West Midlands Stratford Road bus Corridor
|5||Birmingham - Solihull Station|
|6||Birmingham - Solihull Station|
|31/31A||Birmingham - Solihull / Shirley Green|
|X20||Birmingham - Stratford-upon-Avon|
|Via:||Sparkbrook, Sparkhill, Hall Green, Shirley|
|Operator(s):||National Express West Midlands
Johnsons of Henley
The Stratford Road bus corridor is a collection of routes in the West Midlands, England. Services 5, 6, 31 & 31A 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 Scania OmniLink single decker buses. Service 31/31A every 15 minutes (30 minutes evenings & Sundays as far as Robin Hood Island), and service 5 every 20 minutes (30 minutes Sundays, hourly evenings), are usually operated by Volvo B7TL double deckers. 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 routes
Service 6 might be said to be the successor to Midland Red service 154. 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) 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 the early-mid 1980s both the 80 and the 92 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. At the same time services 92 and 80 were replaced by service 5. Initially 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. In 1988, in response to competition from Your Bus, the 5 became a peak hours only service whilst the frequency of the 6 increased to every 7/8 minutes. Your Bus withdrew their 6Y service shortly afterward. 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.
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 1988 service 4 was reduced to peaks only and diverted via Highlands Road, then from October 1989 service 190 was renumbered as minibus service M and diverted to run into Solihull via Frank Holmes Drive and Widney Manor, whilst service 183 was renumbered as minibus service L (162 on Sundays until 1990, plus a few peak journeys).
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. Service L was also withdrawn at this time followed by the occasional 162s a few years later.
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 S4 is reminiscent of the original WPTE service 190 and was introduced in June 2013. At the same time service S7 was replaced by an extension of service S3. Both the S4 and the S3 are run by Blue Diamond (Signature).
Birmingham City Transport commenced service 31 in 1930 running along its current route (but without diverting off Olton Boulevard East) 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(?)).
Service 31 returned to its original form in the mid-late 1980s when West Midlands Travel broke the Gospel Lane loop by diverting the (outbound) 32 route at Gospel Oak and extending it via Streetsbrook Road as service 41 initially to the other end of Redstone Farm Road, then 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. As service 41 ran daytimes only, evening and Sunday journeys of service 31 continued to run beyond Gospel Oak to instead terminate at the Fox Hollies Road / School Road roundabout ('Hall Green Church'). Service 152 lasted another few years now running via Sharmans Cross 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 3 route between Acocks Green and Gospel Oak) 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.
A final change in October 2011 saw the withdrawal of service 3 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 motor bus services in Solihull began in the early part of the 20th century, 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.
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. 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.
Solihull service S9 uses the Stratford Road between Marshall Lake Road in Shirley and Blythe Valley. The service was introduced in 2001 as service 166 and renumbered in 2009. The service is now operated by Silverline Travel.
Hockley Heath is additionally served by Solihull service S3.
- Birmingham City Transport service 37
- preserved Midland Red bus displaying service 154
- WMPTE service 154 single decker
- WMPTE service 154 double decker
- WMPTE ex Midland Red service 154
- WMPTE service 92 'Widney'
- WMPTE service 92 'Monkspath'
- WMPTE bus in garage displaying service 189
- WMT service 6
- Your Bus service 6Y
- TWM service 6 to Airport
- TWM service 6
- NXWM service 6
- Midland Red service 150 (1)
- Midland Red service 150 (2)
- Stratford Blue service 150
- Midland Red South service X20
- MRS Stratford Blue livery
- Stagecoach service X20
- TWM Sunday X20
- 'County Links' branded X20
- Johnsons of Henley service X20
- BCT service 31
- WMPTE service 32
- WMPTE service 158
- WMPTE service 57
- WMPTE service 151
- Caves service 152
- WMT service 41
- TWM service 41
- TWM service 31
- NXWM service 3 to Solihull
- NXWM service 31
- NXWM service 31A