Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Pure Speculation...

Every enthusiast likes a bit of speculation, deep down. What might happen? What could happen? What could happen if that happens? Speculation is the annoying grey area between what you know is going to happen, and how you are going to get there. 

For example, 14 single deck buses are entering service at some point for the Fareham - Gosport Bus Rapid Transit link, but the date for BRT has been delayed time and time again... when will these buses arrive? Will they operate on the old routes because BRT won't be open in time? What will happen to the Darts presently on the Fareham - Gosport routes? What will these buses replace and where? Pictured above is one of the Dennis Dart SLFs likely to be replaced at the end of the year / start of next year... will it be replaced? Will it stay at Hoeford? What will 42126 (S626KTP) replace in turn?

Now, bus companies usually find a lot of speculation unhelpful. As I have never worked for a bus company, I can't comment on this specifically or from personal experience, although I can imagine that if speculation gets out to the wider travelling public, unwanted rumours may start, which could jeopardise operations. It is refreshing to see that both of the main local companies around my way, First and Go South Coast, are excellent at quashing rubbish immediately. Of course, where events will make be clear in the near future, company managers also probably enjoy a chuckle at some of the speculative scenarios suggested!

I can write from a website creator's point of view. When trying to update the fleetlists on the First Hants & Dorset website, our forum has an excellent team of reliable contributors which makes my job easy. However, when new buses are due - especially when the fleet numbers and registrations are given - it makes the consequential questions incredibly hard to avoid. I've had three colour system news pages before on "what is confirmed", "what is probably following" and "what could happen". Plans change even within the company at the last minute.

For example, take this view from Portswood depot on 1st May 2009. Following the arrival of Hilsea's Volvo B7RLEs, a number subsequent FHD-internal transfers meant that 9 Volvo B10BLEs were to be cascaded to Sheffield. 66151 (S351NPO) is pictured here along with 66196 awaiting transfer up north. This fell through at the last minute, and now have seen two happy more years' service at Hoeford, and are still there today. The transfers weren't speculation - they were the plan - but it shows how pointless speculation can be, if even confirmed transfers can fall through at the last minute.

So what is speculation for? Well, personally, I believe it is a side effect of our enthusiasm and excitement over something new happening. It isn't helpful to ourselves, let alone the companies, travelling public or other enthusiasts. Take the Go Ahead Tempos that have appeared on the Isle of Wight. Are they for MOT before repaint, or are they for route/type testing, or ready for school contracts from September? I don't know the answer, but it could be one of those three. On the other hand, I could equally be quite off the mark.

Speculation is a natural response to fill a void of information, and although one can keep a check on it, I don't think you can quite ever completely never speculate...

Monday, 29 August 2011

Sunday Lost Scenes #1

Quite a lot of blogs have special Sunday photo - Plymothian Transit has Sunday Best, PTOPA has Snap on Sunday - so I thought, what the hell, why not. Regulars to this blog will know that posts tend to come in batches, so I can't promise one will come every Sunday, but I'm sure I can manage a simple image each week. Eagle eyed viewers will also note today is Monday, not Sunday :-)

My post on Sunday will be a lost scene - either a bus, location or something similar that can no longer be replicated. I'll also post the image at full file size for maximum viewing pleasure.

Entry one: "Citaros at Ryde" - Southern Vectis 456 (left), 453 (far) and 479 (near) in Ryde bus station on route 9. 2nd October 2009.

When I took this photo, I simply thought "oh look, that's a lot of Citaros!" I didn't realise in less than a year, all of the Citaros would have moved on to new fleets and this view would be consigned to the past. I miss the Citaros from the island although reverting the 9 to double deck has to be one of the best decisions made in terms of capacity. However, there are a lot of elderly passengers on the service - hence why the Citaros were bought in the first place. It is a shame they haven't tried former Go Ahead London Citaro-artics to compensate for this... (tongue in cheek of course!)

Another view from the past will come next Sunday, thanks for viewing today.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

New Look for Oxford's Park and Ride

The Oxford Bus Company have recently invested in 18 Enviro400 Hybrid double deckers to replace the fleet of Dennis Trident double deckers on Oxford's Park and Ride network.

