Black & White
Also in this occasional series: Red & White
Black & White Motorways Ltd was unique in British coaching – no other operator of its size enjoyed such an extensive network of express services, radiating from its Cheltenham HQ to all points of the country.
Black & White itself dates back to 1926. For many, though, Black & White was synonymous with Associated Motorways, whereas in fact Black & White’s Cheltenham coach station was merely the hub of one of Britain’s two leading express coaching “pools” established in 1934 (the other being London Coastal Coaches).
Other than Black & White, the Associated Motorways pool involved Midland Red, Bristol Greyhound, Royal Blue, Red & White and United Counties. To these august names were later added Crosville, Eastern Counties and Lincolnshire. Yelloway operated in partnership.
As a company jointly owned by BTC and BET, Black & White passed in 1969 to the National Bus Company. The Associated Motorways name survived the early years until first the adoption of a plain white livery and National name in 1972, followed a year later by the National Express brand.
Here’s some facets of Black & White and its Associated Motorways:
- It was possible to interchange at Black & White’s Cheltenham St Margaret’s Road coach station for London, the Midlands, Southern England Wales, the North and the West Country.
- Coaches would arrive from mid-morning to facilitate an interchange that linked countless settlements, many of which were not on the rail network.
- Then, once a day at a little before 1400 hrs, drivers would start their engines prior to the famous bell signalling a mass departure. Some would even nudge forward impatiently.
- At 1400 hrs, local roads would at once become impassable, as large numbers of express coaches moved off through the town.
- The area was even busier on summer Saturdays, with additional services and duplicates. It was busiest still during rail disruptions.
- 1400 hrs was neither the beginning nor the end of the story. There were other departures throughout the day on the busier services, generally at 1100 hrs and 1630 hrs. Summer Saturday mornings saw a 0230 hrs departure.
- Under National Express, the 1400 hrs departure first became 1430 and then 1500 hrs.
- National Express coaches continued to show Black & White on its Cheltenham vehicles till 1978, when all the constituent parts of National Travel South West instead received the South West name, with its HQ still at Cheltenham. This then went to Manchester under National Travel West before eventually coming under local control prior to Bristol Omnibus’ successor the Cheltenham & Gloucester Omnibus Co managing the operation.
- With regular headway journeys made possible by a motorway network, inevitably National Express focused on Bristol and Birmingham as hubs, by-passing Cheltenham. Cheltenham began to decline in importance, before finally closing in the 1980s. It's now a car park.