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Midland Red was a bus company which operated in the English Midlands from 1905 to 1981. It was the trading name used by the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company (BMMO), which was renamed Midland Red Omnibus Company in 1974. The company was one of the largest English bus companies, operating over a large area between Gloucester in the south and Derby in the north, and from Northampton to the Welsh border. The company also manufactured buses.
In 1899 the British Electric Traction company acquired the assets of the Birmingham General Omnibus Company, which had been formed 3 years earlier to acquire a number of horse bus operations in Birmingham. When BET ordered new buses for Birmingham the next year, they were painted red to make them stand out. In 1902 BET acquired the City of Birmingham Tramways Company Ltd, which operated horse buses as well as trams.
Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company was formed by local businessmen in November 1904 to operate motor bus services in Birmingham. When the directors failed to attract sufficient investors, BET acquired control of the new company, and in 1905 transferred its local horse bus operations to it. The company also acquired a motor bus company which had started in 1903. BMMO started operations under its own name in July 1905. However, the company experienced problems with its motor buses, and in 1907 reverted all its motor bus services to horse bus operation.
In 1912 the company purchased some Tilling-Stevens petrol-electric buses. Further motor buses followed, and by June 1913 only 17 horse buses remained. The company adopted for its motor buses the red livery used by Birmingham General, and the buses carried the fleetname "Midland". They soon acquired the nickname "Midland Red".
Expansion outside Birmingham
By 1912 the Birmingham Corporation Tramways had used its statutory powers to acquire the city's tramways which it did not already own, and wanted to consolidate the operation of bus and tram operations in the city. Since it was going to be difficult for BMMO to expand in the city, it reached agreement with the corporation to operate services from outside Birmingham into the city and transfer its services within the city to the corporation. The company then expanded outside Birmingham, and moved its headquarters to Bearwood in Smethwick.
During the First World War the company took over BET operations in Worcester and elsewhere, and after the war opened depots at Walsall, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Hereford, Stafford, Banbury, Bromsgrove, Shrewsbury, Nuneaton, Leamington and Leicester. During the 1920s the tramways owned by BET in the Black Country were gradually replaced by Midland Red buses.
Midland Red started express coach services in 1921 with routes to Weston-super-Mare and Llandudno. Coach services expanded, and in 1934 Midland Red became a founder member of the Associated Motorways consortium.
Coach services were heavily reduced during the Second World War, but expanded again after the war. When the M1 motorway was opened in 1959, Midland Red started non-stop express services between Birmingham and London, and later between Coventry and London. The opening of the M5 Birmingham to Bristol motorway enabled the operation of express services between Birmingham and Worcester.
When the railways were nationalised in 1947, Midland Red became 50% state-owned. In 1968 BET sold its UK bus interests to the government, and in January 1969 the company became a subsidiary of the National Bus Company (NBC). The livery was later changed from a deep red to the NBC corporate poppy red.
In 1973 the garages (with the exception of Digbeth Coach Station, Bearwood and Cradley Heath) and routes within the West Midlands county were transferred to the control of the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority, leaving Midland Red with country and local routes mainly in Derbyshire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire; and express services.
From 1977 onwards, after extensive passenger research the company was rebranded into local area names under the Viable Network Project (VNP), something that was soon renamed as the Market Analysis Project (MAP) and widely adopted throughout NBC and elsewhere in the bus industry. Each new network spawned a localised brand, as follows:
- Avonbus - Stratford-upon-Avon
- Chaserider - Cannock and Stafford
- Hotspur - Shrewsbury and Ludlow
- Hunter - Nuneaton and Hinckley
- Lancer - Coalville and Swadlincote
- Leamington & Warwick - Leamington Spa
- Leicester - Leicester (did not carry area branding names)
- Mercian - Tamworth and Lichfield
- Reddibus - Redditch
- Ridercross - Banbury and Kineton
- Rugby Midland Red - Rugby
- Severnlink - Worcester, Malvern and Bromsgrove
- Tellus - Telford (Wellington)
- Wendaway - Kidderminster
- Wayfarer - Evesham
- Wandaward - Hereford
- Midland Express - long-distance and limited stop services
Breakup and privatisation
In preparation for privatisation of the NBC, Midland Red was split into six new companies in 1981:
- Midland Red Express, later renamed Midland Red Coaches - central coach and express services division
- Midland Red South - Warwickshire and north Oxfordshire (the Avonbus, Hunter, Leamington & Warwick, Ridercross and Rugby operations)
- Midland Red North - Shropshire, south Staffordshire, and northern West Midlands (the Chaserider, Hotspur, Mercian and Tellus operations)
- Midland Red West - Herefordshire, Worcestershire, south and east quadrants of West Midlands (the Reddibus, Severnlink, Wanderward, Wayfarer and Wendaway operations)
- Midland Red East, later renamed Midland Fox - Leicestershire, south Derbyshire and east Staffordshire (the Lancer and Leicester operations)
- Midland Red Engineering, later renamed Carlyle Works Limited - central engineering workshops at Carlyle Road, Birmingham
Midland Red West was sold on 22 December 1986 to a management team led by managing director Ken Mills, who also took over Midland Red Coaches on that date.
