The Stratford Road bus corridor is a collection of routes in the West Midlands, England. Services 5, 6 & 31 are operated by National Express West Midlands and service X20 is operated by Johnsons of Henley.
The core of the corridor is service 6 running direct from Birmingham to Shirley along the Stratford Road with a daytime frequency of every 7/8 minutes (12 minutes Sundays, 20 minutes evenings). It is normally operated by Alexander Dennis Enviro 200MMC or Scania OmniLink single decker buses and is operated by NXWMs Yardley Wood garage. Service 31 every 20 minutes (30 minutes Sundays, & evenings as 31E as far as Robin Hood Island), and service 5 also every 20 minutes (30 minutes Sundays, hourly evenings), are usually operated by Volvo B7TL double deckers in crimson & maroon livery and are operated by NXWMs Acocks Green garage. Johnsons currently run the X20 service on an hourly basis Monday - Saturday daytime and every 1 hour 30 minutes on a Sunday with no evening service. The service is usually run by Optare Olympus double decker buses which were purchased new for the X20 and are also branded for the service. The route is run under contract to Warwickshire County Council.
History of the routesEdit
Service 6 Edit
Service 6 might be said to be the successor to Midland Red service 154 which ran this route for nearly 50 years. However for 12 years from 1975 the route was not provided as a single service. When, two years after adopting the route the West Midlands PTE discontinued the service, residents of the Blossomfield area of Solihull were not reticent in making their feelings known about losing their direct service to Birmingham, despite the fact that the replacement service improved on the 30 minute frequency of the 154. Former Birmingham City Transport Stratford Road route 37 had recently been renumbered to 92 and was then extended from the city boundary to Cranmore Boulveard (initially every 15 minutes but soon increased to every 12 minutes), subsuming the former Midland Red peak time service 153. WMPTE's philosophy in also discontinuing the 154 was to encourage transfer to rail and hence a service 189 was introduced to serve Blossomfield Road / Marshall Lake Road every 15 minutes en route from Solihull to Shirley Stations. Service 189 did not run on Sundays however, nor initially during evenings. To start with these were covered by Cheswick Green variant 190, but then from 1977 (when all Cheswick Green services starting running as 190 [see service 5 below]) whilst an evening service was introduced on the 189 the Sunday service of the 190 was also discontinued. For a few years thereafter only Blossomfield Road had a Sunday service thanks to the 186 (later 182) to Olton via Danford Lane until Sunday only service 186/187 was introduced running from Stratford Rd/Cranmore Boulevard junction via Marshall Lake Road.
Other Midland Red Shirley services were the 150 to Stratford (see next section), the 151 and 179 to Earlswood and peak time services 181 to Cranmore (Highlands Road) and 183 to Yoxall Road via Stanway Road. WMPTE combined the latter two services firstly as the 180 then renumbered to service 80 missing out Stanway Road. In 1983 both the 80 and alternate 92s were further extended along the new Monkspath Hall Road as far as Widney Lane.
Perhaps with less focus on encouraging use of the railway, but also in recognition of Solihull's growing stature as a commercial centre, West Midlands Travel reintroduced the Birmingham-Shirley-Solihull route as service 6 in October 1986 replacing the 92E journeys and dervice 189 (and shortly after the 170 [a tendered evening & Sunday replacement of the 186/187 operated by Solihull Districy Omnibus]). At the same time the full 92 journeys were replaced by service 5. Initially then the 5 & 6 ran alternate every 6 minutes with all evening and Sunday services running as service 5. Such was the success of the Solihull service however that within months the 6 was increased to every 10 minutes (and given an evening and Sunday service) whilst the 5 was reduced to every 20 minutes (as well as operating via Cranmore Boulevard and Highlands Road replacing service 80). Although briefly the frequency of service 6 was reduced to every 12 minutes as part of a coordinated timetable with service 5 and complimentary service 4, from April 1989, in response to competition from Your Bus, the 4 & 5 became peak hours only services whilst the frequency of the 6 increased to every 7/8 minutes. Despite Your Bus withdrawing their 6Y service shortly afterward the higher frequency of service 6 was retained. Between June 1998 and January 2000 every other journey on service 6 was extended through Solihull to serve Birmingham Airport.
A handful of alternative operators have provided competition on the route in recent years, most recently AMPM Travel who withdrew their service 6 operation in January 2010.
The X20 is the successor to Midland Red's Service 150 between Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon (a route that was also operated by Midland Red subsidiary Stratford Blue until the operation was dissolved by Midland Red at the end of 1970). Service 150 worked to an augmented 15-minute daytime frequency with services 154 and 151/179 between Birmingham and Shirley until the 154 service passed to West Midlands PTE in 1973. By this time occasional journeys also ran through to Oxford as service X50, then in 1977 the 150 journeys were renumbered to X20.
X20 has had a variety of operators serving it over the past few years. From October 2000 Travel West Midlands operated the service from their Birmingham Central garage on Sundays under contract to Warwickshire County Council using Optare Spectras. After this, the Sunday service was then operated by Petes Travel. At this time the Monday to Saturday service was still being operated by Midland Red South, who for a time had also revived the Statford Blue name, but were now operating as Stagecoach in Warwickshire.
