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  WEB NEWS 64  

In this issue of WHOTT Web News we take a brief at the Associated Motorway and Exeter Coach Station

  Associated Motorways - In WN62 we described the early development of Black & White and the creation of Associated Motorways. The story now continues on to the mid ‘fifties and will be concluded in the next issue.

Statistics for 1938 showed a gross revenue of £176,854-15-5d and mileage accumulated by member companies at 3,828,619 to which another 225,503 miles was hired in. The 1939 timetables were produced in area booklets and were very elaborate in detail. A tremendous amount of work must have gone into the compilation of these and much outside advertising helped to cover its cost. A delicate situation arose on 1st May 1939 when Royal Blue road crews called a strike. The cause of the strike was outside the control of Royal Blue itself so it was considered unnecessary to penalise the company in the allocation of revenue from the pool. To overcome this the 14-day stoppage was lifted out of the year end statistics and a 50-week pool and a 2-week pool inserted instead.

The outbreak of war on 3rd September was not entirely unexpected and the management had been preparing measures should an emergency situation arise. Contact between members was constant during the critical days and on 7th September an emergency meeting was called and issued the following orders:-

1) All night services to be suspended forthwith
2) From 10th September suspension of all services falling within the ‘summer period’. This amounted to 39 services.
3) Suspension of all Birmingham – Weston super Mare and Cardiff – Blackpool services, and all others which in character cater for the holiday trade. This included Inclusive Holiday Tours

Petrol rationing was introduced on 23rd September and some member companies had large scale vehicle requisitions placed on them which prevented them from carrying out their full obligations to the pool. The management committee next prepared operating programmes for the winter 1939/40 which the Traffic Commissioners eventually assented to a programme representing a reduction in mileage of some 26%. They had, themselves, been redesignated Regional Transport Commissioners with the areas being re-arranged and renamed. Interestingly, despite an overall fall in traffic, the numbers of people travelling in the months of October, November and December increased month by month and continued to do so until June 1940. This was largely due to families relocating from danger areas to safer havens.

Between then and October 1942 the management made huge efforts at maintaining the services, even in skeleton form, in order to protect their position with the Commissioners. No fewer than 34 distinct occasions when alterations, amendments and partial suspensions to services were made until 17th October 1942 when all remaining services ceased entirely. William Combes, Secretary and Chief Officer of the company, neatly sums up this period by saying “This bare chronicle of events contains nothing of the intense atmosphere in which these negotiations proceeded, nor does it take account of all of the consultations, conferences, written and verbal communications which went on uninterruptedly throughout the long and difficult times between September 1939 and October 1942. For none had any thought other than the National interest should prevail, the issue before Associated Motorways was this – were express services to be swept aside as being of no significance nationally or were they to be regarded as of use and purpose in conditions of War? The fact that even on a fast reducing scale a network was kept in being for more than three years of war time was perhaps no mean achievement on the part of the management committee who had the heavy task of all these negotiations. More significantly, the experience revealed a keen appreciation of the useful functions of the services by many in authority.”

During the height of the turmoil more inconvenience occurred on 11th December 1940 when enemy action destroyed the Black & White offices. In the absence of any fire or water damage, a great deal of office records were rescued from the debris. Thereafter meetings were held in the offices of Cheltenham District Traction Company at 11 Pittville Street. Only three new vehicles had been delivered during this period, Duple bodied Bristol L6Gs in 1940, similar to those that had arrived in the previous year. It would be another eight years before new vehicles were needed. Another consequence of the war was the cancellation of the contract for publishing the area timetables. Clearly they had to be continually altered but, in any case, the volume of paper involved placed a decision by the publishing house to cancel the arrangements and submit a bill for £6000. The production costs of the timetables had been covered by advertising but, now being curtailed, placed a huge liability on the company. Eventually a figure of less than £1000 was settled.
Duple bodied Bristol coaches delivered in 1948 The centre entrance of the Willowbrook bodied Leyland Tigers offered a prime front seat experience for passengers as can be seen in this view of vehicle 156 (LDD997), one of ten similar vehicles purchased in 1952 The solitary Willowbrook bodied Leyland Tiger 159 (MDF484) delivered in 1953 had four extra seats, starting the drift towards higher seating capacities

Despite all the inconvenience the early war years had imposed on the company, revenue had actually increased, that for the full accounting year of 1941 being the highest at £196,741 without a single increase in fares in ten years.

Two years of express coach service inactivity had been endured by the time a concerted effort was made towards resuming the network. The first talks took place at 88 Kingsway on 26th October 1944 and a resolution passed that an application be made to the Regional Transport Commissioners for the resumption of all services as soon as man power and vehicles were available. The application went forward on 10th November but the response was variable and considered not yet ripe to recommence operations. It allowed time for a breather and based on the assumption that reinstating of services may not be far off, but even the end of hostilities in May 1945 didn’t see a wheel turning immediately. Meanwhile the matter of a revised fares structure ought to be considered for the first time so a joint application was made to the Regional Commissioners and the case heard at Middlesex Guildhall on 21st January 1946. They approved a general increase in all fares of 16⅔ percent.