Midland Red South was sold on 10 December 1987 to Western Travel Limited, who also owned the Cheltenham and Gloucester Omnibus Company.
Midland Fox Limited, formerly Midland Red East, was sold on 18 August 1987 to its management. The operations of the Swadlincote depot were purchased by Stevenson's of Uttoxeter.
Midland Red North was sold on 27 January 1988 to Drawlane Limited.
Carlyle Works Limited, formerly Midland Red Engineering, was sold to Frontsource Limited, who also purchased the engineering divisions of an initial eight and later nine companies.
- Arriva has taken over Midland Red North and Midland Fox, trading initially as Arriva Midlands North and Arriva Fox County, though now simply Arriva Midlands, even upon the retention of two separate operating licences. These companies also include remnants of Derby City Transport and Stevenson's of Uttoxeter.
- Stagecoach has taken over Western Travel, parent of Midland Red South and trades as Stagecoach in Oxfordshire and Stagecoach in Warwickshire. The Stagecoach in Oxfordshire operation includes Oxford South Midlands.
- First has taken over Midland Red West, trading initially as First Wyvern and latterly simply as First.
- Stratford Blue, a name ebbing and flowing in and out of fashion, is from 2007 under Stagecoach ownership, having previously been a part of the Ensignbus group
In 1912 the company bought its first Tilling-Stevens petrol-electric vehicles. Tilling-Stevens became the main supplier of bus chassis to the company which, under its Chief Engineer L.G. Wyndham Shire, adapted and developed the designs to its own requirements, finally designing a vehicle it intended to construct itself.
Between 1923 and 1969, the BMMO built most of the buses it operated: up to 1940 these were called 'SOS', and some models were supplied to other bus companies associated within the British Electric Traction (BET) group. After 1940, the vehicles were identified by the company's initials, BMMO, and supplied solely for the BMMO company's own use. Codes later used for buses were FEDD (Front Entrance Double Decker), REDD (Rear Entrance Double Decker), Coaches were initially classified "ONC", but later used a prefix of "C" - or "CM" for Motorway coaches. Single Decker models were numbered from S1 through S23, Double Decker models D1 through D10. The D10 was, in some opinions, the pinnacle of BMMO bus design - a double decker with front entrance/rear exit and an underfloor engine. GD6 and LD8 were exceptions to the normal designation system - these codes referred to batches of respectively Guy and Leyland vehicles acquired when the manufacturing operation could not meet the heavy demand. Individual buses were numbered from (around) 2000 to 5900 - registrations (usually) incorporated the last three numbers of the serial, and a letter prefix of three letters ending in "HA" ( a Smethwick origin registration mark). This relationship did not apply to the limited number of buses gained as a result of acquisition of other operators. Bus manufacture, overhaul and accident repair was carried out at Carlyle Road Works, adjacent to the reservoir in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Nearby to the works was BMMO's head office, in Vernon Road, Edgbaston.
Historical list of Midland Red garages (and outstations) [with destination blind garage code letters]
- Banbury, Canal Street - [BY]
- Bearwood, Bearwood Road - (Closed 1973) - [BD]
- Birmingham, Digbeth Coach Station - [DH]
- Birmingham, Sheepcote Street, Five Ways (Passed to WMPTE) - (Closed 1975) - [SH]
- Birmingham, Tennant Street (Passed to Birmingham Corporation 1914)
- Bishops Castle, Midland Red West outstation
- Brierley Hill, Dudley Road [Harts Hill], (passed to WMPTE) - (Closed 1993) - [HL]
- Bromsgrove, The Strand, Birmingham Road - (Closed 1981) - [BE]
- Coalville, Ashby Road - (Closed 2011) - [CE]
- Cradley Heath, Forge Lane - (Closed 1977) - [CY]
- Dudley, Birmingham Road (passed to WMPTE) - (Closed 1993) - [DY]
- Evesham, Abbey Road - (Closed 2006) - [EM]
- Heath Hayes, Hednesford Road (formerly Harper Brothers) - (Closed 1977)
- Hereford, Friar Street - [HD]
- Hinckley, Lower Coventry Road - (Closed 1979) - [HY]
- Kidderminster, KDL&T depot (now Tram Road)
- Kidderminster, New Road - (Closed 2001) - [KR]
- Kineton, Brookhampton Road (formerly Stratford Blue
- Leamington Spa, Old Warwick Road - (Closed 1980) - [LN]
- Leamington Spa, Myton Road - (Closed 1991)
- Leicester, Southgate Street - (Closed 2009) - [SS]
- Leicester, Sandacre Street - (Closed 1996) - [SA]
- Lichfield, Trent Valley Road (used by Staffordshire County Highways Dept) - [LD]
- Ludlow, Weeping Cross Lane - (Closed 1987) - [LW]
- Malvern, Portland Road - (Closed 1954)
- Malvern Link, Spring Lane - (Closed 1976) - [MN]
- Market Harborough, formerly N&S - (Closed 2005)
