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Service 420: Service History

Service 420 (1929–1974)

Operated by Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited

It is my understanding that Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited (BMMO—Midland “Red” Motor Services) started operating Service 420 between Hereford, Bromyard, and Worcester towards the very end of the 1920s, or possibly from early 1930.

By December 1930, Service 420 operated three return journeys between Hereford, Bromyard, and Worcester, on Mondays to Saturdays, all operated by Hereford depot. Departure times from Hereford (St. Peter’s Square) were 08:00, 12:15, and 16:00, with return journeys from Worcester (Angel Place) at 10:00, 14:00, and 1815.

Wednesdays and Saturdays were market days in both Worcester and Hereford so there were six return journeys between Worcester, Bromyard, and Hereford, with the extra journeys being operated by Worcester depot. There was also one additional Service 420 journey from Worcester to Hereford that ran via Bishops Frome, with this vehicle returning to Worcester as Service 417. On Saturdays only, there were also short-working journeys between Worcester and Whitbourne (Poswick Turn), and additional short-working evening journeys.

On Sundays, there were four return journeys between Worcester, Bromyard, and Hereford, but Whitbourne Schools were not served, and there was also one short-working return journey between Worcester and Knightwick. It is likely Hereford depot and Worcester depot operated two return journeys each on Sundays, but as they were timed to meet in Bromyard it is possible passengers were transferred and the buses returned to their home depots.

Thursday was Bromyard’s market day so in addition to the three full return journeys, several additional short-working journeys between Bromyard and nearby villages were operated. Service 422 also ran between Worcester, Bromyard, and Leominster on Thursdays, and this was run by Worcester depot and interworked with some of the short-working Service 420 journeys. Likewise, Service 414 ran on Thursdays between Worcester and Bromyard and this was also run from Worcester depot with the vehicle being used to operate short-working journeys on Service 420 and other routes on arriving in Bromyard. A third additional bus in Bromyard on Thursdays for local services was operated by Hereford depot and ran to and from Bromyard as a short-working Service 420.

Initially, buses started and terminated in Hereford at St. Peter’s Square (Shire Hall) but in 1934 a new bus station was opened on the north-east side of the city off Commercial Road and the route changed to start and terminate there. At the other end of the route, a new bus station in Newport Street, Worcester, opened in 1946 and the route then changed to terminate there.

Service 420 continued to operate during the Second World War at a reduced timetable, with most days only having three or four return journeys over the whole route, plus a few short-working journeys. Whitbourne lost almost all of their bus service with all journeys, except for a few on Saturday afternoons, running direct and the short-working journeys being withdrawn. After the war ended, the number of journeys increased and by 1949, Service 420 operated a two-hourly frequency Monday to Friday on the full route between Hereford, Bromyard, and Worcester, with the operation of the route being mostly by Hereford depot. The short-working journeys between Worcester and Whitbourne (Poswick Turn) also returned but these now ran as Service 421.

By the mid-1950s, extra buses were provided by Worcester depot on Saturdays to give an hourly frequency between 8am and 9pm on the whole route. Additionally, a Sunday service was offered with six full journeys in each direction with Hereford depot and Worcester depot working three each.

Until the late 1950s, the main road between Worcester and Bromyard ran through the village of Knightsford Bridge near the county border between Worcestershire and Herefordshire, and as the name would suggest, there was a bridge here which crossed the River Teme. The Talbot Inn (shown as “Talbot Hotel” on timetables) acted as the timing point and main stopping place for all buses passing through the village. The river bridge dated from 1884 having replaced a previous bridge on the same site, but it had not stood the test of time and by the mid-1950s a strict 7-ton weight limit was in force due to concerns about water erosion of the centre support pillar foundations. Buses were permitted to cross the bridge so were spared the lengthy diversion that was imposed on haulage traffic, but there was a catch. All passengers had to disembark and cross the bridge on foot, then once the bridge was clear of pedestrians the driver could very slowly take the empty bus over, reload the passengers and continue the journey.

By the start of 1957, a new bridge and connecting road were under construction at a site outside the village of Knightsford Bridge, some 300-yards downstream of the existing crossing. When these opened in August 1958 the old bridge was immediately closed and demolished, being replaced by a footbridge which still stands today. The new road bridge and access road bypassed the village and allowed BMMO to shave a minute off the running time, but this was probably little condolence to bus users in the village as they still had to cross the bridge on foot, but then had to walk another 300-yards down the old road to the replacement bus stop at Suckley Turn.

In September 1964, the last remaining section of the Worcester, Bromyard and Leominster Railway closed and BMMO introduced Service 379 as a replacement. While most journeys followed the narrow lanes linking villages that hitherto had railway stations, some journeys ran direct between Worcester and Bromyard along the Service 420 route and used the same fare tables as Service 420. This provided a small number of additional vehicles on that section of the route, but these were not shown as part of the Service 420 timetable, and by the end of 1970 all the direct Service 379 journeys had been withdrawn.