Here is 301 - interestingly registered HY11BRD (Oxford do love their personalised registrations...!). I personally prefer this new livery - the greens are smarter shades and the buses just ooze quality. We all know that the waves at the bottom of the bus work well - for example Southern Vectis and Brighton and Hove use them and both liveries look excellent. This is livery in the same mould and certainly works in my opinion.

This is the livery being replaced - Trident 114 (T114DBW) illustrates lighter shades of green used. The new shades of green are more stylish in my opinion and definately reflect the upgrade and investment in the Park and Ride services. The existing Tridents seem to be being retained by OBC - used on a variety of service work and Brookes Bus contracts.

Of the 17 Enviro400Hs now in service, I managed to capture all but three on camera.  Here is 302 (HB11OXF) outside Christ Church in Oxford city centre. 302-17 have the "regular" personalised registrations - all ending with OXF.

The rest of this blog is really just illustrating further examples of the fleet in and around Oxford city centre on Park and Ride routes. Here is 309 (HJ11OXF) at the top of New Road, approaching the bus only stretch of road in Oxford city centre.

A nearside view of E400H 316 (HS11OXF) as it heads onto New Road from the direction of the coach station. All of these photos were taken last Friday on 19th August.

A particular favourite location of mine in Oxford is the Magdelin St area, where from 1.30ish, the sun is perfect for buses arriving in the city centre. As well as the P&R routes, you have Gold Stagecoach E400s, the Stagecoach United Counties coach on the X5 from Cambridge, the joint Stagecoach/OBC 2/2A/2B and more. Here is 303 (HC11OXF) at about 1430.

Finally, here is E400H 315 (HR11OXF) at the stop near Oxford rail station. The rail station is a great place to take photos (apart from taxis and delivery vans) - there is a bus station at the rail station itself, and then a precinct area just across the road which has even more services, plus those which terminate at the rail station. Oxford certainly keeps you interested for a good 5 hours +, and if anyone hasn't been in a while, I would advise you to go back - you won't be disappointed (although the variety in both Stagecoach Oxford and OBC fleets is down on any previous year...). You must like Enviro400s though, with 3 operators operating the type, in 7 different liveries, they are the most common double deck in Oxford.

More on Oxford coming later this week.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Go Ahead's Latest Addition

Go Ahead have purchased new and expanded a number of their existing companies in the recent years. Their most recent acquisition is Thames Travel, an operator which operates the key Oxford - Reading and Oxford - Didcot services, the Wokingham town services, and last year took over nearly all of the Bracknell tendered town services.

The company use a largely young fleet of low floor single deckers with five double deckers. The double decks are 3 Scania Omncities along with unique Scania Omnidekka 154, as illustrated below, and a hybrid Enviro400. A variety of single decks are used, such as Scania Omnitowns, Enviro 200s, Optare Solos or MAN/MCV Evolutions, such as these illustrated in Oxford. Pictured are 857 (AE57LYP) and 1057 (AE57LYD), operating the two Oxford "super express" services. They are pictured standing along St Aldate's in Oxford city centre. Both buses, and indeed all that I saw on Friday, carried the Go Ahead logo in the window.

I've only mananged to capture on double deck so far - this one is 154 (OU54PGZ) pictured at Reading rail station prior to Go Ahead takeover. As can be seen, the livery has been retained so far by Go Ahead - maybe in the next year or so a Ray Stenning inspired livery could be introduced - certainly the colours and Stenning's style could be easily adapted.

Another one of Thames Travel's numerous Evolutions - this one is 1157 (AE57LYR). I haven't quite got my head around the fleetnumbers yet - Thames Travel tend to have a digit or two, and then the number in the registration. Hence, this bus is the 11th numbered bus with a 57 registration - 1157. Pictured at Reading rail station with a service for Wokingham.

This now means that Thames Travel are working alongside the Oxford Bus Company (OBC) in Oxford, both under Go Ahead ownership. It will be interesting to see if long distance OBC routes (such as the X2 to Didcot) become branded as Thames Travel, or of course nothing could happen. Go Ahead have pledged to maintain Thames Travel as a separate company from OBC, which makes sense due to the wide geographical spread of Thames Travel's network. Pictured above-right is Evolution 205 (AE05EUZ) on an X39 for Reading.

