Birmingham bus route 49 is a bus route between Solihull and Northfield in Birmingham/Solihull running via Shirley, Maypole, Druids Heath, Cotteridge, Longbridge, Rubery and Frankley. The service is operated by National Express West Midlands and runs between Solihull and Longbridge every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday daytimes with every other service running through to Northfield. All journeys run the full route on Sundays (half hourly) and evenings (hourly). The service is almost exclusively operated by Dennis Trident ALX400 double decker buses and is operated by NXWMs Yardley Wood garage.
From 1938, Midland Red ran a service from Maypole to Shirley. The 170 & 172 consisted of three distinct sections: Acocks Green to Shirley via Kineton Green Road & Sharmans Cross, Shirley to Maypole and Maypole to Wythall (via Truemans Heath to Wythall Church  or additional service provision on Alcester Road as far as Inkford ). Each service ran hourly. Between Shirley and Solihull Lodge the services used Colebrook Road meaning the route was operated solely by single decker buses due to the low height railway bridge (a situation which was repeated by the 49 for 6 weeks from 1st October 2016 due to a temporary closure of Haslucks Green Road). Shirley Station was served from 1958 by cross Solihull service 175 which ran twice an hour via Sharmans Cross, Bills Lane and Burman Road.
Understandably concluding the Maypole and residents of Solihull Lodge would benefit from a direct service to Solihull, in June 1975, 18 months after taking over the routes, WMPTE extended and renumbered service 175 via Green Lane and Maypole Lane and then on to Chapel Lane Wythall as service 164 or Inkford as service 165. The 170 & 172 were replaced by service 167 which now turned north at Maypole to terminate in Kings Heath. Maypole to Shirley was now served by four buses an hour (2/hr Sun). Just 5 months later it was the turn of Haslucks Green Road (east of The Colebrook) to gain a direct service to Solihull as the short lived 167 was replaced by service 185 which used Sharmans Cross Road to reach Solihull and beyond (at the same time Kineton Green Road was also given a link to Solihull thanks to replacement service 186 via Danford Lane). In July 1977 service 185 was diverted from Colebrook Road to Shirley Station before later that year services 164 & 165 were combined. The new service 165 no longer turned south at Maypole but instead continued west through Druids Heath and Kings Norton to terminate at Cotteridge.
Until the mid 1970s bus route 49 had been an Alcester Road service but the number was discontinued when service 35 was extended into Birmingham. The first incarnation of its current route commenced in 1977 when WMPTE introduced a short feeder service between West Heath including the new Varden Way estate and Cotteridge. This shortly developed into an inter-suburb connectivity service as extensions were made firstly to Longbridge in May 1978 and then via Rubery to the developing Holly Hill area of Frankley in 1979. The service now largely followed its current route running half hourly Mon-Sat along with an overlapping sister service 64 from Rubery to Northfield. If the reason for the splitting of the service wasn’t immediately obvious, it did allow, in August 1980, for service 49 to instead terminate at the new Gannow estate, whilst service 64 continued to serve Holly Hill Road. Additionally service 64 was extended beyond Rubery via Leach Green Road and Rednal to terminate at Longbridge (except a few peak journeys which further extended along the 49 route to Cotteridge. Also around this time service 185 was renumbered to service 164 (and its far terminus changed from Chelmsley Wood North to Yardley, Yew Tree) whilst the cross Solihull section of service 165 was curtailed so the route ran solely Cotteridge to Solihull (Maypole to Solihull evenings and Sundays).
From April 1984 service 49 started operating a full loop of Gannow, once again serving Holly Hill Road, and additionally on to Northfield. At the same time service 64 was curtailed to run Frankley (Holly Hill Centre) to Longbridge only (Frankley to Cotteridge in peaks) and renumbered service 48 (another former Alcester Road service number).
