Midland Red (West)
First Midland Red
Midland Red West (First Midland Red) Dennis Dart - Overview

Midland Red West (First Midland Red)
Dennis Dart — Overview

Introduction


Vehicles Acquired New

301–313 (R/Nos: N301–N313XAB)
Renumbered to 47001–47009, 47070 & 47011–47013 in March 2004

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In August 1995, Midland Red West Limited took delivery of 13 Dennis Dart single-deck midibuses with DP36F Plaxton Pointer bodywork, built to DPTAC standards. These vehicles were delivered to Worcester (Padmore Street) depot where they received their legal lettering and fleet numbers etc, before entering service in August and September at Kidderminster depot and its outstations, for use on their network of subsidised Shropshire services.

In April 1997, all of these vehicles except number 313 moved to Redditch depot to provide increased capacity on routes previously operated with Mercedes-Benz L608D minibuses. Between August and December 2000, while all 13 of these vehicles were in service at Redditch, they were re-seated from DP36F to DP35F to combat vandalism problems. This was done by turning the last double seat on the offside to face backwards and removing the last near-side double seat, filling the space with a single seat taken from a withdrawn Mercedes-Benz L608D that faces inwards. The first vehicle to be converted was fleet number 313, in August 2000, when it finally joined the rest of the batch at Redditch.

In late 2001 and early 2002, three of these vehicles, fleet numbers 309, 310 and 312, passed to First Cymru in exchange for the return of three larger Dennis Lance single-deck buses, fleet numbers 218, 219 and 220. These Lances had originally been new to Midland Red West in 1994, but passed to First Cymru in 1997 and 1998, shortly after Birmingham (Digbeth) depot had closed.

In early 2003, as more modern low-floor vehicles became available at Redditch, the remaining vehicles from this batch moved to Hereford depot to replace their ageing fleet of Mercedes-Benz minibuses, although one vehicle, fleet number 306, operated from Worcester (Padmore Street) depot for a while. While at Redditch, some of these buses had been repainted into FirstGroup “Barbie2” livery, but repainting seemed to come to a halt when they moved to Hereford. Those vehicles that did carry FirstGroup livery received red colour coded route branding for Service 74 shortly after moving to Hereford. In 2005, the repainting program started again, and by the end of summer 2007 all the vehicles from this batch had received FirstGroup “Barbie3” livery.

The examples that remained with First Midland Red Buses Limited were renumbered into the national FirstGroup numbering sequence on Saturday 13th March 2004, and were given fleet numbers in the range 47001–47013. Withdrawals started in July 2010 and the final examples were withdrawn in November 2011. It is believed all have now been scrapped.

341 (R/No: N341EUY)
Renumbered to 42641 in March 2004

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In April 1996, as part of the same order that saw the acquisition of 301–313 (see above), Midland Red West Limited acquired their first Dennis Dart SLF low-floor bus, fleet number 341. This vehicle was acquired with the aid of funding from Shropshire County Council and was operated from Kidderminster depot on services sponsored by the council, mostly in the Bridgnorth and Ludlow area.

In the summer of 1999, when the contract for the Shropshire services ended 341 found use on general services at Kidderminster depot. From September 2000, it was mainly used on the new Service X33 between Kidderminster and Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital, and on the extended Service 303 as a backup vehicle for 371 and 372 (see below). After those services were taken ver by Pete’s Travel in April 2002, the vehicle was again used on general county services from Kidderminster such as Service 192 between Kidderminster and Birmingham, and Service 143 between Birmingham and Redditch.

At the end of 2002, just after Christmas, 341 was taken off the road to be repainted and returned from the paint shop on the morning of Thursday 9th January 2003 in full FirstGroup “Barbie” corporate livery, thus becoming the first vehicle acquired new by Midland Red West to receive this livery after a repaint. Shortly afterwards 341 re-entered service at Worcester (Padmore Street) depot on local Worcester City services, becoming the first Dennis Dart to enter normal service at that depot.

In September 2003, when First Midland Red regained the Service 303 and Service X33 contract from Pete’s Travel, 341 returned to Kidderminster depot for use on these services, and while there was renumbered to 42641 as part of FirstGroup’s national numbering system. Kidderminster depot took delivery of five new Alexander Dennis Pointers (fleet numbers: 42889–42893) to operate these services in December 2004, and N341EUY returned to Worcester (Padmore Street) depot at this time for use mostly on Worcester Overground Service 35.