A skeleton set of services restricted to one journey per day commenced on 3rd June 1946 covering fourteen routes which in the west country saw coaches reaching Ilfracombe, Paignton and Bournemouth from London and Cheltenham. On the same day Royal Blue were able to introduce their own services outside the Associated Motorways pool, bringing Bournemouth – Trowbridge and London – Penzance into choice of destinations. During the winter of 1946/7 some cutting back happened due to seasonal demand but by the summer of 1947 a full network had be re-established. A further adjustment in fares was considered, effectively raising them to 25% more than the prewar level.

Since the beginning of the Associated Motorways pool all offices and agencies had the liability to account for ticket sales. The management felt that London Coastal Coaches, themselves a main booking organisation, ought to fall in line with this method instead of the member companies having to apply to Coastal for receipts. There was some initial resistance to this but in time the change was effected.

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Exeter Coach Station - The Mayor of Exeter, the Right Worshipful Patrick Spoerer, officially opened Exeter’s new bus and coach station on Thursday 16th July 1964. It had actually come into use eleven days earlier, on Sunday 5th, after a swift and almost flawless move from the previous bus and coach station in Paul Street, a site now occupied by the Harlequins shopping mall and a multi-storey car park. Paul Street descends from Queen Street to the junctions of North Street, Bartholomew Street and St David’s Hill, so to overcome buses and coaches being parked on an awkward slope, it was arranged in three stepped levels, the top two for buses and the lowest one for coaches and taxis. The land had been reclaimed in 1929 following slum clearance and the demolition of tightly packed cottages and courtyards. Prior to that Exeter had no real bus station, with buses congregating in the vicinity of London Inn Square and coaches picking up in side streets.

The move to Paris Street was anxiously awaited and the opportunity to create a terminal facility fit for present and future demands was not ignored by the City architect, Mr H B Rowe. The City Engineer, John Brierley, was responsible for landscaping and perimeter work. The Helical Bar & Engineering Company executed the reinforced concrete frame, the main building work was undertaken by Staverton Contractors Ltd of Totnes and foundations and site preparation was carried out by Ruddock & Meighan. Planting of shrubs by the city council’s own Parks Department completed the project.
Top level of Paul Street bus station in 1954, ten years before it closed. Exeter Corporation Leyland TD5 (EFJ241) is just arriving on service 4, or has the conductor already wound the blind on for its next departure? All the other vehicles belong to Devon General, including their Morris parcels van (MUO296) An early morning view of the fairly empty Paris Street bus station on 13th March 1966
A busy summer Saturday at Paris Street coach station in 1969. Passengers mingle with rows of many coaches, several of which are hired in to duplicate scheduled Royal Blue journeys

During the ‘fifties there were growing concerns about the way Paul Street worked and the unsatisfactory need for passengers to walk across the bus apron to reach the right service. The first site considered was a large area in front of St David’s Station. Here it would also serve as an excellent hub for bus, coach and train passengers, but road access to it was not ideal and the total site area insufficient for anticipated expansion. By 1962 Paris Street had been identified as a more suitable place. The area, apart from a small church and other odd buildings, was largely a bombed wasteland that since the war had become a roughly surfaced car park. Here again the site was sloping down from Bampfylde Street to the new roundabout at the bottom of Paris Street which formed the intersection of the proposed inner bypass to the south of the city centre. This road, originally intended to be a dual carriageway throughout, remained a single carriageway called Western Way. Original plans in the WHOTT archive show that there would be two levels for buses and coaches but the lower level would also include a vehicle servicing area for routine maintenance, such as brake adjustments and first aid repairs while passengers relaxed in the cafeteria. Coach travel was at its peak and Exeter was an important changeover point for passengers travelling to and from London and Cheltenham, then switching to different destinations across Devon and Cornwall. Situated as it was, almost halfway between Penzance and the Metropolis, drivers too were changed over at Exeter and rested until their return journeys later in the day. With coach space being at a premium the servicing bay disappeared from the plan and anything needing more than a man with a spanner could handle was taken to Devon General’s garage in Blackboy Road. Later on the Corporation garage, much closer in Heavitree Road, was also used on occasions.




Ten Years Ago

Buses Illustrated

Mystery Photo

Wiltshire Moonrakers update

Future Activities

Former Bristol Omnibus Co Bristol RELL, DAE511K, new in 1972 with two doors and 44 seats, later converted single door with 50 sets. Following service with Badgerline from 1986 it passed through four other owners before being acquired by Denis Strange in 2004


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Web News 63

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Web News 65


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