Bromyard bypass was built in 1967 but buses continued to use the Post Office as the main stopping place and timing point in the town. Later, when a number of roads in Bromyard became one-way the company was again forced to change the route and the main stopping place was moved to Pump Street which exits onto the bypass. For many years early morning buses calling at the Post Office would collect the mail and take it to the City. Presumably, this arrangement had already come to an end before stopping place moved.

Between 1947 and 1971, Service 422 was advertised as running between Worcester, Bromyard, and Leominster, but in reality, the service only ran between Bromyard and Leominster. Passengers using this service wishing to travel to or from places between Worcester and Bromyard were required to change buses at Bromyard Post Office and use Service 420 for that part of the route.

Route Summary

  • Aug 1929–Jun 1934
  • Worcester
  • Crown East
  • Cotheridge
  • Broadwas
  • Knightsford Bridge
  • Sapey Bridge
  • Whitbourne (Schools) 1
  • Bringsty
  • Bromyard
  • Stoke Lacy
  • Burley Gate
  • Withington March
  • Hereford (Shire Hall)
  • Jun 1934–Aug 1958
  • Worcester
  • Crown East
  • Cotheridge
  • Broadwas
  • Knightsford Bridge
  • Sapey Bridge
  • Whitbourne (Schools) 1
  • Bringsty
  • Bromyard
  • Stoke Lacy
  • Burley Gate
  • Withington March
  • Hereford (CBS)
  • Aug 1958–Mar 1974
  • Worcester
  • Crown East
  • Cotheridge
  • Broadwas
  • Knightwick
  • Sapey Bridge
  • Whitbourne (Schools) 1
  • Bringsty
  • Bromyard
  • Stoke Lacy
  • Burley Gate
  • Withington Marsh
  • Hereford (CBS)

1  Only certain journeys ran via Whitbourne.

Timetable Archive

420BMMODecember1930Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
June1944Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
October1949Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
June1957Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
May1963Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
March1971Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford

Service 420 (1974–1981)

Operated by Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited

On Monday 3rd December 1973, the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited (BMMO—Midland “Red” Motor Services) sold a number of depots in the Birmingham area to West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (WMPTE). As the company no longer operated local bus services in the City of Birmingham, the company name was changed to Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) on Friday 29th March 1974.

Service 420 continued to be operated between Worcester, Bromyard and Hereford without change to the route or timetable, but throughout this period vehicles were being repainted into the new National Bus Company (NBC) livery of “Poppy Red”.

Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) introduced their “Wandaward” MAP scheme in the Hereford area on Saturday 11th March 1978. This saw a number of services withdrawn and a number of rural services were renumbered with ‘H’-prefix route numbers, which had previously only been used for local Hereford services. At this time, short-working Service 420 Thursday evening journeys between Hereford and Bromyard were renumbered to Service H20, but all daytime journeys were still numbered Service 420.

With the declining number of services operated in and around Hereford, Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) closed their offices in Country Bus Station on Saturday 24th February 1979, and relocated all the local administration duties to Hereford depot. All bus services operated by the company also vacated the site in favour of various departure points around the City, with Service 420 now terminating back at St. Peter’s Square (Shire Hall), where it had started from in the late 1920s.

On Saturday 30th August 1980, as part of revisions to the “Wandaward” MAP scheme, the route for Service 420 changed between Hereford and Withington Marsh (Cross Keys), with all journeys now running via Withington, and one variation running via White Stone. From the same time Service 419 variation was introduced, which ran from Hereford to Withington (Cross Keys) over the old Service 420 route, then ran in the opposite direction to Service 420 via Withington to White Stone, Shucknall, and Newtown, before rejoining the Service 420 route at Burley Gate via the A417. The evening Service H20 journeys were also renumbered back to Service 420.

Initially there were four full return journeys between Hereford and Worcester operated as the new Service 419 variation, but by March 1981 this had been reduced to just one journey with the remainder reverting to running as Service 420. From the same time, all but one Service 420 journey ran via White Stone, and most journeys reverted to the original route out of Hereford, running via Ledbury Road rather than Commercial Road.

At the end of operations on Saturday 5th September 1981, Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) ceased trading as a bus and coach operator. Five new companies were created to take over operations with Midland Red (West) Limited assuming control of both Hereford depot and Worcester depot, and with them operation of Service 419 and Service 420.

