With the pending expansion of the Midland Red West “Wyre Forest Shuttle” minibus network in Kidderminster in 1987, the company required a small number of addition vehicles. At this time, the Mercedes-Benz L608D was being used to operate all of the Midland Red West minibus networks, but production of this vehicle type had now ended so an order was placed for the newer Mercedes-Benz 609D.
The first order for the Mercedes-Benz 609D minibuses by Midland Red West was for six vehicles. These vehicles were supplied by Mercedes-Benz dealer, Howells of Worcester, and converted for bus work by Reeves Burgess of Chesterfield, being fitted with electric operated passenger doors, twenty bus seats (1+2 seating), one-peace destination equipment and an offside rear emergency door. The vehicle were given fleet numbers 1406–1411, which continued in the sequence established with the existing minibuses in the Midland Red West fleet, and were registered E406–E411HAB.
Numbers 1407–1411 entered service at Kidderminster depot as intended on 24th October 1987, for the expansion of the “Wyre Forest Shuttle” minibus services in Bewdley. However, 1406 was held back (presumably while it was being re-branded) and entered service at Redditch depot on 11th November 1987, as an additional vehicle for the “ReddiLink” network, which had been struggling to meet maintenance demands. This vehicle later moved to Kidderminster and remained there until being withdrawn from service in January 2001.
1410 and 1411 were moved from Kidderminster depot to Hereford depot in 1988 after revisions to the “Hereford Hopper” service called for more vehicles. They were replaced at Kidderminster by two Mercedes-Benz L608D minibuses, one from Worcester (Padmore Street) depot (F/No: 1361) and the other which was acquired from Bristol, Cityline (F/No: 1440). Both 1410 and 1411 were later returned to Kidderminster, along with 1412 which was new to Hereford depot.
All of the vehicles from this batch were repainted to red and cream Midland Red West bus livery in the early 1990s, and by the end of 2001 all had been withdrawn from service and later scrapped.
The second batch of Mercedes-Benz 609D minibuses also featured B20F Reeves Burgess bodies, although with detailed differences to the first batch. These included the flap over the destination gear inside the bus being in two halves and the screen behind the driver being Perspex and not the black coated mesh screen of all the older minibuses.
Fleet numbers 1412–1437 entered service new at Hereford depot in yellow, green and orange “Hereford Hopper” livery on Saturday 23rd April 1988 for the new minibus service in the City of Hereford. The remaining two, fleet numbers 1438 and 1439, were delivered in overall white livery and were the only new minibuses not to be delivered in fleet colours, both these vehicles were immediately put into store as they were not required but later found use as driver training vehicles before moving to Hereford depot after service revisions called for more vehicles.
A competition was run in Hereford to name the new minibuses, and as a result virtually all of the Mercedes-Benz 609D minibuses at Hereford carried names. These names were removed from the vehicles when they were reallocated to other depots.
In 1991 Centro were becoming concerned with the reliability of the Fiat-IVECO minibuses that Midland Red West were operating in Birmingham from their Birmingham (Digbeth) depot. To keep the Centro happy and to gain long term minibus contracts Midland Red West moved ten Mercedes-Benz 609D minibuses, fleet numbers 1420–1429, from Hereford to Digbeth, replacing them at Hereford with the Digbeth Fiat-IVECOs. Vehicles that move to Birmingham (Digbeth) depot were initially operated in “Hereford Hopper”, but with the brand names removed and replaced by a single Midland Red West “Wyvern” logo mounted on the bonnet. This arrangement did not last long and vehicles were soon repainted to red and cream bus livery.