In 2004 Ensign's Stratford bus subsidiary operating under the re-revived Statford Blue name picked up the contract for the 7 day service utilising Warwickshire County Council Alexander Dennis Enviro300 buses in 'County Links' livery until this operation was taken over by Stagecoach in 2007 who then once again operated the X20 but now using the inherited green and yellow County Links branded buses until Johnsons won the contract in 2009.
Service 5 has its origins in Birmingham City Transport cross-city service 90/91 (originally 29A) which ran from Pheasey via the city centre and current 5 route to The Baldwin PH as service 91, returning as service 90. In 1975 West Midlands PTE amended this numbering slightly such that the 90 ran Pheasey to The Baldwin in both directions.
At the same time a new bus service was introduced to serve the new Cheswick Green estate in Solihull. This first ran as service 191 to Shirley then as service 190 to Solihull before the latter was extended to run through Cheswick Green to Shirley via the new Woodlands estate. A final change to this service saw the Cheswick Green to Solihull section diverted away from Marshall Lake Road to serve the new Monkspath Hall Road (then Widney Lane back to Blossomfield Road). Meanwhile service 183 was also introduced running Solihull to Shirley via Widney Manor and Monkspath. At deregulation service 190 became a tendered service and for a short while was operated by Midland Red West, whilst service 183 became a part of service 162.
In February 1987 West Midlands Travel introduced a Cheswick Green to Birmingham service. Service 4 supplemented the recently introduced services 6 & 5 and ran direct down Stratford Road to Creynolds Lane. At the same time service 90 was replaced with the southern half becoming service S3 and extended from The Baldwin to Shirley Station. In 1987 the former service 183 section of most 162 journeys were renumbered as minibus service M additionally running via Frank Holmes Drive and terminating at Monkspath. In late 1987 or 1988 service 4 was diverted via Highlands Road as part of a coordinated timetable with the 5 (& 6) but then from April 1989 was reduced to peaks only. To compensate some minibus M journeys were extended to Shirley via Cheswick Green, also replacing most 190s, whilst remaining journeys were numbered minibus service L (162 on Sundays until 1990, plus a few peak journeys) and ran to Shirley via Highlands Road.
In 1992 WMT withdrew existing service 4 and instead combined the S3 and the M as new all-day service 4 thereby both giving residents of The Baldwin area of Hall Green a link to Shirley and passengers from Woodlands a direct service to Birmingham. The service generally ran half hourly although evenings and Sundays every other service ran as a 4E terminating at The Baldwin. Service L was also withdrawn at this although the occasional 162s lingered on for another decade.
Prior to the Solihull Bus Network Review of January 2009 it was considered whether service 4 could be diverted to serve the growing Dickens Heath village but the idea was dropped as the village roads, although newly built, were considered unsuitable for double decker buses. Instead service 4 was replaced by the current service 5 which, whilst reintroducing a more direct link between Monkspath and Birmingham, saw National Express West Midlands withdraw from Woodlands and Cheswick Green. The compensating service, S4, initially replicated the 4 route between Solihull and Robin Hood Island, before being altered to run Solihull, Sharmans Cross, Shirley, Woodlands, Cheswick Green (running alternate with the S7 to Dickens Heath and beyond as far as the Woodlands Estate).
The current route of service S2 is reminiscent of the original WMPTE service 190 and was introduced in June 2013 as service S4. At the same time service S7 was replaced by an extension of service S3. Minor changes occurred in March 2015 when the S4 inbound was renumbered S2 whilst S3 services running beyond Dickens Heath were renumbered S3W, and in October 2016 when the the outbound S4's also became S2. Both the S2 and the S3/S3W, as well as Solihull-Widney Lane circular service S15, are run by Diamond Bus from their Redditch garage often using Signature branded vehicles.
Birmingham City Transport commenced service 31 in 1930 running along its current route (except serving Olton Boulevard East rather than Acocks Green centre) to Gospel Oak. For 50 years from 1936 the service ran as a loop returning to Stratford Road via Lakey Lane and School Road as service 32, and for most of this time this involved buses changing service number at the (now former) Gospel Oak PH. In 1973 West Midlands PTE eliminated this requirement by running buses 31 throughout clockwise and 32 anticlockwise.
Also that year WMPTE took over Midland Red services S57 (Robin Hood-Solihull-Lyndon[Wells Green]) and occasional service 158 (Birmingham to Coventry via Solihull and Balsall Common) which both served Streetsbrook Road (originally Streetsbrook Road had been served by service 185 to Solihull but this was withdrawn in 1969 and service 158 diverted away from Warwick Road before the hourly core of the this service between Robin Hood and Hampton was reduced upon the introduction of the S57 in 1972). In 1975 WMPTE dropped the S prefix and increased the frequency to every half an hour before replacing service 57 (and the Streetsbrook Road section of service 158) in July 1977 with service 151 running from Yardley Wood via Streetsbrook Road to Solihull and Dorridge (most journeys then being renumbered 152 from 1980(?)).
