National Express West Midlands
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Alexander Dennis Enviro400 with route 33 branding in April 2013
|Founded||26 October 1986|
|Service area||West Midlands|
|Service type||Bus services|
|Alliance||National Express Coventry|
|Chief executive||Peter Coates|
On 26 October 1986 as part of the deregulation of bus services, West Midlands Travel was formed. It was previously the bus operations of the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive. West Midlands Travel remained in public ownership under the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority until December 1991, when it was sold in a management buyout to its management and employees.
In February 2008 as part of a rebranding of all National Express subsidiaries, it was renamed National Express West Midlands. The Coventry service was rebranded as National Express Coventry. The current red and white is the sixth livery to be used by the company. A seventh livery of crimson and maroon is being introduced from 2015 starting with Birmingham routes 9 and 50.
Previously garages in Stourbridge, Dudley, Merry Hill (Part of Travel Merry Hill), Harts Hill, Sutton Coldfield, Hockley, Cotteridge, Selly Oak, Wolverhampton, Washwood Heath and Quinton have been operated. The Dudley garage closed on 28 August 1993 to make way for the Dudley Southern By-Pass (which opened in 1999) and was replaced, along with the former Travel Merry Hill depot, by a depot at Pensnett. In July 2010, Lea Hall depot closed.
National Express West Midlands aimed for the whole fleet to be low floor by March 2010. This was achieved in July 2010, with the withdrawal of the final MCW Metrobus in operation at Acocks Green garage.
A two-tier flat fare structure is in operation within the West Midlands county boundary; there is a standard single fare for any distance and a cheaper short-hop fare. Cash fares can be bought from the driver on the bus, but as with some other urban operators, no change is given for security and speed of boarding. Child fares are available at half the adult cost. Graduated fares apply on some services outside the West Midlands.
Daysaver tickets can also be purchased from the driver, which allows unlimited travel on all NXWM services for the whole day. Selected services have special daily and weekly return tickets available.
Various pass type tickets are sold in advance (off-bus), for varying periods from 1 day to 1 year, covering different parts of (or the complete) operating area. The all-day Daysaver ticket, also available on-bus, includes NXWM routes running outside the West Midlands county (where single fares are sometimes higher) and services operated by sister company, National Express Coventry.
Senior citizens (aged 60 or over) and disabled persons are eligible for free concessionary travel in a similar fashion to that offered in other areas. Following successful trials in Yardley Wood of the new 'Smart' system for Concessionary Travel Pass holders, smart-card technology has now been introduced on all NXWM buses. An early-bird add-on ticket can be purchased to extend the concession to cover weekday travel within the West Midlands county before 09:30.
On-bus ticketing systems and point of sale units are supplied by Parkeon.
Routes of significance include:
- 11 which forms the Birmingham Outer Circle is a roughly circular, 27 mile (43 km) bus route in Birmingham, England (a small section crosses into Sandwell). It mainly follows the city's outer ring road, the A4040. Operating as routes 11A and 11C, it was recently beaten to the title of longest urban bus route in Europe by the 360 service in neighbouring Coventry.
- 50 which is one of the most frequent bus services in the UK outside London and it is often suggested that it is one of the most frequent in Europe. Britain's first low floor double decker bus operated on this route. The route now operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- 65 was the first bus route in the UK to operate on a guided busway.
- 97 which now operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - the night service began on 24 March 2013 making it the first regular night bus service in Birmingham for several years. Previously Birmingham had been one of the largest cities in Europe without a night bus operation.
Many routes can be traced back to the days of municipal operation but network reviews have resulted in major changes to the route numbering in recent years.
The latest route branding uses a variety of colours to differentiate routes to make it easier to see buses operating on a particular route. It is now easier to identify high frequency routes as these are generally the routes which are being branded. On some corridors routes are grouped together in the same colour scheme where they are operated with the same buses.
So far routes which have been branded in the new scheme are as follows: 1 (Wolverhampton) (Red), 4/4H/4M (Walsall) (White), 5 (West Bromwich) (Yellow), 5/5A (Wolverhampton) (Light Green), 6 (Wolverhampton) (Orange), 9 (Birmingham) (Green), 17 (Birmingham) (Yellow), 22 and 23 (Birmingham) (Red), 33 (Birmingham) (Light Green), 35 (Birmingham) (Blue), 37 (Solihull) (Pink), 45/47 (Birmingham) (Orange), 50 (Birmingham) (Blue), 51 (Birmingham) (Blue), 54/154 (Wolverhampton) (Yellow), 71/72 (Solihull) (Purple), 82/87 (Birmingham) (Pink), 97 (Birmingham) (Royal Blue), 99 (Birmingham) (Turquiose), 222 (Merry Hill) (Turquiose), 529 (Wolverhampton) (Pink),900(E) (Coventry/Airport & NEC) (Light Green), 902,904 and 905 (Birmingham) (Dark blue), 934, 935 and 936 (Birmingham) (Light Green), 957 (Solihull) (Dark Green), X96 (Merry Hill) (Yellow)
Route 997 was branded prior to the latest scheme and retains its original Premier 997 brand. As of November 2014 most of these buses have been de-branded.
New buses have been ordered and will run on various routes as route upgrades. National Express branded the new buses for routes 9, 37, 50, 71, 72, 900, 934, 935, 936, 937/A, 957, 997 and X51 in 2015 that were taken off buses in 2014.
