We look back 40 years to the start of the break-up of the National Bus Company’s regional subsidiaries and the creation of the business that soon took the name of a wild animal with a reputation for cunning behaviour

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the National Bus Company’s break-up of Midland Red, a move that over the next five years was followed at most of the state-owned group’s subsidiaries across the southern half of England.

There is a frequently related myth that this was a preparation for privatisation. It actually was about efficiency and cost control. Privatisation did not become a reality until the autumn of 1984 and it took until early 1986 for NBC to resist the idea of selling its individual subsidiaries to separate buyers. Had this been about privatisation, then the companies in Wales and the north of England would surely also have been broken up long before the government directed their division.

Midland Red was in financial trouble, having sold its lucrative operations in Birmingham and the Black Country to West Midlands PTE in 1973. The solution, effected in September 1981, was to split the 838-vehicle business into six smaller companies closer to the markets that they served.

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