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Birmingham bus route 4 (Service 4) is a bus route in Birmingham, United Kingdom

NXWM 37.jpg

Service 4 links Birmingham with Solihull.

The Route[]

Service 4 runs direct between Birmingham City Centre and Solihull rail station, running mainly along the A41 Warwick Road, serving Digbeth (Birmingham Coach Station), Sparkbrook, Greet, Tyseley, Acocks Green, Olton and Solihull town centre. National Express West Midlands is the sole operator, running 7/8 minute services Monday to Friday daytimes, every 10 minutes Saturday daytimes, every 15 minutes Sunday daytimes, and every 30 minutes evenings. Together with service 4A, which runs every 15 minutes Monday to Friday daytimes, every 20 minutes Saturday daytimes, and every 30 minutes evenings and Sundays, a frequent 5 minute service is provided between Birmingham City Centre and Acocks Green Monday to Friday daytimes, every 7-8 minutes Saturday and Sunday daytimes, and every 15 minutes evenings (the headways between the City Centre and Acocks Green and betwen Acocks Green and Solihull being maintained by every other Mon-Sat daytime 4 journey waiting 2 minutes at Acocks Green, and by running two 4E journeys an hour as far as Acocks Green on Sundays). The route is operated by NXWMs Acocks Green garage.

Service 4 is the most direct route between Birmingham and Solihull, with a typical journey time of just over 40 minutes however the X2 via Sheldon typically also makes the journey in a similar time. Other routes operate via Shirley.


Prior to 2018 the route was numbered 37. Service 37 was introduced by WMPTE on 24 July 1977 with a 15 minute daytime frequency (matching the ex-Midland Red services it was replacing) running alternate with ex-Birmingham City Transport service 44 to give a 7/8 minute headway as far as Acocks Green (Lincoln Road).

WMPTE ex-MR 187.jpg WMPTE ex MR 187  WMPTE 37.jpg WMPTE 37

WMPTE 44.jpg WMPTE 44    Your Bus 37Y.jpg Your Bus 37Y

In 1990 service 37 faced competition from Your Bus who ran a 'South Birmingham Circular' service from Birmingham down the Warwick road to Solihull as service C6Y (then following the current 76 route to Kings Heath before serving Cotteridge, Northfield and the Bristol Road back to the city centre) with reverse journeys running as A6Y. In response, from June 1990 West Midlands Travel doubled the frequency of service 37 whilst service 44 was renamed as service 37A and reduced to peak times only with Lincoln Road North area instead served by minibus services R (later 32, now replaced partly by service 58 and partly by the current version of service 32) and A (later 30, now A12). In counter response Your Bus ran additional journeys down the Warwick road as service 37Y. In 1993 West Midlands Travel took over Your Bus and soon afterward integrated the 37Y and C6Y/A6Y with their 37 timetable. In 1998 the 37Y was withdrawn and instead, under the subsequent Travel Your Bus branding, a service 38Y was introduced running Birmingham to Olton then to the airport via Sheldon. Also in 1998 services C6Y/A6Y were combined into service 6Y with the Warwick Road section dropped but for a while supplemented by service 39Y which did retain the Warwick Road link. In 2001 the Y was dropped from service 38 and the following year the service was curtailed to run Acocks Green to the airport only. In 2003 service 38 was replaced by an extension of service 37A (i.e., same route except from Birmingham once again then additionally via Lincoln Road North) running as an hourly all day service. In 2006 this service was renumbered back to service 38. TYB 38Y TWM 37

                                                           ('Your 37' livery)

In January 2009, as part of the Solihull Bus Network Review, the frequency of service 37 was increased to every 5 minutes, whilst service 38 was withdrawn.

The most recent competitor on the route, Central Connect / Blue Diamond, withdrew their service 37 operation in October 2012.

Since 2006 the route has been operated by single decker vehicles as these were seen to have advantages in terms of reducing anti-social behaviour. The latest buses to be assigned to the route are brand new Alexander Dennis Enviro 200MMC vehicles in crimson and maroon livery with specific route branding relief of pink.

