Thursday, 26 January 2012

Still Going Strong!

It was announced on the First Hants & Dorset forum last week that the three remaining former People's Provincial Dennis Darts may not see past April, with Volvo B7RLEs for the new Eclipse routes imminent. 

Purchased in 1995 as the last batch of new buses to People's Provincial, 7 locally bodied UVG Urban Star bodied Darts entered service in Provincial green and cream. Taken over by First, these quickly were repainted into red and cream and have formed the backbone of many services ever since. Three remain in service from the initial batch - one is 47302 (N602EBP), pictured here on route 88 in Gosport bus station.

The Provincial Society organised a running day last month to celebrate the final three - here is 47304 (N604EBP) on that day, pictured on route 33 heading for Hill Head. No doubt intentional, the Darts operated routes 33, 34 and 36 - three routes that have changed very little since those Provincial days.

The final one in service still is 47307 (N607EBP) - numerically the last. She is pictured in Stubbington earlier this year on route 33 on a very sunny morning. It will be sad to see these go - especially as it has been suggested they are on their last legs, and thus any preservation attempts would be expensive.

First to go was N605EBP - the only one never to receive First's Barbie national livery (it was scrapped in Barbie 2). This one went in October 2009, followed next by N601EBP. This one was delivered with a calculator style number display and internal LED display - the one one to receive these features. I believe it was the regular rally bus in it's initial years. The next to go was N603EBP - followed in 2011 by N606EBP. Catch the remaining three while you can! Your most reliable routes are anything around Fareham - particularly the 33, 34, 35, 36, 57, 87/87A and 88.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Isle of Wight artics

Go South Coast have received a number of Mercedes-Benz Citaro articulated buses from London Central, following their withdrawal in London. Although their specific use has not yet been identified, they have joined the coach fleet - now located at various places on the Isle of Wight.

At least 4 are now located at Ryde depot - as is illustrated in this photo to the left. Fleet number 2903 (BX54UDG) is pictured on the left of the screen, with sister 2910 (BX54UDY) on the right. They have joined a rather large fleet of ex-Go Ahead London Volvo Olympians and Volvo B7TLs which can be found on the island. We expect these bendies to form the main capacity of several of the island's high profile events this year, such as the Isle of Wight festival, although nothing has been confirmed yet.

Go Ahead London's Isle of Wight outstation - in view are 1x Volvo Olympian, 4x Mercedes-Benz Citaro artics, and at least 10x Volvo B7TLs. 

Just another note - all the Optare Tempos on the island have now moved on with most now in service from Wilts & Dorset's Poole depot. I aim to go to Poole over the next month and will post photos when I have them.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - 22nd January

This week's Sunday lost scene comes from Ryde...

Southern Vectis 247 - P247VDL - Ryde bus station - Summer 2002

10 years ago this summer, Iveco TurboDailys with 2+1 coach seating were the regular buses on route 4, connecting Ryde with East Cowes. The service back then was operated by a variety of Ivecos brand new to Southern Vectis, some ex-Stagecoach Devon examples, along with two former Solent Blue Line buses. PVR was 2, and the route was operated at every 30 minutes.

Fast forward to nearly 10 years in the future, and we now have Optare Solos on the route. You will note that this particular Solo is less than a year younger than the Iveco that was replaced back in 2005. 2621 (R621NFX) is pictured on the now hourly route 4 yesterday.

However, I must qualify some information with this post. The decrease in route 4 from two to one bus per hour, has been met with an increase to 6 buses per hour from Ryde to Newport. Furthermore, the Solo gives extra seating capacity plus low floor capability. Moreover, the Ivecos were directly replaced by MPDs - a significant upgrade to the route. Many of these are now found at Salisbury, unfortunately - where this particular Solo was operating in 2005. Finally, as often commented on Omnibuses, the Solo has only just been withdrawn from production - therefore 61 plated Solos can look identical to R plated Solos, and serve the customer no less well.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - 15th January

Today's Sunday Lost Scenes is a sight recently departed from Basingstoke...

