Tuesday, 27 March 2012


On Saturday, I spent a few hours in the sun at Horsham where I was able to capture the brand new Enviro200 single deckers, which were introduced by Metrobus to improve the town services.

6 buses have been introduced at Crawley depot for use in Horsham. They look stunning, glinting in the sunlight as they buzzed quickly around the town. They are usually found on routes 61, 93 and 98 - or these were my observations yesterday. Here is 736 (SN12AAJ) heading out of the town centre on route 61.

The livery is very similar to that of the new Plymouth Citybus livery - albeit the colours are different. The Best Impressions connection is clear, although I don't think there is a problem. If the livery works, which I think this one certainly does, then why not replicate the base design elsewhere. Here is 737 (SN12AAK) heading for Horsham town centre, having just served the railway station stops.

Dennis Dart SLFs are also found alongside the Enviro200s. Caetano bodied 361 (Y361HMY) is pictured heading out of the town centre for Oakhill.

Horsham is served half hourly by route 200, connecting the town to Crawley and Gatwick Airport. The route allocation seemed to be a mixture of Darts and deckers - here is Scania Omnidekka 474 (YN53RYC) heading passed the railway station towards Horsham town centre.

Metrobus have two Scania Omnicity double deckers in blue livery rather than red. I managed to catch up with one yesterday - here is 953 (YN08OBP) heading out of the town on route 98.

Stagecoach South also serve Horsham. Using Enviro300s new to Winchester depot, route 17 connects Horsham to Brighton every hour. Here is 27511 (GX06DZP), one of 5 such examples.

Finally for this blog, here is Arriva Guildford's sole Volvo Olympian that remains in the fleet. 5925 (M925PKN) heads out of Horsham town centre, back towards Guildford on the hourly 63.

I hope you have enjoyed these photos from an area of Southern England not usually featured on the blog. 

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - 25th March

This week's Sunday Lost Scenes is from Andover in 2004...

Wilts & Dorset 2235 - P235CTV - Andover bus station - 25th June 2004

Following the recent focus on Activ8, I thought this week I would select another example of Wilts & Dorset operating into Andover. Wilts & Dorset used to operate route 87, a less frequent connection between Andover and Salisbury, using Metroriders such as the bus above.  Wilts & Dorset lost the contract later and now Stagecoach operate the route.

Furthermore, the Metroriders are long gone with the last one being withdrawn from service in 2010, I believe. There are no longer any examples left in service with Go South Coast, although Southern Vectis have a few as permanent offices at depot/outstation sites. Even before the date of the last withdrawal, following route cuts and an influx of Solos, they have slowly been killed off over many years. 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Riding buses

Today's post is a selection of different interior shots I've gathered over the years. Interior shots are usually rarer (and harder to get) than exterior shots, but as modelling becomes more advanced and expectations become higher, perhaps the number of interior shots I take should increase. I hope these are of interest - especially to those people out of area who won't get a ride on these buses.

First Hants & Dorset Leyland Olympian 34810 (C410HJN) - this is a shot of the top deck looking backwards. As you can see, First reupholstered the seats before it entered service at FHD.

First Hants & Dorset Dennis Dart 40623 (M254VWW) - this bus came from Leeds and has red covered seats.

A shot from on board a moving 46366 (N466ETR), pictured in service heading for Stubbington on route 72.

BlueStar this time - and this is what will greet you if you ride on of the Scania Omnicitys on route 1 - this bus is 1127 (HF58KCC).

Now withdrawn and scrapped, here is 47306 (N606EBP) - one of 7 UVG Urban Star bodied Darts new to People's Provincial.

First Hants & Dorset Volvo B7TL/Wright Eclipse Gemini 37162 (HY07FSV) - a driver kindly let me board the bus while paused at Hedge End rail station back in 2007, and I was able to get photos of the then brand new buses. This shot is downstairs looking backwards.

I hope these are of interest - it is certainly interesting to see how older buses have the bench rows and the new buses have individual seats. I know I'd rather have the bench row, but for purposes of sitting next to a stranger, perhaps the individual seat is better.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - 18th March

This week's Sunday Lost Scenes comes from Bridgemary, near Gosport in Hampshire...

People's Provincial 3 - H523CTR - Bridgemary (Nobes Avenue) - 27th August 2007

Bridgemary's bus services will soon change massively. With BRT now just over a month away from being introduced, the Dart's days are numbered. H523CTR comes from an era even before the Darts. 

