Sunday, 29 April 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 29th April

Today's Sunday Lost Scenes comes from  Liskeard in 2003...

Dennis Dart 125 - L125YOD - Liskeard railway station - 6th August 2003

Plymouth Citybus once operated the route connecting Plymouth and Liskeard by bus. Since I've been an enthusiast (from about 2001), this route has never really prospered as an interurban route or connecting with inner-most Cornwall. I probably expect this is because of the rail service. Plymouth Citybus operated the route as the 77, which I seem to remember being hourly. I'm guessing the main allocation were Darts as pictured above, but I was no expert on Plymouth's buses back then.

This shot can no longer be reproduced. The bus was sold in 2009 to Devon & Cornwall Police, and the Plymouth - Liskeard corridor is operated by Western Greyhound. The livery is also obsolete, and I'm pretty sure there are no buses left in service in this particular version. I may be corrected though. Finally, and possibly the largest change, is that PCB now have new owners in Go Ahead.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

BRT in operation!

Today, I managed to grab my first shots of buses along the Fareham - Gosport Bus Rapid Transit road. The busway sees brand new Volvo B7RLEs on the Eclipse services, along with Barbie livered Darts on the X88.

The 88 passes the Wych Lane entrance to the bus way. Route 88 connects Fareham to Gosport, via Hoeford, the outskirts of Bridgemary, Rowner and Stokes Bay. To enable a connection to the railway station, the 88 changes in to the X88 Monday-Friday peaks which sees conventional First buses use the bus way. Here is 42140 (S640XCR) on a conventional 88 crossing over the busway at Wych Lane. This bus, right up until last Saturday, was the regular type of bus on Fareham - Gosport services.

The Eclipse buses have proved challenging to photograph for me so far. My camera doesn't pick them up when they are moving (possibly due to the colour and as there hasn't been any sun recently!). Here is 69546 (BF12KWD) pausing at Gregson Avenue bus stop earlier today.

Here is another shot of two southbound workings on BRT - 69546 (BF12KWL) leads on an E2. Just after these buses, some pedestrians appeared walking down the bus way. A PCSO also, coincidentally, was riding up the bus way, and they were asked to leave. 

Some buses have been found to bunch on these services. However, with a bus every 7 to 8 minutes this problem isn't as bad as it could be on some other less frequent services. Here the E2, operated by 69548 overtakes the E1, operated by 69555. This is one of the low bridges along the bus way, but the signs clearly indicate that double deckers will be able to fit under the bridge. Further south bound, there is an arch bridge which requires high buses to veer into the centre of the bus way also.

First impressions - excellent, well presented buses inside and outside. The live information at stops or on the bus is excellent. The computer speak on the buses is a welcome addition when the buses are moving quickly, and there are few landmarks to mark out the stops. The early technical difficulties (Ferryham, Farrrhaham...) will be ironed out as the service develops. Loads looked good on all buses I saw. Here's to the success of the bus way, and the continued investment in public transport in Southern Hampshire.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Eastbourne in April 2012

Eastbourne is a town on the south coast, east of Brighton. Since the takeover of Eastbourne Buses and the town's Renown operations by Stagecoach, it has had one of the most changing bus scenes on the south coast. Here are how the buses looked back in summer 2010. This blog entry documents the changes in just two years...

Stagecoach are the main operator in the town- still trading at Stagecoach Eastbourne although the legals give Canterbury as the address. The most recent investment is a fleet of Scania N230UD/Enviro400s for the 99 between Hastings and Eastbourne. They have received "Wave" branding - I think this particular livery looks quite good actually. 15775 (GN61EVY) loads passengers in Eastbourne town centre on a 99.

There is one unbranded example operating alongside the branded Scanias - here is 15780 (GN61EWE) again in Eastbourne town centre. The 99 operates every 20 minutes Mon-Sat, with an hourly frequency on Sunday.

The older Volvo Olympians still serve Eastbourne on the hourly 98 to Hastings. This is 16386 (N386LPN) unloading passengers. Eastbourne railway station can be seen in the background.

Go Ahead serve Eastbourne in the form of the 6 an hour 12 from Brighton. Many of Brighton & Hove's longer Scania Omnidekkas are branded for the "Coaster" - route 12. Here is Omnidekka 907 (YN56FFH).

Acquiring the Eastbourne operations has meant the acquisition of a number of non-standard bus types for Stagecoach. One of these batches are MAN/Evolutions, such as 39639 (AE56LWC), pictured here on the "Loop".

One of the most recent and rare acquisitions is this MAN 18.220/Alexander 300 single decker - 22187 (T187MVM) which was new to Stagecoach Manchester. It is pictured on the cross town route to Eastbourne's North Harbour on route 51.

