United Counties Omnibus

United Counties Omnibus[1] was an English bus company, operating in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, and parts of surrounding counties.

United Counties Omnibus
Midland Road - geograph.org.uk - 864341
Leyland Olympian in Bedford in May 1982
ParentNational Bus Company
Founded24 September 1921
Ceased operation1987
Service areaBedfordshire
North Hertfordshire
Service typeBus operator

Early history

United Counties bus 201 (YBD 201), Showbus 2012 rally
Preserved Eastern Coach Works bodied Bristol MW6G in September 2012

On 24 September 1921, the United Counties Omnibus & Road Transport Co Limited acquired the assets of the Wellingborough Motor Omnibus Co Limited, which began in May 1913.[2] The majority shareholder was Tillings. At this time, the previous livery of blue and white with red wheels was replaced by the standard Tilling livery (green with a cream band) and retained until replaced by National Bus Company green (and always with a white band) in 1972. In September 1933, the company's name was changed to its present title, United Counties Omnibus Company Limited.

In 1933, the company operated 154 buses on services throughout Northamptonshire, with some services terminating just over adjacent county boundaries, plus special services to seaside places and Whipsnade Zoo during the summer. In December 1933, services around Aylesbury were acquired from the Aylesbury Omnibus Company.[3] The company continued to expand, by buying out smaller bus and coach operators. The garage at Stony Stratford operated by a fellow Tillings company, Eastern National was transferred to United Counties. The company built new garages in several towns, a new headquarters, with major engineering workshops, in Bedford Road, Northampton, and a central covered bus station at Derngate, Northampton, thus putting it into a good shape to withstand the rigours of wartime operation.

The company entered the long-distance coach service market in 1933, when it bought Allchin & Sons of Northampton, which ran coach services to London, Bournemouth, Torquay and several Midlands cities. In 1934, it acquired a route between Oxford and London from its fellow Tillings subsidiary, Eastern Counties. In 1934, it was one of the founders of the Associated Motorways consortium, to which it transferred its Bournemouth and Torquay routes.[4]


United Counties NBC bus 756 Bristol VR ECW UBD 756H in Bedford Bus Station, Bedfordshire May 1982
Eastern Coach Works bodied Bristol VR in Bedford in May 1982

In 1948, the Tilling Group sold its bus interests to the government. United Counties therefore became a state-owned company, under the control of the British Transport Commission.[5]

The new regime resulted in a major expansion of the company's area of operations. In 1952 Eastern National's operations in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, North Hertfordshire and Huntingdonshire, with some 250 vehicles, were transferred to United Counties.[3][6] This practically doubled the size of the company. At the same time the Oxford to London service was transferred to South Midland.

On 1 January 1963, United Counties was included in the transfer of the British Transport Commission's transport assets to the state-owned Transport Holding Company, which in turn passed to the state-owned National Bus Company on 1 January 1969.

On 14 September 1969, United Counties took over Birch Brothers giving it another express service into London besides its Nottingham – Leicester - London route.[7] On 1 January 1970, it took over Luton Corporation buses.[8][9] There followed a period when the company was under severe pressure in coping with the maintenance of the Luton combined fleet and for a time had to forgo its duty to deal with the recovery of fellow National Bus Company subsidiaries’ coaches broken down on its allocated and very busy section of the M1 motorway.

Towards the end of the 1970s, better relationships were negotiated with county councils and the Milton Keynes Development Corporation. The company was then able to make strides in greatly improving its maintenance facilities with major work at Northampton depot, Wellingborough, Bedford, Milton Keynes (including a 100 vehicle Winterhill depot on a green field site) and Luton.