More Mercedes-Benz 609D minibuses, fleet numbers 1417–1419, and 1430–1434, were moved from Hereford depot to Birmingham (Digbeth) depot in 1993. This time they were replaced at Hereford by older, second-hand Mercedes-Benz L608D minibuses that Midland Red West acquired from Bristol Cityline. At the same time all the Fiat-IVECOs were withdrawn from Hereford depot and replaced with ten Mercedes-Benz L608D minibuses from Kidderminster depot, fleet numbers 1362–1371, with Kidderminster receiving three Peugeot-Talbots from Birmingham (Digbeth) depot (fleet numbers 1806–1808) and four Mercedes-Benz 609D minibuses from Hereford depot (fleet numbers 1413–1416).
Birmingham (Digbeth) depot stopped operating minibuses in October 1995, and at this time all of their Mercedes-Benz 609D minibuses were reallocated to Kidderminster depot. Most remained in service there until late-2001 when they were replaced by second-hand Mercedes-Benz 709D minibuses acquired from First Bristol Buses Limited, and a number of Mercedes-Benz O.814 Varios which had become surplus to requirement at Worcester (Padmore Street) depot. From the original allocation of twenty-six Mercedes-Benz 609D at Hereford depot, only two vehicles, fleet numbers 1436 and 1437, survived at their original depot until withdrawal. The last surviving service bus from this batch was fleet number 1438 which was withdrawn from Hereford depot in August 2002.
This vehicle was new to South Wales Transport as a prototype with minibus conversion by Reeves Burgess. In 1994 it had become surplus to requirement at South Wales Transport and so was passed to Midland Red West. On joining the Midland Red West fleet it was allocated the fleet number 1463 and was repainted from its South Wales Transport green livery into the standard Midland Red West livery of red and cream before entry into service at Birmingham (Digbeth) depot.
When Digbeth depot stopped operating minibus services, fleet number 1463 moved to Kidderminster depot with the other Digbeth Mercedes-Benz 609D minibuses. It remained in service at Kidderminster depot until the end of 2001, when it was withdrawn and scrapped.
Note: South Wales Transport also operated a Mercedes-Benz 609D with a prototype minibus conversion by Robin Hood. This vehicle had the registration D764DWT and was passed to Thamesway in 1994.
The final batch, with B20F Frank Guy bodies, were acquired from First Eastern Counties from mid-2000 and delivered to First Midland Red in small groups from 18th August 2000. After being prepared in the body shop at Worcester (Padmore Street) depot they were sent to be hand painted into the newly revised version of First Midland Red’s red and cream livery, and by March 2001, sixteen of these vehicles had been painted and were in service.
In the Spring of 2001, FirstGroup announced a new livery for all older vehicles within the group. All of the Mercedes-Benz 609D minibuses repainted after this time were sent to Southampton and received the new “Barbie 2” FirstGroup livery. Fleet numbers 1607 and 1615 thus became the first two vehicles owned by First Midland Red to receive this new livery, being delivered from the paint shop on 2nd May 2001.
All of the Frank Guy bodied Mercedes-Benz 609D minibuses to come from First Eastern Counties were put into service at Hereford depot, replacing a similar number older Mercedes-Benz L608D minibuses which were withdrawn from service and scrapped.
Withdrawal of these vehicles began in November 2002 after service revisions throughout the company saw the reduction in the number of minibuses required. Surplus Mercedes-Benz O.814 Vario minibuses at Worcester depot were moved to Kidderminster depot replacing older Mercedes-Benz 709D minibuses, which in turn were moved to Hereford depot. Vehicles which carried the older red and cream bus livery were first to be withdrawn, these had their digital destination displays removed and fitted into their replacements before being stored at Kidderminster awaiting disposal.
In January 2003, Hereford depot upgraded two of their local Hereford City routes to operate with larger Dennis Dart buses which were moved from Redditch and Kidderminster depots, and at this time all but three of the last remaining Mercedes 609D minibuses were withdrawn from service. Then on 6th May 2003, Worcester depot recieved ten new Optare Solo buses for use on their “Orange Line” routes and Worcester’s surplus Mercedes-Benz O.814 Vario minibuses were moved to Hereford replacing the last of the Mercedes 609D.