The Gosport rally in 2007 saw H523CTR make it's rally debut, and I was lucky enough to catch a ride on one if the free trips. We went for a tour of Gosport, with a photography opportunity at Bridgemary, which brings this shot. The weather on the day was wonderful, but luckily the sun just ducked behind a cloud or else this shot would have been far more difficult!

H523CTR has been a regular attendee at the Stokes Bay rally, which is to be held on Sunday 5th August this year. For more details please click here, and H523CTR has already been provisionally booked in for service. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The new order on Activ8

Stagecoach in Hampshire have just taken a delivery of three Scania N230UD/Enviro400s. The first of the type for the old Hampshire Bus lands, these buses will upgrade Stagecoach's buses on the Activ8 service, connecting Andover and Salisbury.

These buses have already been branded in what I personally call the "Activ8 Bubbles" livery - I'm sure it has got a proper name. This is Scania 15806 (GX12DXU) pictured heading around Andover's Folly roundabout on Sunday - the second day of the buses in service.

The second one I managed to photograph on Saturday was sister 15805 (GX12DXT), pictured here in Andover along West St. Activ8 is a route jointly run with Wilts & Dorset. The two companies operate a half hourly frequency between Andover and Salisbury, meaning one of the brand new Scanias turns up every hour at either end.

The other end of the route - Scania 15806 arrives in Salisbury with a morning Activ8. It is pictured in Rollestone St, just about to turn into Salisbury bus station.

Stagecoach have been busy upgrading Activ8 in the last six months - recently they have also introduced half hourly shorts connecting Andover with Tidworth. This brings this section of the route a 15 minute frequency. The short Activ8s are operated by Dart SLFs, such as 35260 (GX56OGL). These also have very subtle branding for Activ8 but no "bubbles" - I think they'd look quite good on the Dart.

More photos to come from Salisbury and Andover over the week, along with BRT updates, massive news for the bus services in North Devon and more...

Note: If anyone knows what the proper name for the Activ8 livery is, please feel free to leave a comment and get in contact!

Monday, 12 March 2012

The end of an era in North Devon

On Monday 12th March, news was released confirming the takeover of First's North Devon operation by Stagecoach South West. The depot will be taken over along with 10 routes, 30 buses and the employees.

First took over the Red Bus operations along with First Western National many years ago. However, since 2006, the network has been gradually cut back. In 2006 went the tendered routes to Lynton, Lynmouth, Exeter and the Barnstaple town services, along with many other routes. Stagecoach Devon gradually increased their presence introducing "The Wave" route 21/21A, directly competing against First's most profitable route. In 2012, First have decided to call it a day in North Devon. Long gone are the days of buses in red and cream, like N22BLU in Bude, back in 2004. (Incidentally the Sunday 319 from Barnstaple to Bude was one of the first routes won by Stagecoach, and the first route that took them regularly into Cornwall for the first time).

Routes to be transferred by my estimate are:
1 / 2 - Barnstaple - Bideford and Westward Ho (1) or Appledore (2)
3 - Barnstaple - Ilfracombe
5 - Barnstaple - Swimbridge
X7 - Barnstaple - South Molton
30 - Barnstaple - Ilfracombe
31 - Ilfracombe - Woolacombe
32 - Ilfracombe circular
128 - Stratton - Poughill (Bude town service)

Now the above is 9 routes - the 10th could be First's prestigious Atlantic Coast Express route X9, from Bude to Exeter. With Stagecoach the major operator in Exeter, and already having an outstation in Bude, this could be quite likely. However, First have just re-entered Cornwall from Plymouth having won the Callington - Bude tender, and furthermore no news yet is given on Stratton outstation. We await confirmation.

The wave appears to have tsunami-ed the connection. It will certainly be interesting to get confirmation on the X9, but also to see which buses are bought by Stagecoach. One would imagine these are already arranged in the agreement as part of the buying price - so we may see Trident X501BFJ, as pictured above, wearing Stagecoach livery and joining the other Tridents - like KX55TLV - very soon.

At the time of writing, there has been no "pass over" date. Interesting times ahead.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

A Saturday morning in Trowbridge

On Saturday, I decided I fancied a trip out. Catching the 0947 from Fareham, I alighted at Trowbridge, a town in northern Wiltshire about 12miles south east of Bath. The main operator is First Somerset & Avon, along with an hourly Stagecoach West service, supplemented by smaller operators Faresaver and Frome Minibuses.