In 1980, the government embarked on a programme of deregulation and privatisation of bus services. To make them more marketable, the larger subsidiaries of the National Bus Company were split up. United Counties was split up operationally from 1 January 1986 and the new companies were privatised in 1987:[10]

  • Luton & District Transport Company[11](Aylesbury, Hitchin and Luton garages), sold August 1987 in a management buyout[12]
  • Milton Keynes Citybus[13](Milton Keynes depot), sold in a management buyout
  • United Counties Engineering[14] (The central workshops part of the head office site)
  • United Counties Omnibus Company[1] retained the rest (almost its original pre-1952 area plus Bedford, Biggleswade and Huntingdon), sold in November 1987 to Stagecoach[15][16]

Subsequent history

Stagecoach retained the name Stagecoach United Counties until 1999. After Stagecoach acquired adjacent operator Cambus in 1997, an inquiry by the Office of Fair Trading, ordered that Stagecoach sell the Huntingdon operations.[17] but, in 2008, Stagecoach re-acquired the Huntingdon operations, now Stagecoach in the Fens, part of Stagecoach in Cambridgeshire. The remaining part of Stagecoach United Counties became Stagecoach East in 2000, trading as Stagecoach in Northants and Stagecoach in Bedford with the legal company name remaining as United Counties Omnibus Company Limited. In 2010, the company was split, with the Bedford depot merging with Stagecoach in Cambridgeshire to form a new Stagecoach East and the Northamptonshire depots merging with Stagecoach in Warwickshire to form Stagecoach Midlands. However, the trading names and the legal titles remained as before, until October 2014, when the "United Counties" name was changed to match the Warwickshire section, being "Midland Red (South) Ltd .

Luton & District was bought in 1994 by British Bus,[18] which, in turn, was purchased by the Cowie Group on 1 August 1996 and rebranded as Arriva the Shires in 1998.[19][20][21]

Milton Keynes Citybus was acquired by Cambus (a privatised part of Eastern Counties), which was, itself, sold to Stagecoach in 1996. However, after the inquiry by the Office of Fair Trading, Stagecoach sold both the Milton Keynes and Huntingdon depot operations to Julian Peddle on 2 May 1997, who formed Premier Buses[22] and MK Metro. Peddle soon sold the Huntingdon depot operations to Blazefield and eventually sold MK Metro to Arriva in February 2006.[23][24] An OFT inquiry allowed MK Metro to pass to Arriva who, initially, ran it as a separate operation, but have since started to brand buses as Arriva vehicles. Blazefield sold the Huntingdon & District operation to Cavalier Travel in November 2003, who sold that operation to Stagecoach Cambridge on 31 March 2008.[25]


  1. ^ a b Companies House extract company no 176586 United Counties Omnibus Company Limited
  2. ^ The United Countries Strip Commercial Motor 5 May 1950 page 44
  3. ^ a b United Counties Arriva Aylesbury
  4. ^ Healey, K (2002) Associated Motorways Venture Publications ISBN 1-898432-57-0, pp.12-14
  5. ^ Tilling-BTC Agreements Signed Commercial Motor 12 November 1948 page 28
  6. ^ United Counties to Work Luton? Commercial Motor 18 January 1952 page 31
  7. ^ BRC/United Counties tie-up Commercial Motor 29 August 1969
  8. ^ Luton and Exeter sell to NBC? Commercial Motors 1 August 1969 page 14
  9. ^ Luton will be first to sell to NBC Commercial Motor 14 November 1969 page 23
  10. ^ Less unity for United Counties Commercial Motor 21 September 1985 page 15
  11. ^ Companies House extract company no 1963610 Maidstone & District Transport Services Limited formerly Luton & District Transport Limited
  12. ^ Competition Commission report (1998) para 3.30 Competition Commission
  13. ^ Companies House extract company no 1963446 Milton Keynes City Bus Limited
  14. ^ Companies House extract company no 1917171 Speckwell Transport Limited formerly United Counties Engineering Limited
  15. ^ Conductors back at UC Commercial Motor 25 February 1988 page 16
  16. ^ Hansard House of Commons 18 April 1988
  17. ^ Details of divestment and behavioural undertakings by Stagecoach oft.gov.uk - Retrieved 25 August 2010
  18. ^ History - South East Archived 14 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine Arriva
  19. ^ Cowie buys British Bus for £282m Herald Scotland 1 August 1996
  20. ^ Cowie Group plc and British Bus Group Limited: A report on the merger situation Competition Commission 31 October 1996
  21. ^ Competition Commission report (2005) para 2.4 Competition Commission
  22. ^ Companies House extract company no 3339369 Premier Buses Limited
  23. ^ Arriva acquires MK Metro in £5.6m deal Archived 12 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine Bus & Coach Professional 15 February 2006
  24. ^ Annual Report Year Ended 31 December 2006 Arriva
  25. ^ Blazefield sells up in the South Archived 16 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine Bus & Coach Professional 9 July 2004

