Monday, 31 January 2011

Portsmouth Dart SLFs

Yesterday, I finally managed to grab a few more photos of the recently acquired Dennis Dart SLFs from First Devon & Cornwall. My visit to sunny Southsea on Sunday threw up 40959 and 42778.

First up, here is Dennis Dart SLF 40959 (S335TJX), which began life in Hong Kong before moving to Scotland at First Edinburgh. It was acquired back in spring 2010, and has received a repaint since I last saw it. Pictured on route 6 heading for The Hard. My camera has, unfortunately, seemed to pick up a bit of dirt on the lense in the top right corner - I need to take it to a Samsung shop and get it cleaned!

What is it about the LEDs on these buses? 42778 (S678SNG) is another former Hong Kong Dart SLF - but this time first entered service in the UK with First Eastern Counties. It is pictured on Sunday only route 16A, which connects Portsmouth city centre with Hayling Ferry, via The Hard, Old Portsmouth, Clarence Pier and South Parade Pier. Indeed, the 16A provides the only regular service that operates along the entire Portsmouth and Southsea seafront these days - it seems odd there isn't a need for the service at least in summer weekdays.

Finally, the old order and one of only 7 Dennis Dart SLFs with Marshall bodywork on last count still in service from Hilsea. 41634 (R634VLX) was acquired from London in February 2004 as route 6 was upgraded from Iveco operation. I've always liked the Marshall bodied Dart SLF - I hope these remain in service for a little longer yet.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sunny Southsea

Photographed this morning in Southsea, here First Hants & Dorset's 69382 (HY09AOU) basks in the sunshine surrounded by palm trees. You wouldn't know its January!

69382 was operating route 40 (Southsea - Wecock Farm) earlier on today along fellow Volvo B7RLEs 69386, 69389, 69390 and 69392. 6 of this batch have Green Line Overground branding - with much of the Portsmouth Overground network having disappeared in recent years, it was a surprise to see branding applied to these buses. No buses wear Red Line 1 or Orange Line 17/18 branding anymore, with a dwindling number of Darts still wearing Blue Line 6 livery. I do like the branding though - this modified version of the Overground branding sits well on the Volvo B7RLE and looks good.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

More imports from Devon & Cornwall

News just out of FHD is that 4 further Dennis Dart SLFs are due for First Hants & Dorset from Devon & Cornwall. This move illustrates the continued growth of First South Coast and the merger - at least in terms of management - of FHD and FDC.

We don't yet know the fleet numbers or registrations for the 4 Darts due up in Hampshire, but they are to be allocated at Hoeford depot. They will join 6 former Hong Kong Dart SLFs at Hilsea, 2 R---CCV examples (one each at Weymouth and Portswood), 4 Solos, 2 Volvo B7R coaches, 2 Leyland Olympians and one Volvo Citybus, not to mention 10 former Ugobus Volvo B7RLEs.

One of the more recent additions is 42449 (R449CCV), a native Western National Dennis Dart SLF that is now in service from Weymouth. It is pictured here back in summer 2010 (not that you would believe it by the weather...), seen on route 2 in Appledore.

Full Details of former FDC buses now at FHD:
Volvo B7RLE: 66881-6, 69245-8, Volvo B7R: 20305/6, Volvo Citybus: 38015, Optare Solo: 53001/6/8/13, Dennis Dart SLF: 40956/7/9, 42759/64/83, 42449/52, Leyland Olympian: 34623/9

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Visit to Caerphilly, August 2007

One of my aims for this year is to rediscover South Wales, where I last visited for a few days back in summer 2007. One of those afternoons was spent in the town of Caerphilly on a warm and sunny August day - I remember walking around the grounds of the castle and discovering the town. 2007 was an age where wireless broadband could still be unreliable - and it was before I had the laptop anyway - so much of my bus spotting was done by luck rather than judgement. I managed to get a good few photos from Stagecoach South Wales that afternoon - I seemed to be ignorning Veolia for some reason (I think it was due to my camera memory capacity).

