Hereford Bus Station

Introduction

Hereford Bus Station (later known as County Bus Station) is located on the north-east side of the city off Commercial Road, and at its peak was one of the most significant departure points used by Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited (BMMO—Midland “Red” Motor Services). Unlike all other areas of BMMO operation all of the traffic offices for the Hereford area were located within the bus station, with Hereford (Friars Street) depot only being used for engineering work and overnight vehicle storage.

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Previous History

For well over one-hundred years the site had been home to the Hereford County Gaol. The original buildings were designed by John Nash (better known for his work in London with Marble Arch and Regent’s Park) and construction was completed by 1796. The main entrance fronted onto Commercial Road (known then as Bye Street) and had a flat roof specifically designed for public hangings. The Gaol closed in 1915 but continued to be used throughout World War I by the military for the detention of deserters.

The site passed to the County Council in February 1930, and the majority of the buildings were demolished. A new bus station was built on the site with the only remaining trace from the gaol being the building that became the bus station offices, and the high wall at the back of the site.

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Early Bus Station History

The main bus station opened in 1934 and was made up of five lanes of bus departure stands running parallel to Commercial Road, each with a row of shelters built from brick and asbestos sheets. Bus and coach services in Hereford were run by several main operators and each operator was allocated their own lane of bus stands, with BMMO taking the two lanes nearest the entrance. The BMMO timetable book for January 1935 still showed all departures in the City starting at St Peter's Square, so it is unclear exactly when the company started using the site.

A new cinema was built on Commercial Road in front of the bus station and this was opened by Associated British Cinemas in January 1938. The rear wall of this building backed on to BMMO’s part of the bus station and has become a key feature of many Midland Red photographs taken at the site.

The former Prison Governor’s House off Union Walk is the only building from the original prison complex that escaped demolition. When the bus station was built it was converted to offices and became home to all of BMMO’s traffic offices for Hereford operations, which were housed on the first floor along with a staff canteen. Initially the ground floor housed two travel shops, one for BMMO and the other for Red & White United Transport Limited. Public toilets, additional offices and a refreshments kiosk were also in the ground floor, and behind the building Red and White had a small garage which was used as an outstation.

The bus station offices were granted Grade-II listed building status by the government on Monday 22nd October 1973.

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Decline in use and the departure of Midland Red

Rural bus services went into sharp decline during the 1970s, and the Hereford area saw a large number of service cuts. In 1971, Red and White closed their outstation and with it their travel shop, with the BMMO shop becoming a booking agent for their services. Meanwhile the Midland Red services were gradually reduced with the Hereford vehicle allocation dropping from around 48 in the late 1960s to just 36 by the start of 1978.

The largest cuts came on Saturday 11th March 1978, when Midland Red introduced their “Wandaward” MAP scheme in Hereford. This saw the vehicle allocation at Hereford slashed to just 24, half that of a decade previous.

With their presence in Hereford drastically reduced Midland Red could no longer justify the expense of maintaining two sites in the city and closed all offices in the bus station on Saturday 24th February 1979. The few remaining services that still used the site, such as Service 420, were re-routed to depart from stands on the road at locations such as St Peter's Square at around the same time, thus ending 45-years of Midland Red’s association with the site.

Yeomans of Canon Pyon took control of the former Midland Red travel shop and for many years acted as a booking agent for Midland Red services, while the offices were later converted to residential flats. The number of lanes in the bus station was reduced to three and the vacant land became a public car park. New traffic offices were established by Midland Red at their Friars Street depot in a converted tyre store.

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Midland Red West in Hereford Bus Station

At the end of services on Saturday 5th September 1981, Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited ceased trading as a bus and coach operator and all operations in the Hereford area passed to the newly formed Midland Red (West) Limtied. Two weeks later on Monday 21st September 1981, Hereford became a trial area for deregulated bus services, meaning normal licensing procedures for bus services no longer applied and services were open to competition.

With an uncertain future and competition from a number of operators, Midland Red (West) Limited chose to focus their operations on profitable core Hereford City services, with only a small number of major routes outside of the city remaining. For many years the company didn’t use the bus station for any of their services, and it was only in the 1990s when services run under County Council contract specified the use of the bus station that Midland Red West buses were seen departing from the site.

On Saturday 23rd April 1988, Midland Red West Limited converted local Hereford City services to minibus operation, under the brand name “Hereford Hopper”. These local services continued to run from St Peter's Square (Shire Hall), but this became impractical when much of the City Centre was pedestrianised so a new bus station was established behind Tesco supermarket off Victoria Street. From Monday 4th December 1989, the original bus station off Commercial Road was renamed to “Country Bus Station” to help distinguish between the two sites, with the Tesco site becoming “Hopper Bus Station” from the same date.

In 1988 the original brick shelters were finally replaced by more modern items, and the bus station recieved a much needed refurbishment in 2001.

Midland Red West Limited renamed to First Midland Red Buses Limited on Friday 26th March 1999. FirstGroup continued to operate in the city until Saturday 5th September 2015, when they closed the Friars Street depot, and at this time all First Midland Red operation in the city were withdrawn. The bus station continues to be used by other operators.

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Midland “Red”
BMMO and MROC