Birmingham (Digbeth) depot
Mill Lane, Digbeth, Birmingham (depot code: DH)
Being located close to Birmingham City Centre, Digbeth depot was at the heart of operations for Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited (BMMO—Midland “Red” Motor Services), and was their most important depot for traffic operations. The garage was the largest in the BMMO network, having the highest vehicle allocation, annual mileage, and number of staff. With its integral Coach Station, it was also the launch point for most of the company’s coach journeys to all corners of the country.
- Site acquired by Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited (BMMO—Midland “Red” Motor Services) in July 1925, and cleared of existing buildings, which included warehouses, shops and housing.
- Purpose built steel-framed, brick built garage and workshops with incorporated coach station, and an imposing three story office building with enquiry and booking office, sited on the corner of Digbeth and Mill Street. The initial capacity was for 110 vehicles, making this the largest garage operated by BMMO.
- Depot opened by Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited (BMMO—Midland “Red” Motor Services) on Thursday 3rd January 1929.
- Garage capacity gradually reduced to 95 vehicles by the early 1940s, due to the continuing increase in vehicle sizes.
- Depot building and one vehicle (SOS “SON” registration number GHA302) damage on Wednesday 22nd March 1944, when RAF Vickers Wellington HD987 from 105OTU (Operational Training Unit) crashed on nearby factory premises at Mill Lane, Digbeth, Birmingham at around midnight, when control was lost after engine failure. Three crewmen from the aircraft, Flight Lieutenant Bernard Balchin, Pilot Officer David Huddleston and Sergeant Bramwell Morgan, were tragically killed although thankfully there were no casualties on the ground. BMMO claimed compensation from the RAF for repairs to the building and vehicle.
- Land in front of the garage rented from Birmingham City Council and used for overnight parking of up to 45 vehicles from 1946. This agreement ended in Autumn 1953 when the land was used for road widening.
- Control of an out station at Sheepcote Street, Birmingham, from August 1951, with 34 vehicles from Digbeth moving to the new site. Sheepcote Street outstation upgraded to full depot status as Birmingham (Sheepcote Street) depot from November 1961.
- Depot allocation of c. 120 vehicles during the mid-1950s, with outdoor parking provided at a rented site in Benacre Street.
- Site expanded in 1955 when the company acquired land along Digbeth highway after it had been widened to a dual carriageway. A long four story frontage was constructed, which incorporated a booking office, left-luggage, enquiry area and waiting room, a 100 seat self-service restaurant, toilets etc on the ground floor, with company offices and additional offices let to tenants above. The new building opened on 20th June 1958, and was named “Spencer House” in honour of the company Chairman of the Board of Directors, John Spencer Wills.
- A number of Walsall Road services pass to Birmingham City Transport in 1957–58 in an effort to reduce overcrowding at Digbeth depot.
- Site expanded in September 1958, with additional land acquired in Mill Street for surfaced outdoor parking.
- Large area of land acquired on Sunday 25th July 1965 from West Midlands Gas Board at Adderley Street, opposite the Birmingham City Transport Liverpool Street depot. Used for overnight parking from Friday 10th September 1965 with the Benacre Street site being closed and developed for housing. The Adderley Street site was intended to be developed as a new depot to replace Birmingham (Sheepcote Street) depot and the bus operations of Birmingham (Digbeth) depot, leaving Digbeth as a coach station and home to the coach fleet. Plans for the new depot were cancelled when the West Midlands PTE was formed and it became clear Midland Red would not be able to expand in the City.
- Depot allocation of 99 vehicles in February 1967, made up of 51 double-deck and 31 single-deck buses, with 17 coaches.
- Bus services wholly within the West Midlands County boundary, along with necessary vehicles and staff, passed to the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (WMPTE) at Moseley Road depot on Monday 3rd December 1973, with control of the overflow bus park at Adderley Road passing to the WMPTE at Liverpool Street depot. Only cross-boundry and coach services remain at Digbeth depot from this time.