Since Stagecoach's takeover, the premier town route 1 has been upgraded in terms of frequency and bus allocation. The latest addition are a number of 61 plated ADL Enviro300s, such as 28606 (GN61EVK). I noted 5 on the day of my visit.

To finish off with, here is an unbranded Brighton & Hove Scania Omnidekka. This is 623 (YN04GJK) which has recently been repainted into plain B&H livery. There are various branding changes at present within the Go Ahead company, such as the previously single-decked route 50 becoming double deck. 623 could feature new branding in months to come...

To sum up my trip to Eastbourne now. Eastbourne is a great photography day out, as there is plenty of variety - albeit not as much as before the Scanias for the 99 arrived. There are also open toppers in the summer on the Eastbourne tour, coupled with B&H's extra X13 service. Hastings is also just half an hour by train up the coast, and is on my radar for my next visit. Eastbourne is well worth a few hours - as well as the town photos shown above, you can also get coastal shots of B&H's 12 and Stagecoach's 99, which are on my to-do list next time.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 22nd April

This week's Sunday Lost Scenes focuses on some of the routes operated from Hoeford depot that will never run again...

Dart SLF 40825 - R645DUS - route 57 (Warsash - Portsmouth city centre)

Volvo Olympian 34016 - P536EFL - route 86 (Gosport - Fareham)

Leyland Olympian 30056 - A157UDM - route 31 (Fareham - West End circular)

Dennis Dart SLF 42134 - S634KTP - route 82 (Gosport - Fareham)

Dennis Dart 46366 - N466ETR - route 72 (Gosport - Southampton)

Dennis Dart 40961 - S474TJX - the last day of route 80 (Fareham to Southampton)

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A year without Fotopic

A year ago today, we finally got official news from the administrators about the plight of fotopic. Fotopic was the most popular website on the internet for bus enthusiasts and their photos. Although it was by no means perfect, and seemingly being run down or operated by a skeleton structure, it still did an excellent job at providing viewing opportunities for our photographs. 

Fotopic in reality had been down for a while by this time a year ago - the message found here has not changed in a year. The question is what is actually happening behind the scenes? The problem for the administrator is that most users have moved on - be it to flickr or smugmug or another photograph storing website. 

Would I go back? Well, my smugmug website is still not complete - I still haven't reuploaded everything, although I'm now just on independents, northern operators and captioning the beast. Furthermore, I did find fotopic easy to navigate on and I enjoyed using it. A few tweaks here and there and it would have been perfect for me. Also, my long dead but still stored (somewhere!) fotopic site is the only place which holds some of my images, which seemingly have been misplaced or not burnt onto disc over the years.

However, smugmug is apparently reliable at the moment. We've had one period of downtime in a year (that I've noticed), and that was only for a few hours. Furthermore, each month they are improving their service - and how they are improving their service is made obvious to you when you log on to the owner's control panel. Furthermore, smugmug is easy to customise to your own needs - it is bright and bouncy; you can have collections and groups too where on fotopic you could only have one or the other. Smugmug is also quite flexible and I like the user friendly approach. Uploading photos is also easier - but it is harder to edit them once uploaded than it ever was on fotopic. Smugmug is also cheaper for a year's subscription, if I remember right.

I think I would stay with smugmug just. However, I certainly wouldn't close my fotopic site - I would probably use it as a spin off site, if it ever came back. 

Here's hoping it is less than a year until we hear some more news...

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Wimborne Minster

Wimborne Minster is a picturesque market town five or so miles north of Poole. It is service by Go South Coast though Wilts & Dorset and Damory, and most recently, RATP Yellow Buses, who serve the town once an hour. With many changes occuring at the moment to bus services in the town, this blog entry is going to hold a day in the life of Wimborne at present.

Wimborne's most frequent service is the 3 from Poole (soon to become the 4 according to recent VOSAs). The 3 operates every 15 minutes Mon-Sat, with two buses an hour going via Merley and two buses going via Corfe Mullen. The route sees just about anything allocated to Poole operating it - including unique Scania L94UB 2101 (YT59SFJ), pictured here escaping it's usual Uni duties. The minster can be seen in the background.

The real reason for my visit was to photograph the Optare Tempos still in service at Poole. Their length has proved to be a problem at W&D. Therefore, despite recently entering service in Dorset and being painted in W&D colours, they will soon be passing to Carousel, an operator serving High Wycombe recently acquired by Go Ahead Group. For anyone needing photos of the buses, I suggest you get down to Poole soon. They usually find their self in use on the 3 to Wimborne, one of the routes that can accommodate their length. This is 2508 (YJ56WVU).

Wilts & Dorset have a second route serving Wimborne. This is the half-hourly 13 from Bournemouth, which usually is operated by Mercedes-Benz Citaros. This bus is 2416 (HF55JZT) - previously 166 and in More blue. 