- Markfield, Shaw Lane, (formerly Brown's Blue Coaches Ltd) - (Closed 1968)
- Nuneaton, Coton Road - (Closed 1960)
- Nuneaton, Newtown Road - [NN]
- Oldbury, Birchley Crossing (passed to WMPTE) - (Closed 1975) - [OY]
- Redditch, Church Road - (Closed 2004) - [RH]
- Rugby, Railway Terrace - [RY]
- Shrewsbury, Ditherington - (Closed 2012) - [SY]
- Stourbridge, Foster Street (passed to WMPTE) - (Closed 1985) - [SE]
- Stafford, Pilgrim Place, Newport Road - (Closed 1992) - [SD]
- Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick Road (formerly Stratford Blue) - (Closed 1990)
- Sutton Coldfield, Upper Holland Road (passed to WMPTE) - (Closed 1984) - [SN]
- Swadlincote, Midland Road - (Demolished 2010) - [SW]
- Tamworth, Watling Street, Twogates (Reliant works) - [TH]
- Tamworth, Aldergate
- Warwick, Emscote Road (formerly L&WT Co Ltd) - (Closed 1957)
- Wellington, Charlton Street - (Closed 2012) - [WL]
- Wigston, Station Street, South Wigston - [WS]
- Wolverhampton, Bilston Street - (Closed 1964)
- Wolverhampton, Dudley Road - (Closed 1971) - [WN]
- Worcester, East Street - [WR]
- Worcester, Padmore Street
- Other short time-span garages (either owned or rented) included: Birmingham, Ladywood Road (Five Ways Inn yard); Coventry, Sandy Lane; Cradley, (GWR station yard); Halesowen, Mucklow Hill (GWR station yard); Hereford, Bridge Street (Black Lion Yard); Kingswinford, The Portway; Leicester, Frog Island; Leicester, Hastings Road; Leicester, Welford Road; Nuneaton, Burgage Walk (ex NWMO&T Co); Nuneaton, Heath End Road; Nuneaton, the former Empire theatre; Sedgley, WDET Co depot; Shrewsbury, Abbey foregate (ex Allen Omnibus Co); Shrewsbury, Roushill; Stafford, Co-operative Street; Wellington, Mansell Street.
- 1904: Formation of BMMO.
- 1905: First services.
- 1914-1920: Rapid spread of services outside Birmingham to 'Paint the Midlands Red'.
- 1920s: Development of long-distance coach routes using charabancs.
- 1923: First production run of BMMO buses, SOS 'S' type - one of the first British buses to have pneumatic tyres.
- 1927: 'QL' type bus produced, the first Midland Red bus design to have brakes on all wheels.
- 1930s: Development of petrol and diesel engines. Experimental rear-engined buses built.
- 1940s: Experiments with, and production of under-floor engined single-deck buses.
- 1950s: Experiments and developments of integral construction, independent front suspension, air suspension, rubber suspension, glass fibre construction and disc brakes.
- 1958: Introduction of the D9, a new half-cab double deck design incorporating most of the successful features developed in the 1950s.
- 1959: The introduction of the CM5T, a turbocharged coach capable of almost 100 mph, for non-stop motorway services. The Birmingham-London express coach service launched on November 2 - the same day that the M1 motorway was opened. CM5T designation indicated by 'M' high speed (Motorway) capability and by 'T' fitted with passenger toilet facilities.
- 1960: Appearance of the first of the two experimental D10 double-deckers, with under-floor engines.
- 1963: One of the country’s first fully enclosed city centre bus stations was opened at Birmingham’s Bull Ring Shopping Centrre, from which most Midland Red services in the City Centre departed.
- 1960s: Larger motorway coach introduced, the CM6T between 1963-6. Midland Red becomes the first British bus company to make wide-scale use of computers in compiling bus schedules and staff rosters.
- 1970s: Winding down of vehicle production. Last Midland Red built-bus (S23 single-decker no. 5991) produced in 1970. Split up of the operating area - West Midlands PTE take the West Midlands Metropolitan area garages.
- 1980s: Midland Red split into five operating companies and an engineering company. Privatisation by buy-outs.
- 1990s: Take over by the current conglomerate transport groups.
- "Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company (Midland Red) by Peter Gould". Madeinbirmingham.org. http://madeinbirmingham.org/midlandred.htm. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
- Anderson, R.C. A History of The Midland Red. Newton Abbot: David and Charles (1984).
- Gray, P. Midland Red (Vol.1) - A history of the company and its vehicles up to 1940. Glossop: Transport Publishing Company (1978).
- Gray, P. Midland Red (Vol.2) - A history of the company and its vehicles from 1940-1970. Glossop: Transport Publishing Company (1979).
- Greenwood, M. The Heyday of Midland Red. Hersham: Ian Allan (2005).
- Keeley, M. Midland Red. London: Ian Allan (1983).
- Keeley, M. Midland Red - Working Days. Hersham: Ian Allan, in conjunction with the Transport Museum, Wythall (2008).
- Richards, S. More Room on Top - Midland Red: The BMMO D9 and D10. Steve Richards (2012).
- Torode, R. and Keeley, M. Midland Red Style. London: Capital Transport (2011).