Route Summary

  • Mar 1974–Feb 1979
  • Hereford (CBS)
  • Ledbury Road
  • Aylestone Hill
  • Withington March
  • Burley Gate
  • Stoke Lacy
  • Bromyard
  • Bringsty
  • Whitbourne
  • Knightwick
  • Broadwas
  • Worcester
  • Feb 1979–Aug 1980
  • Hereford (St Peters)
  • Ledbury Road
  • Aylestone Hill
  • Withington March
  • Burley Gate
  • Stoke Lacy
  • Bromyard
  • Bringsty
  • Whitbourne
  • Knightwick
  • Broadwas
  • Worcester
  • Aug 1980–Mar 1981
  • Hereford (St.Peters)
  • Commercial Road 1
  • Aylestone Hill
  • Withington 2
  • Withington March
  • Burley Gate
  • Stoke Lacy
  • Bromyard
  • Bringsty
  • Whitbourne
  • Knightwick
  • Broadwas
  • Worcester
  • Mar 1981–Sep 1981
  • Hereford (St.Peters)
  • Ledbury Road 3
  • Aylestone Hill
  • White Stone
  • Withington March
  • Burley Gate
  • Stoke Lacy
  • Bromyard
  • Bringsty
  • Whitbourne
  • Knightwick
  • Broadwas
  • Worcester

1  Certain off-peak journeys run via Ledbury Road and Folly Lane.
2  One journey towards Worcester runs via White Stone.
3  Certain journeys run via Commercial Road.

Timetable Archive

420MROCMay1978Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
August1980Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford

Service 420 (1981–1986)

Operated by Midland Red (West) Limited

Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) ceased trading as a bus and coach operator at the end of operations on Saturday 5th September 1981, and all bus services and the resources to operate them were divided among four newly formed companies. Both Hereford depot and Worcester depot passed to Midland Red (West) Limited, so the operation of Service 420 and it’s variation Service 419 was assumed by that company when it started trading on the following day.

Initially, the timetable was unchanged from that operated by Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC). All journeys ran direct between Worcester and Broadwas along the Bromyard Road, but from June 1982 the route changed to run via Bransford Road, Rushwick, and Claphill Lane, and journeys towards Hereford were rerouted to call Angel Place after departing Newport Street Bus Station. At the same time, there were minor changes to the timetable with running times being adjusted.

An early morning short-working journey of Service 419 between Newtown and Hereford was soon withdrawn, but otherwise, the number of journeys remained unchanged until privatisation five years later.

On Monday 22nd December 1986, the business and operations of Midland Red (West) Limited and Midland Red Coaches Limited were privatised and sold by the National Bus Company (NBC). The two companies were merged to form Midland Red West Limited (without the brackets around the word “West”). Midland Red West Limited continued to operate Service 419 and Service 420 to the same timetable, but it wasn't long before a number of changes were made.

Timetable Archive

420MRWSeptember1981Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
Spring1983Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
July1986Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford

Service 420 (1986–1999)

Operated by Midland Red West Limited

After privatisation, Service 420 underwent a number of changes as the new company experimented with ways to make improvements and keep the corridor profitable. This included a short-lived variation from Saturday 1st July 1989 to Friday 31st August 1990, which ran via Alfrick and Bransford between Knightwick and Worcester, as Service 421.

All of the full-length journeys between Hereford and Worcester were operated by Hereford depot, with only a few short journeys between Worcester and Bromyard being operated by Worcester depot, and this arrangement remained unchanged for many years.

On Monday 15th September 1997, Yeomans Canyon Travel started operating journeys on Service 420 in direct competition with Midland Red West Limited. Two off-peak journeys were run in each direction between Hereford and Worcester, 10-minutes in front of the Midland Red West bus. Yeomans quickly realised the majority of passengers were to be found on the Hereford to Bromyard section of the route, and on Monday 17th November 1997 they withdrew their Bromyard to Worcester working in order to add more journeys between Hereford and Bromyard. The competition came to an end in October 1999 when Yeomans withdrew their interest in Service 420.

Route Summary

  • Dec 1986–Mar 1999
  • Hereford (Shire Hall)
  • Whitestone
  • Withington
  • Withington March
  • Burley Gate
  • Stoke Lacy
  • Flaggoners Green
  • Bromyard
  • Bringsty
  • Whitbourne
  • Knightwick
  • Broadwas
  • Rushwick 1
  • Worcester

1  Certain journeys run direct via A44 Bromyard Road between Crown East and Worcester.

Timetable Archive

420MRWJuly1989Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
September1990Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
April1992Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
October1994Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
November1998Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford

Service 420 (1999–2015)

Operated by First Midland Red Buses Limited

In 1997, Midland Red West Limited had become part of FirstBus, and the company renamed to First Midland Red Buses Limited on Friday 26th March 1999. Service 420 continued to be operated unchanged by Hereford depot with a small number of short journeys between Worcester and Bromyard being operated by Worcester depot.

