Midland Red History: Viable Network / Market Analysis Projects

Faced with problems of high inflation and dwindling passenger numbers, the Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) commissioned their Viable Network Project (VNP) in 1976, as a joint programme in conjunction with National Bus Company (NBC) Consultancy Services and independent consultants Colin Buchanan and Partners. The aim of the project was to identify passenger travel patterns and requirements, and optimise route networks to accommodate these requirements using the minimum amount of vehicles. Under the project, the company developed new route networks using computer analysis of extensive data gathered from passenger surveys, vehicle mileage figures and revenue generated.

In 1977, Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) successfully introduced the first three new networks in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Evesham and Kidderminster, under the brand names of Avonbus, Wayfarer and Wendaway. Following these successes, the Viable Network Project (VNP) was further developed to provide a scheme that could be applied throughout the whole of the National Bus Company, and was re-launched under the name Market Analysis Project (MAP). The success of the Market Analysis Project lead to the scheme being copied almost unchanged by the Scottish Bus Group, under the name SCOTBUS.

Following a comprehensive travel survey conducted during 1976, extensive revisions are being made to the services operated by Midland Red in the Stratford-Upon-Avon area. The revisions are part of a scheme devised by Midland Red in conjunction with Warwickshire County Council, and are aimed at maintaining the efficiency and economic viability of the services in the future. The scheme takes effect on Saturday May 28th 1977, and involves the introduction of new routes and timetables as well as changes to existing service numbers.

Midland Red “Avonbus” timetable, May 1977.

Over the next few years, Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) applied Market Analysis Project (MAP) schemes throughout the whole of their territory. Route networks that had developed since the very earliest days of bus operations were drastically modified or, with lightly loaded services, withdrawn. Rural areas in particular suffered heavy cutbacks, and a number of garages in rural areas closed.

With the introduction of these schemes, Midland Red marketed the new networks with local area brand names, shown on bus stops and timetables etc, and on vehicles in a thick white band above the windows. The Reddibus brand name was the only exception to this rule as it had initially been introduced in March 1976, prior to the introduction of the VNP schemes, as a trial to gauge public reaction, and vehicles carried the brand name in large bright letters along the lower body panels.

VNP and MAP area branding was mostly used on the Leyland National fleet, as by that time the type had become the standard single-deck vehicle, and new examples were still being acquired in large numbers. However, a number of dual-purpose Leyland Leopard buses and Daimler Fleetline double-deck buses also received MAP area branding upon repaint, and even a handful of examples of the home-made BMMO S22 and BMMO S23 received area brand names towards the end of their service lives.