See the “Transfer of BMMO Services and Assets to the West Midlands PTE” page in the “History” section of this website for further details of the transfer.
- Company renamed to Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) on Friday 29th March 1974. Digbeth depot has an allocation of 40 vehicles at this time.
- On Saturday 9th December 1978, Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) reorganise their coaching activities, and from this time, full-coaches are only housed at Digbeth, Nuneaton and Leicester. Almost all bus operations and vehicles at Digbeth are moved to other depot from this time.
“Local” coaches continue to be used from a number of other depots.
- On Saturday 17th February 1979, the last of the Digbeth based stage-carriage services and vehicles are moved to other depots. The garage is now only used for coach work and vehicle allocation is between 65 and 70 coaches, all built on the Leyland Leopard chassis.
- Control of Digbeth depot passed to the newly formed Midland Red (Express) Limited on Sunday 6th September 1981, with an allocation of 82 coaches, when Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited ceased trading as a bus and coach operator.
- Midland Red (Express) Limited official company name changed to Midland Red Coach Limited on Friday 26th April 1985.
- Digbeth depot closed as an operational garage on Saturday 1st February 1986, and from this time is used principally as a coach station with the capability for only minor running repairs. All vehicles relocated to Central Works, Carlyle Road in Edgbaston, with Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited assuming responsibility for maintenance. Digbeth depot site passed by National Bus Company (NBC) to National Express Limited.
- Digbeth depot leased by Midland Red (West) Limited from National Express Limited and reopened as an operational garage on Sunday 26th October 1986 (Deregulation day) for a new network of services in Birmingham and The Black Country operated by Midland Red (West) Limited, with an allocation of 50 Leyland National single-deck buses. In addition to these, vehicles in the Midland Red Coaches fleet also returned to Digbeth depot at this time, with Midland Red (West) Limited assuming responsibility for maintenance.
- On Monday 22nd December 1986, Midland Red (West) Limited and Midland Red Coaches Limited are privatised and sold by National Bus Campany in a simultaneous bid by the management team from Midland Red (West) Limited led by the General Manager, Mr Ken Mills. The operations and assets of both companies pass to the newly formed Midland Red West Holdings Limited, and the official company name of Midland Red (West) Limited is changed to Midland Red West Limited (without brackets around the word 'West'). All operations and assets of Midland Red Coaches Limited are absorbed by Midland Red West Limited. In July 1987, the Midland Red Coaches Limited operator licence (number PD477) was surrendered and vehicles transferred to the Midland Red West Limited operator licence (number PD480).
- Full control and day-to-day running of Birmingham Bull Ring Bus Station passed to Midland Red West Limited from National Express Limited on Sunday 1st November 1987. Digbeth depot Traffic offices moved to Bull Ring Bus Station two weeks later, with old ground floor offices being converted to Despatch office, Paying-in room, Union office, and Passenger Enquiry office. Most services are re-routed to terminate at the bus station.
- In October 1995, with the least due to expire, Digbeth depot is down-graded to an Outstation of Worcester (Padmore Street) depot. All Digbeth depot Mercedes-Benz 609D minibus and services are passed to Kidderminster depot, while Dennis Lance single-deck buses are officially re-allocated to Worcester (Padmore Street) depot but continue to be housed and operated from Digbeth. Vehicle maintenance continues as Digbeth but is gradually wound-down and moved to Worcester over the following months.
- Depot closed by Midland Red West Limited on Saturday 26th April 1997. Full control of the coach station passed to owners National Express Limited when the lease expired.
- Used by National Express Limited as company headquarters, and also headquarters for National Express Group PLC from formation in April 1991.
- Digbeth Coach station to close from Monday 12th November 2007, with operations moving to a temporary site in Oxford Street.
- Site rebuilt as a new 16-bay coach station, designed by SBS Architects, as part of a £15m redevelopment that included a new concourse, information centre, a cafe, and several shops.
- Renamed to “Birmingham Coach Station” and operational from Monday 14th December 2009. Officially opened by England football manager Fabio Capello on Friday 18th December 2009.