Webpage created: June 18, 2017
Webpage updated: January 03, 2022
MOTOR BUS SERVICES IN OLD PLYMOUTH
WESTERN NATIONAL OMNIBUS COMPANY Ltd
On Tuesday August 3rd 1928 the Royal Assent was given to the Great Western Railway (Road Transport) Act, which allowed the Great Western Railway to take a share in motor bus companies operating within their territory. As a result, on Thursday February 28th 1929 the GWR and the National Omnibus & Transport Company jointly formed the Western National Omnibus Company.
Likewise, the Southern Railway and National formed the Southern National Omnibus Company, under the terms of the Southern Railway (Road Transport) Act 1928.
Thus on Monday December 31st 1928 the Great Western Railway stopped its road motor services to Bigbury, Dartmouth and Noss Mayo, the last having been running only since January 2nd. From Tuesday January 1st 1929 these services were operated by National until Western National came formally into being. Although the Company was formed on February 28th 1929, that formal agreement between the parties was not concluded until April 17th. The new Company held its inaugural meeting on May 13th 1929, which is taken as the date Western National commenced business.
A few days later, on May 23rd 1929, the fledgling Western National took over Palace Saloons and their routes to Plymstock and Hooe.
The new Company had some competition on the services to Torquay although it probably did not suffer much damage from the one from Plymouth to Penzance via Tavistock. The business responsible for both of those was Messrs Hopper & Berryman, of Plympton. Nor would they have suffered greatly from the Superways service to London operated by Messrs Askew & Sons.
To liven up what was fast becoming, an anti-competitive situation, Mr Clarence Mumford of Messrs W Mumford Ltd bought out Hopper & Berryman, which he re-styled as HB Buses Ltd on March 19th 1929.
In April an attempt to extend the services to Tamerton Foliot and Saint Budeaux down to Plymouth's Barbican was turned down by Plymouth City Council but they did allow the Eggbuckland service to run via Notte Street and Princess Square to Millbay Station. However, they were not allowed to stop at Saint Andrew's Cross on the outward journey in order to prevent local passengers using it instead of the Corporation's own trams and buses.
By now the competition between Western National and HB Buses on the Plympton road was fierce and causing concern. Plymouth City Council introduced new regulations to curtail the running of competitive services at practically the same time within the City which forced Western National, HB Buses and Devon General, who were all running between Plymouth and Torquay, to come to a joint agreement on a timetable. Thus by an agreement dated July 31st 1929, there were to be 22 journeys each way on that route. From Monday August 12th 1929 HB Buses were to run six daily return trips while the remainder were to be shared equally between Western National and Devon General. Another important decision was to increase the journey time in order to reduce speeding.
A new innovation by Western National was the introduction on Wednesday August 14th 1929 of a post box on buses operating the Kingsbridge to Plymouth service.
On January 1st 1930 the Western National Omnibus Company Ltd introduced their new Route Netowk.
This was quickly followed by the announcement, on Saturday February 1st 1930 that Western National had purchased the site of Messrs Davey, Sleep & Company's premises in Laira Bridge Road with the intention of erecting a new central garage for their vehicles and offices.
Plans had been drawn up by Mr L F Vanstone of Tavistock Road, Plymouth, to provide immediate garage space for 60 buses on 1¾ acres of the site. This would include the most modern machinery for the maintenance of the vehicles, including a washer. The office accommodation would stretch for 131 feet along the main road and would include, on the first floor, a clubroom, messroom and kitchen. Petrol tanks to hold 5,000 gallons of fuel would be provided.
Messrs Maddock's Concrete Productions Ltd, whose works were on the Embankment, were to supply the special concrete blocks that would be used to fill the steel frame of the building. The front would be of cream-coloured terracotta, with black faience plinth. Messrs A N Coles & Son Ltd were to carry out the construction work, the foundations of which had been already started, and the buildings were expected to be ready for occupation in May.
The Road Traffic Bill received the Royal Assent on August 1st 1930 and was to come into operation from November 1st. One of its provisions was the abolition of the existing 20mph speed limit.
By now HB Buses had become the Southern General Omnibus Company and they had realised their 'time was up'. The Western National timetable for March 1931 included their services under the heading of "Operated by the Southern General Omnibus Company Ltd" and on March 30th 1931 the agreement was signed for them to merge with Western National. In the December timetable the routes were allocated new route numbers and the reference to South General was dropped.
Until now standing passengers had not been allowed on buses but from Tuesday July 14th 1931 they were allowed to carry a maximum of five.
There was a brief spell of competition when in October 1931 the Embankment Motor Company applied for a licence to operate a service from Plymouth to Buckland Monachorum and Dousland.
On Sunday February 7th 1932 it was announced that a new sign headed "Which Bus Shall I Take?" had been erected at Saint Andrew's Cross to direct passengers to the multitude of bus stops in the City Centre.
As from midnight on Wednesday April 5th 1933 the Dousland and Buckland Monachorum services operated by Embankment Motor Company were transferred to Western National.
Following the destruction of the centre of Plymouth during the March Blitz of 1941, the terminus of Western National services was moved to Moor View Terrace, off Alexandra Road, at Mutley. This did not last long and as from Wednesday April 2nd 1941 their bookings, enquiries and parcels offices were at Sherwell Arcade, Tavistock Road. A "Special Traffic Notice" was published that gave the new routes of services to and from Sherwell Arcade to Laira Bridge, Crabtree and Plympton, and Mutley Plain northwards, as well as a list of services that that would be temporarily suspended.
One interesting move during 1941 was the instigation of a system of registering passengers who intended to use the 95/95A and 96/96A services into Plymouth before 9am.
From August 31st 1941 the terminus reverted to Saint Andrew's Cross and Notte Street.
Another consequence of the early days of the Blitz was that Western National were forced to hire vehicles from other companies in order to maintain services. Local tour operators, such as the Embankment Motor Company, were unable to run excursions during the War so they readily gave up their vehicles for a steady income. But in addition, the Company were lent three 54-seat double-deckers by their Tilling colleagues at the Brighton and Hove Omnibus Company. These were painted in London red so stood out amongst the normal Western National green fleet. By August 1941 they were in use on the services between Plymouth and Crownhill, Plympton and Plymstock.
Early in November 1941 Plymouth Transport applied to the Regional Transport Commission for permission to extend their routes 17 and 27 to and from Crownhill. Western National, who already operated services to Crownhill, naturally objected. The end result was the the Commission suggested the formation of a joint services committee.
This suggestion was taken up and a meeting took place between the management and officers from the Council on December 29th 1941 as a result of which the Plymouth Joint Services Agreement was executed on November 2nd 1942.
The Second World War was still in progress, of course, and the black-out was still in force. This made driving very hazardous and Western National placed the following advert in the Western Evening Herald as a warning: