Historically the main bus route between Worcester, Pershore and Evesham had been Service 387 operated by Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited (BMMO—Midland “Red” Motor Services). This was replaced during the late 1970s by Service 251 which additionally ran via Fladbury and Wyre Piddle.
When Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) ceased trading as a bus and coach operator at the end of services on Saturday 5th September 1981, the newly formed Midland Red (West) Limited assumed responsibility for bus services in Worcester and Evesham, and therefore operation of Service 251.
With deregulation on Sunday 26th October 1986, the company re-opened Birmingham (Digbeth) depot to operate services in the Birmingham and Black Country area. Many of these new services had route numbers similar to those operated in the Evesham area, so to avoid confusion routes were renumbered and Service 251 became Service 551.
Service 551 was introduced by Midland Red (West) Limited on Sunday 26th October 1986 as a direct replacement to Service 251, running over the same route. The purpose of the route renumbering was to avoid clashes between route numbers used by the company in the Evesham area with those used in the Birmingham and Black Country area.
Variation Service 250, Service 271 and Service 272 were all renumbered at the same time and became Service 550, Service 571 and Service 572. One Service 551 return journey ran 30-minutes earlier in the new timetable, but otherwise all running times for this group of services remained unchanged.
At the time, the company was still technically under the control of the National Bus Company (NBC), but plans for privatisation were already well underway and the company was sold in a management buy-out less than two months later on Monday 22nd December 1986.
|New October||1986||Worcester ↔ Pershore ↔ Fladbury ↔ Evesham|
Midland Red West Limited (without the brackets around the word “West”) started trading on Monday 22nd December 1986 with the privatised and merged operations of Midland Red (West) Limited and Midland Red Coaches Limited.
Operation of Service 551, and variation Service 550 and Service 571, continued without any change to the route or running times, but the National Bus Company (NBC) name and logo was quickly dropped from all literature. As vehicle repainting was prioritised to the larger depots, vehicles working these services from Evesham depot were much slower to reflect the changes.
Most journeys were operated by Evesham depot using Leyland National single-deck buses, although in the late 1980s a small number of Leyland Leopard duel-purpose buses were still in service at Evesham and these would sometimes be used. In 1995, Worcester depot received a batch of new Dennis Lance single-deck buses and journeys operated from that site were all worked with the newer vehicles, but Evesham depot continued to use the Leyland National for several years.
|December||1986||Worcester ↔ Pershore ↔ Fladbury ↔ Evesham|
|January||1997||Worcester ↔ Pershore ↔ Fladbury ↔ Evesham|
Midland Red West Limited was sold to FirstBus PLC in 1997 and the company renamed to First Midland Red Buses Limited on Friday 26th March 1999. Service 551 and it’s variations continued to be operated mostly by Evesham depot, with only one full journey and a few short-working journeys being operated by Worcester depot.
Under the control of FirstGroup, the Leyland National single-deck buses at Evesham depot were quickly phased out and replaced with a varied mix of Dennis Lance and Leyland Lynx single-deck buses, all being moved to Evesham from other depots. The depot also received a number of coaches from other depots and these were also often found working Service 551.
In February 2005, Evesham depot received their first allocation of new vehicles since the Leyland Nationals bought by Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) in the late 1970s. Seven new Alexander Dennis Enviro300 single-deck buses (fleet numbers 67644–67651) entered service at the depot and immediately replaced the older vehicles used on Service 551.
Just over a year later it was announced that Evesham depot would close at the end of operations on Saturday 30th December 2006. From the Autumn of 2006, work from the Evesham site started to be transferred to other garages and by October 2006 almost all journeys of Service 551 were being operated by Worcester depot, but Evesham continued to run one vehicle on the route right up the the closure date.
In 2017, following long negotiations with Worcestershire County Council, various Parrish Councils, and a local Transport Action Group, a new network of services was finally agreed for Worcester, Pershore, Evesham and the surrounding villages. The new network came into operation on Sunday 15th October 2017, and was branded as “The 50s” as the routes were numbered in the range 50–54. At this time, all off-peak Service 551 journeys were withdrawn leaving just two peak-time return journeys between Worcester and Evesham, which were renumbered to Service 51 in the new network. The withdrawn off-peak journeys were partly replaced by new Service 52 (to Evesham) and Service 53 (to Eckington).
|September||2000||Worcester ↔ Pershore ↔ Fladbury ↔ Evesham|
|January||2002||Worcester ↔ Pershore ↔ Fladbury ↔ Evesham|
|September||2003||Worcester ↔ Pershore ↔ Fladbury ↔ Evesham|
|September||2015||Worcester ↔ Pershore ↔ Fladbury ↔ Evesham|
|April||2016||Worcester ↔ Pershore ↔ Fladbury ↔ Evesham|
|September||2016||Worcester ↔ Pershore ↔ Fladbury ↔ Evesham||Withdrawn Oct 2017|