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VNP and MAP Area Names

Avonbus MIDLAND RED 
Photograph
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Avonbus was the first Viable Network Project, launched by the Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) on 28th May 1977, in Stratord–on–Avon.
  • Changes to services include:
    • 150 Birmingham to Stratford-Upon-Avon via Henley, is withdrawn and replaced by Limited Stop service X20, interworked with a revised X50 service to give an hourly frequency between Stratford-Upon-Avon and Birmingham.
    • 501 Stratford-Upon-Avon to Tiddington and Alveston is withdrawn and partly replaced by a revised service 518.
    • 504 Stratford-Upon-Avon to Banbury Road is withdrawn and replaced by revised services 210 and 220.
    • 526 Henley-in-Arden to Warwick and Leamington Spa, 521 Stratford-Upon-Avon to Ilmington, and 542 Stratford-Upon-Avon to Bidford and Alcester services are withdrawn.
 Midland Red (South) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Avonbus area pass to Midland Red (South) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Avonbus brand name is continued, but with “Midland Red South” trading name used on vehicles repainted from May 1982.
  • The Avonbus brand name phased out from 26th March 1983.
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Chaserider MIDLAND RED 
Photograph
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Chaserider MAP scheme was launched on 31st May 1980, in Stafford Town and Cannock with the reorganisation of services in Stafford.
  • The Chaserider name was shown with a leaping stag logo.
 Midland Red (North) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Chaserider area pass to Midland Red (North) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Chaserider brand name is continued, but is soon shown on a Claret band with the company trading name removed.
  • Fleet of 18 Ford Transit minibuses bodied by Dormobile introduced on the Chaserider network on 30th June 1986.
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Hotspur MIDLAND RED 
Photograph
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Hotspur MAP scheme was launched on 24th November 1980, in the Shrewsbury and Ludlow areas.
 Midland Red (North) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Hotspur area pass to Midland Red (North) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Hotspur brand name is continued, but is soon shown on a Turquoise band with the company trading name removed.
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Hunter MIDLAND RED 
Photograph
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Hunter MAP scheme was launched on 12th May 1979, in the Nuneaton area. Hinkley depot was closed as a result of this scheme.
 Midland Red (South) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Hunter area pass to Midland Red (South) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Hunter brand name is continued, but with “Midland Red South” trading name used on vehicles repainted from May 1982.
  • Hunter brand name phased out from 26th March 1983.
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Lancer MIDLAND RED 
Photograph
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Lancer MAP scheme was launched on 17th February 1979, in Coaville and Swadlincote.
  • Following public demand, a revised network was introduced on 14thJuly 1979.
 Midland Red (East) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Lancer area pass to Midland Red (East) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Lancer brand name is abandoned and phased out by Midland Red (East) Limited soon after the formation of the company.
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 Leamington & Warwick MIDLAND RED 
Example photograph not available
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Leamington & Warwick MAP scheme was launched on 31st May 1980, in Leamington Spa with both the Old Warwick Road site of Leamington Spa depot and the former “Stratford Blue” Kineton depot being closed as a result of this scheme.
  • Leamington & Warwick brand name shown in green, underlined lettering.
 Midland Red (South) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Leamington & Warwick area pass to Midland Red (South) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Leamington & Warwick brand name is continued until May 1982. Brand name removed from vehicles repainted from that time.
  • The Leamington & Warwick brand name totally phased out by the end of 1982.
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Mercian MIDLAND RED 
Photograph
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Mercian MAP scheme was launched on 1st September 1979, in the Tamworth area.
 Midland Red (North) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Mercian area pass to Midland Red (North) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Mercian brand name is continued, but is soon shown on a Lime Green band with the company trading name removed.
  • Mercian minibus services introduced by Midland Red (North) Limited in Lichfield on 1st April 1986, services terminated on 13th April 1987.
  • Freight Rover minibuses introduced on the Mercian network in Tamworth on 11th August 1986, with the revision of services.
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Reddibus MIDLAND RED 
Photograph
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • The Reddibus area brand name was first introduced on 13th March 1976, as a trial scheme, on a selected number of routes in the Redditch town area. Fifteen single-deck buses carried the name and, unlike vehicles used with later VNP and MAP schemes, these vehicles did not have a white band above the windows but carried a large green and orange Reddibus logo on the lower panels.
  • Favourable public reaction to the scheme lead to a full Market Analysis Project review carried out in the Redditch area, with the resulting new expanded route network launched in March 1977, using the existing Reddibus brand name and the slogan “I’m a Reddibus Rider.”
  • Reddibus Network reorganised on 23rd July 1977.
    • R11 & R12 cross-town service introduced linking Batchley (Foxlydiate Crescent) with Studley (Littlewood Green), running via Alders Drive and Claybrook Drive.
    • R15 & R16 Lodge Park Circular service introduced operating with a 16-seat Ford Transit minibus.
    • R31 & R32 services introduced to Hunt End (R31) and Walkwood Greed (R32), both running via Crabbs Cross.
  • Standard NBC white band with Reddibus brand name and “Midland Red” trading name in NBC-style lettering used on vehicles repainted from mid-1981.
 Midland Red (West) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Reddibus area pass to Midland Red (West) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Reddibus brand name is continued, but with “Midland Red West” trading name and the Reddibus logo shown in the white band.
    Note: Two Leyland Leopard dual-purpose buses, fleet numbers 230 & 6463, received this style of the livery, becoming the only vehicles of the type to carry the Reddibus name.
  • Reddibus brand name phased out from 18th April 1986, with the introduction of “ReddiLink” branded services operating with a fleet of Mercedes-Benz L608D minibuses in a distinctive yellow, orange and red livery.
  • Reddibus brand name used again from the early 1990s, replacing the ReddiLink brand name, when the Mercedes-Benz L608D minibus fleet at Redditch depot was repainted into red and cream Midland Red West bus livery.
    The original Reddibus logo was not used on the Mercedes-Benz minibuses. A new logo was introduced at this time.
  • Use of the Reddibus brand name goes into gradual decline from the mid-1990s, and is finally abandoned when Midland Red West Limited became part of FirstBus in 1997. Many of the Mercedes-Benz L608D minubuses are withdrawn from April 1997, but survivors had brand names replaced in favour of FirstBus branding.
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Ridercross MIDLAND RED 
Photograph
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Ridercross MAP scheme was launched on 11th July 1981, in Banbury with minor reorganisation and reduction to services. This was the last MAP scheme launched before Midland Red was split up.
 Midland Red (South) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Ridercross area pass to Midland Red (South) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Ridercross brand name is continued, but with “Midland Red South” trading name used on vehicles repainted from May 1982.
  • Ridercross brand name phased out from 26th March 1983.
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Rugby MIDLAND RED 
Example photograph not available
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Rugby MAP scheme was launched on 5th April 1981, in Rugby with major revisions and cut-backs to services in the Rugby, Coventry and Daventry areas.
  • Marketed with the name “Rugby-Midland Red” with Rugby in large blue lettering, and Midland Red in smaller red letters.
 Midland Red (South) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Rugby area pass to Midland Red (South) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Rugby brand name is discontinued on 24th April 1982, following the introduction of a revised network of services.
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Severnlink MIDLAND RED 
Photograph
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Severnlink 1 MAP scheme was launched on Saturday 13th January 1979, in the Worcester, Bromsgrove and Malvern areas.
  • Service 144 is extended from Worcester to Great Malvern, via Malvern Link, Pound Bank and Barnards Green2, replacing Service 412. Service 144 runs every 30-minutes and is interworked with new Service 143 running between Charford, Bromsgrove, Catshill and Birmingham, to give a 15-minute frequency between Birmingham and Bromsgrove.
  • Local Malvern area service are withdrawn and replaced with a new network of local services using “M”-prefix service numbers. New Service M1, Service M7 and Service M8 are operated using 27-seat Shortened Ford R192 midibuses to give access under the Abbey Road archway.
  • New Malvern area services are unsuccessful and revised on Saturday 26th May 1979 with Service 144 once again only running between Birmingham and Worcester, and the Worcester to Malvern section is replaced with new Service 344. Local services are rerouted to no-longer run via Abbey Road and the Shortened Ford R192 are replaced with standard sized vehicles.
 Midland Red (West) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Severnlink area pass to Midland Red (West) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Severnlink brand name is continued, but with “Midland Red West” trading name.
  • Malvern area network with “M”-prefix service numbers are withdrawn in 1982 and replaced with a new network using service numbers in 341–349 range.
  • Severnlink brand name slowly phased out from July 1984.