In July 2018 service 37 was re-numbered to service 4. The frequency through to Solihull was also halved with alternate buses instead running as service 4A, although this was shortly revised to every third bus running as a 4A from March 2019.

Service 4A[]

July 2018 saw a return to the 1977-1990 service pattern of alternate buses from the city turning off the Warwick Road at the city boundary. Service 44 had commenced in 1937 replacing the tram service of the same number. Unlike today's service 4A however, the route turned north after Acocks Green to terminate at the junction of Lincoln Road North and Clay Lane. The introduction of service 4A provided a more direct link between the city centre and Severn Road/Gospel Oak compared to the pre July 2018 service 31. In 2019 the proportion of 4A journeys Mon-Sat daytimes was amended such that they constituted every third Warwick Road journey.

History of Gospel Oak predecessor service 31[]

BCT service 31.jpg BCT service 31 WMPTE service 32.jpg WMPTE service 32

WMT service 41.jpg WMT service 41 NXWM service 31.jpg NXWM service 31

Birmingham City Transport commenced service 31 in 1930 running along its pre July 2018 route of City to Gospel Oak via Stratford Road and Shaftmoor Lane (and serving Olton Boulevard East rather than Acocks Green centre). 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 1981).

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 sponsor 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 continued for another decade or so as a tendered service (including by WMT minibuses between 1987 and 1991) running via Radbourne Road and Prospect Lane until the service was withdrawn in 1998.

Also in 1998 off peak daytime services on a new service 32 (a service that a year before had been extended from Acocks Green to Gospel Oak via Pool Farm Road and serving 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 (although a link between Acocks Green and Stratford Road [Robin Hood] direct via Shirley Road had existed since 1982 in the form of WMPTE service 174, later [1987] minibus service G, then minibus service Y, and from 1992 service 42, additionally via Dolphin Lane from 1993/94).

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 (the remainder of Shirley Road plus Dolphin Lane being served by tendered service 40 [operated from 2013 by wmsnt/iGo]).

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 (Shirley [only] via Robin Hood Island services being numbered 31A). 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 A12 (formerly 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 A2 (formerly S11), a service which involves 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. At this time the frequency of service 31 was reduced to 3 buses an hour from its previous 4 bph (30 minutes Sundays, & evenings as 31E as far as Robin Hood Island) although coordination with service 1 for the first time gave a 10 minute daytime frequency along Shaftmore Lane as well as between Acocks Green and Gospel Oak thanks to the four year long extension of service 1 to Gospel Oak.

On the 22 July 2018 a major change to the route occurred when service 31 was truncated to run between Acocks Green and Solihull Station only (not serving Solihull Town centre!). There was also a minor route change in Gospel Oak with Redstone Farm Road used instead of Pitmaston Road. The frequency became every 30 minutes including Sundays with no evening service although Redstone Farm Road benefited from all evening 4A journeys being extended from Gospel Oak to Robin Hood Island. Shaftmore Road continued to be served by service 1. Minor changes soon followed when in March 2019 the link with Solihull town centre was reinstated whilst a short loop was additionally introduced in Acocks Green to serve the Lidl supermarket on Fox Hollies Road (though this loop was subsequently withdrawn four months later) and the Mon to Fri daytime frequency was increased to every 20 minutes.

In September 2019 the frequency again returned to every 30 minutes, although at the same time a second commercial Acocks Green to Shirley service commenced with the reintroduction of a service 32 running hourly (Mon to Sat) via Dolphin Lane, Shirley Road, Lakey Lane, Pitmaston Road and The Baldwin as far as Shirley Parkgate (and replacing tendered service 99 which had in turn replaced service 40 in 2016). Service 32 continues to be operated by NXWMs Acocks Green garage.