Daytime journeys of service 31 returned to the service’s original form in February 1987 shortly after deregulation whilst service 32 was renumbered to 41 and extended beyond Gospel Oak, initially to the other end of Redstone Farm Road, then via Streetsbrook Road to Sharmans Cross and finally from October 1990 to Solihull and Damsonwood, and in so doing providing a useful link between Gospel Oak and Solihull. For the 4 months immediately post deregulation as West Midlands Travel had dropped service 32 completely they instead ran all 31 journeys beyond Gospel Oak to instead terminate at the Fox Hollies Road / School Road roundabout ('Hall Green Church'). During this period WMPTE did sponsored a truncated service 32 running Sparkhill to Gospel Oak and return only which was operated by Solihull District. Once service 41 was introduced, only evening and Sunday journeys of service 31 continued to run beyond Gospel Oak to 'Hall Green Church' as the 41 did not operate at these times. Service 152 lasted another few years as a tendered service running via Radbourne Road and Prospect Lane until the service was withdrawn in the mid 1990s(?).
In the late 1990s(?) off peak daytime services on a new service 32 (a service than ran on the current 1 route between Acocks Green and Gospel Oak except served Gospel Lane rather than Severne Road) were extended via Pitmaston Road to Shirley, thus re-establishing a direct link between Acocks Green and Shirley that had been missing since 1975.
In 2005 service 41's connection to Birmingham was cut back initially through the creation of loop services 41A/41C created by combining the Gospel Oak to Solihull section of the 41 with most of service 42 (Solihull-Lyndon-Yardley-Acocks Green-The Baldwin) at Gospel Oak, then the following year, through the reinstatement of The Baldwin and Stratford Road (as far as Sparkhill) appendages, reverting to a linear service, all be it one with the anomaly of crossing its own route (which happened at the Lakey Lane/Shirley Road roundabout).
In 2009 a small but significant change to service 31 saw it diverted to the centre of Acocks Green. This preceded an improvement to the service between Acocks Green and Shirley on 31 January of the following year through the extension of all daytime 31 services beyond Gospel Oak to Shirley. At the same time the 41 (and 32) were withdrawn with Streetsbrook Road instead being served by an extension beyond Haslucks Green Road of service 3 and part of Shirley Road by variant 3A.
In October 2011 service 3 was withdrawn from Streetsbrook Road (and the 3A variant renamed as service 3). To compensate, every other 31 was diverted to serve either end of Streetsbrook Road whilst also still serving Shirley in between. This change left the full length of Streetsbrook Road without a service for the first time since the cessation of WWII, however the loss is diminished by service 30 providing an alternative service to Solihull at Prospect Lane leaving only the Woodlea Drive and Bryanston Road stops left served by the one-way S11 (a service which results in a wait at the station inbound and an indirect route outbound). Extending the 31 to Solihull also reinstated a direct link between Gospel Oak and Solihull lost through the demise of the 41 nearly 2 years previously.
From the 27 April 2014 all Monday to Friday daytime services served Solihull and there was a route change in Acocks Green away from the eastern half of Olton Boulevard East and the northern end of Gospel Lane to Pool Farm Road, although this latter change was reversed from 26 October 2014.
Back in the day, Birmingham City Transport's Hall Green services 37 and 32 were supplemented by cross-city service 29 running from Kingstanding then down Stratford Road and Highfield Road to Yardley Wood Station. The 29 was cut back to run Highfield Road to Sparkhill only in 1971 and later reduced to a handful of peak journeys only before being withdrawn in 1979.
Service 36 serves the Stratford Road between Sparkbrook and Sparkhill en route to Stechford / Heartlands Hospital. Many years ago it also ran through to the city centre, and for a while in the late 1980s ran as minibus service T. These days it is operated by Silverline Travel and runs to an unusual 45 minute frequency.
Yardley Wood Road services share the Stratford Road as far as either Showell Green Lane in Sparkhill (service 2) or Sparkbrook (service 3).
Warwick Road service 37 also shares the Stratford Road through Sparkbrook.
Between 2001 and 2014 a public bus service ran between Solihull and Blythe Valley using the Stratford Road between Marshall Lake Road in Shirley and the M42 island. The service was introduced in 2001 as service 166 and renumbered to S9 in 2009. In later years the service was operated by Silverline Travel.
Hockley Heath is additionally served by Solihull services S3 and S20.
- preserved Midland Red bus displaying service 154
- WMPTE service 154 single decker
- WMPTE ex Midland Red service 154
- WMPTE service 92 'Widney'
- WMPTE bus in garage displaying service 189
- WMT service 6
- Your Bus service 6Y
- TWM service 6 to Airport
- Midland Red service 150 (2)
- Stratford Blue service 150
- MRS Stratford Blue livery
- Stagecoach service X20
- TWM Sunday X20
- WMPTE service 158
- WMPTE service 57
- WMPTE service 151
- Solihull District (green liveried) service 152
- Caves service 152
- TWM service 41
- TWM service 31
- NXWM service 3 to Solihull
- NXWM service 31A
- 'Signature' service S11