Diamond BUS Introduction

Diamond bus started life as The Birmingham Coach Company which was formed in 1984 by Geoff Howle as a small independent coach operator. With bus de-regulation in October 1986 the whole direction of the company changed. Geoff Howle decided to plug a gap in provision on the service 16 from the Hamstead to Birmingham by registering a service primarily linked to providing transport for students at Birmingham University from their halls of residents to the campus. This became the first competing bus route to be registered in the West Midlands by an independent operator against West Midlands Travel. The company continued to develop both its bus and coach operations becoming very reliant on mark one Leyland Nationals for the former. In 2000 the company embarked on a fleet replacement programme, which totally replaced the Leyland Nationals with a mixture of new and second hand, vehicles. As part of this programme the livery was altered and the Diamond Bus trading name was introduced. The Diamond Bus network served West Bromwich, Dudley and Walsall, as well as providing commercial services in north and west Birmingham. Some of the services were subsided by Centro and or Worcestershire County Council. At this time the company became a fairly large provider of vehicles for National Express services and opened a new satellite depot opened in Bradford in 2003 for some of these services (With a reduction in the operation of National Express services the Bradford depot was closed in the autumn of 2006).

On 5th December 2005 the company was purchased by the Go-Ahead Group for a total price of up to £2.025 million. Go-Ahead want to develop the Diamond Bus brand in the West Midlands. On 22nd February 2006 Go-Ahead announced that they had agreed in principle to acquire the assets and services of Probus Management Ltd (People's Express and formally Pete's Travel) for around £2.4 million. The actual completion of the sale took place on Tuesday 21st March 2006. The two operations were then consolidated under the Diamond bus brand name. From 22nd March 2006 the operation of all services that were operated by People's Express were transferred without change to Diamond Bus (In Redditch this meant journeys on the following routes in Redditch were transferred - 57, 58, 146, 247 and 343).   

The combined company went through a period of restructure to make it more like fellow Go-ahead bus operating subsidiaries:

  • On Wednesday 24th August 2006 Go-ahead group PLC owners of The Birmingham Coach Company announced today a restructuring of their West Midlands business. The Birmingham Coach Company Ltd was renamed Go West Midlands Ltd and from that date the company traded as Diamond in the West Midlands instead of Diamond Bus

  • A new livery was  introduced for the combined fleet which was the then current Diamond Bus livery but without the black roof. Repainting started with the yellow vehicles from the former People's Express operation that were to remain in the fleet.

  • From early September 2006 Go West Midlands started to share the same Managing Director, Philip Kirk, as City of Oxford a fellow Go-ahead company

  • A new fleet numbering scheme was introduced from Sunday 24th September 2006. This was in fact a part renumbering as some vehicles had acquired fleet numbers in early September 2006 only to re-numbered latter in the month so vehicle types were allocated blocks of numbers.

  • The new Diamond in the West Midlands fleet names were applied to vehicles as they are repainted from early October 2006.

  •  From 22nd October 2006 vehicles and services were moved between garages so that at the time all remaining Centro contracts were operated from the Tivadale garage.

  •  It was planned to reopen  the Redditch garage  from late October 2006 (this is the former Midland Red Church Road garage) for the operation of Redditch local services plus the Diamond service 50 between Druids Heath and Birmingham City Centre. It was to initially reopen on a Mondays to Saturdays between 0600 and 2000 basis only, though it soon once again became a seven day a week garage.

  • The re-opening of the Redditch depot was delayed whilst the application to change the operators license was processed. Diamond Bus finally re-opened the Redditch Garage (the former Midland Red Garage) over the weekend of the 10th and 11th February 2007. This followed an extensive refurbishment. 

  • The former Pete's Travel/People's Express garage at Hill Top closed as an operational garage over the weekend of the 10th and 11th November 2007. The majority of vehicles were transferred to the Tivadale Garage. From the same weekend all of the remaining step entrance vehicles were withdrawn from service.

Rotala takes over Diamond Bus:

All was not well with Diamond Bus and the Go-ahead Group undertook a review of the West Midlands bus operations and announced on 3rd March 2008 that it had completed the unconditional sale of 100% of the share capital of the company to Rotala plc ('Rotala'). The gross asset value of the business was approximately £1 million and the net book value was approximately nil. Owning the former companies of The Birmingham Coach Company and People's Express cost the Go-ahead group a total £10.2M to both purchase and restructure the two operations into the Diamond operation. The sale to Rotala only realised £2M hence why Go-ahead had to make provision for the remaining £8.2M in their half yearly accounts published in December 2007.

  •  From Monday 21st July 2008 Rotala started to put a number of new buses mainly Volvo B7R single deckers into service. Some of the new vehicles were allocated to the Redditch depot and branded as Red Diamond. The remainder of the new vehicles were being used in the Black Country branded as Black Diamond.

  • Following the purchase of the Ludlow's of Halesowen the operation was merged with Diamond bus operations with the closure of the  Ludlow's depot in Halesowen from Sunday 25th January 2009

  •  In September 2009 a new depot was opened at Droitwich to operate Worcestershire contracted bus services in both Droitwich and Worcester areas.

  •  With the reduction in funds available for bus subsidy in Worcestershire the Diamond bus operation in Worcestershire was drastically reduced from Sunday 24th April 2011. From that date the only services operated in Worcestershire were 51, 57A, 58A, 61 and 70 plus evening and Sunday journeys on 143, 146 and 247 in Redditch. The Droitwich local services, the 362,363 and 383 to the south of Worcester plus a number of late evening journeys in Worcester. 