Notes:
1 The name “Severnlink” was chosen following a competition, which was won by a former Midland Red conductress.
2 Historically Service 144 operated between Birmingham, Bromsgrove, Worcester, Great Malvern and Malvern Wells, but on the closure of Malvern (Spring Lane) depot on Friday 1st October 1976, the Malvern Wells to Worcester section of the service was withdrawn and replaced by Service 412.

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Tellus MIDLAND RED 
Photograph
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Tellus1 MAP scheme was launched on the 1st April 1978, in Telford Town with the introduction of zonal fares following the take-over of local stage carriage services from seven independent operators 2 and the complete restructuring of services.
  • Further network revisions in September 1981, with the introduction of a new route numbering system starting at number 1.
 Midland Red (North) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Tellus area pass to Midland Red (North) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Tellus brand name is continued, but is soon shown on a Violet band with the company trading name removed.
  • Minibuses introduced on the Tellus network on 19th April 1986.

Notes:
1  It has been rumoured that “Tellus” was in fact a misprint, and the area name was originally to have been “Telbus”... but I have been unable to confirm this.
2  Before the introduction of the Tellus MAP scheme, town services in Telford had been provided by a number of small independent operators, some of which only operated a single route. The Development Corporation did not approve of this situation, and following negotiations between the Corporation, Midland Red, the independent operators and the local Council, the bus operations of the independent operators were sold to Midland Red. Four vehicles also passed to Midland Red with these local services, and entered service with fleet numbers 2146, 2147, 2149 and 2150.