Damory operate the country routes out of Wimborne. One such route is the 83 to Shaftesbury, operating about every 2 hours Mon-Sat. The usual bus operating the route are Optare Solos. 3771 (YJ54UWN) is pictured here loading for the 83. 3771 is still in the previous operator's colours - it was recently acquired from South Lancs Travel.

I saw 4 Damory Solos on Saturday - they were in 4 different liveries. The only one in Damory colours was 3636 (T636AJT) - a bus yet to receive the new Go South Coast number. It is pictured here on the Fri/Sat only 328.

The most recent addition to Wimborne are Bournemouth Transport, operating into the market town hourly (Mon-Sat) on the 4d. The service usually sees Merits, Cadets or ADL Darts - such as 510 (SN55HSG). Behind the bus you can see Wimborne "market place" - which is presently being redeveloped and redesigned.

The sole DAF SB120/Cadet is 514 (YJ51ELX), and I was lucky enough to capture it on camera on Saturday. It is pictured standing loading passengers for the 4d in Wimborne Square.

Wimborne is an excellent place to photograph. I have never photographed their in the sun, so cannot inform about angles as such. However, I can talk about the variety. The Damory services change from day to day depending on different markets or different requirements. Not all services are Solo operated, either! Wilts & Dorset can throw up anything on the 3. Yellow Buses' allocation on route 4 means you get a different bus each hour, meaning you can improve your photograph collection over a visit of a few hours.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 15th April

With many of Hoeford's Darts about to be withdrawn in the next couple of weeks, I thought this week's Sunday Lost Scenes would look at a few images of those Darts in service. 

46314 (M314YOT) - Stubbington Green in April 2004 - already withdrawn and scrapped by First Hants & Dorset.

46321 (M321YOT) - Gosport bus station in October 2005 - sold into preservation and later entered service with Xelabus. Lost in the fire at Xelabus' depot.

46323 (M323YOT) - The Hard in September 2006 - still in service at Hoeford.

46311 (L311RTP) - Bridgemary - a location passed by the new BRT link - in September 2007. Later passed to Weymouth depot and now withdrawn I believe.

47304 (N604EBP) - Gosport bus station in February 2008. Still in service although has since been repainted into Barbie 1.

46329 (N329ECR) - Southwick, near Cosham in Hampshire. Pictured in May 2008. The bus is  still in service although Southwick is no longer served by any First Hants & Dorset buses.

47015 (N615DWY) - Portchester in January 2010. Still in service and has been repainted into Barbie colours.

47307 (N607EBP) - Stubbington Green in June 2011. Bus is still in service at FHD at present.

46317 (M317YOT) - Stubbington Green in June 2011. The bus has been withdrawn in the past year.

46322 (M322YOT) - Fareham bus station in February 2012. This is one of the buses that is expected to be withdrawn in the next few weeks.

All of the Pointer bodied Darts started life at Southampton Citybus*. all the UVG bodied Darts started life with People's Provincial. The withdrawal of these buses marks a key point in the history of both companies, as both batches represent one of the last major purchases by the independent companies. Three will remain at Hoeford, and Southampton still has N325ECR in service as a paint float cover - it will be interesting to see which buses remain in service in a month's time.

* N615DWY was acquired second hand by Southampton Citybus.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Seashells on the Seashore

RATP Yellow Buses of Bournemouth are a fleet going from strength to strength. Furthermore, they are increasingly a goldmine in terms of fleet variety for the enthusiast. As other companies increasingly standardise the fleet, the recent additions of old style Enviro300s, Solos, Enviro200s and now Volvo B7RLEs with the rarer Plaxton Centro bodywork mean that Bournemouth is certainly an interesting place at the moment.

The seashell livery is also being rolled out across the fleet. Not all buses are completed yet - some of the younger double deckers still retain their Transdev blue stripe - but I'm increasingly liking this livery. I think it looks particularly effective on the single deckers, where the bare yellow is less. Trident 274 (T274BPR) models the livery, pictured loading passengers at Bournemouth Transport Interchange - just outside the railway and coach station.

Optare single deckers form the backbone of key town services 1a, 3 and 6. Versas, such as 21 (T21TYB) tend to form the main allocation on the 3 and the 6 from my observations last week. You will note that the registration retains TYB - Transdev Yellow Buses - the former operator of Bournemouth Transport.

One of two older style ADL Enviro300s in the fleet - this one is 592 (SJ56GCF) - which were both recently acquired by RATP Yellow Buses. This one is pictured on route 5, not that the image would be able to tell you that.