Following this, a similar process took place in Solihull in January 2009, with one also taking place in October 2009 for South West Birmingham.
In October 2012 there was a network review in Sandwell, with the final review taking place in June 2013 for North Birmingham, although this was heavily criticized for the small number of routes that were actually changed and those that were being mostly in the Pheasey area.
Garages and travel shops
NXWM operate ten garages: Acocks Green, Bordesley Green, Birmingham Central (Digbeth), Perry Barr, Yardley Wood, Pensnett, Walsall, West Bromwich, Wolverhampton and Coventry, with the latter trading as National Express Coventry. The Bordesley Green garage is the newest location, having opened in 2005.
NXWM operate six travel shops located in Solihull Town Centre, Coventry Pool Meadow Bus Station, West Bromwich bus station, Dudley bus station, Birmingham Corporation Street and Walsall Bus Station. All offices sell all types of Travelcards, National Express coach tickets and assist customers with information and route planning. The travel shop at Wolverhampton bus station is unique in that it is the only travelshop within a bus station not operated by NXWM, instead being operated by PTE Centro.
National Express West Midlands unveiled in 2013 a £1.6 million AVL (control) centre from which all services are monitored to help identify problems and cut response times. But there are also Route Managers and Inspectors present to identify and solve issues on the road, particularly in Birmingham City Centre where most frequent routes converge.
Crime (such as robbery and assault) and vandalism are an ongoing problem on NXWM buses, with travel on the upstairs deck sometimes being particularly challenging. The installation of CCTV on buses was part of the failed attempt to stabilise the level of crime. In the 2009–10 accounting period, 3,341 incidents were recorded on West Midlands buses, including theft, property damage, and drug possession.
National Express West Midlands is part of the Safer Travel Partnership, created in 2005 its members also include Centro (responsible for bus, train and tram transport in the West Midlands) and West Midlands Police. The partnership is committed to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour across the West Midlands bus network whilst providing reassurance to the travelling public. The partnership achieves this through a variety of tactics including Gateway Operations. These operations are intelligence led and are based on the established link between those who evade paying their fare and those responsible for crime, disorder and anti social behaviour. The operation involves partners including NX Revenue Inspectors and Police Officers and Police Community Support Officers from the dedicated Safer Travel Police Team. The activities of the partnership have resulted in very significant reductions in recorded crime across the West Midlands bus network.
Most of the cost of 'Safer Travel' is met from public funds, rather than those of NXWM. This contrasts with most commercial enterprises, such as football clubs, which have to pay a substantial amount for policing.
The 'Safer Travel' name is also used for presentations for schools 'educating children about how to respect their buses'.
The 'See Something, Say Something' campaign, where passengers are encouraged to anonymously send information about nuisance behaviour on buses by text message, has led to 134 arrests and a cut in crime of 15% since April 2010. Crime on the West Midlands bus network has fallen to its lowest level in the last five years.
National Express West Midlands is one of the largest bus operators in the UK, with a fleet of nearly 1,600 vehicles. A variety of bus types are used, including double-decks, single-decks, articulated and midi-buses.
In 2011 National Express West Midlands began investing in new greener vehicles, with the addition of 120 new buses to the fleet, including 18 'hybrid' vehicles. Alexander Dennis supplied nine Enviro 400H hybrid-power double-deckers and 50 diesel Enviro 400s, while Volvo supplied nine Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied B5LHs hybrid-power double deckers and 52 B7RLE single-deckers. The new buses were to be progressively introduced to various garages from September 2011, however due to some delays these buses began to enter service in November 2011, with the full rollout completed early in 2012.
In 2012 a further 100 new vehicles entered service, with the addition of more Wright Eclipse Urban 2 single-deck buses at Wolverhampton, Acocks Green, Birmingham Central and Pensnett garages to replace older single deckers such as Mercedes-Benz O405Ns and some Volvo B6LEs at Pensnett garages, Volvo B10Ls at Acocks Green and Optare Excels at Wolverhampton. A further 30 Alexander Dennis Enviro200 Darts have entered service on routes 99, 222 and on routes at West Bromwich garage, replacing Volvo B6LEs. An extensive refurbishment programme has seen many older buses repainted into the new livery, as well as having etched windows and upholsteries replaced.
The investment is continuing in 2013, as Green Bus Funding has assisted again in the purchase of a further 21 new Alexander Dennis Enviro400 hybrid-powered double-deck buses which have entered operation at Wolverhampton garage on route 1 Tettenhall Wood - Dudley.
During 2015, orders have continued for new buses. Alexander Dennis Enviro400MMC buses have been introduced on routes 9 and 50. Orders for Alexander Dennis Darts with Enviro200MMC bodywork have been placed for Acocks Green.
- Companies House extract company no 2652253 West Midlands Travel Limited
- About Us National Express
- TWN buses in name change Express & Star 10 January 2008
- New brand, new name, new era National Express]
- "£69 million Bus & Coach Order". travelwm.co.uk. Archived from the original on 3 April 2008. Retrieved 3 March 2008.
- White, P. (2008) Public Transport - Its Planning, Management and Operation
- The former Birmingham (UK) Tracline 65 Kerb Guided Busway
- East Birmingham & North Solihull Bus Review
- Wolverhampton and West Walsall Bus Review
- NXWM Travelcard & Information Shops
- "3,000 crimes in 12 months on West Midlands buses". Express and Star. 5 June 2010.
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