The busy 6 service (Birmingham to Solihull) has suffered in recent months with reliability issues as well as overcrowding, caused in part by an increase in patronage combined with the unreliability of the service.
The Stratford Road corridor has seen something of a capacity decrease since last year, with the loss of the 31 service and changes to the 2 and 5 services, which has left the mainly single-deck operated 6 service to cover the Stratford Road through much of Sparkhill and Springfield and on to Hall Green.
Service 2 was revised to follow the 3 route along Stoney Lane, while service 5 was revised to replace the 2 along Stratford Road then onto Showell Green Lane, no longer serving the Springfield end of Sparkhill.
With the removal of the double-deck operated 31 service from the Stratford Road – which continued from Springfield towards Acocks Green – some capacity was lost, meaning more passengers having no choice but to use the 6 to travel to/from the city centre to/from Sparkhill and Springfield.
Normally at a 6 to 8 minute frequency, the single-decks used on the 6 should have been able to cope with the demand, however delays caused by traffic congestion along the route mean that gaps in service appear, which leaves far more passengers waiting to get on buses which often turn up fully loaded.
I don’t normally catch the 6 myself, however I have lost count of the number of times I have been waiting for my bus in Sparkbrook and witnessed very full buses on the 6 with passengers struggling to get on and off. That in turn causes further delays, especially when the service is already running late.
So a welcome bit of good news for passengers struggling to use the 6 is that a new timetable is being implemented from tomorrow (1st September) which will also see the service curtailed to terminate and start from Solihull town centre, no longer serving Solihull rail station. This will hopefully alleviate some of the issues with reliability, continuing to run at frequent intervals (every 7 to 10 minutes during the day), but with more time added to complete the journey. Passengers can of course continue to access Solihull rail station from stops on Blossomfield Road.
The other good news is that to alleviate the overcrowding issues caused by an increase in patronage, brand new double decks are starting to appear on this service. A total of 21 new Platinum spec vehicles are in the process of being delivered to NX’s Yardley Wood garage to replace the single-deck vehicles currently being used which will increase passenger capacity on this service. These will be utilised alongside other non-route branded Platinum vehicles currently used on the 50 (Birmingham to Druids Heath) and other double-deck vehicles operated from Yardley Wood garage.
I understand that the introduction of these Platinum buses is something of a ‘stop-gap’ measure, as the 6 service is earmarked to be the recipient of brand new all-electric double deck vehicles sometime next year, so I hope that frustrated passengers on this service will appreciate the efforts being made by National Express West Midlands to alleviate the present overcrowding issues in the meantime.
For links to the new service 6 timetable from 1st September, as well as other revised timetables from the same date, please see the NX West Midlands website.