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United Automobile Services

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Title: United Automobile Services  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: National Bus Company (UK), Northern General Transport Company, Southern National, Thomas Tilling, United
Collection: 1912 Establishments in England, Former Bus Operators in England
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

United Automobile Services

United Automobile Services
Preserved Bristol L5G in May 2009
Founded 1912
Headquarters Darlington
Service area North East England
North Yorkshire
Service type Bus operator

United Automobile Services[1] was a bus operator operating in North Yorkshire and North East England. It provided bus services across England's widest geographical area, stretching from Berwick-upon-Tweed on the Scottish border, south to Filey in East Yorkshire.


  • History 1
  • Former Operating Areas 2
    • Northumberland 2.1
      • Depots and Outstations 2.1.1
    • Durham 2.2
      • Depots and Outstations 2.2.1
    • Cleveland 2.3
      • Depots and Outstations 2.3.1
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Preserved Bristol LH in October 2009

United was founded in Lowestoft in 1912, with two routes, one in Suffolk and one over 200 miles away between Bishop Auckland and Durham. During the 1920s, the company expanded into Norfolk and south Lincolnshire, and in Northumberland, County Durham and North Yorkshire. In 1929 control passed to the Tilling Group and the London and North Eastern Railway,[2] and in 1931 the new owners split off the East Anglian operations into a separate company, Eastern Counties Omnibus Company.[3][4]

United also started East Midland Motor Services. This came about through the desire to expand. One of their managers, W.T. Underwood, was sent to Clowne (near Chesterfield) to set up a bus company in his own name. The Underwoods company later became East Midland.

United was nationalised in 1948, and controlled first by the British Transport Commission, from 1 January 1963 by the Transport Holding Company, and from 1 January 1969 by the National Bus Company.

The company ran vehicles from its head office in Darlington and garages across their area, including Durham, Hartlepool, Whitby and Peterlee amongst others. Most of those vehicles were Bristols with Gardner engines and Eastern Coach Works bodies, the LH and VR being common vehicles. Another vehicle commonly used was the Leyland National. United were one of only three operators (and the only English operator) to buy the Bristol REMH 12-metre (39 ft) coach chassis.[5] These 35 vehicles, which had Plaxton Panorama Elite III 49-seat coach bodywork, were delivered between 1971 and 1975.[5][6]

During the mid-1980s, after deregulation, a huge number of Mercedes-Benz and Dodge S56 minibuses were purchased by United for use on new 'town' services in many areas,some replacing existing United 'big bus' services and others on brand new services which were highly competitive with local authorities existing routes (notably the Darlington and the Hartlepool networks). Most were branded with names such as Roadranger (Darlington), Clipper (Whitby), Hoppa (Hartlepool) and Panther (Peterlee) amongst others. These new minibus routes ran around housing estates to a Hail and Ride system and after some initial controversy,these services proved successful for United, most notably in Darlington where the minibus network was hugely expanded.

In the lead up to privatisation, the Northumberland and Scarborough areas were separated into two new companies, Northumbria Motor Services[7] and Scarborough & District[8] in 1986, with the latter then being transferred to East Yorkshire Motor Services.[9]

On 2 December 1987, as part of the privatisation of the National Bus Company, United was sold to Caldaire Holdings who had earlier purchased West Riding Automobile Company.[10][11][12]

In 1990, the Cleveland and Middlesbrough operations were separated and renamed Tees & District, with the Stockton-on-Tees depot operating as TMS (Teesside Motor Services).[13][14][15]

In 1992, United was sold to the Westcourt Group.[16][17] It was sold in 1995 to National Express, and again in 1996 to British Bus which in turn was sold to the Cowie Group.[18] Today it is part of Arriva North East.

Former Operating Areas

In the 1985 official fleet book, United's operations were shown as split into three operating areas; Northumberland, Durham, and Cleveland.[19]


Depots and Outstations

  • Allenheads (Outstation) - The Barn
  • Alnwick - Lisburn Street
  • Ashington - Lintonville Terrace
  • Berwick - Marygate
  • Blyth - Bridge Street
  • Hexham - Burn Lane
  • Morpeth - Dark Lane
  • Newcastle (Gallowgate) - Gallowgate
  • Newcastle (Jesmond) - Portland Terrace
  • Rothbury - High Street
  • Seahouses (Outstation) - Public Car Park
  • Whitley Bay - Park Avenue
  • Wooler - South Road


Depots and Outstations

  • Barnard Castle (Outstation) - Thorngate
  • Bishop Auckland - Morland Street
  • Darlington - Bus Station, Feethams
  • Durham - Waddington Street
  • Hawes (Outstation) - Gayle Lane
  • Northallerton - Brompton Road
  • Peterlee - Davey Drive
  • Richmond - Station Yard
  • Ripon - Park Street
  • Sunderland - Toward Road


Depots and Outstations

  • Hartlepool - Clarence Road
  • Loftus - Whitby Road
  • Middlesbrough - Union Street
  • Pickering (Outstation) - Thornton Road
  • Redcar - Regent Street
  • Scarborough - Vernon Road
  • Stokesley - North Road
  • Whitby - Upgang Lane


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 121299 Arriva North East Limited formerly North East Bus Limited formerly Clairdale North East Limited formerly United Automobile Services Limited
  2. ^ Control of East Coast Road Services Commercial Motor 2 July 1929 page 50
  3. ^ Companies House extract company no 257815 First Eastern Counties Buses Limited formerly Eastern Counties Omnibus Company Limited
  4. ^ Eastern Counties history website.
  5. ^ a b Curtis, Martin S. (1987). Bus Monographs: 5 - Bristol RE. Shepperton:  
  6. ^ Witton, A.M., ed. (March 1976). Fleetbook 8: Buses of North-East England. Manchester: A.M. Witton. pp. 51–52.  
  7. ^ Companies House extract company no 237558 Arriva Northumbria Limited formerly Northumbria Motor Services Limited
  8. ^ Companies House extract company no 2133854 Scarborough & District Motor Services Limited
  9. ^ WRAC chases United Commercial Motor 10 September 1987 page 25
  10. ^ Companies House extract company no 2066896 Yorkshire Bus Holdings Limited formerly Caldaire Holdings Limited
  11. ^ United Automobile bought by Caldaire Commercial Motor 10 December 1987 page 18
  12. ^ Hansard House of Commons 18 April 1988
  13. ^ Companies House extract company no 2404351 Arriva Tees & District Limited formerly Tees & District Transport Company Limited
  14. ^ Caldaire's United reorganises Commercial Motor 10 August 1989 page 16
  15. ^ United divides this weekend Commercial Motor 1 February 1990 page 16
  16. ^ Companies House extract company no 2953095 United Automobile Services Limited formerly Westcourt Bus Group Limited
  17. ^ Final offer Commercial Motor 20 August 1992 page 16
  18. ^ History - North East Arriva North East
  19. ^ The Official UNITED fleet book (1985 edition)

External links

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

  • United Flickr gallery
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