Newbury Buses 501 - RX07RKV - Basingstoke (rail station) - 15th March 2010

The Link - also known as route 32 - operates between Newbury and Basingstoke, connecting the two towns at a frequency of every hour. It uses two buses, with an extra in the peaks. Until last autumn, the route had been a joint initiative from Stagecoach and Newbury Buses, with Stagecoach using one of two former Manchester Tridents, and Newbury Buses using this. 501 (RX07RKV) - a MAN 18.240 with East Lancs bodywork, which was brand new as a unique example initially to Reading Buses.

Last Autumn, Newbury Buses gave up their share in the route, as the the company pulled out of Newbury, concentrating on Reading (as part of the larger, parent Reading Buses company). Stagecoach now usually use two Tridents, which means a little piece of hourly variety has been lost in Basingstoke, unfortunately. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Farnborough trip

On Saturday, I visited Farnborough for the first time as I opened my photo account for 2012. Farnborough is served mainly by Stagecoach South (the Aldershot arm), Countryliner, and the former independent Countywide Travel, recently taken over by Stagecoach bus still running in their own guise.

The main route in Farnborough is Stagecoach Gold 1. The route operates between Camberley (Old Dean) and Aldershot at every 10 minutes, using a mixture of gold livered, leather-seated MAN 18.240/Enviro300s and Enviro300 integrals. Here is MAN 22745 (GX58MVJ) pictured outside Farnborough main rail station.

Two Enviro300 integrals entered service on route 1 in 2011, when the frequency was increased. This also marked a slight rebrand from Goldline to Stagecoach Gold. 27756 (GX11AKZ) is pictured outside Farnborough main railway station.

The secondary route that Stagecoach operate is route 2, connecting Camberley and Aldershot along different roads. This service operates every 30 minutes and tends to use Dart SLF/Pointer 2s - such as 35152 (GX56KWG), as pictured here.

Stagecoach also operate a town service - the Yo-Yo. It operates at every 10 minutes, using three Optare Solos. Some are branded, such as 47243 (GX55DXM) pictured here.

Some non-branded Optare Solos are also found out on the Yo-Yo. Here is 47312 (GX06DYP), pictured in Farnborough town centre. The January shadows were long on Saturday, but they didn't hamper photographs too much depending on where you went.

There are some Countryliner services - all of which seem to use Dennis Dart MPDs. This is DP1 (RL51CXB), pictured on route 11 outside of Farnborough railway station. As discussed, Countywide Travel (Fleet Buzz) also serve Farnborough but I posted those photos on Saturday.

I will return in a few months - (a) to see if Countywide Travel have changed at all and (b) to finally photograph in Aldershot.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - 8th January

This Sunday's lost scenes is from Weymouth in June 2004...
First Hants & Dorset 42827 - T827AFX - Weymouth King's Statue - 1st June 2004

My shot this week illustrates a lost livery and a lost style of branding. Weymouth depot repainted their T reg Dennis Dart SLFs in 2002-3 into Barbie 2 livery. Barbie 2 was applied to vehicles that either were step entry, or didn't have the First corporate interior. In actual fact, some buses were wrongly painted into Barbie 2, or wrongly not painted into Barbie 2. One incident to illustrate this was when Hoeford depot received Dart SLF/Marshalls P136NLW and P137NLW in 2003 - one came in Barbie 2 and one came in low floor fleet livery, despite them being identical vehicles.

42827 is actually painted correctly, due to the lack of a corporate interior. Dart SLF/Pointer 2s were rarely painted into Barbie 2 because the majority were new to First, rather than the preceding independent company. T826-9AFX were acquired by Southern National - not First - hence this rare occurance. 

I actually thought this livery quite suited these Darts and, as I only managed to capture two on camera, it was a sad day when they were repainted out of the livery. They still regularly find themselves on route 2, and are still at Weymouth for the majority of their time.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Stagecoach Countywide Travel

Towards the end of 2011, Stagecoach bought the Fleet based company of Countywide Travel. Countywide Travel operate a number of routes around northern Hampshire and Berkshire, including services to Reading. It brings Stagecoach into new areas, as well as complementing their services around Farnborough and Aldershot.

Countywide Travel buses have all remained in yellow so far and there are no public plans to repaint them into corporate Stagecoach colours. However, newly introduced in 2012 are the buses wearing their Stagecoach fleet
numbers. This is Solo MX08UZM, numbered 52 by Countywide and 47738 by Stagecoach. It is pictured outside Farnborough rail station earlier today on Saturday only service 73M.

