Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sunday Lost Scenes #8

This Sunday lost scenes is from Helston back in August 2005...

Truronian T32JCV is now in service with First Hants & Dorset at Hoeford depot, as First's 42232. First took over Truronian a few years ago, and inherited the fleet, predominantly consisting of Darts, Solos and a few old Olympians, alongside the coaching business. Two Darts now operate from Hoeford depot in Hampshire - T32JCV and sister T34JCV. Both have been repainted to First livery and also now have LED displays. The Truronian livery no longer exists, so I was very lucky to photograph this bus back six years ago.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Provincial's long lost Volvos

One of the good things about visiting Weston-super-Mare is that I get to catch up with the former First Provincial Volvo B10BLEs now in service from the depot.

My first few photos come from the W---EOW batch of Volvo B10BLEs new to Hilsea depot in 2000. The Volvo B10BLEs were bought to upgrade routes 40 and 41 (then Southsea - Wecock and Clanfield respectively), and were branded for the Overground network in 2003. 66172 (W372EOW) was one of a number of Volvo B10BLEs that received purple and green branding for Zip route 41, which then operated between The Hard and Clanfield. 66172 is pictured here arriving in Weston-super-Mare on route X25.

The Volvo B10BLEs were withdrawn late in 2004 when new Scania Omnicity single deckers arrived in the fleet, and most moved elsewhere. 5 moved to First Somerset & Avon, three initially for route 28 (Minehead to Taunton) where they were fitted with extra luggage racks. These can be seen here in the offside of 66173 (W373EOW), a Volvo B10BLE that also once wore Zip41 branding.

Two Volvos went straight to Bath, for use on the X4/X5 between Bath, Warminster, Trowbridge and Salisbury. 66174 (W374EOW)  was one of these buses, and is pictured here in Weston on the premier town service - route 7.
In 2009, a further 5 Volvo B10BLEs joined First Somerset & Avon from Hampshire. These were transferred following deliveries of new Volvo B7RLEs - again to route 40/41 - which saw the Scanias that replaced the W***EOW Volvos cascaded to Hoeford. 66160 (S360XCR) was one of the buses cascaded to Somerset, and is pictured at Weston-super-Mare rail station yesterday, loading passengers for the 126 to Wells.

First Bristol initially received a number of Volvo B10BLEs from Hampshire, such as 66159 (S359XCR). She is pictured in Bristol city centre in May 2010 on city service 6.

How nice when things go round in circles? 66163 (S363XCR) was transferred to Taunton, to bolster the number of full size single deck buses for the 28. It still wears the livery it was delivered in, back in 2008. 66163 also has remnants of Green Line 40 branding on top of the windows, which can still be seen if you inspect closely. It pictured departing for Minehead last April.

Ex-Provincial Volvo B10BLEs can also be found in service in Manchester (5 ex-Sheffield buses that were once branded for the 17/18 in Portsmouth) and First Eastern Counties (more W reg Volvos once used on the 31 in Dorset). Maybe I'll be able to catch up with them one day.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

First sight of a Reading Omnidekka

Solent Blue Line are receiving 14 five-year-old Scania Omnidekkas from Reading Buses at present. The majority are going into a purple livery branded "Simply Go", which see Go South Coast taking over the services for Alton College. However, three will go in to service branded for the BlueStar network, and the first one ready was out today...

In a dark, damp Fair Oak, Scania Omnidekka 1013 (YN06JWG) arrived this afternoon on route 2 from Southampton. It is the first Omnidekka out in service and looks very impressive. She does not yet have the stars on the rear - time will tell whether these will be applied to what has not become BlueStar's second youngest double decker. Incidentally, BlueStar's first and third youngest deckers - Enviro400 858 and fellow Omnidekka 1035 - were also out in use on route 2 today.

This was formerly Reading Buses 823, and although I didn't manage to capture it in service then, I do have sisters 819, 820 and 824 - Solent Blue Line now also own 820. Here is Reading Buses 824 (YN06JWP) pictured in the same livery that 823 arrived in a couple of months ago.

Hopefully I'll be able to capture the Alton ones over the coming days - news from GSC forum is that one of the Omnidekkas will have to work the Sunday BlueStar 5 due to a low bridge - whether this will happen or not has not yet been confirmed.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Route 126 Weston - Wells

One of an ever decreasing number of routes to remained unchanged since the takeover of big national companies is the 126, connecting Weston-super-Mare with Wells in Somerset hourly. The route is operated by First Somerset and Avon - previously Badgerline.

The 126 is the route that I consider to by "my" Somerset route. When I was younger, I stayed in Cheddar for a few days. The 126 was the main route that served Cheddar, back then using Leyland Lynx buses. Pictured around May 2003, here are firstly 1645 (H645YHT) and secondly 1610 (F610RTC), both pictured in Cheddar village. As illustrated, First Badgerline decided to brand these buses for the 126 in 2003, and the branding is new in these two images. Back then the depot was "Weston and Wells", and the depot allocation code was WM - as illustrated by both buses' fleet numbers.