In February 2012, the vehicle returned to Kidderminster depot and operated their until the depot, operations and assets were sold to Rotala PLC on Sunday 3rd March 2013. Rotala rejected it as they felt it was unfit for service and Dennis Dart fleet number 42401 (registration number P401MLA), which was in service at Hereford depot at the time, passed to Rotala in its place. 42641 did not re-enter service with First Midland Red, and was sold for scrap a few weeks later.

42889–42894 (R/Nos: VX54MUC/O/P/U/V & VX05JWW)

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In December 2004, First Midland Red Buses Limited took delivery of five new Alexander Dennis Pointers. These vehicles arrived at Worcester (Padmore Street) depot where they were stored for about two weeks while being prepared for service.

They entered service at Kidderminster depot just before Christmas 2004, for use on the Service 303 and Service X33. Service 303 operates between the Worcestershire Royal Hospital at Newtown, Worcester, via Worcester City Centre, Ombersley and Kidderminster Town Centre, to Kidderminster General Hospital. The service then changes to an X33, which runs back to Kidderminster Town Centre then to the Alexandra Hospital at Redditch, via Bromsgrove Town, Bromsgrove Hospital and Redditch Town Centre.

Calling at so many hospitals, it not surprising that these services were subsidised by Worcestershire County Council and the NHS Hospital Trust, and the conditions of the contract state that low floor vehicles are to be used. Prior to the arrival of these new vehicles, the services were operated using Dennis Dart fleet numbers 47641 (registration number N341EUY), 42217, 42219 and 42220 (registration numbers R217, R219 and R220MSA). With the new deliveries, these four vehicles became surplus to requirement at Kidderminster and have moved to Worcester (Padmore Street) depot to provided low floor vehicle access on their Overground services.

On Friday 18th February 2005, a sixth example, registration number VX54MUW, was delivered to Worcester (Padmore Street) depot and was stored for a number of weeks while First Midland Red tried to locate its lost paperwork. By the time the paperwork was ready, the “54” registration number that had been reserved was out of date, and the vehicle received the number VX05JWW. The vehicle finally joined the others from the batch in mid-March 2005 at Kidderminster depot.

All of these vehicles, except number 42891, recieved “catch the CONNECTION” route branding for Service 303 and Service X33 in June 2005, featuring a large picture of a nurse on the sides. In September 2006, following changes to these services, these vehicles had their route branding removed and two vehicles, fleet numbers 42892 and 42893, moved to Worcester (Padmore Street) depot, and one vehicle, fleet number 42894, to Hereford depot.

On Thursday 24th January 2013, it was announced that First Midland Red Buses Limited were to sell their depots, assets and services at Kidderminster and Redditch to Rotala PLC. The three examples that were still in service at Kidderminster depot were part of this sale and passed to Rotala subsiduary, The Diamond Bus Company Limited, at this time. The remaining three examples continued in service with First Midland Red until October 2013, and were then passed to First Potteries Limited.

Leased Vehicles

351–354 & 356 (R/Nos: Y351–Y354AUY & Y356AUY)
Renumbered to 42351–42354 & 42356 in March 2004

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In early 2001, First Midland Red Buses Limited won the contract to operate the new Worcester North Park+Ride service, which was due to come into operation on 17th April 2001.

For the contract First Midland Red leased five new Low Floor B34F Caetano Nimbus Dennis Darts, fleet numbers 351-354 and 356, which were delivered on the 11th and 12th April in purple and orange “Worcester North Park+Ride” livery. Also, to fulfil contract requirements, fifteen volunteer drivers were sent on a three day training coarse and these drivers now work special shifts which includes the Park+Ride services.

One of these vehicles was in Worcester for one day in March 2001 for evaluation. It was seen at Crowngate Bus Station and at the Park+Ride site, unregistered and running on trade plates with no marking or livery. However these vehicles were not used for driver training, a Caetano demonstrator (registration number W809VMA) was used at Worcester (Padmore Street) depot from March 2001 for all training requirements (see the “Dennis Dart - Miscellaneous” page for details of this vehicle).

During normal operation four of these vehicles were used to provide a ten minute service between the purpose built Park+Ride site at Perdiswell, Little London, Forgate Street Rail Station, and the Crowngate Bus Station in the City Centre. The remaining vehicle was kept at Worcester depot as spare to allow for breakdowns and servicing requirements. However, in the run up to Christmas the Park+Ride service was so popular that all five vehicle were required in service at the same time.

On 5th September 2005, Worcester City Council re-launched their park and ride services in the City of Worcester under the new brand name “Worcester Express,” and introduced two new limited stop circular park and ride services, the W2 and W3, running between the City Centre, Perdiswell Park and Ride site, Warndon, Worcester Royal Hospital and the City Centre every 20 minutes. At the end of August 2005, the park and ride vehicles operated by First had their branding removed, and operated for a few weeks without any branding. Shortly after the re-launch, they were re-branded with “Worcester Express” logos and dedicated route branding for either the W2 or W3 services. The original Park+Ride route was renumbered to W1 at this time and operation of this service was taken over by two Alexander Dennis Enviro300 buses.

