Tuesday, 7 September 2010

End of a (Relatively Short) Era

In 2007, Southern Vectis' investment in 7 Mercedes-Benz Citaro brought the first full size single deckers to the Isle of Wight for many a year. Numbered 451 to 457, these buses upgraded route 9 between Ryde and Newport. Following recent network changes, route 9 had replaced sections of the previous route 1 (Sandown & Bembridge to Cowes) and 7 (round the island). Route 9 operated at every 15 minutes, with half hourly journeys connecting to Bembridge. The main allocation was the then, ever present, Olympian fleet as illustrated here by 738 (K738ODL), pictured in Oakfield in April 2006 on one of those extensions to Bembridge.

The Citaros introduced a 10 minute frequency between Ryde and Newport, with journeys alternating between Staplers and Fairlee. As the route became more popular, the frequency increased to every 7/8 minutes, with 15 minute frequency over each of the Fairlee/Staples sections. Here is Mercedes-Benz Citaro 454 (HW07CXU) approaching Newport bus station in October 2009.

With the frequency increase came additional Citaros - fleet numbers 479 and 480 (HF06FUA/B respectively). New to Go Ahead at Wilts & Dorset, but immediately loaned to the then Accord Southern operated Unilink in Southampton, 479 and 480 arrived at Southern Vectis following the introduction of new Scania Omncity single decks on the Unilink routes, introduced by BlueStar's after their successful bid for the Unilink contract. 479 (HF06FUA) is pictured in Ryde bus station in October 2009, departing for Newport via Staplers.

Due to a number of factors, the Citaros on the 9 were replaced. These factors involved calls for extra capacity - double decks - on route 9, and low reimbursement rates for those with free elderly bus passes. Other factors were probably taken into consideration, but I am outside of Southern Vectis and don't wish to speculate. Double decks allowed the frequency to return to every 10 minutes, which solved two problems in one. Southern Vectis' new Scania Omnicitys replaced the Citaros on the 9 - seeing 451 to 457 move to the mainland to upgrade BlueStar's route 9 (nice parallel there!) between Southampton, Hythe and the Waterside in Spring 2010. They now carry BlueStar's fantastic dark blue livery, as illustrated here again by 454 (HW07CXU), in Hythe.

Sometime within the next 15 weeks will see 479 and 480 move on again, leaving Southern Vectis. They are to be retained while roadworks are completed on the island, although the situation elsewhere may dictate their withdrawal before those 15 weeks are up. I've travelled on many of Southern Vectis' Citaros and they have always been comfortable, well presented and very stylish. They will be missed by myself, at least, but bus companies aren't operated for enthusiasts - and the Omnicitys and Omnidekkas aren't bad at all.

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