Further reading

  • An Illustrated History of United Counties Omnibus Company Limited (in 17 parts) by Roger M Warwick MCIT. Volumes include ISBN 0-9505980-1-1; ISBN 0-9505980-2-X; ISBN 0-9505980-3-8; ISBN 0-9505980-4-6;ISBN 0-9505980-6-2; ISBN 0-9510847-0-4; ISBN 0-9510847-1-2;ISBN 0-9510847-3-9; ISBN 978-0-9510847-4-8.
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A4010 road

The A4010 is an important primary north-south road in Buckinghamshire, Southern England. It runs from High Wycombe at Junction 4 of the M40 motorway to Stoke Mandeville, near Aylesbury on the A413.

A412 road

The A412 is a road in England between Slough and Watford. It was the main artery for this corridor and used to continue to St Albans prior to the construction of the M25. It provides interchange to the A4 in Slough, the A40/M40 at the Denham Roundabout, the M25 in Maple Cross, the A404 in Rickmansworth town centre, the A411 on a partially grade separated dual carriageway in Watford town centre, and the A41 in North Watford.

A418 road

The A418 road is a main trunk road in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, England. It begins at a roundabout with the A4146 just north of Ascott, near Leighton Buzzard. It then runs south as a single carriageway through Wing to Aylesbury. This stretch is proposed for a dual carriageway bypass. After diving through Aylesbury the road runs past Aylesbury College before heading out into Stone. From here it runs past Haddenham to the M40 near Thame. The road has been rerouted in two locations so that it no longer runs through Hulcott and Haddenham.

A422 road

The A422 is an "A" road for east-west journeys in south central England, connecting the county towns of Bedford and Worcester by way of Milton Keynes, Buckingham, Banbury and Stratford-upon-Avon. For most of its length, it is a narrow single carriageway.

A5130 road

The A5130 was a minor A-class road in the United Kingdom, from (near) the M1 at Junction 14 to Woburn. Although the roadway still exists, it was declassified in 2017.It started on a roundabout with the A509 just west of Junction 14 of the M1 motorway and proceeded south round (what was then) the eastern edge of the original Milton Keynes designated area. After crossing the A421 the A5130 continued past the village of Wavendon. It then crossed the Bedford-Bletchley railway by means of a level crossing and passed through Woburn Sands. It terminates a short distance to the south upon meeting the A4012 just inside the village of Woburn.

Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway

The Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway (A&BR) was an English railway located in Buckinghamshire, England operating between Aylesbury and Verney Junction.

Aylesbury–Princes Risborough line

The Aylesbury–Princes Risborough line is a rural branch line between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, England. The line is single track throughout with a maximum speed of 40 mph.

Beaconsfield services

Beaconsfield services is a motorway service station on the M40 motorway in Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, England. It is operated by Extra, and opened on 17 March 2009. It is the fourth and most recent of the service areas to be built on the 89-mile motorway which links London, Oxford and Birmingham. At its opening, it was the largest motorway service area in the United Kingdom. The petrol station, with 36 pumps is also the largest filling station in the country. Petrol stations are provided by Shell and a hotel is operated by Ibis Budget.

Birch Brothers

Birch Brothers was a bus and coach operator in south east England.

Chiltern Way

The Chiltern Way is a waymarked long-distance footpath in southern England in the United Kingdom. It was created by the Chiltern Society as a millennium project.

