Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Remembering Stagecoach on the A

As there are not many things happening during this precise week, between Christmas and New Year, I thought I'd remember Stagecoach's 3 and a bit years operating on Sunday's route A, between Eastleigh and Hedge End. This post is also dedicated to the regular driver on the Stagecoach A, who I'm going to leave unnamed at the mo, who helped with many of these photos! Thank you :-)

33027 - NDZ3017 - 21st March 2008
My first picture comes from one of the first weekends' of Stagecoach operation on route A, and shows two views of Dart SLF 33027, firstly in the sun at Mansbridge, followed by another view of the same bus at Hedge End superstores. 
The A took Stagecoach into land where they have not served for many a year and, to me at least, seemed quite a strange decision initially. Now it is sad they've disappeared, which mean my local SC services either are at Fareham (69) or Southampton (46).

33028 - NDZ3018 - 27th September 2009
Darts and Enviro200s were the main buses on the A - particularly 33027 and 33028, unbranded former Winchester Park & Ride buses. Here is 33028 at a very sunny Hedge End superstores in September 2009, heading back for Eastleigh.

18527 - GX06DYC - 2nd April 2010
Double deckers did not regularly feature on the A, although on Bank Holidays Stagecoach did tend to use the buses in case of extra high loads. Furthermore, on days where the Rose Bowl cricket ground had England matches, double decks were used. Here is 18527 freshly repainted and transferred to Winchester, following the delivery of new Scanias for Coastliner700.

18519 - GX06DXT - 20th March 2011
I'm not sure if 20th March did have any particular bank holiday associated with it, or whether this was just a one-off allocation (I can't remember), but here is Rivers branded Trident on route A at Hedge end, making a rare foray south. The Rivers Tridents are usually allocated to routes such as 64/65 to Guildford, or 69 to Fareham. Again, another shot not down to luck but thanks to the Sunday A's regular driver - much appreciated again!

Alas, the days of Stagecoach on the A are over and now First have control of the Sunday contract. With Stagecoach also venturing to Eastleigh on the C and E Sunday contracts during this time, and regularly covering the Rail Replacement services, Stagecoach could be back one day...


  1. An excellent post James - but I would say that wouldn't I!

    When the A started in February 2008 two drivers did alternate weekends - one being me. I have worked Sundays regularly for many years but always on middle or late duties so although I enjoy anything 'different' I wasn't too keen on the 0830 book on, especially as I worked late on Saturday nights too.

    Subsequently as schedules rep. at Winchester I struggled to find any drivers who were willing to be rostered to work the A every Sunday, although when Winchester ceased having involvement in MegaBus (in May 2008 I think) one of the ex Mega Drivers did work the A regularly for about three months (and he hated it!)

    With the gain (in September 2008) of the C1 and E2 on Sundays too, it made sense for more drivers to learn all 3 of the Eastleigh area routes, and it was at this time that the first round trip (0855 from Eastleigh) was taken off the duty which worked the rest of the service. That bus arrived back in Eastleigh at 0945 and worked the 0950 E2 to Winchester, and the main duty arrived empty from Winchester in time to do the 0955 trip.

    It was during that winter that the 'diversion' via Passfield Avenue became permanent, and Stagecoach approached HCC for an increase in subsidy as the bus was working quite a few more miles serving that extended route 16 times a day. HCC responded by cutting the first (0855) trip to pay for the extra miles in that way.

    From then onwards, the A pretty much became my duty - the number of Saturday late duties in Winchester had been reduced so I allocated myself a 2100 finish instead of a true late so that I could do the A every week.

    My preferred buses were always the earlier SLF Darts without driver assault screens - and as James' post suggests these were the main buses on the service throughout the 3 1/2 years that Stagecoach operated the service. Initially Winchester only had 33027/8 but later similar 33025/6 transferred back from Basingstoke to join them, and Alexander ALX bodied 33016 also joined in later. Various other buses made 'guest' appearences as James notes, including later TransBus Dart SLFs and Enviro200s plus on one occasion an Andover allocated MAN engined Solo, which was superb!

    The Sunday A had a really friendly feel on board, as I got to know most of the passengers by name and also got to know their travel habits. I do miss working the service but am proud to now call some of the passengers friends, seeing them socially on occasions.

    There were also many funny moments, but the best one was a few Christmases ago - probably 2009 - when I actually used an Enviro200 voluntarily on the A. That was because 36027 was decorated as a Santa bus and had a CD plyer fitted. We were supposed to play a compilation Christmas CD supplied by the company, and I did for the first hour or two. After that I happened to have some of my own CDs in my bag, so on they went! On the 1330 journey from Eastleigh I picked up two of my regulars (one of whom is 93 years old but actually likes a fast bus ride !!!) and took them to the Superstores at Hedge End. When they alighted the older one said "we like the decorations and the flashing lights, but that singing is dreadful - why can't he sing in tune?" I did wonder what David Gray would have made of that !!!

    I should probably also say that Velvet helped out on occasions over the years, by tweeting if I was delayed and by letting me know if roadworks were affecting the route. I also had many enjoyable lunches in Eastleigh Bus Station Cafe putting the world to rights with Phil, Ant, Mikey, Taz and some of the rest of the Velvet crew. And Lynzee did do cracking Bacon and Egg rolls !!!!!

  2. Thanks Andy, I'm glad you enjoyed the post and I certainly enjoyed reading your reply. I thought you had used an Andover Solo on the route once, but wasn't sure it was one of your potential ideas or reality. I'd like to know whether First use the same driver or different drivers on the A now - I have heard they use 3 different drivers, which is a shame.

    The first ever journey was in one of Winchester's original Enviro300s too - 27511 wasn't it - the non-branded bus?

  3. Do you know I think 27511 did work on the first Sunday - I thought we'd start with a quality bus but it was a bit tight turning at The Barleycorn in that. I did use it on at least one other occasion - when Wildern Lane was shut so I was running out via The Maypole and back via Turnpike Way (hence no tight turn involved).

    I've only ever used a Solo in service on that one occasion, as Winchester don't have any - but I'm hoping for a second opportunity this Saturday as I'm doing an Andover duty which includes Star1's.

  4. Regarding First, I think the two daytime drivers are regulars; not sure about the driver of the last trip at 1710. They do usually seem to use an E200 as the main bus now.

    I saw one of my old regulars in Tesco this evening, and she said that the one time she has used the bus since they took over, the driver was as miserable as ****!

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