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The old "Travel West Midlands" logo, still displayed on 71% of the current fleet
The temporary "transitional logo"


National Express West Midlands (NXWM) is the brand name of West Midlands Travel Ltd (part of the National Express Group), a company which operates bus services from depots in the cities of Birminghammarker, Coventrymarker, and Wolverhamptonmarker, as well as the boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, and Walsallmarker in the West Midlands county of Englandmarker, and some adjacent areas. The Birmingham depots also operate routes in the borough of Solihullmarker. It is one of the largest bus operators in Great Britain, and the largest in the Greater Birmingham area.

History

On 26 October 1986, West Midlands Travel Ltd came into existence as part of the deregulation of the bus industry in Englandmarker and Walesmarker. It was previously the bus operations of the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (WMPTE).

In April 1995, the company was purchased by the National Express Group, and rebranded as Travel West Midlands in September 1996. On 9 December 2002, the Coventry services were rebranded Travel Coventry.

The former Travel Your Bus and Travel Merry Hill subsidiaries have been merged into the main fleet.

4 February 2008 saw the latest rebranding, to National Express West Midlands.

Today, National Express West Midlands is considered by many to operate almost as a monopoly on West Midlands-based bus travel, and is often criticised for poor value for money and poor service. Over 8,000 people have joined a group on Facebook to campaign for the company to lower its prices.[606394] Freedom of Information requests have also shown that 61% of buses in the West Midlands were between 1 and 5 minutes late.

Future

It was believed that National Express were set to be sold to a Cosman Family Group, with Stagecoach then set to purchase the UK Bus Operations. However, both parties announced they were no longer pursuing this line of interest on October 16 2009. The deal was believed to be going through so much that as of 1 October 2009, no buses were being repainted into the National Express West Midlands livery, instead, buses were painted into all-over white. However, on 19 October 2009, National Express confirmed that it had received a "highly preliminary" all-share offer from Stagecoach, so once again the future of National Express West Midlands is uncertain. Once again, NX announced on 29 October 2009 that it was no longer going to merge with Stagecoach, this meaning due to competition laws.

Ticketing

Fares used to be roughly linked to distance travelled, but there is now only a standard fare and a cheaper 'short hop' fare on most routes. Cash fares can be bought from the driver on the bus, but no change is given. Child fares are available at half the adult cost. There are no bus conductors, but tickets are often checked by roving inspectors and West Midlands Police. Adult fares are currently £1.20 for a journey of up to two fare stages (with each fare stage roughly three stops), and £1.70 for a longer journey.

Various pass type tickets are sold in advance (off-bus), for varying periods from 1 day to 1 year, covering different parts of (or the complete) operating area. The all day Daysaver ticket, also available on-bus, includes NXWM routes running outside the West Midlands county (where single fares are sometimes higher) and services operated by sister company, National Express Coventry.

NXWM generally increases fares at least once a year, with January the month of choice. 2009 was no exception, despite falling fuel prices, and the recession.

Senior citizens (aged 60 or over) and disabled persons are eligible for free concessionary travel pass in a similar fashion to that offered in other areas. An add-on ticket can be purchased to extend the concession to cover weekday travel within the West Midlands county before 9:30am.

Garages and routes

NXWM has eleven garages - Acocks Greenmarker, Bordesley Greenmarker, Birmingham Central, Lea Hallmarker, Perry Barrmarker, Yardley Woodmarker, Pensnett, Walsallmarker, West Bromwichmarker, Wolverhamptonmarker and Coventrymarker, with the latter trading as National Express Coventry. Previously, the company and its predecessors have operated garages in Stourbridgemarker, Dudleymarker, Sutton Coldfieldmarker, Hockleymarker, Cotteridgemarker, Selly Oakmarker, Washwood Heathmarker and Quintonmarker.

Many routes can be traced back to the days of municipal operation, such as service number 11, the Birmingham Outer Circle, which is one of the longest urban services in Europe. However, in certain areas, there has been substantial changes to the service structure, with many new routes introduced. For example, at the end of April 2008, NXWM in conjunction with Centro, Dudley Council and other operators, re-routed, re-timed, and renumbered buses in the Dudley, Halesowen and Stourbridge areas. A similar process took place in Solihullmarker in January 2009, with one also taking place in October 2009 for South West Birmingham. Similar reviews are also planned in 2010 for Sandwell and Walsallmarker North (Bloxwichmarker, Brownhillsmarker & Aldridgemarker) and then later in the year or early 2011 in Walsallmarker West (Willenhallmarker & Darlastonmarker) and Wolverhamptonmarker.

Antisocial behaviour and fare evasion

Crime (such as robbery and assault) and vandalism are an ongoing problem on NXWM buses, with travel on the upstairs deck sometimes being particularly challenging. The installation of CCTV on buses was part of the attempt to stabilise the level of crime.

Safer Travel (ST, formally known as Operation Safer Travel), a 'partnership' between National Express West Midlands, Centro, and West Midlands Police, entails the stopping of buses, generally on trunk routes into Birmingham city centre, while all tickets are checked by NXWM inspectors and Police. Typically 10 to 20 police constables and community support officers are present at the bus stop where the 'Gateway' check is being conducted. Most of the cost of ST is met from public, rather than NXWM, funds.

The ST name is also used for presentations for schools 'educating children about how to respect their buses'.

Fleet



National Express West Midlands is aiming for the whole fleet to be low floor by March 2010. This means that the remaining MCW Metrobuses and possibly the Alexander Strider bodied Volvo B10B single decks all need to be withdrawn by this date, with the Wright Endurance bodied B10B examples due to be withdrawn within the following few years.

About 500 buses are now in the new National Express West Midlands livery, this total including the new 91 buses that have already arrived and entered service during 2009 - 60 Scania OmniLinks, 30 Alexander Dennis Enviro 400s and an Alexander Dennis Enviro 300.

References



External links




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