Greater Ridgeway

The Greater Ridgeway, also known as the Greater Icknield Way, is a 362-mile (583 kilometre) long-distance footpath crossing England from Lyme Regis in Dorset to Hunstanton in Norfolk. It is a combined route which is made by joining four long-distance footpaths: the Wessex Ridgeway, The Ridgeway National Trail, the Icknield Way and the Peddars Way National Trail.

Handy Cross roundabout

Handy Cross roundabout is a major road interchange at Handy Cross, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire; the junction for High Wycombe, the M40 motorway and the A404 dual-carriageway. It is the terminus of the A4010 which runs to Aylesbury.

List of places named United Counties

United Counties may refer to one of the following places:

in Australia:

Electoral district of United Counties of Murray and St Vincent, an electoral district of the Australian state of New South Wales, established 1856, dissolved 1859in England:

Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, and surrounding counties, as used by:

United Counties Football League

United Counties Omnibusin Ontario, Canada:

Some current and historical counties in the province of Ontario, Canada

Leeds and Grenville United Counties, Ontario, established 1850

Prescott and Russell United Counties, Ontario, established 1820

Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry United Counties, established 1850

United Counties of Lincoln, Welland and Haldimand, Ontario, established 1849, since dissolved

United Counties of Northumberland and Durham, Ontario, established 1849, dissolved in 1974

Magic Roundabout (High Wycombe)

The Magic Roundabout in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, is similar to the roundabouts with the same name in Swindon and other places. It is located on the junction of the A40 and A404. The junction is the second meeting point of the two roads, they interchange at the start of the A404 in Marylebone, London, with the A40 forming the Westway.

The two roads follow different routes to reach Wycombe, the A40 coming via Beaconsfield and the A404 via North London and Amersham. From the roundabout, the A40 continues towards Oxford, Cheltenham, Gloucester and South Wales, whilst the A404 goes south to Marlow and Maidenhead.

Newport Pagnell services

Newport Pagnell Services is a motorway service station between junctions 14 and 15 of the M1 motorway near Newport Pagnell and Milton Keynes in north Buckinghamshire. It is owned and operated by Welcome Break.

Shakespeare's Way

Shakespeare's Way is a waymarked long-distance footpath in southern England, United Kingdom.

Stagecoach Cambridgeshire

Stagecoach Cambridgeshire was a bus company in England, which was part of the Stagecoach Group.

Its headquarters were in Cambridge, and it operated services under the following brand names:

Stagecoach in Cambridge, the trading name of Cambus Ltd., a subsidiary of Cambus Holdings Ltd. (demerged from the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company in 1984),

Stagecoach in Peterborough, the trading name of the Viscount Bus and Coach Company Ltd. in Peterborough (demerged as a subsidiary of Cambus in 1989), and

Stagecoach in Huntingdonshire, the trading name of Stagecoach in The Fens Ltd. (originally part of the United Counties Omnibus Company operated by Stagecoach East from 1989 until the company acquired Cambus Holdings in 1995 and opted to divest the Huntingdon and District business to prevent the acquisition being referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission; the operations were reacquired by Stagecoach in 2008).In 2010, these services were merged into Stagecoach East (formed in 1999, from Stagecoach in Northants and Stagecoach in Bedford); at the same time, Stagecoach in Northants was transferred to Stagecoach Midlands.

Stagecoach Midlands

Stagecoach Midlands is the name for most bus routes in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire. The legal name for the company is United Counties Omnibus Company Ltd in Northamptonshire and Midland Red (South) Ltd in Warwickshire.In towns, local bus routes are mostly under their own branding. These are Connect Kettering, Connect Wellingborough, Corby Star, and Daventry Dart, while Northampton has no local name but is part of the Buzz fare scheme.

Swan's Way (footpath)

Swan's Way is a long distance bridle route and footpath in Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, England. It runs 65 miles (105 km) from Salcey Forest, Northamptonshire to Goring-On-Thames, Oxfordshire. Although designed for horseriders by riders, it is a multi-use trail also available to walkers and cyclists.

For walkers the path links with the Ridgeway National Trail, the western end of the Icknield Way Path, the Ouse Valley Way and the Three Shires Way.

Transport in Milton Keynes
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