Yelloway Motor Services 1932-1988

On the 9th April 1932, Yelloway Motor Services Limited, emerged from the remnants of Holt Bros (Rochdale) Limited, who had been trading since 1915 but succumbed to financial difficulties in the depression of 1930.

A new board had been formed in 1931 to take over the business from the former owners, and, since many of the former Holt Bros vehicles had been repossessed by the creditors, the new company had to arrange to repurchase some of them.

In addition new vehicles were ordered, the first to arrive was a Vulcan Prince, which was delivered in time for the 1931 summer season. In 1932 the fleet continued to be modernised with the arrival of a number of new coaches.

An interesting feature of this period was the variety of liveries employed.

A Tilling-Stevens coach received a chocolate brown and burnt sienna livery; an AEC Regal was finished in an all-orange livery with cream relief; another AEC Regal carried a navy and light blue livery with cream relief, as did two subsequent Leyland TS4’s and the only delivery of the following year, a Leyland Cub.

It was not until 1935 that the Company made a return to the orange and cream livery that was to form the basic livery for the remainder of its independent life.

The next major obstacle to the company came in the Traffic Courts. The introduction of the 1930 Road Traffic Act took licensing out of the hands of local authorities and placed them with the Traffic Commissioners, who had the task of deciding which operators were entitled to run which route.

This led to many strange decisions, and annoyance amongst some of the more established undertakings when licences were denied.

Yelloway had been granted licences to operate their London service from the Fylde Coast and from Manchester (with a connecting feeder service from Rochdale via Shaw, Oldham and Hollinwood), but licences were not approved for the section via Blackburn, Accrington and Rossendale.

Eventually, however, through the persistence of their directors, most of the former pick-up points were licensed.

Yelloway was also granted operating licences for the service to Torquay, which were denied the large combine operators.

As a result they were approached by North Western Road Car Company over a possible sale, but terms could not be agreed and the company remained independent. Subsequently both Red & White and Ribble offered to purchase the company, but once again terms could not be agreed.

In 1932, approval was given for the continued operation of the Rochdale to Manchester express that had started in November 1927, although certain protective fares had to be applied and Chadderton had to be dropped as a stopping place.

By 1937, Yelloway was providing travel facilities for passengers from West Yorkshire to destinations in the southwest, connecting services being provided by Ripponden & District through Halifax, Sowerby Bridge and Ripponden to Oldham where they joined the Devon bound coaches.

The onset of World War II caused the curtailment of a number of services, including the London express, which was suspended for the duration.

Contract work was undertaken to the A. V. Roe works in Chadderton and resulted in a number of additional vehicles being drafted into the fleet, including a Daimler CWG double-decker, used on the Rochdale to Manchester service, which continued to run throughout the war.

Due to extra wartime traffic, this route proved to be more profitable now than it had been in prewar years. The Traffic Commissioners temporarily approved additional stopping places, including Chadderton, which had been denied in the 1932 licensing.

In 1944, one of the board members, Maurice Edwards, who had helped to finance the restructuring of the new company, indicated his desire to dispose of his stake.

In order that no additional borrowing was undertaken, which may have put the company into debt; it was decided to dispose of the Manchester to Rochdale service.

On the 18th June 1944, the service was sold to Manchester, Rochdale and Oldham Corporations, along with a number of vehicles.

Yelloway Motor Services now awaited the cessation of hostilities and the opportunity to concentrate on the nationwide express network it had built up.

Following the onset of peacetime, Yelloway found itself coping with the demands of families re-united for the first time in years and seeking the pleasures of the coastal resorts and the countryside.

A postwar travel boom followed, leaving many operators, Yelloway included, ill equipped to deal with it. Yelloway was one of the consortium of operators that formed Trans-United Ltd, to act as a central purchaser and supplier for the members.

An offshoot of this company was Trans-United Coachcraft Ltd, which was to construct new coach bodies, initially for members of the consortium, but later for other operators, until demand fell in the 1960’s and the business closed.

A third company Trans-United Travel Agency Ltd was set up to deal with the administration of the member companies.

New vehicles were in short supply and Yelloway had to resort to re-bodying a number of vehicles to improve their appearance.

It was 1947 before new vehicles began to arrive. Eight Leyland PS1’s and four Bedford OB coaches were added to the fleet, with similar vehicles arriving over the next few years. By 1954 AEC had become the favoured chassis, and remained the standard for over 15 years.

In 1947, Yelloway acquired the Creams (Lancashire) Ltd operation of Brierley Brothers, which was based in Rochdale, along with the tours and excursions licences and an express route to North Wales from Rochdale and Oldham.

Creams remained a subsidiary of Yelloway for a number of years. The North Western Road Car Company made another approach to the company about its possible purchase, but once again terms could not be agreed and subsequently Yelloway was accepted as a major express operator in its own right.

In 1955 Holts of Oldham Ltd was purchased. This business had been set up by the original founders of Holt Bros (Rochdale) Ltd because of licensing difficulties in Oldham and, although at one time it had been planned to merge the two operations this had never been done and the Oldham company had continued to trade separately.