From Monday 3rd September 2001 an evening service was offered between Hereford and Bromyard when a new variation to Service 420 was introduced with funding from Herefordshire County Council. The new evening journeys ran as Service 418 from Hereford Country Bus Station via St. Peter’s Square, Ledbury Road, Lugwardine and Bartestree to White Stone, then ran over the same route as Service 420 to Bromyard. Journeys towards Bromyard departed Hereford at 18:45, 20:15, and 22:45 with return journeys departing Bromyard at 19:27 and 20:55.

In 2002, Central Government were allocating money to County Councils for them to expand bus services in their area. Herefordshire County Council used some of this money to partly fund Service 420 and increase the frequency to run once an hour in each direction. Under the same scheme, money was also provided to part-fund low-floor buses to be used on rural routes in Herefordshire and as a result, First Midland Red Buses Limited took delivery of four TransBus Enviro300 single-deck buses in January 2004. The four new vehicles were given fleet numbers 420–423 (soon renumbered to 67601–67604) and entered service at Hereford depot, but the situation did not last and on Sunday 5th September 2004 the contract for the additional journeys ended.

Herefordshire County Council invited tenders for a new contract to operate the journeys that were not run commercially by First and Bromyard operator David Morris (“DRM Bus”) offered to operate some of these on a commercial basis, and thus the frequency of Service 420 operated by First was reduced to run every two hours in each direction. Meanwhile, new rules restricting the maximum length of local bus services to 50 kilometres (approx 31 miles) forced First to shorten the route as it was too long, but only by less than a mile. This was done by moving the terminus in Hereford from St. Peter’s Square (Shire Hall Bus Station) to the Country Bus Station off Commercial Road, and by changing the route at Withington to run via Withies Road, no longer serving White Stone. The Service 419 variation running via Shucknall and Newtown was too long by several miles so this was withdrawn, and as a result of the cuts, one of the new buses bought to offer low-floor vehicles in Herefordshire became surplus to requirement at Hereford depot and moved to Worcester depot.

In September 2013 First Midland Red started operating additional full-length journeys on Saturdays only, and for the first time in many years, these were operated by Worcester depot. To save on the cost of training staff only four drivers at Worcester were given training for the Bromyard to Hereford section of the route, and these four drivers were responsible for all of Worcester’s working on the full route.

Route Summary

  • Mar 1999–Sep 2004
  • Hereford (Shire Hall)
  • Whitestone
  • Withington
  • Withington March
  • Burley Gate
  • Stoke Lacy
  • Flaggoners Green
  • Bromyard
  • Bringsty
  • Whitbourne
  • Knightwick
  • Broadwas
  • Rushwick 1
  • Worcester
  • Sep 2004–Sep 2015
  • Hereford (CBS)
  • Withington
  • Withington March
  • Burley Gate
  • Stoke Lacy
  • Flaggoners Green
  • Bromyard
  • Bringsty
  • Whitbourne
  • Knightwick
  • Broadwas
  • Rushwick 1
  • Worcester

1  Certain journeys run direct via A44 Bromyard Road between Crown East and Worcester.

Timetable Archive

420FMRFebruary2001Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
September2002Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
September2013Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford
August2014Worcester • Bromyard • Hereford

Service 420 (2015— )

Operated by First Midland Red Buses Limited

On Monday 29th June 2015, First Midland Red Buses Limited announced the closure of Hereford depot from the end of services on Saturday 5th September 2015, with all FirstGroup services in Hereford being withdrawn. From Monday 7th September 2015 operation of most Service 420 journeys was taken over by DRM (Bromyard) Limited (“DRM Bus”), but First Midland Red continued to operate Service 420 from Worcester depot, but at a vastly reduced timetable, running only two short weekday return journeys between Worcester and Flaggoners Green, Bromyard, in competition with DRM Bus. There was no longer a weekend service offered by First Midland Red.

From Sunday 4th September 2016 DRM Bus withdrew the Bromyard to Worcester section of their first journey in the morning, plus the same section of their lunchtime journey. First Midland Red adjusted the times of their first journey to connect with the DRM Bus service from Hereford and agreed to accept through tickets issued by DRM Bus. In return, DRM Bus agreed to accept First tickets on two of their afternoon journeys. This ticket agreement ended on Sunday 3rd September 2017 when DRM Bus withdrew in protest at loosing the Herefordshire Council contract to operate Service 672, Service 674 and Service 482 to First Midland Red.

Route Summary

  • Sep 2015—
  • Flaggoners Green
  • Bromyard 1
  • Bringsty
  • Whitbourne 2
  • Knightwick
  • Broadwas
  • Worcester

1  Certain journeys run direct via Bromyard Bypass and do not serve Bromyard, Pump Street.
2  Certain journeys run direct via the A44 and do not serve Whitbourne Shelter.

Timetable Archive

420FMRSeptember2015Worcester • Bromyard
April2016Worcester • Bromyard
September2016Worcester • Bromyard
July2017Worcester • Bromyard
September2017Worcester • BromyardCurrent