I've always liked this bodywork on a Dart - the East Lancs Spryte. I've never ridden one, nor have any idea as to the quality of build - it just looks good in my opinion and is fairly rare, breaking up the monotony of Pointer bodyworks. Here is 480 (R480NPR), which, knowing Yellow Buses' fleet renewal rate recently, probably doesn't have too many more years on the south coast. This is one that has gained the sea shell - two others I photographed on the day hadn't been thus far.

Three Enviro200s are operated by the Yellow Buses fleet - one of which was the first vehicle in the country to be branded for the Queen's Jubilee. 516 (GN07FDE) was acquired recently, second hand. 

Finally for today, documenting the most recent investment in brand new buses, is on of 5 Volvo B9TLs with Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodywork operated by the fleet, predominantly on flagship routes 1b and 1c. These were the youngest buses on the south coast until last week. Yellow Buses also operate a large number of Volvo B7TLs, and have one of the youngest double deck fleets across the south coast.

Definitely a company going places, and it will be interesting to see which new buses and new locations may spring up in the next few years. Axminster was on the cards last year... where this year?!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Bus Rapid Transit Link - Fareham to Gosport

In two Sundays time, the Fareham - Gosport Bus Rapid Transit link (BRT) opens up for service. First have 14 brand new Volvo B7RLEs ready to launch onto the route, with new services E1 and E2. For more details about the services, go here to the Eclipse website or click here to my blog entry on the changes. With this in mind, I went out this morning to capture some shots which may have some historical value one day.

Redlands Lane
This is the most northerly entrance to the BRT link at present, and allows buses to join just after the former railway bridge onto Redlands Lane. This means BRT service in Fareham will depart toward the town centre (actually heading out along the newly bus lane-d Western Way) before heading down this quiet neck of Fareham's woods.

With the echo of the trains from the nearby Fareham railway station, you really get a feel of how close this is the the station. Furthermore, you also get a feeling of what this location would have been like if the railway line had been reinstated. The bridge even has the sign on it saying "if anything strikes this bridge contact Railtrack immediately as the safety of trains may be impaired..." - this made me chuckle!

Wych Lane bridge (or rather, the former site of)
The site of Wych Lane bridge is now a X junction, where the BRT passes straight through. Traffic lights are there to give buses priority, and gates are on either side to prevent unauthorised traffic from heading up the BRT.

One of the bike racks (pictured on the right) at Wych Lane stop, along with CCTV cameras and more.

My final photo from Wych Lane bridge - here is the BRT looking towards Gosport. This also shows how the north-south road means that sun friendly photos will only be possible of buses heading southbound to Gosport along the BRT.

Bridgemary (Gregson Avenue)
Here is a view looking over the bridge in Bridgemary from Gregson Avenue. We are looking north towards Fareham. To the right is one of the bus stops being prepared for service in just under two weeks.

Brewers Lane
Here is a view from the single file bridge carrying BRT over the former railway line. The bridge is arched, so high buses - double deckers - have to go into the centre of the road to get under this bridge easily. You are looking north on this photo.

Tichbourne Way
The end of the line for BRT for now. Buses turn left here and head into Tichbourne Way, rejoining the main roads for the routes through Ann's Hill and Elson to Gosport town centre. We are looking south.

This shot shows the junction onto BRT along Tichbourne Way. Again the buses have priority. To be honest, the level of traffic along here suggests to me that traffic lights are unnecessary, but it also keeps up the "Bus Priority" notion of the scheme.

The End of the Line
These tracks are the lines to Military base, that were in use long after passenger services disappeared on 6th June 1953. These are one of the few parts of the railway left for the Gosport - Fareham line. These are visible just away from the Tichbourne Way entrance to BRT.

While I am excited for the start of BRT, I am also saddened that the railway will disappear. In my ideal world the railway will never have closed - I'm a firm believer that railways will be required in the future more and more, and that a dip in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s has shut many railways that may be required. Nonetheless, BRT will serve the area better than a reinstated railway - the benefits are huge:
* far more flexible services
* cheaper - no need to reinstate track / points work / new signalling at Fareham / rebuilding or building new stations / closing footpaths / disturbing residents etc
* new services can be simply added by adding further buses rather than resignalling or increasing platform length
* there is a reinstated direct link to Fareham railway station anyway

BRT was the best decision in my view according the to circumstances presented to the council and planners. If more of the railway line from Brockhurst (where the station still exists, albeit as a private property) to Gosport town centre then perhaps the railway would have been better. However, it wasn't.

For those more interested in Gosport's railways:
* Google maps' Satellite view still shows shots from 2007 from Fareham rail station to south of Bedenham/Tichbourne Way, and are worth a look. 
* There is an excellent "disused railways" website - click here for the page directly to Gosport
* a book Branchlines around Gosport by V Mitchell and K Smith is excellent - available from Waterstones in Fareham (where I bought my one!) ISBN: 0 906520 36 3