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The Stratford Road bus corridor is a collection of routes in the West Midlands, England. Services 5 & 6 are operated by National Express West Midlands and service X20 is operated by Johnsons of Henley.

Stratford Rd route diagram 4a.png

NXWM 6&5.jpg [1]

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 (9 minutes Saturdays, 12 minutes Sundays, 20 minutes early evenings, 30 minutes late evenings). Since July 2020 it is normally operated by BYD ADL Enviro400EV electric double decker buses in Platinum livery and is operated by NXWMs Yardley Wood garage. Service 5 every 30 minutes (hourly evenings), is usually operated by Volvo B7TL double deckers and is operated by NXWMs Acocks Green garage. Johnsons currently run the X20 service on an hourly basis Monday - Saturday daytime and every 2 hours on a Sunday (as service X50 Chipping Norton to Birmingham) with no evening service. The service is usually run by Optare Olympus double decker buses which are branded for the service. The route is run under contract to Warwickshire County Council.

History of Service 6

BCT service 37.jpg BCT service 37       WMPTE 154.jpg WMPTE 154

WMPTE service 92.jpg WMPTE service 92  TWM service 6.jpg TWM service 6

( ^ Early 1980s service 92)

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 (the latter via Tidbury Green) 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. Some 179 journeys continued until 1979 at which point Midland Red introduced occasional service R19, Solihull to Redditch via Tidbury Green and Earlswood (which lasted until 1986). In 1983 the 92 was increases to every 10 minutes with alternate journeys (plus all evening and Sunday journeys) extended along the new Monkspath Hall Road as far as Widney Lane, whilst the still peak times only service 80 also saw a small extension along Highlands Road through the Cranmore Industrial Estate. In 1985 the 80 was further extended through Widney to the 92 terminus whilst the 92E short journeys were extended from Cranmore Boulevard further down Stratford Road to the Monkspath Hall Road junction.

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.

Between 2008 and 2019, service 6 was operated by single decker buses, latterly Alexander Dennis Enviro 200MMC or Scania OmniLink vehicles. The route then became a double decker Platinum route in September 2019 operated by ADL Enviro400MMC buses until it became the first NXWM route to be operated by fully electric buses.

A handful of alternative operators have provided competition on the route in previous years, most recently AMPM Travel who withdrew their service 6 operation in January 2010.

History of Service X20

MR service 150.jpg MR service 150    MRS service X20.jpg MRS service X20

County Links X20.jpg 'County Links' X20    Johnsons X20.jpg Johnsons X20

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. Beginning in 1976 occasional journeys also ran through to Oxford as service X50, then in 1977 the 150 journeys were renumbered to X20. The X50 journeys were discontinued in 1989 (apart from a brief revival a decade later).

In September 2018 the X20 was curtailed to run Stratford to Shirley only (as route 20), except on Sundays when the link with Birmingham was retained. The Sunday service also revived the X50 number on this route, and additionally runs beyond Stratford to Shipston on Stour and Chipping Norton. In September 2019 the Monday to Friday route was amended to operate Stratford to Solihull Station via Shirley (Morrisons), as well as combining with Johnsons existing Solihull to Coventry service with the whole route adopting the X20 number.

The X20 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.

History of Service 5

BCT service 91.jpg BCT service 91     NXWM service 5.jpg NXWM service 5

Service 5 has its origins in Birmingham City Transport cross-city service 90/91 (29A prior to 1964) which ran from Pheasey via the city centre and current 5 route to The Baldwin PH as service 91, returning as service 90. In April 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 principally as service 191 to Shirley then as service 190 to Solihull via Tanworth Lane before (around 1980) the latter was extended to run through Cheswick Green to Shirley via the new Woodlands estate. In 1984 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 time 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 (which for most of the first 10 years of its development had been linked to Solihull by tendered service 624, latterly 124) 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).

From June 2013, service S4 was amended such that, like the early 1980s version of WMPTE service 190, it ran direct to Cheswick Green via Marshall Lake Road and Creynolds Lane whilst also running half hourly. At the same time service S7 was replaced by an extension of the half hourly service S3 (Knowle-Solihull). Minor changes occurred in March 2015 when the S4 inbound was renumbered S2 (running through to Dorridge) whilst alternate 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 a short Solihull-Widney Lane circular service S15, were operated through this period by Diamond Bus from their Redditch garage often using Signature branded vehicles.

This ended in February 2019 when the S2 was replaced by a pair of hourly circular services, A8 running Dorridge, Widney Manor, Solihull, Cheswick Green then additionally Blythe Valley and Hockley Heath back to Dorridge, and A7 in the reverse direction, plus additional hourly Solihull to Cheswick Green short journeys running as A6. The route was also amended so that, reminiscent of the original late 1970s version of service 190, from Solihull services approached Cheswick Green via Tanworth Lane (with A8's continuing via Creynolds Lane to reach Blyth Valley). At the same time service S3/S3W west of Solihull was renumbered A5/A4 (Dickens Heath still served half hourly Mon to Sat daytimes and hourly evenings and Sundays), with Landflight Travel winning the contract to operate all of the A4-A8 services. Meanwhile, following the withdrawal of service S15, Widney Lane is now served by Diamond tendered service 69 which continues, via Blenheim Drive, to Shirley.

A final change occurred in September 2019 when supplementary services A5 and A6 were combined, the new A5 running out to Dickens Heath as before, then turning back to Tanworth Lane to then serve Cheswick Green (resulting in a 15/45 minute service pattern from Cheswick Green to Solihull). At the same time the A7/A8 was amended to run via Knowle rather than Widney Manor.

Since Birmingham City Transport days, service 5 and its predecessors had operated down the Stratford Road as far as Springfield, then via Springfield Road toward Sarehole Mill. However in July 2018 the route was changed to turn off Stratford Road at Sparkhill and along Showell Green Lane, picking up Wake Green Road at the junction with Yardley Wood Road.

Other services

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.

Until 2021 service 36 served 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, following stints by Silverline, Diamond and iGo, it is operated under contract by Claribels and runs to an unusual 45 minute frequency, terminating at Small Heath Station rather than Sparkbrook.

Yardley Wood Road services share the Stratford Road as far as Sparkbrook.

Warwick Road services 4 & 4A also share the Stratford Road through Sparkbrook, with some 4A journeys additionally operating through Shirley.

Initially 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. When a public service was then reintroduced five years later it was Silverline's successor Landflight who won the contract, these being the A8 outbound and A7 inbound circular services additionally via Cheswick Green and continuing to Hockley Heath and Dorridge.

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