The primary service in Trowbridge is the half hourly Bath - Warminster route 264 and 265 service. The route was once upon a time the X4/X5 all the way from Salisbury or Warminster to Bath and Bristol, operated jointly with Wilts & Dorset. Now First Somerset & Avon operate the route on their own using Volvo B7RLEs - here is 66969 (WX55TZA) heading off for Warminster.

The other main trunk route that First Somerset & Avon operate is the hourly 234 from Frome to Chippenham. I once captured Dennis Lances on the route in Frome - now the route has been upgraded, utilising the services of Volvo B7TL double deckers new to Bristol. Here is 32284 (WR03YZT) in a sudden hail storm yesterday afternoon!

First Somerset & Avon also operate the half-hourly town service of route 236, using Volvo B6BLEs or Dart SLFs. Here is 40588 (YG51RGO), which was new to First in York.

I possibly should have done some more research before I left to find out where the Stagecoach 49 terminated, as my only sighting of a 49 was a rather rushed image as I walked to the town centre from the rail station. Scania N230UD/Enviro 400 15650 (VX10FRN) does the honours, as it heads for Swindon.

Faresaver operate the "Zig Zag" service, connecting a series of small villages and towns heading between Trowbridge and Melksham. Mercedes-Benz Vario V707ENN does the honours.

Finally, another shot of the most common type of bus in Trowbridge. This time it is 66937 (WX55UAD), heading for Warminster on the 264.

A few things I learnt from the visit - firstly, don't visit the town in the morning as the sun is very difficult. The summer may be better, but early afternoon onwards is certainly best. Furthermore, you only need an hour or two here, as variety is limited. However, I did have an enjoyable day, and if you are in the area with an hour or so to spare, go and tick it off of your list. There is also a good railway model shop just down from the Market Place, where the buses terminate.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The 4

Last week, First Hants & Dorset announced on VOSA and the unofficial First Hants & Dorset forum that Eclipse wouldn't be the only massive route change taking place from Monday 23rd April. This is a date from which First services across the south coast will change hugely.

The 57 (Warsash - Portsmouth), 72 (Gosport - Southampton) and 80 (Fareham - Southampton) have been cut and will be replaced by the new  route 4. 

Route 4 will operate hourly from Southampton to Gosport, as route 72 does today. 

Route 4A will operate hourly from Southampton to Fareham. It will travel along a similar route as the old 77, travelling via Woolston, Sarisbury Green, Warsash, and then following the 57's present route to Fareham. 

The X4 will operate from Southampton to Portsmouth, and is the biggest change. From Southampton to Fareham, it will operate along the present route 80 route. From Fareham to Portsmouth, it will travel along the present X57 route, via the A27, Portchester, Northharbour (although the main road, not Tesco), before heading along the M275 to Portsmouth City Centre. It will also extend to The Hard. The route will operate half hourly throughout Monday - Saturday.

This means that combined frequencies:
* Southampton to Locks Heath sees an improvement to 15 minute intervals and 4 buses an hour. 2 via Warsash (4/4A) and 2 via Park Gate (X4). 
* Locks Heath to Fareham sees an improvement to 3 buses an hour (2 X4s and a 4A)
* Fareham to Portsmouth routes are upgraded - now 6 buses an hour (1A, X4 and 5), with the X4 adding 2 express services per hour.
* Stubbington to Gosport sees half hourly buses, as the 4 is interworked with the 34 to operate in tandem with the 34.

Dart SLFs will be the main allocation. It has been confirmed that the entire route will be operated from Hoeford depot.

Interesting times for FHD - and this is before we get into the nitty gritty of the timetables, or we talk about the Southampton city changes!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - 4th March

This week's Sunday Lost Scene remembers an old favourite in Winchester...

Solent Blue Line 699 - A699DDL - Winchester (bus station) - 25th February 2006

This week there will be quite a few postings regarding different areas of First and possibly Stagecoach, so I thought this week's Sunday Lost Scenes would be for another local company. This is Solent Blue Line's Leyland Olympian 699, arriving in Winchester on BlueStar 1. For such an elderly bus, 699 was surprisingly treated to new colours in 2005. 

Fast forward from 2006 by just four years and brand new state of the art Scania Omnicity double deckers were operating this route. Quite a transformation for one of the south's key services. 699 is long gone from Solent Blue Line now, and there are no longer any step entry buses in everyday service for the company now.