The dedicated route branding for individual services on each vehicle proved to be problematic as vehicles could only be used on their allocated route, and the Council clearly saw this situation as being less than idea, but in 2006, the 5-year lease on the vehicles expired and First Midland Red took the option to purchase them. Now that the vehicles were owned by the company and their long-term use on the services assured, the Council paid for all five to have had their individual route branding removed new LED destination displays fitted, at the cost of approximately £10,000 per vehicle, which allowed them to be used on any of the park and ride routes. The purple and orange livery with “Worcester Express” branding remained.

In October 2007, it was announced that First Midland Red had lost the contract to operate the park and ride in Worcester, and thus the W1, W2 and W3 services would end in February 2008. From this time, the County Council operated the W1 service in-house with a fleet of new vehicles in red and silver “Whoosh” branding, while the W2 and W3 services were temporarily replaced with X22 and X23 services operated semi-commercially by First from 25th February 2008. Once the X22 and X23 services started, First Midland Red immediately begun a program of repainting these vehicles into corporate livery, and while they were mostly used on the X22 and X23, they did start to appear on other routes which in turn led to them being fitted with safety screens in the cabs during the summer of 2008.

The temporary X22 and X23 ended on 30th August 2008, and was replaced by First Midland Red with a fully-commercially operated extension to their existing 31 service. While the standard 31 service continued to be operated with the Optare Solo vehicles, the former park and ride Darts were used on the extended part of the route, running as services 31A and 31C—Service 31A for anti-clockwise replacing service X23, and 31C for clockwise replacing service X22.

In November 2011, all five of these vehicles moved to Hereford depot for use on service 420 and local routes. In September 2014, Worcester depot started to receive a batch of eight new Wrightbus StreetLite DF single-deck buses which started to displace a similar number of vehicle to Hereford. At first these ex-Park+Ride were all going to be withdrawn, but plans changed and for a while there was talk of them being refurbished. However, this never happened and fleet numbers 42351, 42352 and 42354 continued in service unchanged at Herford depot until it was closed at the end of services on Saturday 5th September 2015. The other two were withdrawn in October 2014, stored at Worcester depot for a while, then passed to First Potteries in May 2015.

371 & 372 (R/Nos: X371–X372CUY)

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From Monday 4th September 2000, the Service 303 between Kidderminster and Worcester was extended and re-routed to serve the three branches of Worcester’s Royal Infirmary at Castle Street, Ronkswood and Newtown. The service, which was subsidised by Worcestershire County Council under the “easyLINK” scheme, was also increase to operate on an hourly frequency from every two hours during the daytime, and additional journeys were added in the evenings.

First Midland Red leased two new short-wheelbase Dennis Dart SLF buses (registration numbers X371CUY and X372CUY) from Minstral Group PLC to meet contract requirements that called for easy access vehicles to be used. Both vehicles were fitted with Plaxton mini-Pointer bodies and came into service on Monday 4th September 2000 at Kidderminster depot with fleet numbers 371 and 372. Their original overall white livery remained, with “easyLINK” route branding carried on the sides and rear.

Although both these vehicles featured route branding for service 303, from time to time they could also seen operating on Service X33 which runs between Kidderminster, Bromsgrove and the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, and is operated as part of the same contract.

From Monday 8th April 2002, the contract for services 303 and X33 was taken over by Pete’s Travel. Both of these vehicles were withdrawn from service with First Midland Red on Saturday 6th April 2002, then taken to the body shop at Worcester depot to have all their markings and fittings removed. They were then repainted in plain white livery and passed back to the lease company.

By the end of May 2002, registration number X372CUY was in service as a Park & Ride bus at the Eden Project near St. Austell in Cornwall.

Vehicles Acquired Second-Hand

314 (R/No: K903CVW)
Renumbered to 46103 in March 2004

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K903CVW was new in 1993 to Thamesway (part of the Eastern National company) as fleet number 903. It is a standard Dennis Dart with Plaxton Pointer bodywork and 35 seats. It passed to First Northampton as fleet number 693, and had a brief spell at First Leicester before joining First Midland Red in August 2003, as fleet number 314. It was repainted into FirstGroup “Barbie 2” livery during September 2003, and entered service at Kidderminster depot shortly afterwards.