  • During September and October 2011 Diamond bus adopted a new five figure group vehicle number system. Many vehicles carried both their new five figure number and their old 3 figure number for a number of months.

  •  At 0700 on Thursday 24th January 2012 it was announced that Rotala PLC had agreed to the acquire the Redditch and Kidderminster First Bus Garages  - click for the official announcement

  • The actual take over took place on Sunday 3rd March 2012 when Diamond bus took over the operation of all First Midland bus services in both Redditch and Kidderminster. This followed the purchase of the Redditch and Kidderminster depots from First Group for £1.5M.

  • During late 2017 and early 2018 Rotala looked to consolidate their West Midlands bus operations by the purchase of three of their key competitors in the area.

  • On 24th March 2017 Rotala agreed to purchase the majority of the Arriva bus operations at their Wednesfield depot which included a number of Transport for West Midlands contracts. The costs were undisclosed but Arriva but they effectively paid Diamond to take the Wednesfield depot off of their hands. Transport for West Midlands would only agree to a transfer of their contracts for six months. This meant from the takeover date of Sunday 23rd April 2017 all of the contracts takeover by Diamond Bus from Arriva only ran until October 21st 2017. When Transport for West Midlands went onto retendering the contracts that had been transferred for the start of longer term agreements  from the start of Sunday October 22nd 2017 Diamond Bus lost all of these contracted routes to other operators. As well as the contracts included a number of vehicles mainly Dennis Darts many of which entered the Diamond Bus fleet. The Wednesfield depot was not included in the deal and Arriva retained the Transport for West Midlands contracts for the routes 10A, 10B and 335 as these were being operated from other of their depots     

  • On Sunday 27th August 2017 Rotala purchased Hanson (Wordesley) Ltd that traded as Hansonís Local Bus Services for £608,000.  At the point of sale Hansonís had a turnover of some £2 million per annum and employed about 50 staff and operated some 30 vehicles. Key component of the sale was the Hansonís deport at Lye which the company owned the freehold of. Many of the actual buses were leased rather than owned outright. Rotala saw immediate economises to be made by closing the Lye depot and integrating the operation into their Diamond Bus operation and running the bus services they had acquired from their existing Tividale and Kidderminster deports. Rotala went to sell the depot site in January 2018 for £320,000. As the sale was an outright purchase of the whole company including the existing Operatorís License the Traffic Commissioner would not allow Diamond Bus to surrender the Hansonís Operators License and transfer the bus routes onto the Diamond Bus Operatorís License without giving the then 56 daysí notice. This meant that the actual transfer of services in legal terms did not take place between companies until 20th November 2017.

  • The second acquisition took place on Sunday 25th February 2018 when Rotala purchased the bus operations that traded as Central Buses from Cen Group Limited for £1,950,000. At the point of sale Central buses had an annual turnover of around £2.8 million and fleet of around 30 vehicles. This time as Cen Group retained their Operatorís License the transfer was far simpler with all the Central Bus services transferring to Diamond bus on the day of sale. Diamond bus did not acquire Central Buses main depot at Perry Barr in Birmingham but did add the companyís outstation at Tamworth. The remaining of Central Buses vehicles and bus routes were transferred to the existing Diamond bus depots at Redditch, Tividale and Kidderminster. This also allowed the outstation Central Buses in Kidderminster to be closed.

  • Cen Group continued to use their bus operators license trading as Midland Bus Hire doing private hire work using the Routemaster they retained and a number of other vehicles for such operations as rail replacement services. They surrendered their operator's licence in late 2021.  

  • On 1st February 2022 Rotala announced they had agreed to purchase the 18 vehicle bus operation Claribel Coaches who operate a number of TfWM contracts. Interestingly many of the contracts were due for renewal on 24th April 2022 and Diamond Bus did not to bid for the work with many of the services transferring to National Express West Midlands under contract to TfWM.  This was  concluded by 24th April 2022 when the operation was integrated into the Diamond Bus operation. On 24th April 2022 17 Claribel vehicles joined the Diamond bus fleet which were an Enviro 200, 3 Optare Versas with the remainder being VDL  vehicles. All but the Enviro 200 vehicle had been upgraded to Euro VI emission standards using money from TfWM meaning the vehicles would have to remain in the West Midlands.  

  • On Thursday 28th April 2022 it was announced that the whole of the Johnson's Excel bus operation would be sold to Diamond bus's parent company Rotala PLC for £936K.The deal included all commercial and tendered bus services  run by Johnson's plus 18 of the current bus fleet and around 50 staff.  Diamond Bus would take the operation over from 29th May 2022 when the Excel operation would move to their Redditch depot and be integrated into the Diamond operation and brand.

  • On Wednesday 3td August 2022 t was announced that with immediate affect Rotala would acquire Midland Classic Ltd. They operate 60 vehicles from its freehold depot in Burton-upon-Trent and employs approximately 110 staff, who joined the Rotala Group as part of the acquisition. It was  the principal bus operator in Burton-upon-Trent, from where it provides bus services to other nearby towns such as Uttoxeter, Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Lichfield.  The Company was renamed Diamond bus (East Midlands) Ltd and will now trade as Diamond Bus