I will certainly have to get to Wokingham and Bracknell soon to photograph Thames Travel's operations there - I've always enjoyed photographing this operator and hopefully I will be able to bring you more photos of their operation in the future.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Island Changes

Southern Vectis will take over routes from the former Wightbus network from 5th September, which will see SV take on a lot of routes they previously have operated in some form.

Routes picked up from Wightbus are the 22 (Lake - Shanklin), 24 (Yaverland - Lake & Sandown), 32 (Cowes - Gurnard circular), 33 (Ryde - Newport via Havenstreet), 34 (Wootton - Havenstreet circular), 35 (Newbridge - Newport) and 39 (Newport - Pan Estate circular). Most routes will only operate Monday to Friday, although some such as route 35 will only operate on specific days.

Southern Vectis have operated some of these routes in the past although a couple are new to me such as this form of the 24 and 34. The routes are being taken over as a cost-cutting measure for Isle of Wight council, although I don't know the specific details of the deal. Pictured to above is MPD 304 (HW54BTY) pictured leaving Ryde for Newport on the old route 33, photographed on 22nd July 2006.

Southern Vectis have also bought Wightbus' fleet of low floor Darts following service changes, such as HW54DBZ. The initial plan from SV is to use two of these on route 6, and the rest on SEN school services. Further Solos have also been acquired from Wilts & Dorset, bringing the latest total to 7 as far as I know (8 if you count R601NFX which is being used for spares).

Which brings me nicely onto my next image - Solo 2631 (S631JRU). Following changes to improve route 8's reliability, route 37 (Ryde - Haylands & Binstead circular) is to be operated as a stand alone route using a Solo, which will bring the type's regular use on service routes to Ryde for the first time. 

New photography opportunities to come very soon on the island, then.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


 Yesterday, I visited Guildford for the first time. By train it is about 45minutes south west of London, and the principal operator is Arriva Southern Counties. There is also a significant Stagecoach presence operating key Guildford - Alton, Aldershot and Haslemere routes, and the local independent, Safeguard, also has a key role in the city.

The most common bus in Guildford is the Dennis Dart/Plaxton Pointer that are operated by Arriva. They operate the majority of the town routes, alongside a smaller fleet of DAF SB120/Wright Cadets. The majority wear fleet livery - either the old version, as illustrated here by 3028 (N228TPK), although repaints into the new livery are common too. Also, some have branding, as illustrated to the left by 3097 (R297CMV) to show the frequency of the University - city centre services.

Two MPDs are operated at Guildford - one is 1606 (GN04UCW). Having never taken photos of Arriva in such a large concentration before, it was interesting to see that the MPDs are numbered with the minibuses in the '1' series, rather series for midibuses, as First and Stagecoach do.

Cadets form an important part of Guildford's city bus network - here is 3938 (GK52VYC) heading the buses out of service, standing on the wall in the bus station. Incidentally, buses are only supposed to remain there for 45 minutes - 3938 was there for my entire visit...

Arriva use a number of Volvo B7RLE/Wright Eclipse Urbans on the two Park and Ride contacts they operate - here is 3735 (GN54MYU) unloading passengers in Guildford city centre.

Arriva Southern Counties have just received 4 former MK Metro Solos for city work in an attempt to remove the last Varios from service. The only one I saw out and about was 1509 (T407ENV), pictured here reversing off the stand on route 17.

Finally from Arriva, here is Volvo Olympian 5925 (M925PKN), which I am reliably informed tends to stay on school services, so I am even more chuffed I managed to photograph it yesterday. Pictured departing Guildford on route 53.

Abellio Surrey operate once an hour into Guildford on route 515 from Kingston using these Mini-Pointer Darts - this one is 8094 (KV03ZFX), which was new to Tellings Golden Millar.

Stagecoach operate into Guildford every 15minutes on route 20 from Aldershot. Route 20 is operated as "the Kite" and uses a fleet of 5 MAN 14.240/Enviro200 - this one is 39653 (GX08HBP).

Countryliner also operate a number of services into Guildford, mainly using a mixture of Darts, Olympians and Evolutions. Here is MAN/MCV Evolution MRM4 (AE56MDJ) about to load passengers for Epsom on route 479.