Today was the first time I have photographed route 126 since May 2003. Today, the usual allocation are Volvo B10BLEs - usually a mix of former Provincial buses - so therefore buses I know well and another reason I can associate myself with the route. Pictured to the right is former Hilsea and Hoeford based Volvo B10BLE 66160 (S360XCR), a bus that I last photographed at Southsea's South Parade Pier in 2008.

Between the Lynxes and the Volvos, Dennis Darts and Dennis Lances ran the 126, so 46603 (L503VHU)'s appearance on the route today is a helpful "transition" image. An appearance of a Dart on the 126 is rare these days, especially as only two step entry single deck buses are now in service from Weston-super-Mare's allocation.

I had a great day in Weston today taking photos - I'll post some more to the blog over the coming days. For late October, the sun didn't play me up half as bad as I had expected.

Monday, 24 October 2011

First day of the BlueStar 5

BlueStar 5 took off today, replacing the existing Wilts & Dorset service connecting Romsey and Eastleigh. We predicted that the service would be operated by Dennis Tridents from Eastleigh depot, and we were half right...

On the first ever BlueStar 5 was Volvo B7TL 787 (HX51ZRK) standing here looking very smart in Romsey bus station. These vehicles certainly are impressive in appearance, and it felt the service had received a definite upgrade over the existing Volvo Olympians used on the 65, although the coach seats of those Olympians are very nice. There was no timetable up in the stand, and the bus stop still advertised route 65 but I've been informed the taxi office were giving out timetable booklets.

Dennis Trident 779 (T749JPO) was also out on route 5 today on the second working. These Tridents have all recently been repainted into the darker blue livery, and all except 772 have recieved dot matrix or hanover displays. Tridents are notoriously hard to find to photograph - used on the odd route 2, 3 or 18, but mainly on Barton Peveril routes - so it is good we can now add the 5 to this list.

All round an good service - the BlueStar 5 was the only route running to time today, and when the bus stop information is updated we'll see a fantastically presented route.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sunday Lost Scenes #7

A scene only lost very recently today...

First Hants & Dorset have lost the contract to operate a route between Hamble and Hedge End, with the service passing to Brijan tomorrow. Yesterday was the last day of the route 26 extension to Hamble, which saw 4 Solos brought in from First Devon & Cornwall to reflect the improvements to the service. 53013 (W813PAF) is one of those Solos, which is pictured standing in Hamble on one of the last 26s yesterday. 

Brijan are taking over the route, and operating it as a loop from Hedge End. It will depart Hedge End, travel to Hamble via Lowford, then onto Butlocks Heath, Netley and then returning to Hedge End via Lowford. 

The route change sees First Hants & Dorset's Hoeford depot lose Hamble from the network. It has only been part of the network for a very short amount of of time - Hamble was last operated to from Hoeford in People's Provincial days. There is also no longer a direct link by bus from Hamble - Fareham, but one would think this hasn't inconvenienced too many passengers as the route needs to be tendered. Maybe a direct route - such as route 57 extending from Warsash via Sarisbury Green, Lowford, and down to Hamble, would be the most likely profitable route.

It will be interesting to see what Brijan use on the route tomorrow!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

BlueStar changes

It has been on the cards ever since Go South Coast took over Solent Blue Line, but from 23rd October, BlueStar will take over the Eastleigh - Romsey route from Wilts & Dorset. The old route 65 will now become the newest BlueStar route - BlueStar 5 - and continue to operate in a similar way to the 65 does at the moment.

Here's is a jpeg of the BlueStar route 5 timetable taken off of the website - and as can be seen the service remains largely similar to now-a-days, albeit the timings are altered and the route will now be run from Eastleigh. I am expecting Dennis Tridents in the weekday - especially when Barton Peveril college is open - as BlueStar have to honour their low floor guarantee.  However, in the holidays Solos or Darts may take over - we will have to wait and see. Nothing has been confirmed by the company yet.

This will mean an end to one of the most reliable routes to find an ex-Southern Vectis Olympian on though, which will be a shame. Presumably the Olympians will move back to Salisbury, concentrate on the 183/184 and cascade some of the older Olympians to Damory, or the coach fleet or similar. Olympians such as 752 (R752GDL) will venture into Hampshire less and less.

This will also mean an end to Wilts & Dorset buses in service in Eastleigh bus station - although an early morning college service from Romsey - West Wellow and back is to be operated by Wilts & Dorset on route 5. 

What will be interesting is the Saturday route 34 connections. The timetable says there is a "direct service" - whether this means buses meeting in Romsey bus station guaranteeing a connection, or BlueStar bus heading off up into Wiltshire on route 34, remains to be confirmed. 

