Southern Vectis are in the process of receiving 17 brand new Optare Solo SRs. These buses are replacing the existing Optare Solos and adding further capacity for the Island's school bus network, and have been purchased as part of the contract with Isle of Wight Council. The new Solo SRs wear "Vectis Blue" livery - a kind of amalgamation of the different blue fleet brands on the Isle of Wight, used on school service, private hire, and the more marginal fleet routes that are operated by the school fleet. This post looks at the short history of the green Southern Vectis Solo.
Initially, Solos were very hard to find. Only a couple were on the island, and they tended to operate route 25 (East Cowes to Newport via Folly Inn). This was my first shot of a Solo - 2632 (S632JRU), pictured heading for Newport bus station on 3rd June 2011.
As more Solos arrived, they tended to settle down on a wider variety of ordinary service work as well as school services. The 37 (Ryde circular, via Binstead and Haylands) was a regular. 2638 (T638AJT) illustrates this view, as it heads along Ryde seafront on a sunny November day.
Southern Vectis took over a variety of former Wightbus routes from late 2011. The Wightbus fleet of Darts was inherited by Southern Vectis, and in turn former Wilts & Dorset Optare Solos were used on the acquired routes. On a freezing day in February 2012, 2615 (R615NFX) loads passengers as it goes the rural way to Newport, via Newbridge. All of the acquired services only operate Monday to Friday, coinciding with school routes. This means that the costs of running the bus are more viable. Therefore, the majority of the new Blue SRs will only be seen Monday - Friday, as the marginal routes do not run at the weekend. Whether this will change is open to debate, as I'm sure the travelling public would not like to see a brand new fleet of 62-plated buses sitting out of service at the weekend.
Another one of the marginal routes - this time the 24 Lake to Yaverland route. Solo 2618 (R618NFX) is pictured loading passengers in Sandown.
The last one for now - 2644 (T644AJT) is pictured heading for Shanklin Esplanade on route 22. The Solos are moving back to the mainland as the Solo SRs are introduced - it will be interesting to see if these are sold outside of Go Ahead or found new homes around the south coast.
Many thanks for viewing. There are a few websites already showing the SRs in service - try these links below if you are interested. I should be bringing photos of a few of the new buses over the coming weeks.