The main independent in Guildford is Safeguard, which operate mainly a fleet of low floor saloons on city services and Park & Ride route 300. My first image illustrates Optare Tempo YJ06FXM departing the bus station on circular service route 4. I think the Safeguard livery suits the Tempo very well. My second image illustrates Optare Versa YJ60LRO taking the place of a P&R branded Dart on route 300. These are very smart buses and, again, I feel that Safeguard's livery suits the lines of this bus very well. From the outside, the whole fleet looked very well presented and certainly gave the impression of a quality operator.

Many thanks for viewing.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Provincial Connections

Direct links to Provincial are rare these days, but today when out photographing I found two in one place. I quickly stopped in Drayton, just east of Cosham on the road to Havant.

Firstly of note, are that all of the eastbound bus stops still have the old Red on Cream Provincial branding. These are long gone generally - I think First started replacing these in 1999. These are very rare - there is an old Provincial sign in Bridgemary and remnants of a sign in Gosport bus station, along with a couple of these old bus stops dotted around the network. This is the highest concentration I have found of these old displays. I reckon this was put up pre-1996, because the old route 65 was advertised on this bus stop in years gone by. Route 65 was a route acquired with the Red / Blue Admiral operations and was unregistered by First around 1996/1997, so therefore the bus stop originates from before this time. Photograph taken today, 15th August 2011, at Drayton (New Inn).

In one of those strange events, the next bus along on the 63 was UVG Urban Star bodied Dart 47307 (N607EBP) - part of the last batch of new buses to People's Provincial and one of the last 4 People's Provincial buses in service anywhere. It has been changed significantly since 1995 - new repaint, repainted interior, new seat cushions, LED display, loss of indicators next to the destination blind, but at least the bus remains! The last 4 Darts aren't expected to be around for much longer, so grab them while you can.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Welsh Connections

During my recent trip to Wales, I found many connections with home, such as old local buses operating in new areas, or buses from the same batch as what we have locally. This post documents some familiar buses I found while up in Wales.

I'll start MOD571P - Weymouth's old VR that has moved on to Wales for yet another year's worth of service. The load leaving the bus station around lunchtime was fully loaded, so hopefully MOD may be back next year too! She looks very smart and seemed to be performing well. 
The Greyhound division of First now operate the "Shuttle" 100 between Swansea and Cardiff - here 23318 (YN55PXJ) or "Mandy" arrives in Swansea bus station. This coach was originally used on the Southampton and Portsmouth to London Greyhound routes.

The batch of N---LHG Olympians new to London Central seem to have been dispersed everywhere - in Southampton, examples entered service with both First Hants & Dorset and Solent Blue Line. Here is N548LHG in service on the Cardiff sightseeing tour. First Hants & Dorset still operate N528LHG at Weymouth as an open topper as well. N548LHG is pictured at Cardiff's Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay.

Swansea is the new capital of Marshall bodied Dart SLFs - all of which are second hand and previously with London. 41167 (R167TLM) is sister vehicle to both R165/6TLM in service at Hilsea depot at First Hampshire, and were at First Berkshire together after leaving London before moving on. 

This little Mercedes-Benz 709D is registered YIL3167 - but is actually L899VHT, new to Bristol Cityline. This is a rare bus - a bus that left First to see further service in the UK with another company. Certainly good to see it out and about - and still retaining fully functioning dot-matrix number displays. Pictured in St Davids - operating the Sunday only 411 St Davids - Haverfordwest with Summerdale Coaches - Richards do the weekday/Saturday service.

Finally for today, here is former Stagecoach East Kent Mercedes-Benz 709D N952NAP, which is now in service with Silcox Coaches in Pembrokeshire. There are still some of her sister buses in service with Stagecoach (for example, at Andover). She is pictured in Saundersfoot, near Tenby.

Many thanks for viewing.

For those interested my photos from Pembrokeshire, click on the links below:
Western Pembrokeshire - Haverfordwest, Broad Haven & Little Haven
Southern Pembrokshire - Tenby, Pembroke & Saundersfoot
Northern Pembrokeshire - Fishguard, Newport, St Davids & Strumble Head

Friday, 12 August 2011

Weymouth Round Up

My final post from Weymouth - this is a round up of the other services in the town with a heavy bias towards First, as South West Coaches haven't really changed since my last visit nearly a year ago.

