Last weekend, I travelled to Bath to grab some photos from one of my favourite cities. Despite a rather awful trip up in one of FGW's class 150s where we resembled sardines in a tin, I had a very productive and successful day. To view all of my photos from the day, please click here.
... the X39 was wall to wall Volvo B7RLEs wearing branding for the route. The Volvo B7RLEs were conspicuous by their absence on Saturday - I didn't see a single Mk2 example on the 173 from Wells, and the later "55" batch of buses were not on their main route of the 264/265 to Warminster. Have they been transferred away on the sly? Here's 66728 (WX54XCN) heading along Corn St in Bath, for Bristol. This batch of buses will presumably move on by the end of 2013 and it will be interesting to see if they leave Bath or not. One would think in another age they would fit perfectly on the Taunton - Bridgewater 21 service - but with potential sales in the air, maybe First will want to keep hold of them.
Wessex Connect have taken delivery of brand new Volvos though for their U18 route branded "Uni Connect". Here is one of their very impressive vehicles - BX62FBF - seen in the same location as above.
Bath has recently taken delivery of two batches of buses - Enviro400s for Park & Ride and seven Enviro200s primarily for route 13. Here is one such bus, 44524 (YX62DXC). I'm not sure what these really replaced, as L and M reg Darts still were around in the city on Saturday. If Bath is an area First want to keep, I am not sure why they are transferring the young-mid life stock away to Bristol all the time.
For instance, the 56-plate Volvo B7TLs that were previously on P&R services have not been put on Bath services, but moved to Weston & Bristol to upgrade other services. Enviro400s Hybrids are now the main allocation, as illustrated here by 39134 (SN62AWF).
I always thought my local First depot, Hoeford, was the home to step Darts. After all, Hoeford have had every model except East Lancs bodied Darts. I was wrong - half a year after Hoeford lost their last step-Dart, Bath still cling onto a handful of step-Darts, as illustrated here by 46225 (L225VHU), a relic from Badgerline days. Still, the enthusiast in me is glad to have these around, especially as I missed most of these in my younger years.
Bath is also home to the remaining former First Mainline (Sheffield) Dennis Dart SPDs, which have proved troublesome since the Yorkshire company wanted to part with them. Here is 40534 (S529UAK), gleaming in the May sunshine.
Another long lost Dart that has found home in Bath is 42633 (P633YUM). I believe this was new to Yorkshire Pullman, and has since operated in First Cymru (whose branding it still carries above the window). Again, for an old Dart it was immaculately turned out, albeit for the redundant branding.
My fourth and final First Dart - here is 42553 (WX05UAK), part of a large order of Solos, Darts, Volvo B7RLEs and Volvo B7LA artics introduced in 2005 to modernise Bath city services. It has just entered St James's Parade as it heads for Bath bus station.
Bath Bus Company are no longer just running open top tours in Bath - they now operate the 'Air Decker' services to Bristol Airport. Here is A501 (SK52URX) heading along Broad Quay, a Volvo B7TL new to fellow RATP company, London United.
In another strange move, the majority of Bath's 2003-batch of Volvo B7TLs have moved out of the city. According to Steve White's site, only 5 of these buses are now in service in Bath. Back in 2009, when they were transferred in from Bristol, nearly the entire batch was in service from Bath. Heading for Keynsham and Bristol is 32283 (WR03YZS).
Wessex Connect's Royal Blue branded Darts are still in service in the city following their introduction two years ago. Here is 1653 (V653HEC), heading for Whiteway on route 5.
Finally, here is one of the smallest buses in service on the streets of Bath. This Enterprise/Plaxton Primo was new to Truronian, who in turn were purchased by First in 2006. 57000 (MX56AEB) has since transferred to Bath, and is pictured on route 10.
As always, Bath was a pleasure to photograph in, and offered a huge amount of variety. I am a little confused about First's stance in Bath - the recent restructuring has put Bath in the same control as Bristol depots, so presumably is not one asset the company are specifically looking to sell. Maybe the investment in Bath city services later this year will give a clearer indication of how important First sees Bath. Seven Enviro200s and a small batch of Enviro400s that are required by the conditions of the P&R contract is not a lot of investment in eight years - but time will tell if these buses are just the start of First creating something greater in Bath.
To view all of my photos from the day, please click here.