On a Saturday, Farnborough only sees one regular Countywide Travel service - the 73M. It is operated by two buses, and the second today was MX08UZL, numbered 53 by Countywide Travel and 47739 under Stagecoach. It is again seen at Farnborough rail station.

Over the coming months we await the developments with interest - when will the first bus wearing corporate colours see service on a Countywide route?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Cut of the 347 / 348

Hands up if you saw that coming? Yes, probably lots of you, but strongly rumoured by sources (and the Dorset bus blog, which is usually reliable so it is probably true), is the cut of the commercially operated Damory Coaches 347/348 service between Poole and Dorchester.

The 347/387 is a rural route connecting the county town of Dorset, Dorchester, with Poole, via villages at Tolpuddle and Puddletown, the military town of Blandford Forum, and various suburbs of Poole. Damory have been operating this very rural route commecially since last summer.

The story behind the 347/387 is that, following retendering, Bournemouth Transport (RATP Yellow Buses) won the route, along with First's 31 from Weymouth to Axminster, Dorchester town services and more. Yellow Buses were expanding west, threatening First and Go South Coast land. First and GSC hit back by registering the 31 (First), 347/387/Dorchester town services (GSC) commercially, although questions were asked back then what motive they had - was it to save Dorset county council money, or protect their empire? In the end, Yellow Buses did not expand into the west (bar a 4d hourly service to Wimborne, previously unserved).

And now this week - it seems as if the route has been deregistered commercially. No confirmation yet. The questions now are:
* were GSC really trying the save Dorset County Council money, running the route commercially, trying to defy all those who said it was not commercial?
* were GSC just trying to protect their empire?
* were GSC always going to deregister the commercial route?
* were GSC just trying to block Yellow Buses' expansion west regardless of actual financial outcome.

Even if the news turns out to be false, all the questions are still valid. I will pass no opinion here as I think, without all the facts, that would not be appropriate. Even if the changes are true, they are both legal and have been beneficial in saving Dorset County Council money. Moreover, GSC have the right to defend their empire. 

I hope that the intentions were good and honest, at least in the beginning. However, with the experience of BeepBus! and Velvet of 2008/9, we know such actions haven't always been morally correct...

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - 1st January

How could I start the new year any other way than remembering back to the Friends of King Alfred Buses rally of yesteryear. I write this before the actual day, so am not sure whether I actually made it to 2012's rally, but time will tell! I return to 2004, and the rally where Provincial's A301KJT made it's debut in service...

First up, here is a line up of King Alfred livered buses, photographed in Winchester city centre in the Broadway. I am not an expert on buses pre-1990, so I cannot tell you what they are. We have POU494 leading with a service for Worthy Down.

Here's another King Alfred livered bus - this time HOR592E, a Leyland Atlantean that I believe once saw service with People's Provincial. It is pictured on one of the free tours to Oliver's Battery.

Another Leyland Atlantean, this time Silver Star livered 1013MW, pictured leaving Winchester bus station. Since this photo was taken, the lettering has been removed from the famous arch, although the planned redevelopment has not happened.

Another fantastic bus - this time Eastbourne Corporation livered AHC442 pictured along the Broadway in Winchester city centre. I managed to get to Winchester for 2005 (although I can't find the photos), but haven't been back since...

A Hants & Dorset livered Bristol RE, blinded up for the 47 to Southampton. At this point in time, I believe the 47 to Southampton had not yet become the BlueStar 1, so this photo is accurate. The bus is XLJ726K, and is pictured in Winchester bus station.

Sunday buses from Winchester to Hamble! Yes, they really did happen! One of Solent Blue Line's then brand new Transbus MPDs - 577 (SN03ECC) heads along a route which is now the Baby BlueStar E1, Velvet A and Brijan 15... the bus is now with Wilts & Dorset.

And finally, here is First Provincial livered 401 (A301KJT) making her operational debut at a rally. 401 had recently been taken out of service by First Hampshire, and was purchased fresh from service. She is blinded for the 67, which I assume headed in the direction of Alresford and Petersfield.

I wish all of my readers a very prosperous new year, and if you attended Winchester 2012, I hope you had a fantastic day.