First up, Weymouth operate 3 former Bristol Cityline K---LAE Leyland Olympians. 34623 (K623LAE) is pictured in the first image, operating one of the summer only X53 shorts to Seaton. This batch of Olympians seems to be common on these X53 extras. Pictured in the second image is 34628 (K628LAE), arriving on town service route 2 along Weymouth esplanade. Weymouth depot also operate K629LAE, and have operated K627LAE in the past before it was scrapped. These Olympians are very smart and hopefully will go on for a few years yet, as their sisters are dwindling in numbers in Devon & Cornwall. Incidentally, for those unaware, K621LAE has been restored in preservation to Cityline livery and it looks fantastic.

Another acquisition from First Devon & Cornwall is Dennis Dart SLF 42452 (R452CCV). 42452 is the only one of it's type in service in Weymouth, and is pictured here on route 4 in Weymouth. 

Since my last visit, the summer only 503 to Waterside Holiday park has been upgraded using Dennis Dart SLFs - but this time not in an allover dedicated livery. Here 42827 (T827AFX) departs on the 503 for Waterside. Sister 42828 was also operating this service on Wednesday.
A very rare sight in Weymouth these days is a step entry single decker. 46311 (L311RTP) was new to Southampton Citybus and recently transferred down the coast from Hoeford depot. Here she is departing from Weymouth Debenhams on route 8.

Even rarer these days is a Mercedes-Benz Vario in service. Former Cymru and Glasgow 52486 (R486EDW) departs on route 6 from Debenhams, which is usually operated by a Dennis Dart (not that the loadings, on this evidence, required a Dart).

Weymouth is one of only 2 places in First where you can find Scania Omnidekkas in service (the other is Edinburgh). They are usually allocated to route 31 these days (Weymouth - Axminster), but on Wednesday two found their way on to their old haunt of route X53 (Poole to Exeter). Firstly illustrated, 36006 (YN05HGA) is the only one in First livery, and is used as the spare bus, directed to wherever it is needed across the 1, 31, X43 or X53 network.

Secondly illustrated is Omnidekka 36004 (YN04GNZ), fully branded for route 31 but operating route X53 on Wednesday. 36004 was the first ever bus I photographed on the X53 when new back in 2004.

Weymouth operate former Yeovil buses from time to time. I managed to catch up with Dennis Dart SLF 46263 (P263PAE) on Wednesday, which had just come off of route 1.

Dorset County Council operate two Optare Versas on the new Weymouth Park & Ride route, serving the length of Weymouth esplanade. Here YJ60KFX is pictured at Weymouth's King's Statue.

Finally for today, Damory have recently won the tender for route 253. Route 253 is a morning journey from Beaminster to Weymouth, via Bridport and West Bay, along with a return trip leaving in the early afternoon. Here Damory DAF 508 (V710LWT) is pictured on stand loading up passengers. 

Many thanks for viewing - that's all from Weymouth for now.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Southern Vectis Olys in Weymouth

The ex-Southern Vectis Leyland and Volvo Olympians allocated to Wilts & Dorset's Salisbury depot tend to be the main allocation on routes 183 / 184 Salisbury - Weymouth, and have been for the past 2 years or so. This is a photographic blog entry illustrating the different examples I've been lucky enough to capture on camera in Weymouth on these services. 

Leyland Olympian 725 - TIL6725
departing for Blandford & Salisbury
4th September 2009
Volvo Olympian 751 - M751HDL
on stand out of service having arrived from Salisbury.
2nd September 2010

Volvo Olympian 752 - R752GDL
arriving back on stand ready to load passengers on the 183 for Blandford
2nd September 2010

Volvo Olympian 754 - R754GDL
moving back onto stand ready to load up passengers for the 183. Next stop Dorchester!
5th March 2010

Volvo Olympian 756 - R756GDL
the 183 now unloads on a stand just down the esplanade from King's Statue - 756 moves towards the departure stand in this photo
10th August 2011

Volvo Olympian 757 - R757GDL
my final capture today - 757 heads for First's Weymouth depot out of service, having just arrived from Salisbury
10th August 2011

Many thanks for viewing.