus undertakings where they fitted in well with its own services.
The opportunity was also taken to remove some anomalies that existed with services in the Sheffield, Halifax, Huddersfield and Todmorden areas in which British Railways had an interest. These now became joint operations between NBC and the respective municipal transport undertakings.
A new headquarters building was constructed for NBC in New Street Square, London and its first part-time chairman was Mr A N Todd who had been a full time member of the Central Electricity Generating Board. Full time chief executive was T W H Gailey who had latterly been director of passenger planning at the Transport Holding Company and chairman of the Tilling Association. In 1958 he had been appointed caretaker general manager of the Western National and Southern National companies after the sudden death of its GM, B V Smith. Other directors were drawn from the constituent parties, including Mr Little from the STG who received no extra salary. Mr Gailey was also part-time member of the STG board.

Compilation of the minutes of March and June 2014 Trustee's Meeting

Report of the Annual General Meeting

Archive Update

Restoration Update

Royal Blue - Memories of a drivers wife

Dates for your diary

Future Activities


Overall advert C800 FRL is seen at Tavistock bus station in October 1998. ‘The Minibus Years’ contributor, Robert Smith, well known for not being partial to minibuses, was highly amused to see the partial defacement of the ‘FREE (B)US’ wording on the front!


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Web News 56


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