In June 1987, Badgerline Holdings entered into competition with Wilts & Dorset Bus Company in the Salisbury area, leasing a batch of Fiat-IVECO 49-10 minibuses from Ryder Truck Rental to provide minibus alternatives to established networks. Wilts & Dorset responded aggressively with a mini-bus operation of its own, and by April 1988, Badgerline were loosing the bus war and announced they would close their operations.
Meanwhile, the deregulated bus market in the West Midlands had started to settle down and the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (WMPTE) started a process of introducing minibus routes to fill in between the main road commercial services. Midland Red West Limited were successful in winning some of these new contracts and, as they were now part of the Badgerline Group, took the opportunity to use some surplus Fiat-IVECO minibuses from the Badgerline fleet.
The first batch of Fiat-IVECO minibuses, numbered 1910-1915, 1917 and 1921 (R/Nos: D910–D915HOU, D917HOU and D921HOU) in the Midland Red West fleet, were operated at Birmingham (Digbeth) depot on temporarily loaned from Badgerline Limited in the summer of 1988. By October 1988, they had all been returned and replaced by similar vehicles with E9xxKEU registrations (See below).
The second batch of Fiat 49-10 Iveco minibuses, numbers 1922–1925 and 1927–1931 (registration numbers E922–E925KEU and E927–E931KEU), were also initially leased from Ryder Truck Rental who maintained them at the National Carriers Depot at Aston in Birmingham, but in May 1989 the they were purchased by Midland Red West Limited.
By 1991 the West Midland Passenger Transport Executive, or Centro as it was known by then, were becoming concerned with minibus reliability. To keep Centro happy and to help gain further long term minibus contracts Midland Red West Limited replaced the Fiat-IVECO minibuses at Birmingham (Digbeth) depot with a corresponding number of Mercedes-Benz 609D minibuses from Hereford (Friars Street) depot. The IVECO minibuses moved to Hereford depot and continued in service there until 1993 when they were passed to Badgerline Limited and replaced with a batch of Mercedes-Benz L608D minibuses from Bristol Omnibus Company Limited which were put straight into service in Bristol OC livery.
Between July 1989 and April 1990, six other Fiat 49-10 Iveco minibuses joined Midland Red West Limited at Birmingham (Digbeth) depot, and later Hereford (Friars Street) depot for short periods. All six of these vehicles had been new to Badgerline in November 1987, but had found their way to Midland Red West from various differant operators:
Midland Red West Limited also operated a number of Iveco demonstrators, these were:
Many thanks to Guy Craddock, Alan Nicholls and M.Wood for the information and pictures of these vehicles.