Blue Bird Tours of Hollinwood was also acquired, including excursions licences from the Oldham area and a number of express services, including a Hyde to Cleveleys route, which was retained, although the Oldham to Market Drayton service was sold to the North Western Road Car Company.

During the same year Yelloway was involved with Ribble, North Western, Standerwick and Lancashire United in setting up the Fylde Coast Services Pool. These arrangements enabled a greater utilisation of the coaches of Pool members and better facilities for passengers.

In 1959 Yelloway acquired three more operators, taking over the businesses of the Rossendale Division Carriage Company, Johnston Bros (Middleton) Ltd, and Merriway Tours Ltd.

Among the licences acquired were those for a summer weekends only express service to North Wales and the operation of coaches for Burnley FC home matches from Bacup to the Turf Moor ground.

Towards the end of the 1960’s vehicle policy had standardised on the AEC Reliance chassis with Burlingham Seagull bodywork, although the acquisition of Burlingham by Duple in 1959 saw Yelloway order the Donnington-style bodywork on the next four coaches, but these did not find favour with the company and they switched to Harrington with the next order of coaches.

In 1961 Yelloway acquired the excursion licences of Turner Brothers (Todmorden) Ltd, and in 1964 the excursion licences of Holt & Sons, of Whitworth were acquired. No vehicles were involved in either case and both operators continued in the coaching business.

Kershaws Luxury Tours of Rochdale was acquired in 1967 and operated as a subsidiary until 1971, when it was merged with Yelloway. The Creams subsidiary had been merged into the parent company in 1970.

In 1968 the associated businesses of Makinson (Manchester) Ltd., and North Manchester Motor Coaches Ltd., were acquired.

North Manchester held a licence for a Middleton and North Manchester express service to North Wales and this was transferred to Yelloway for inclusion in the Fylde Coast Pool. Both companies were operated as subsidiaries for a time but they were finally merged into the Yelloway fleet in 1973 and 1975 respectively.

National Travel made an approach to purchase the company in 1975, but yet again the company remained independent.

In 1976 an agreement was formulated between National Travel and Yelloway whereby the latter relinquished its London express routes and in return National Travel’s interests in the Fylde Coast Pool were handed over to Yelloway, which became the sole operator on the routes.

A number of joint operations to Devon were also relinquished in favour of Yelloway. Other services passed from Yelloway to National Travel and this helped to concentrate the Yelloway operations into distinct areas.

This rationalisation helped to maintain the profitability of Yelloway in the face of falling passenger numbers due to cheap foreign holidays and the continued rise of the private motorcar.

In 1980, now that production of the AEC Reliance had ceased, Yelloway were forced to find alternative chassis.

A number of Leyland Leopard chassis were purchased over the next two years, but experiments with demonstration vehicles continued in an effort to find a new standard coach for the eighties. In 1982 two of the new Leyland Tiger models were purchased.

On the 5th July 1985, following the retirement of Managing Director Mr. Hubert Allen, who had been with the company for nearly 58 years, Yelloway was sold to Carlton PSV Sales Ltd, the UK agents for Neoplan. This marked the beginning of the decline and final demise of the company.

Following de-regulation in 1986, Yelloway registered several stage carriage services in the Greater Manchester area and won contracts from the PTE. As a result an assortment of ageing second-hand double-deckers joined the fleet.

In 1987, ATL Holdings, the parent company of Carlton PSV Sales, purchased National Travel (East) and by early 1988 most of the Yelloway coach fleet had been transferred to the new acquisition along with the relevant operations.

In return another motley collection of second-hand vehicles came to Yelloway with which to operate the stage carriage services that had been registered following de-regulation in October 1986.

By late 1988 Yelloway Motor Services had become a run down local service operator. Eventually maintenance problems with the ageing fleet caused the Company to suffer a series of prohibitions on its vehicles.

Greater Manchester PTE cancelled contracts on several services because of poor performance.

West Yorkshire PTE also cancelled contracts for the same reason and, on the 24th November 1988 it was placed under the control of Crosville Motor Services, which had just been purchased by ATL Holdings, along with the remaining contracts.

The Weir Street depot was closed and sold for redevelopment and Yelloway Motor Services passed into transport history, a victim of de-regulation greed and mismanagement in little under three years, despite a long and illustrious history.

Most of the remaining Yelloway fleet went for scrap, apart from four new Metroriders, which were transferred to Crosville. Sadly Crosville Motor Services was to tread the same path shortly afterwards.

In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
The Yellow Road (A History of Yelloway Motor Services Ltd.), Judith and Peter Deegan (Pride Books 1982); Yelloway of Rochdale, by David Slater (Buses Extra 22 1982); Crosville MS 2 (Duncan Roberts, NBC Books 1997); Buses (various editions 1982-1989).

Holt Bros Ltd 1912-1932 | Bus Fleet List 1912-1988 |