Unlike the original 164 and, for a time, the 185, the later 164 was routed via Shirley Station rather than Colebrook Road meaning double decker buses could be used between Maypole and Solihull
After they were formed out of WMPTE in 1986, West Midlands Travel combined services 165 and 49 resulting in a route closely matching today’s service. Service 48 was reduced to a handful of peak journeys only. Shortly afterward service 164 (which for 4 months had operated as the 162 additionally via Monkspath and Bills Lane) was combined with service 2 (Kings Heath to Weoley Castle via Selly Park) as service 69. The new service took an indirect route however between Maypole and Kings Heath instead subsuming ‘shopping service’ 163, Kings Heath to Yardley Wood garage via Hollybank Road, Chinn Brook Road and School Road. As well as starting earlier and finishing later, service 69 additionally served Highters Heath Road and Glenavon Road to reach the Maypole from Yardley Wood. One further variation of service 69 was that it used Danford Lane and Blossomfield Road to reach Solihull rather than Sharmans Cross Road. Service 49 ran twice an hour all day Monday to Saturday whilst service 69 ran to a co-ordinated twice an hour frequency Monday to Saturday daytimes. On Sundays service 49 ran Solihull to Maypole twice an hour with every other journey additionally extended initially to Longbridge then later to Northfield. Evenings and Sundays service 69 initially ran Weoley Castle to Kings Heath, later Weoley Castle to Maypole, only. Of the evening and Sunday journeys only the Solihull to Maypole operation was commercially registered, the remainder being sponsored by Centro and subject to tender. This got disjointed when the tendered section of the evening and Sunday 49 was won by Midland Red West meaning through passengers had to change at the Maypole where one bus supposedly waited for the other before departing. The sponsered journeys later adopted the number 49A. In 1988 the 49 was diverted off Sharmans Cross Road to join the 69 on Danford Lane and Blossomfield Road. In 1995 service 49 was diverted off Parsons Hill in Kings Norton to instead serve Pool Farm. Meanwhile a service 69A was introduced doubling the daytime frequency between Weoley Castle and Maypole whilst additionally serving Druids Heath. At this time the route of the two services between Maypole and Solihull also became fully aligned when the 69 moved from Burman Road and Bills Lane (the latter now served by service 4) to Haslucks Green Road and Shirley 'High Street' [Stratford Road] (another change a couple of years later saw the route move from School Road to Glastonbury Road in Yardley Wood, whilst the service was also extended at its eastern end from the Yew Tree to Heartlands Hospital).
By the late 1990s additional 49 journeys has been introduced Monday to Saturday daytimes between Northfield and Rubery. These ran as 49A every 15 minutes. As a result the Northfield to Maypole Sunday journeys adopted service number 49C. Additional 49A journeys were also introduced hourly on Sundays (to give a half hourly service Northfield to Rubery when combined with service 49C). Meanwhile intermediate Mon to Sat 69 journeys had lost the A suffix and now ran Weoley Castle to Shirley Station. Evening and Sunday journeys instead adopted the A suffix now running Selly Oak to Solihull. By 2002 intermediate 69 journeys were diverted to Hollywood/Drakes Cross (loop via May Lane and Shawhurst Lane) and operated as 69B.
In 2006 service 69, which had always been a long route, was cut in two at Solihull, the section to Heartlands becoming service 169 (and later part of service 73). The daytime frequency of the full routes of both the 69 and 49 was also increased to every 20 minutes at this time in place of the intermediate 49A and 69B variants, whilst the Sunday journeys also lost their official sufixes (instead running as 'E' journeys). In October 2009 the remaining 69 route was further curtailed to run only between Kings Heath and Maypole (although new extensions were adopted to Brandwood End and again south of Maypole to Wythall via Trumans Heath). Between Kings Heath and Selly Oak the service was replaced by a re-routing of service 76 whilst between Solihull and Maypole (and through to Pool Farm) service 49 was doubled in frequency to every 10 minutes (Mon to Sat daytimes). At the same time the alternate 49 journeys running beyond Pool Farm were curtailed at Rubery (Great Park) whilst the remaining peak time 48 journeys were also discontinued.
In July 2010 service 49 was extended once again beyond Rubery to Northfield and additionally to Weoley Castle via Shenley Lane. Compared to the pre-Oct 09 route the service now missed out Gannow but additionally served Allens Cross (Trescott Road). Intermediate journeys were extended from Pool Farm to Cotteridge. Service 69 was also discontinued at this time, the Kings Heath to Maypole section replaced by an extension to service 27.
Service 69 made a reappearance in 2012 when Centro sponsored minibus service 669 was renumbered. The original service was introduced in 1993 and ran from Kings Heath to Shirley (Sainsburys) via Billesley (Westridge Road) and Hall Green (Tixall Road / Barton Lodge Road / Watwood Road). Upon renumbering the service was also extended from Kings Heath to Brandwood End and re-routed in Shirley to additionally serve Blenheim Road / Longmore Road. The service is currently operated by Johnsons of Henley.
A final change to service 49 in April 2014 saw the western terminus of the full route revert to Northfield and the intermediate terminus extended from Cotteridge to Longbridge, meanwhile the daytime frequency of the full route was reduced from every 20 minutes to half hourly (from every 10 mins to every 15 mins including the intermediate journeys).
- Reference: Buses for fun! blog