On 12th June 2005, with the restructuring of most of Worcester City “Overground” services, this vehicle moved to Worcester (Padmore Street) depot along with fleet numbers 40068 and 40093, for use on “Blue Line” Service 32. This service had previously operated at a 15-minute frequency using Mercedes O.814 Vario minibuses, but the changes saw this reduced to a 20-minute frequency and the route changed to accommodate these larger vehicles. Five of the Mercedes minibuses were withdrawn from Worcester at this time due to these and other changes.

In August 2007, as Worcester routes were upgraded to low-floor vehicles, 46103 returned to Kidderminster depot, and remained there for just over a year before being sold to a Rowing club in Hereford. It was repainted into pink, white, blue and black livery and housed for several months at First Midland Red’s Hereford depot as one of the club members, Driver David Gwilliam, worked there. When this arraignment came to an end the vehicle was recorded as scrapped in various bus newsletters, but this was incorrect and it was later housed near Marden. By mid-2010, it was off the road and had moved under tow to a new home in someone’s back garden. Soon after the rowing club disbanded and none of the former club members wished to take responsibility for her, so in 2011 the garden owner took matters into their own hands and she was sold for scrap.

327, 329 & 330 (R/Nos: R217, R219 & R220MSA)
Renumbered to 42217, 42219 & 42220 in March 2004

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On Wednesday 20th March 2002, First Midland Red took delivery of a Dennis Dart, registration number R220MSA, from First Cymru, which was rumoured at the time to be the first of ten low floor Dennis Darts that First Midland Red had acquired for use at Redditch depot. It is fitted with a B37F Plaxton Pointer body in standard FirstGroup “Barbie” livery, and was new to First Aberdeen as fleet number 220 before passing to First Cymru (Swansea) with the fleet number 653.

After arriving from First Cymru it was allocated the fleet number 330 and spent about two weeks in storage at Worcester (Padmore Street) depot, then Redditch depot before it was loaned to First Northampton, without being used in service by First Midland Red. It returned to First Midland Red in the first week of May 2002, and entered service at Redditch depot on Monday 13th May 2002 for use on local Redditch services, mainly on “Circle Line” Service 57 and Service 58.

On Friday 10th May 2002 and Friday 31st May 2002, two more vehicles from the same batch passed to First Midland Red. These were registration numbers R219MSA and R217MSA (fleet numbers 652 and 650 in the First Cymru fleet). Both vehicles were kept in storage at Worcester (Padmore Street) depot for a short time while being made ready for service, then entered service with R220MSA at Redditch depot with the fleet numbers 329 and 327. Despite the early rumours that 10 of these vehicles would be acquired by First Midland Red, these three were the only ones to arrive.

On Monday 6th January 2003, First Midland Red upgraded three of their local Worcester City services, Service 21, Service 28 and Service 32 to run with larger, low-floor vehicles, even though no low-floor vehicles were available at the time! Shortly afterwards, Dennis Dart number 327 moved to Worcester (Padmore Street) depot for driver training and was later joined by fleet numbers 329, 330 and 341 (see above) in service at Worcester, replacing Mercedes-Benz O.814 Vario minibuses which had previously been used.

First Midland Red regained the contracts for Service 303 between Worcester’s Royal Hospital and Kidderminster, and Service X33 between Redditch’s Alexander Hospital and Kidderminster from Thursday 4th September 2003. As these service require the use of low-floor vehicles, 327 and 329 moved to Kidderminster depot at this time, with fleet number 330 following a few weeks later. On Saturday 13th March 2004, while in service at Kidderminster depot, they were renumbered to fleet numbers 42217, 42219 and 42220 as part of FirstGroup’s national vehicle numbering system.

All three examples returned to Worcester (Padmore Street) depot when Kidderminster took delivery of five new vehicles to operate Services 303 and X33 in December 2004, and were put into service on Worcester Overground Service 35, receiving yellow route branding for that service on Sunday 20th February 2005. The route branding was slowly removed towards the end of 2006 and early 2007, but the vehicles remained in service at Worcester for seven years, until January 2012 when fleet numbers 42217 and 42219 moved to Hereford depot. Fleet number 42220 moved back to Kidderminster depot in April 2012, and was still in service there when the depot and it’s operations were sold to Rotala PLC on Sunday 3rd March 2013, so it passed to the Diamond Bus fleet as fleet number 31501.

Following the sale of Redditch depot and Kidderminster depot a number of vehicles became surplus to requirment, and fleet numbers 42217 and 42219 were both withdrawn from service at Hereford depot. Both were stored at Worcester (Padmore Street) depot until August 2013, and were then sold for scrap.