Other changes - my old favourite BlueStar 6 - the 56/56A until earlier this year - is being cut to hourly Lymington - Rushington, then half hourly onwards. Maybe this route will be one of the growing trend of routes that has its frequency re-doubled during the summer months - having seen the loads in January earlier this year on the 56/56A, I can completely understand GSC's decision... The 10/11 is being cut to half hourly Southampton - Totton, with only hourly alternating extensions to Cadnam... and the Sunday 8 is being cut... the E1 is being cut back to Eastleigh - Boyatt Wood half hourly and only hourly onto Winchester... the F dropped altogether... the 14 cut back to Bassett Green and renumbered the P1 - presumably for Portswood 1. Maybe the service would be used better if they livered up a Solo in Unilink livery and operated it as the U4 or something and ran it via the Unilink interchange... I don't know. That's why I'm not a bus company manager!

With these times in recession and winter drawing in, I can only hope spring breathes new life into bus services across the region.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Ryde Depot

Southern Vectis have not used Ryde bus depot for operational services for a while now, but it is still used as a centre for the coach fleet and still stores a large number of buses on the island. For the first time in a couple of years, I nipped down to the depot to take a few photos of what was there on Saturday. All views were taken from the public footpath.

First thing of note, is that Ryde depot has become London General's Isle of Wight outstation! A large number of the PVLs are stored here - some still have the boards for the Isle of Wight festival. In view in these two pictures are the following: W905WGH, W508WGH, Y704TGH, X572EGK, X573EGK plus another 5 examples at least. Marc M-H has said that 2 of them will become Southern Vectis fleet vehicles in the future to increase capacity on route 9 (Ryde - Newport) - these will of course fit in very well along Southern Vectis' native Volvo B7TLs with Plaxton bodywork, that arrived new in 2002.

Here is an overview of Ryde depot showing most of the buses and coaches stored. Southern Vectis allocate most of their Solos to school work - so therefore they are part of the coach fleet. This is why green livered Solo 2615 (R615NFX) is at Ryde depot.

Finally I thought I would post a close up of one of the coach liveries - here is 598 (VUV246) in Fountain Coaches livery parked out of service. I hope these photos have been of interest - thanks for viewing.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sunday Lost Scenes #6

This week's Sunday Lost Scene comes from Winchester bus station, taken on Sunday 30th May 2004.

Solent Blue Line 578 - SN03ECD - Winchester bus station

Several things have changed from this view, which means that you cannot recreate the view any longer:
* firstly, the Winchester bus station sign has been taken down, leaving only the red area and a slightly less-faded are where Winchester bus station can still be seen.
* Solent Blue Line MPD 578 is now with Wilts & Dorset.
* Solent Blue Line (BlueStar) no longer operate with this livery.
* Route 47 is now BlueStar 1 - it was rebranded later on this year (2004).
* The Dart in the rear is now withdrawn/moved on - Stagecoach operate the X66 with fleet livered Dart SLFs now as the 66.

In similar news, BlueStar at Eastleigh (Solent Blue Line) are soon to be taking over route 65 from Wilts & Dorset - Eastleigh to Romsey - as their new BlueStar 5 in a change that has been on the cards for a while. The route will also change over to Eastleigh depot and interwork with the E to Winchester. I reckon the route may be Trident operated to cope with Barton Peveril college demands, although as it is interworked with the E we may see Solos or Darts. Certainly will be interesting! I'll post a link to the timetable as soon as it is up and running on the BlueStar website.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

A little bit of Wales....

... on the Isle of Wight. Southern Vectis are temporarily operating a small number of former Veolia Cymru Optare Tempos. Purchased back in August, the eventual purpose for these Tempos is not know although they were initially earmarked for Damory. A number have been pushed into service with Southern Vectis, allowing some Scania Omnidekkas to temporarily move over to Salisbury to help with school routes.

My first photo is of Go South Coast's new 2507 (YJ56WVT). As you can see, they retain full Veolia route 600 branding advertising the Cardiff - Pontypridd route. Although they have received some criticism from enthusiasts for this, I am actually with Southern Vectis for leaving the branding on, as the vehicles do look a lot smarter. Also with Southern Vectis now the only bus operator on the island (bar the Ventnor town service), it is fairly obvious who operates these buses. However, I do wonder how many "single to Cardiff please!" jokes the drivers get a day though...

The Tempos are mainly found on routes 5 (Newport - East Cowes) and 9 (Newport - Ryde), and three were out and about on the 9 today. 2508 (YJ56WVU) is pictured earlier today in the October sunshine as it departs Ryde for Newport.

My final view from today is of Optare Tempo 2509 (YJ56WVV), heading out from Union Street and heading for the bus station. It will be sad from an enthusiast's point of view when these move on - I do like a bit of variety! It will also be interesting to see where these end up across the Go South Coast empire...