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Wendaward MIDLAND RED 
Photograph
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Wandaward MAP scheme was launched on Saturday 11th March 1978, in Hereford and Ledbury. Heavy cuts to rural services result in a fleet reduction to 24 vehicles at Hereford depot.
  • Rural services from Hereford City renumbered with ‘H’-prefix route numbers, in the range H20–H26, H39–H45 and H65–H67. Hereford to Leominster route (two short-working journeys of Service X92) renumbered to Service H32, routes in the Ledbury area renumbered in the range H74–H79.
  • Further cuts to rural routes in c. May 1978 and again in c. August 1980 with almost all rural services being withdrawn. Fleet reduction to 19 vehicles at Hereford depot by the end of 1980.
 Midland Red (West) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Wandaward area pass to Midland Red (West) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Wandaward brand name is continued, but with “Midland Red West” trading name.
  • Wandaward brand name phased out from July 1984.
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Wayfarer MIDLAND RED 
Photograph
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Wayfarer Viable Network Project was launched on 23rd July 1977, in the Evesham area, with the use of a small number of Ford Transit minibuses on certain routes.
    Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) acquired the Ford Transit minibus second-hand from London County, and classified them as type code M1. One example also entered service at Redditch depot at this time.
  • Ford Transit minibuses found to be too small and replaced by Ford R192 & R1014 buses which had been shortened by Midland Red at Central Works to make 27-seater midibuses Shortened Ford R192 & R1014 ].
  • Evesham garage mileage and vehicle allocation reduced by just over 25% with the introduction of the Wayfarer scheme.
 Midland Red (West) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Wayfarer area pass to Midland Red (West) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Wayfarer brand name is continued, but with “Midland Red West” trading name.
  • Wayfarer brand name phased out from July 1984.
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Wendaway MIDLAND RED 
Photograph
 Midland Red Omnibus Company Ltd
  • Wendaway Viable Network Project was launched on 5th November 1977, in Kidderminster and the surrounding area, using the slogan “Why walk? When you can Wendaway!
 Midland Red (West) Ltd
  • Bus operations in the Wendaway area pass to Midland Red (West) Limited at the formation of the company on 6th September 1981.
  • Use of the Wendaway brand name is continued, but with “Midland Red West” trading name.
  • Wendaway brand name phased out from July 1984.
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MAP Local Area Names after Midland Red split

After Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) split on 5th September 1981, three of the four new bus-operating companies abandoned or slow slowly phased out the local area identity brand names, and only Midland Red (North) Limited continued to actively promote the brands created with the MAP schemes.

MAP Local Area Names used by Midland Red (North) Limited

Photograph

In 1981, the management of the newly formed Midland Red (North) Limited believed the image of the old Midland “Red” had been tarnished in the eyes of the public during the late 1970s, and wished to create a new image for their company which distanced themselves as much as possible. The decision was taken to focus upon the local identities, which had been created in the area by the MAP schemes between 1978 and 1980. Each brand name received its own colour coding, which replaced the white NBC band on buses, and the area brand name was shown in white. While the National Bus Company (NBC) “double-N” logo and poppy-red livery remained, the name “Midland Red” disappeared completely, except for legal lettering.

Photograph

Midland Red (North) Limited continued this practice until the mid-1980s, and the run up to privatisation. At this time, the company wished to distance itself from the images of both the old Midland Red, and from the National Bus Company (NBC) and after considering a number of new liveries proposed by various marketing consultancy, introduced an overall white livery with diagonal stripes of claret and yellow. Local area names from the MAP schemes were shown in large yellow and red lettering across the front and along the sides, with the letters “MRN” shown in a red disc. Upon privatisation on 27th January 1988, the new owners, the Drawlane Group, immediately suspended this livery in favour of a style in-line with their group image. The MAP area names continued to be used, but were now much smaller and shown with equal prominence to the resurrected “Midland Red” name.

MAP area brand names finally started to disappear in 1992, when Midland Red (North) began a program of repainting their fleet into overall red livery, ironically based on the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited (BMMO — Midland “Red”) livery from the 1930s.

More details of liveries used by Midland Red (North) Limited can be found on the “Midland Red North: Leyland National – Livery” page in the Fleet section of this website.
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