On Saturday 5th November 1977, Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) launched their “Wendaway” Viable Network Project (VNP) in Kidderminster and surrounding area. At this time, the long established Service 315 running between Stourbridge, Kidderminster and Worcester was withdrawn and replaced by new Service 303.
When Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) ceased trading as a bus and coach operator at the close of trading on Saturday 5th September 1981, all assets and operations were divided between five new operating companies, with responsibility for Service 303 passing to Midland Red (West) Limited.
Service 303 was operated from Kidderminster depot and Worcester depot, running an hourly frequency between Worcester, Kidderminster, and Stourbridge, with certain journeys extended to Wolverhampton. From Sunday 27th October 1985, the service was inter-worked with new “Midland Express” Service X73 which ran over the same route as Service 303 between Wolverhampton and Worcester, but then continued to Cheltenham Spa, Gloucester and Bristol.
A minor change to the route came on Saturday 8th March 1986 when both Service X73 and Service 303 were diverted to run via Aggborough (Hoo Road) in Kidderminster. On Saturday 30th August 1986, shortly before deregulation, Service X73 and the Wolverhampton, Stourbridge and Kidderminster section of Service 303 were withdrawn.
1 Service 303 operates as Limited Stop between Stourbridge and Wolverhampton.
2 Kidderminster, Stourbridge and Wolverhampton section of Service 303 was withdrawn on 30th August 1986, shortly before deregulation.
On Saturday 30th August 1986, shortly before deregulation, Service X73 was withdrawn and Service 303 was shortened to run only between Worcester and Kidderminster. New Service 304 was introduced as a variation which ran via Holt Fleet between Ombersley and Worcester, and most journeys connected with “Midland Express” Service X93 in Kidderminster to provide links to Birmingham. Both Service 303 and Service 304 ran once every two hours, inter-worked to give an hourly frequency on the Ombersley to Kidderminster section of the route.
Midland Red (West) Limited and Midland Red Coaches Limited were merged and privatised as Midland Red West Limited on Monday 22nd December 1986. There then followed a period of rapid changes with new timetables published in February 1987 and again in April 1987.
By the end of 1989, variation Service 304 had been withdrawn and replaced by extending “Midland Express” Service X94 to Worcester, but this change was reversed in September 1991 when Service X94 was withdrawn and the Worcester to Kidderminster section of the route was replaced by reinstating Service 304.
Starting from Saturday 28th August 1993, Stevensons of Uttoxeter Limited won the Hereford & Worcester County Council contract to operate Service 304 and new Service 305. From this time, all but one peak-time Service 304 journey was withdrawn by Midland Red West and replaced by the Stevenson services, although Stevenson were obliged by the contact to accept Midland Red West tickets and passes. Service 303 continued to be operated by Midland Red West but was reduced with one morning and one evening peak-time return journey between Kidderminster and Worcester, plus a small number of off-peak short-working journeys between Worcester and Ombersley only.
On Sunday 14th August 1994, Stevensons of Uttoxeter Limited sold all of their West Midlands and Worcestershire services to West Midlands Travel Limited. The Worcestershire work was outside the normal operating area of the company, so within a few weeks the contract to operate Service 304 passed to Midland Red West Limited. From Monday 26th September 1994, Midland Red West once again operated all journeys between Worcester, Ombersley and Kidderminster, but these continued to be to a reduced timetable with most Service 303 journeys still being short-working between Worcester and Ombersley. Stevensons had operated via Waresley Court Estate in Hartlebury and Woodhall Lane Estate in Ombersley, and these changes were now adopted by Midland Red West on their journeys.
By 1996, the contract to operate these services had been extended and Service 303 once again ran over the whole route during the off-peak period to give an hourly frequency between Worcester and Kidderminster.
1 Only one morning peak-time and one afternoon peak-time Service 303 journeys operated between Ombersley to Kidderminster.
In 1997, Midland Red West Limited became part of FirstBus, and on Friday 26th March 1999 renamed to First Midland Red Buses Limited.
From Monday 4th September 2000, the service was subsidised by Worcestershire County Council under their new “easyLINK” scheme and extended and re-routed to serve the three branches of Worcester’s Royal Infirmary at Castle Street, Ronkswood, and Newtown. The service was also increased to operate on an hourly frequency during the daytime, and additional journeys were added in the evenings. Although Service 304 continued to operate there were only a small number of off-peak journeys. As part of the same contract a new Service X33 was being operated linking the Kidderminster and Redditch hospitals.
From Monday 8th April 2002 the contract for Service 303 and Service X33 passed to Probus Management Limited (trading as Pete’s Travel), and Service 304 was withdrawn. However, this was not successful and less than 18-months later Service 303 returned to First Midland Red Buses Limited.
From Monday 1st September 2003 the Worcestershire County Council contract to operate Service 303, and a single Service 304 journey, passed back to First Midland Red Buses Limited. In late 2004, First Midland Red acquired new Dennis Dart single-deck buses to operate these contracts, and the vehicles carried route-branding. When the contract expired, First Midland Red operated the service on a commercial basis from their Kidderminster depot, but the route branding was removed from vehicles.