First up is Volvo B10M/Northern Counties 20873 (P873MNE), pictured arriving in the town of Caerphilly on route 120, which I believe came from Tonypandy and Pontypridd. Route 120 operates half hourly today - I'm not sure if that was also the case in 2007. I've just done a quick fotopic search on 20873 and she now seems to have left the Stagecoach fleet.

Route 50 operates between Newport and Bargoed every 30 minutes. Back in 2007 it was mainly operated by these Dennis Dart SLFs, as illustrated by 33614 (R614SWO). I found a number of these Darts also on route 122 in Cardiff, which operated along the road where my hotel was.

Relatively new and looking fantastic, Stagecoach South Wales operated these ADL Dart SLF with Pointer 2 bodywork on route A and B. Hourly journeys on the A and B extend to Cardiff, as illustrated by the left photo and 34672 (CN54EDV). However, the buses were branded more for the Caerphilly town network, as the A connected the town with Graig-y-Rhacca and the B to Senghenydd at every 12 minutes on the weekdays. The second photo on the right shows unbranded 34678 (CN54ECZ) on one of those shorter town variations. I believe this batch of buses still operates like this today.

Finally, Stagecoach used Optare Solos in 2007 on some of Caerphilly's town routes that required smaller buses - namely town services C and D. Here is 47186 (CN05KUB) in the centre of town. I've only just realised Caerphilly has a bus station - mind you this location was perfect for the sun so I may try it again when I revisit!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Before they were Breezers

With yesterday and today being the first days of 2011 with periods of clear and unbroken sunshine, I've decided to roll out some photos of Southern Vectis' open toppers. Well not quite- these are images of some of Southern Vectis' Island Breezers before they were famous...

First up here is 743 (K743ODL), now 643 and primarily allocated on the Needles Tour during the summer months. 743 is captured here near Shanklin rail station in summer 2003, where it proudly wore the red Route Rouge livery. Shame it was on an Island Explorer service when photographed...
The four former Solent Blue Line Volvo Olympians saw regular service on Vectis routes before they were converted. Here is 760 (R741XRV), now numbered 641 and usually found on the Downs Tour (whenever I'm over it is anyway!). It is pictured at Church Litten, Newport, during the bus station redevelopment in April 2006.

Finally for today, here is 762 (R738XRV), pictured in Ryde bus station still wearing the remnants of its BlueStar livery. It is pictured entering on a route 9 and the different colours of the SBL and SV blinds can be observed. It is now numbered 638 and I usually find it on the Sandown Bay Tour during the summer. July 2006.

Thanks for viewing - my sightings are not regular allocations and therefore should not be viewed as such. Its just where I usually find the bus when I visit the island, which isn't as often as I would like.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Winter in Ryde

Yesterday I visited Ryde, Isle of Wight and managed to grab my first new photos of 2011. We left from Clarence Pier on the mainland, catching the hovercraft over to the island.

Stagecoach South operate to Clarence Pier on route 700 - the Coastliner route from Brighton. The buses are very impressive, and here is Scania 15590 (GX10HAO) on downtime waiting to depart. Route 700 has returned to every 30 minutes along this section of the journey (Portsmouth - Chichester).

In the winter, Ryde is home to very few buses other than Scania Omnicity double deckers, which operate into the town on all routes - the 9 from Newport, route 8 from Bembridge, route 3 from Sandown and route 4 from East Cowes. Here is 1106 (HW58ARX) pictured in Union St.

Following recent service changes, Southern Vectis now only operate Scanias, 7 Volvo B7TLs, a number of MPDs on route 1 and a couple of Optare Solos in mainline service. Here is another Scania on route 9 - this time one of the second batch in the form of 1149 (HW09BCO).

One of 7 Volvo B7TLs to operate on the island, here is 196 (HW52EPV) operating town service route 37. Route 37 was introduced to serve areas left out by other service changes, and seems to interwork with route 8 (certainly 196 came into Ryde on an 8). 196 is heading for Binstead and Haylands.

5 former Metrobus Scania Omnidekkas operate on the island and are allocated in the week to specific school duties as well as mainline services. Seen out at the weekend on route 9 is 1051 (YU52XVL), heading for Newport. Pictured in Cross St.