In August 2021 the truncated 31 service was replaced by two of the four Mon-Fri daytime 4A journeys an hour, all three of the Sat daytime 4A journeys an hour and both of the Sunday daytime 4A journeys an hour being extended beyond Gospel Oak to Shirley and Solihull. The extended 4A journeys followed the route of the replaced 31 with the exception of the pre-2018 routing of Pitmaston Road being served rather than Redstone Farm Road. At the same time service 32 was routed off Pitmaston Road to instead continue direct on Shirley Road between Lakey Lane and Robin Hood Island. Evening 4A journeys continue to terminate at Robin Hood Island.

Knowle and Dorridge[]

At the time of the Midland Red transfer the regular bus service on the Warwick Road to Solihull was provided by the half hourly service 184 to Damsonwood and the hourly services 182 to Dorridge via Knowle and 187 to Dorridge via Widney Manor. There were also additional peak time services 155 (a shortened working of the 182 running as far as Knowle) and 152 (an extension of the 187 to Knowle missing out Mill Lane and Poplar Road). Commencing from Solihull, 'local' circular service S55 provided additional service provision to Knowle and Dorridge (one clockwise journey and one anticlockwise journey each hour), whilst occasional services ran to Leamington as the 557 (direct) and 547 (via Temple Balsall and Honiley), these continuing to be operated by Midland Red until their withdrawal in 1980.

WMPTE's first change was to curtail service 184 at Acocks Green, renumbering it 188, from November 1975. This service was further curtailed to run Damsonwood to Solihull only upon commencement of service 37. At the same time services 187 and S55 (latterly renumbered 155 clockwise / 156 anticlockwise) were withdrawn and service 182 curtailed to run Acocks Green to Knowle only with Widney Manor and Dorridge instead served by new cross Solihull service 151 from Yardley Wood, both services running twice an hour and supplemented by the introduction of the Knowle and Dorridge dial-a-bus service which had ben introduced in December 1975. Later in 1977 service 182 was re-extended to Dorridge (and re-routed to run to Acocks Green via Danford Lane, Prospect Lane, St Bernard's Road and Kineton Green Road [replacing service 186]).

In September 1978 dial-a-bus was replaced by minibus services 183 (184 on Sundays) which were the first fixed route services to use Longdon Road and Purnells Way on route between Knowle and Dorridge.

In November 1980 services 183 and 184 were withdrawn, and the 151 reduced to hourly with alternate off-peak daytime services additionally extended to Hockley Heath (replacing service 153 introduced in 1977). In 1981 all non-Hockley Heath journeys were re-numbered 152 with the off-peak daytime 152  journeys addditionally extended to Knowle. Sunday services to Dorridge were provided by a new service 186 via Knowle and by service 187 via Widney Manor.

WMPTE Dial-a-Bus

WMT 184

In 1986 West Midlands Travel replaced the Solihull to Dorridge section of service 152 with service 183 and split the daytime service 182 renaming it 181 north of Solihull and 184 south of the town (additionally via Widney Rd, Slater Rd & Poplar Rd between Knowle and Dorridge). During 1987 the 181 & 184 then became minibus service A north of Solihull (and additionally diverted via Pierce Avenue between Olton and Acocks Green from 1990) and minibus service K (via Purnells Way rather than Bentley Heath) south of Solihull (although some peak time, evening and Sunday workings variously retained service numbers 181-184), then from April 1991 the two routes were reconnected as service 38 (initially running once again direct from Olton to Acocks Green before reverting to the Pierce Avenue route from 1992), before finally service 41 from Birmingham was diverted away from Damsonwood in 1998 to instead serve Dorridge via Knowle. Throughout this period service 151 was retained as a tendered service running Solihull to Hockley Heath but now via Knowle and Purnells Way. Another tendered service was the evening and Sunday service 39 (Olton/Solihull to Dorridge/Hockley Heath via Knowle) which was a renumbering of the 182 journeys that had survived until 1991. Meanwhile from 1987 Widney Manor Road was served first by minibus services B to Dorridge and W to Knowle via Longdon Road before the latter was discontinued and the former extended over the withdrawn route, then from October 1992 by service 40 (around this time Caves Buses also operated a service 149 which initially ran from Solihull to Birmingham via Knowle, Dorridge, Widney Manor, Monkspath and Stratford Road before being diverted to Kings Heath then finally becoming a circular service by turning at Robin Hood Island to return to Solihull via Streetsbrook Road, with anticlockwise services running as 148). When service 38 was withdrawn in 1998, firstly service 71 (Sutton - Solihull) was extended to take over the northern half of that service, before service 40 was instead extended to Acocks Green.

