Neath & Cardiff Luxury Coaches Ltd.
On the 7th January 1930 licences for a service to be operated between Neath and Cardiff were granted to C.K. Andrews Ltd, a Swansea coach firm, who commenced operations between the two towns on the 2nd April. The initial fleet comprised two Morris Viceroy vehicles with Andrews' own 20-seat bodywork, carrying the fleetname N.C. Luxury Coaches: the Company being incorporated as the N & C Luxury Coach Company on the 4th April. The peculiarities of the licensing system meant that, although the Company was licensed to operate through the boroughs of Neath and Port Talbot, it was not in possession of licences to operate through Cardiff or Swansea. As a result N & C had to make arrangements for a terminus on private land within the Cardiff city boundary in order that passengers could board and alight. In 1931, however, licences were granted for express services between Neath and Cardiff, and between Neath and Swansea, the latter licence precluding the use of double-deck vehicles.
By this time the original fleet of two vehicles had been expanded by the acquisition of further Morris vehicles, four 20-seat Viceroy chassis and a single 30-seat Dictator chassis, all with bodies by C.K. Andrews. They were garaged in premises at Burrows Road, Neath until 1932 when the Company moved to larger premises at James Street.
Although Morris had manufactured the early chassis, these vehicles proved extremely troublesome and, in May 1932, the first Dennis Lancet was purchased. Over the next few years these came to make up the bulk of the fleet. Further variety was added in 1934 with the arrival of two Gloster Gardner chassis and in 1935 by the acquisition of an Albion SP67P chassis.
As was common practice among many operators, parcels were carried on the Company's vehicles and this proved a lucrative sideline, with parcel agents being established in the towns along the route. There were eight deliveries daily and parcels up to 56 lbs. in weight were accepted on a prepaid basis.
In 1936, Red and White and Western Welsh made tentative enquiries about purchasing the N & C Company and, although negotiations were started, the Company remained independent.
N & C bodied their own vehicles in 1937 and 1938, with the delivery of two Maudslay SF40 chassis, which stood the Company in good stead when, in 1948, they formed the Longford Manufacturing and Coachbuilders Company Limited. Although only a short-lived venture, ceasing in 1953, it produced many pleasing and distinctive body styles, many of which were destined for the N & C fleet. Two local operators were acquired in 1938, Jones of Danygraig, whose single petrol-engined Maudslay was absorbed into the N & C fleet, and Bromham of Morriston, who contributed two petrol-engined Dennis Lancets.
An interesting development in 1939 was a through-booking facility for travel to Weston-Super-Mare by air from Cardiff Airport. The return fare was 14 shillings and the Western Airways planes left every 30 minutes.
With the onset of the Second World War, three N & C coaches were requisitioned by the Army and the enforced fuel rationing caused the service to be operated on the basic frequency, without the duplicate vehicles that were often necessary. Much of the fleet now lay idle and several coaches were loaned to Red and White and subsequently sold. By the end of the War the fleet strength was a mere 12 vehicles, just 50% of the pre-war fleet, and with the lifting of travel restrictions and the shortage of new vehicles, the Company found itself struggling to accommodate the increased traffic. The difficulties in maintaining the fleet during the War years meant that much of the fleet was in poor condition and in urgent need of remedial work.
The arrival of two Duple-bodied AEC Regal Mark I chassis in 1946 and the acquisition of a former Green Line AEC Regal 10T10 coach helped to alleviate the situation. More acquisitions in 1947, a second ex-Green Line AEC Regal coach and two Dennis Lancet III's, along with the refurbishment of several vehicles, including new bodies for the Gloster Gardner coaches helped to further improve the Company's fleet. In 1948 the first Longford manufactured body from N & C's newly established company was fitted to an AEC Regal Mark III chassis and entered service the same year. Over the next few years Longford supplied all the bodywork on N & C coaches.
Although the N & C fleet was entirely single-deck throughout its history, recollections of double-deckers in N & C livery probably allude to two Crossley double-deckers purchased in 1946 which were liveried in N & C colours but never operated in service, the Traffic Commissioners refusing the Company an operating licence. Gerald Truran intimates in his book A History of Neath and Cardiff Luxury Coaches that in 1950 an AEC Regent III demonstrator, possibly SMU194, was operated as a relief vehicle. If this is the case then this is almost certainly the only double-decker to be operated in service by N & C.
In 1953 the Company was sold to the British Electric Traction Company (BET), bringing to an end over 20 years of N & C as an independent coach operator. The first new vehicles under BET ownership were six Guy Arab LUF chassis with 41-seat centre-entrance Park Royal coachwork.
An application to extend the service from Swansea to Llanelli was refused in 1954, but an increase in frequency from hourly to half-hourly was granted in order to reduce the number of relief vehicles needed. A further six Guy Arab LUF coaches were added to the fleet in 1955 and, together with the six earlier examples, provided the mainstay of the fleet for the next decade. By 1957 the fleet strength stood at 33 coaches and by 1960 numbered 35 vehicles, the largest ever operated by the Company. Throughout the 1960's the BET's policy was to standardise the fleet with AEC vehicles.
A new purpose built depot was opened at Briton Ferry in November 1963, replacing the premises at James Street, Neath.
There was a brief flirtation with a coaching livery of fawn and red in 1965, three vehicles were so painted before management had a change of heart and decided not to proceed, the vehicles eventually being repainted in the standard livery. By 1966 the Guy Arab LUF vehicles were in need of refurbishment if they were to maintain the standard set by the newer vehicles in the fleet. However, it was decided to replace them with second-hand vehicles from associated BET companies. In due course eight AEC Reliance coaches from Sheffield United Tours and Trent Motor Services were acquired, thus achieving the BET's aim of making the fleet 100% AEC.
By 1967 the spectre of nationalisation loomed over the BET and it's associated companies. Rather than wait for its fate to be sealed, the BET decided to sell out to the Transport Holding Company, the Government's agents in the nationalisation programme. As a result control of N & C passed to the Transport Holding Company on the 14th March 1968.
In April 1969 the Chief Engineer of the South Wales Transport Company took over engineering responsibility for the N & C, although the garage at Briton Ferry still remained responsible for the maintenance and overhaul of N & C vehicles. The General Manager of the South Wales Transport Company was appointed General Manager of the N & C Company in June 1969 and the Head Office of the N & C was transferred to Swansea. The express coach service licence was surrendered in 1969, to be superseded by a joint limited stop service between Neath and Cardiff with Western Welsh, and eight N & C coaches were re-allocated to the Western Welsh depot in Cardiff. By the end of 1969, the N & C was controlled completely by the management of the South Wales Transport Company. On the 5th September 1970 the Cardiff operations of the N & C Company were transferred to Western Welsh and in October of the same year it was announced that the N & C was to be absorbed into the South Wales Transport Company with effect from the 31st December 1970. The final link with the N & C Company was severed on the 9th January 1971 when the garage at Briton Ferry was closed, ending 40 years of the Neath and Cardiff Luxury Coach Company Limited.
In producing this history reference has been made to the
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