Finally for this post is a shot of buses in the school fleet at Ryde depot. Seen nearest to the camera are two former London General Volvo Olympians, then Scania Omnidekka 1054. The coach on the far end is Island Coaster branded 590 (XXI8502), which operates on school services.

Friday, 14 January 2011

BlueStar serving Lymington

It has been confirmed that BlueStar are to play an active role in providing the 56/56A service between Southampton and Lymington. Buses will be in BlueStar blue livery, although it has been unconfirmed thus far whether they will continue (in part) to operate from Wilts & Dorset's Lymington depot.

Unfortunately, information at the moment is still very much in the rumour stage - therefore anything I write on this blog could turn out to be wrong! What I do know so far is that Wilts & Dorset's Optare Solo 2655 (V655DFX) has turned up at Barton Park depot in BlueStar's dark blue livery, suggesting that the service could be operated by Optare Solos.

Then we have BlueStar saying they won't continue Solo operation on the 56/56A according to Facebook - bringing up the question whether 2655 is one of a number to replace the MPDs on the 10/11 which would push the MPDs onto the 56/56A- maybe introducing new stock (albeit with the same capacity) onto the 56/56A. Then there is a rumour that the 56/56A will interwork with the 10/11, again changing things completely.

Combined with the fact that BlueStar guarentee a 100% low floor service fleet, new buses onto the 56/56A are guarenteed as the Leyland Olympians that regularly work the service at the moment will not continue. In an ironic twist some of them previously operated with BlueStar, such as 707 (F707RDL) as illustrated.

I'll keep you updated with developments as they occur - the 56/56A and the 65 are often routes I've thought may pass to BlueStar as they fit more into their network. Time will tell though, as what we are expecting to be the new BlueStar route 6 becomes reality...

Caption: BlueStar already operate into Lymington in the summer on the New Forest Tour. Here is Volvo B7TL 408 (HF05GGO) pictured at Lymington Pier rail station in summer 2008.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Sleepy January

I find January is always the quietest month for bus enthusiasts. You have the post Christmas and FoKAB hangover, where for the rest of the month, very little seems to happen as we draw closer to the new registration mark in March, and the end of the financial year and budgets are assessed. January is also a quiet month for bus service changes, as most of Hampshire's tenders are done in February. Therefore, January in Hampshire is very much a case of same old, same old...

One of the things that is changing is the shape of FHD's Saturday network. Recent timetable changes have indicated that poorly used Saturday journeys - especially those early in the morning - are being withdrawn, along with some other marginal routes. On a larger scale, the X42 which is the main South Downs College service is cut from Saturdays completely.

With the increased use of cars and Saturday revolving around shops' opening hours, maybe this marks the beginning of Saturday and Sunday services becoming similar - albeit with Saturday receiving more buses running slightly later and earlier. Sunday only operates along the core network - Saturday only seems to bolster this with the addition of a few more areas served, such as Hill Head, Whiteley and Denmead. With ever decreasing buses and increased pressure on bus companies, 2011 will be an interesting year for Saturday bus services, and a usually quiet January may mark the beginning of a regular pattern across bus companies throughout the year.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Another LAE at Weymouth

Weymouth depot have just received another K---LAE registered Olympian that were all new to Cityline in Bristol - this time K629LAE. This has replaced younger Volvo Olympian 34021 (P541HMP) which has moved in the other direction - now in operation from Camborne.

34629 (K629LAE) has entered into service on school services in Weymouth. I managed to photograph her down in Truro last year - photographed on service X18 from Penzance.
First Hants & Dorset have had two sisters of 34629 - K627LAE and K628LAE. The former has been withdrawn and has since departed the fleet, but K628LAE is still in service at Weymouth. Below are photos illustrating each.