In 2001 services 41 and 40 were curtailed at Solihull (with the 40 also renumbered to 30) whilst new Dorridge/Knowle circular services 40A and 40C were reminisant of Midland Red's S55.

WMT 38

'Signature' S2

In January 2009 services 30, 40A/40C and 151 were withdrawn and as if to demonstrate that not every change made as part of bus network reviews is a new idea, the half hourly replacement service S3 was a near reincarnation of the 182 service of the 1980s whilst taking an 'S' (for Solihull) service number as originally used by Midland Red's S55. Additionally, every other S3 plus all evening and weekend services, ran through to Hockley Heath. Dorridge was also served by half hourly (Mon to Sat daytime only) service S2 via Widney Manor, a service that commenced at Olton Station and served the full length of St Bernard's Road (with every other service running as S2A or S2C beyond Dorridge to Knowle via Station Road, then the Warwick Road to the county boundary at Chadwick End and hence on to a loop of Balsall Common and Temple Balsall), however the northern half of this service did not gain sufficient patronage so June 2010 again saw Dorridge and Knowle services terminating at Solihull (along with the revival of service 30). In addition National Express West Midlands withdrew from Knowle and Dorridge for the first time with Central Connect/Blue Diamond (using 'Signature' branding) instead taking on services S2 and S3 (followed by service 30 from March 2011).

In June 2013 the S2A and S2C variants were withdrawn. In their place service 88 ran hourly direct from Solihull to Chadwick End then on to Balsall Common. Meanwhile service S3 was diverted off Poplar Road to instead serve Purnells Way and Station Road, whilst also becoming a cross Solihull service once again, this time to Shirley and beyond. In March 2015 inbound S2 journeys were renumbered S4 whilst certain inbound S3 journeys were renumbered S3W (depending on their terminus beyond Shirley), then a month later additional service provision between Knowle and Solihull was provided by the extension of hourly Coventry to Balsall Common service 87 resulting in 4 buses an hour (Mon-Sat daytimes) between Solihull and Knowle, whilst inbound S4 journeys were renumbered back to S2 in October 2016 (although with the through running to Cheswick Green established 18 months earlier retained).

In February 2019 the S3 was renumbered A3, reduced to hourly (still 7 days a week) and truncated to run between Solihull and (via Knowle to) Dorridge only (except for a handful of journeys additionally extended to Hockley Heath so as to continue providing a direct link between Hockley Heath and Knowle/Arden School), whilst the direct Dorridge-Solihull and on to Cheswick Green S2 became a pair of hourly (Mon to Sat daytimes) circular services additionally via Blythe Valley to then pick up the bulk of the former S3's Hockley Heath-Dorridge journeys, these services being numbered A7/A7W clockwise and A8/A8W anticlockwise (the non-W [daytime] journeys additionally via Alderminster Road) and operated, along with service A3, under contract to Landflight Travel. The Sunday A8 ran hourly from Solihull via Cheswick Green, Blythe Valley and Hockley Heath as far as Dorridge before returning the same way as service A7.

The 87 and 88 continue, along with new variants 87A and 88A, to provide a half hourly (Mon to Sat daytimes) service between Solihull and Balsall Common via Knowle High Street, operated under contract to Johnsons of Henley. At the end of April 2019 the A3 was amended to additionally serve Bentley Heath thereby returning a Sunday service to Slater Rd and Poplar Rd after it was withdrawn a few months previously. A final change in September 2019 saw the A7 and A8 amended to serve Knowle rather than Widney Manor, swapping with the A3 (plus new variant A3W) which now ran direct to Bentley Heath and Dorridge, both services running hourly including the full route on Sundays, although Sunday operation of the A3 was subsequently withdrawn in January 2020.

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