Friday, 7 October 2011

First in Bath

The bus scene in Bath has changed a bit since my last visit two years ago - the city now has former Sheffield Super Pointer Darts, fewer step entry buses, and new Volvo B7RLEs with Eclipse 2 bodywork arriving every hour on the 173 from Wells. Here are some photos from First.

Bath operate a number of Volvo B7TLs that were new to Bristol in 2003 - these buses look fantastic in the Autumn sunshine, as 32282 (WR03YZP) arrives on route 319.

Bath operate Volvo B7TLs with Wright Eclipse bodywork on the Park and Ride routes, wearing this blue, white and green livery. 32687 (WX56HKC) is pictured in Bath city centre on route 41.

This is certainly a well travelled Dart - 40160 (P139NLW) was new to London, which was then transferred to PMT (where it was renumbered), and then transferred to Wales before Bath. 40160 would be numbered 41139 in the correct sequence, but was numbered before any common sense and order was found!

One of a number of former Sheffield Dennis Dart SPDs that now operate around the city, here is 40517 (S512UAK) heading over Broad Quay. I have found that these Darts are primarily allocated to route 14.

6 Volvo B6BLEs new to York are operated in the city, and usually allocated on the country routes. However, last Saturday 40593 (YG02DHY) was pictured operating "Bright Orange" University route 18 - seen passing Bath bus station.

A number of shorter Darts are operated on city services that require reduced capacity - here is 42552 (WX05UAJ), pictured on route 13. It still carries part of the "Get Around Bath" branding that it wore when the Bath network was revitalised in 2005.

The number of step entry buses are ever dwindling in Bath. Dennis Dart 46240 (N240KAE) is one of the few buses in service in the city that was actually new to Badgerline. I don't expect to see this vehicle in service the next time I visit - the clock must be ticking.

The second step entry bus I saw in service on Saturday was former Midland Red Vario 52554 (S554RWP), out and about on route 1. It is pictured heading past Bath bus station.

Finally for today, here is Volvo B7RLE/Wright Eclipse 2 69436 (WX59BYN), one of a number of buses introduced late in 2009 for the Bath - Wells and Bristol - Wells - Yeovil/Bridgwater routes. They still look fantastic two years later.

Many thanks for viewing - all comments welcome.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Wessex Connect in Bath

I visited Bath last Saturday, and managed to get nearly 100 photos of the bus operations in one of my favourite cities for the first time in a couple of years. I'll post the First photos later - but today here are Wessex Connect.

The parent company of Wessex Connect is Rotala, and they are slowly beginning to build a significant presence in Bath, competing with First on the 5, 10 and 18, and taking over their own routes. The youngest bus in Bath and leading the fight is Optare Solo SR YJ61CHF, pictured here heading past Bath bus station. This is dedicated to the 20A/20C circular routes that were taken over from First in 2009, and directly replaces Vario minibuses. I believe there are two, although a Dart was on the other working when I visited. 

Some Wessex Connect white and blue is still about in Bath - here is Dennis Dart SLF 877 (T875HGT) heading for the Grand Parade on route 10, one of the routes that Wessex Connect competes with First with.

Wessex Connect are slowly starting to build a very smart fleet of buses in "Royal Bath" royal blue livery, and I have to say this shade of blue is excellent and one of my favourites. It largely appears on a fleet of MPDs that operate around the city - here illustrated first is 1654 (V654HEC) pictured passing Bath cathedral on the 20C, with sister vehicle 1657 (V657HEC) pictured again at Grand Parade, this time terminating on route 5.

 Wessex Connect also operate a fleet of very smart full size single decks (Volvo B7RLEs and others) on Uni route U18 - I didn't manage to capture any of these in a great photo during my visit, so I will not post any of these. Instead, here is another Dart - this time 2501 (MW52PZP), heading along St James Parade.

Thanks for viewing - First to come very soon.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Sunday Lost Scenes #5

Apologies for the lack of posts recently - as warned, a new job and new career has significantly limited my bus time! However, with the weather so excellent today, I decided to go out and about. Today's lost scene is not technically a lost scene yet, but soon will be...

Stagecoach South (Winchester) Dennis Dart SLF 33026 - XSU682 - Wickham Square

Due to Hampshire County Council funding cuts, the Sunday 69 from Fareham - Winchester is being cut later this month. Route 69 on a Sunday is operated by a single deck bus, rather than Rivers branded Tridents as it is Monday - Friday. 33026 is one of the former Winchester Park & Ride Darts, and I haven't caught it on camera since it was in that livery so all round today was good! Wickham is one of several villages that will now not see any bus service on Sunday. You've got a couple more Sundays by my reckoning to recreate this picture if interested.