34627 (K627LAE) entered service with a simple Park & Ride blind as the dot matrix display had stopped working. She is seen only a few days after arriving in Dorset, back in September 2009.
34628 (K628LAE) originally entered service at Portswood depot in Southampton, but moved to Weymouth replacing 34627. She is pictured here on Weymouth's town bridge on school route 92 on a lovely summer's afternoon last year.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Hoeford depot trip, 2005

Due to other commitments there is going to be a lack of new photographic material on this blog for at least two weeks, so I thought I'd begin the year by revisiting my trip with the Provincial society to Hoeford depot, back in Summer 2005.

We travelled up to Hoeford on CG9607 from the Stokes Bay rally site, meeting EHO228 at the depot. It was a fantastic and sunny Sunday afternoon ramble around Hoeford, which had opened its doors to enthusiasts on designated trips for the first time since People's Provincial days.

I seem to remember we went inside the old sheds first, to see the buses stored inside being worked on. Pictured to the right is former First Hants & Dorset Dart 45300 (JDZ2300) - the original Wright bodied Dart in London. UVG bodied 47307 is to the left, and is still in service today.

Stepping outside, we circled the depot in an anticlockwise direction the majority of the eastern side were Dennis Darts of a variety of types. This photo illustrates 42125 (S625KTP), then with Red Line 1/1A/1C branding, next to 42109 and 45394.
Minibuses were parked at the rear of the depot, facing south. They were double parked in this tight formation, illustrated by this photo by about 5 visible examples (further buses were to the left). Now only four Mercedes-Benz 709D operate from Hoeford - 51710 (N710GRV) - the centre bus here, is now at Hilsea.
We put 42135 (S635XCR) through the bus wash to see it in use - its more or less the same one as used in People's Provincial days. The snow recently has caused water in the bus wash to freeze, causing issues with the appearance of various buses. Hopefully they'll be gleaming again when the temperature rises.
Finally pictured is one of Hoeford's then five Leyland Lynx. This example is 62630 (F630RTC), which was kindly moved into a photographable position for us visitors. 62630 had freshly been repainted in August 2005, and was to see a good few more years service before being withdrawn a few years later.
Thanks for viewing. Any comments/further observations from society members are welcome.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Just to round up 2010...

Just to round up 2010, here is my last photo of the year. It pictures Stagecoach in Winchester's sole unbranded Enviro200 - 36027 (GX07HUU) in the bus station heading for Harestock on route 1. Pictured 28th December, when conditions were so dark, wet and foggy I gave up taking photos very quickly!

I hope everyone at FoKAB today had a great time - I couldn't make it but if you have any photos feel free to leave the hyperlink in my comments section.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year!!

I would like to wish all of my visitors a very Happy New Year - all the best for 2011. 2010 has been a very good year for me personally in life and with buses, 2010 being my most productive year for photographs.

This year, due to lifestyle changes, I'm expecting my photography to involve more batch photography and weekend photography. By the end of 2011, I would have liked to:

* complete my photographs of First Hants & Dorsets recently acquired Dennis Dart SLFs, Volvo B7RLEs and Volvo B7TLs

* complete my Unilink photos

* visit Guildford / Crawley / Horsham - filling in a large void of photographs in relatively local, train accessible areas 

* complete a day on the Sandbanks - photographing Wilts & Dorset's Scanias at Swanage, Studland, Sandbanks and the ferry, and a day in the New Forest at Lymington, Ringwood, Lyndhurst and Burley

* Revisit Bath, Brighton, Winchester and Bristol, along with some other areas that feel unfinished following my trips of 2010

* Continue with lots of train trips - definately a HST again, and try getting further north than Reading!

* Ensure the First Hants & Dorset website is update to no longer than two weeks (I may have to be reminded for this one!) and that I post at least three times a week here.

2010 has been a good year, and has laid solid foundations for a great year of busing in 2011. Good luck to all - all the best.

[Just a quick note - December Stats: Visitor Count: 3139 (the best monthly figure so far - thank you for your continued support), Post Count: 14, Most Popular Post: Snow Report 1, Top Referrer: Plymothian Transit (thanks again Graham!), Top Audience Country outside the UK: Holland... Thanks to all!]

Right: Southern Vectis 1108 (HW58ASO) pictured in Arreton earlier on in 2010, heading for Newport on route 8. This is one of my favourite shots of last year.