Red & White Services

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Preserved Red & White Bristol MW-6G/ECW coach.

Red & White Services was a bus company operating in south east Wales and Gloucestershire, England between 1929 and 1978.

Red & White evolved into Red & White United Transport Ltd, formed in 1937, which owned bus and road freight companies in the United Kingdom and southern Africa. When the group's UK bus interests were sold to the British Transport Commission in 1950, the group changed its name to United Transport Company.

Early history[edit]

In 1922 John Watts of Lydney, Gloucestershire, started two bus companies. One, Gloucestershire Transport, ran local bus services around Lydney. The other, The Valleys Motor Bus Services, ran buses around Tredegar in South Wales. Both companies expanded rapidly by acquiring nearby operators. In 1926 the Lydney business adopted the name Gloster (Red & White) Services. By 1928, the companies were operating buses between Gloucester, Hereford and South Wales.

In 1929 John Watts formed Red & White Services Ltd to bring together the various bus companies he had formed or acquired.

In 1929 Red & White entered the long distance coach market, initially from Gloucester and between London and South Wales. In the early 1930s coach operators were acquired further afield, with services between London, Liverpool and Glasgow and between Cardiff and Blackpool. In 1934 Red & White was one of the founder members of the Associated Motorways consortium.

The company expanded rapidly during the 1930s, by now from new headquarters in Chepstow. It acquired several bus companies in the Swansea area and elsewhere in South Wales. In 1933 Red & White acquired the business of Red Bus Services of Stroud. Also in 1933 Red & White purchased All-British Travels Ltd. This company had been formed in 1930 by coach operators George Taylor of Chester, Alfred Harding of Birkenhead and J.W. Scott of Edinburgh, with sleeping partner Evan R. Davies, a solicitor in Pwllheli. Under the fleet name of 'All-British Line' the initial intention was to run express coach services to and from Liverpool and Llandudno to London via Taylor's Market Square car showroom in Chester and to operate a central London travel agency to advertise those services and the other coach services of the respective companies. This express coach service to and from London commenced on 14 April 1930. When Red & White purchased All-British Travels Ltd in January 1933, this included an option to purchase the final remaining All-British Line service between Liverpool and London which was operated by Taylor and which subsequently went ahead. George Taylor was paid £850 for the goodwill of the service and the All-British Line service between Liverpool and London ceased on 26 September 1933. Taylor continued in the coach excursion business and car trade in Chester up to 1972.

By 1937 Red & White and its subsidiaries were operating a fleet of over 400 buses and coaches. In that year Red & White United Transport Ltd was formed as a public company to hold the group's various interests. The group's operations in the Swansea area were brought together in 1939 in a new company, United Welsh Services Ltd. Later in 1939, the group bought Cheltenham District Traction Company, which ran town buses in Cheltenham.

Expansion continued even during the Second World War. In early 1944 the group bought Newbury & District, which ran buses in west Berkshire, and in 1945 it bought Venture Ltd, the main bus operator in Basingstoke, Hampshire. Also in 1945 it bought South Midland Motor Services of Oxford, which before the war had run express coach services between London, Oxford and Worcester.


Preserved Red & White Bristol RESL-6L/ECW bus in Bristol.

In 1950, to forestall compulsory acquisition by the post war Labour government, Red & White sold its UK bus and coach operations to the British Transport Commission. The group changed its name to United Transport Company, and continued to hold its interests in transport in Africa and in road freight transport in the UK. It was taken over by British Electric Traction in 1971.

The British Transport Commission transferred most of the English bus operations of Red & White to other recently nationalised companies:

  • Venture Ltd was transferred to Wilts & Dorset
  • Newbury & District was transferred to Thames Valley Traction
  • The management of South Midland was also transferred to Thames Valley Traction
  • The operations in the Stroud area were transferred to Bristol Tramways
  • Cheltenham District Traction Company was also transferred to Bristol Tramways

In return, the Forest of Dean services of Bristol Tramways were transferred to Red & White.

This left Red & White with its services in Monmouthshire, the Forest of Dean and the Glamorgan valleys. United Welsh was managed separately within the BTC.

In 1962 Red & White was transferred to the state-owned Transport Holding Company, and in 1969 to the National Bus Company.

In 1978 the National Bus Company merged the operations of Red & White into the neighbouring NBC operator Western Welsh, which became National Welsh or Cymru Cenedlaethol. During the MAP revisions in the early 80's National Welsh's operations in Chepstow and the Wye Valley became rebranded as Wyedean. After a time this was rebranded as Red & White, and the Red & White name returned to the Eastern parts of Wales. (MAP = "Market Analysis Project").


National Welsh was privatised in 1988. The company struggled financially and went into receivership in 1992 - the main example of the failure of a privatised bus company. National Welsh was broken up. Most of the National Welsh services were eventually acquired by Stagecoach. The name Stagecoach Red & White was used for a time, but Stagecoach subsequently split the operations: the Welsh operations became part of Stagecoach in South Wales, and the Forest of Dean operations became Stagecoach in Wye and Dean, part of Stagecoach West.

Surviving Vehicles[edit]

Around 18 ex-Red&White buses and coaches are known to still survive. Most are either stored in "as withdrawn" condition or have been restored and are now considered preserved. At the time of writing (Nov 2016) five of the restored vehicles are roadworthy, including: 1949 Guy Arab (reg. HWO 342); 1958 Bristol MW (reg. HWO 986); 1965 Bristol MW (reg. DAX 610C); 1966 Bristol MW (reg. JAX 117E) and 1968 Bristol RELH (reg. OAX 9F). Restoration is currently taking place on two vehicles: 1957 Bristol SC (reg. ONV 425) and 1965 Bristol RELL (reg. GAX 2C).

Also Bristol RESL (reg LAX 101E)is preserved

External links[edit]