40068, 40072, 40086, 40088, 40092, 40093 & 40096 (R/Nos: J901/5SEH, K919/21/5/6/9XRF)

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In early 2004, the traffic commissioner reduced the operating licence of First PMT due to their poor vehicle maintenance record. This forced them to withdraw a number of services in the Stoke-on-Trent area, leaving them with a surplus of vehicles. Five of these surplus vehicles passed to First Midland Red, with the first examples arriving at Worcester (Padmore Street) depot on Sunday 16th May 2004. Four of these five vehicles were in yellow and red First PMT livery, with the fifth, fleet number 40096, carrying FirstGroup “Barbie2” corporate livery. All were stored at Worcester depot while they were prepared for service, and entered service at Hereford depot from Monday 24th May 2004.

In June 2004, a sixth example, fleet number 40068 (registration number J901SEH), passed to First Midland Red in FirstGroup “Barbie2” corporate livery. This remained stored at Worcester (Padmore Street) depot for several months and finally entered service at Kidderminster depot in September 2004.

Of the four examples acquired in yellow and red First PMT livery, number 40093 (registration number K926XRF) received FirstGroup “Barbie2” corporate livery July 2004 and then moved to Kidderminster depot, while the remaining three ran at Hereford depot in PMT livery until May 2005 before repainted began.

On Friday 18th February 2005, First Midland Red staff went to collect another two of these vehicles from the First West Yorkshire depot at Halifax. However, only one of these, fleet number 40088 (registration number K921XRF), managed the journey to Worcester, with the other braking down on the M6 near Stoke-on-Trent. This was later recovered by First PMT engineers and never made the remainder of the journey. 40088 was stored at Worcester (Padmore Street) depot for several weeks before entering service at Hereford depot in April 2005.

On 12th June 2005 two of these vehicle, fleet numbers 40068 and 40093, moved to Worcester (Padmore Street) depot along with fleet number 46103. These vehicles were moved for use on Service 32 “Blue Line” which had previously used smaller Mercedes O.814 Vario minibuses. These vehicles were later joined at Worcester depot by 40072 and 40088, while 40068 and 40092 moved to Kidderminster depot.

Most of these vehicles were withdrawn in February 2008, but a few examples remained in service until August of that year. On withdrawal, all were stored at Kidderminster depot. By the end of 2008, all had passed to PVS Carlton (dealer) for scrap.

43869–43874 (R/Nos: EG52FFL/T/U/V/J/Y) 

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In June 2013, First Midland Red acquired six additional second-hand Dennis Darts for use at their Worcester (Padmore Street) depot. These vehicles had been part of a batch of thirty-three Dennis Darts with B29F Salvador Caetano Nimbus bodywork to Connex Transport Jersey (“MyBus”), St Helier, in September and October 2002. They were built to slimline Jersey specification which required buses to be built to a maximum width of 7′ 6½″ and length of 30′ 6″. Connex Transport Jersey became part of the Veolia group in 2006.

In 2013, the entire batch were sold to the dealer Ensign Bus Company Limited, Purfleet, who imported them to mainland UK and re-registered them with mainland registration numbers. They were acquired by First Group and fully refurbished into First corporate livery by Ensign Bus before being divided among various First Group companies.

Six examples were allocated to First Midland Red Buses Limited, Worcester, and entered service in June 2013 at Worcester (Padmore Street) depot with large “Worcester” fleet names on the side. In August 2014 three examples, fleet numbers 43869–43871, moved to Hereford depot for use on new contract service numbers 426, 437/77, 446 and 453/4 which were due to start on 1st September. At this time they had their “Worcester” fleet names replaced with “Hereford”. A forth example moved a few months later but ran with “Worcester” fleet names for several weeks before anyone noticed!

With the closure of Hereford depot at the end of services on Saturday 5th September 2015, all six of these buses were withdrawn and stored in the closed depot. On the morning of Friday 18th September they were collected by staff from First South West Limited (the new name for First Devon and Cornwall Limited, renamed following the sale of Plymouth operations to Stagecoach), and driven to their new home near Newquay. Unfortunately, 43869 and 43870 both had problems and did not make the whole 215-mile journey under their own power.

Due to a mix-up at Ensign Bus when imported, fleet numbers 43871 and 43872 were given the wrong registration numbers. 43871 entered service at Worcester as registration number EG52FFV, and 43872 as registration number EG52FFU. In early 2014, when one of the vehicles was being presented for an MOT test, the error was spotted and both vehicles had to be taken to the VOSA testing station at Kidderminster to be examined and re-registered with the correct numbers. I’m told the error occurred when the letter ‘V’ was mistaken for a ‘U’ on a hand-written import document, resulting in registration numbers being allocated to the wrong chassis numbers.