Thursday, 31 May 2012

New Bournemouth - Poole Volvos

In my final Wilts & Dorset instalment for the week, this blog entry covers the entry to service of the brand new Wilts & Dorset Volvo B7RLEs. This blog brought you some of the first photos of the newly branded buses back here, and here I can bring you photos of some in service.

Numerically the first of the new Volvos, here is 2251 (HF12GVP) arriving into Poole on the m2. Apart from the Wright Eclipse Urban #2 bodies, the buses differ from the existing Volvos by having red visible on the front of the bus, and by having more of a swoosh on the More logo.

The buses are quite easy to find in Poole and Bournemouth now. As far as I know, none have gone off of routes m1 and m2 yet. However, with the forthcoming upgrade of routes 8 and 9 to More status, they may venture further west than they have so far. Here is 2255 (HF12GVV) arriving along Kingland Road, Poole. 

Another shot of a new More Volvo. Funny to think just 8 years ago, the bus behind was forming the backbone of the Bournemouth - Poole routes. 2257 (HF12GVX) arrives from Castlepoint shopping centre.

For anyone wanting an easy snap, the new More Volvos serve Bournemouth rail station every few minutes on the m1 and m2. Jump off the train and you'll have 4 or 5 on camera within 15 minutes! Here is 2264 (HF12GWG).

They're not the only Volvo B7RLEs new in Bournemouth either - RATP Yellow Buses have their own recently acquired batch of Plaxton Centro bodied Volvo B7RLEs. Here is 804 (YN08NKH). These can usually be found on the 5 and 6, both passing Bournemouth rail station. This one is on a 4 - I would have loved to photograph this out in Wimborne on the 4d. That would have been a rare snap!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

More Volvos...

On Saturday, I visited Poole with the intention of photographing some of the new Wilts & Dorset Volvo B7RLEs in service in the town. Many of the existing batch are out in use on other routes, and this post documents where some of them can now be found.

Numerically the first Volvo B7RLE in service with Wilts & Dorset, here is 2101 (HF54HFO) which I was lucky enough to ride in a loan spell on the island. 2101 wears the first More livery, and it will be interesting to see whether it ever gets the second More livery following the recent arrivals. BlueStar has been rumoured as a destination, but who knows. Not yet into Hampshire, 2101's new destination is Bournemouth Hospital on route 15 - usually operated by Darts in the week which were new in 1995...

The 3 to Wimborne has been operated by the odd More Volvo for many a year. Once a premier W&D route as the "Wimborne Flyer", the 3 is to be cut from early June and replaced by longer journeys on route 4. One of my last photos of a bus on the 3 then, here is 2207 (HF54HFW) entering Poole bus station.

There seems to have been a slight element of "the right hand not knowing what the left is doing". While the 2004-5 batch of Volvo B7RLEs is being painted into the 2011 livery, a new brand new batch of 2012 buses is being delivered. This has meant there will be far too many buses in More livery at Poole. Subsequently, routes 8 and 9 have been upgraded to More status, adding Hamworthy and Turlin Moor to the More network. You may remember that until a few years ago, the 5 and 6 were More routes. It is interesting to see how the network changes. 2210 (HF54HFZ) is pictured at Bournemouth rail station, arriving on a 13 from Wimborne.

The 14 has also been seeing a temporary upgrade to the odd More bus - here is 2217 (HF54HGK) arriving into Poole on the 14 from West Howe. I prefer the original More livery - I don't think the red goes with this shade of blue particularly well. However, the ones that have been repainted are all presented very well.

More Volvos are being prepared for service at Poole and Swanage as we speak - it will interesting to see where Wilts & Dorset's original 38 Volvos will end up after they've all entered service.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 27th May

This week's Sunday Lost Scenes comes from Poole's relatively recent past...

Wilts & Dorset 170 - HF55JZW - Poole (Kingland Road) - 17th June 2010

Two years ago there were two more More routes in Poole and Bournemouth. Two years ago, a sizeable fleet of More branded Mercedes-Benz Citaros operated the m5 and m6. Today, the bus has moved on, the livery is obsolete, and the routes have changed.

HF55JZW is now numbered 2420 from the recent Go South Coast re-fleet numbering movement. The bus is also now touring the streets of Southampton, operating with sister company BlueStar. The Citaros were moved on in 2011 as More was rebranded. The m5 and m6 lost their More status and are now operated by any odd bus at W&D Poole (they tend to be the preserve of Bomo Uni Scanias when they are not in use on uni routes). More itself has also been rebranded, now solely operated by Volvo B7RLEs in a lighter shade of blue. Poole itself is now down to the last few Citaros as Southampton's route 18 is being upgraded.

It is strange how such a familiar scene is now consigned to the history books.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Godshill compared

Godshill is a picturesque village on the Isle of Wight. South of the Island's capital, Newport, Godshill is a tourist honey pot in the summer regularly seeing thousands of visitors. I myself saw three coaches unload holiday makers, and this was May. Godshill also sees 8 buses per hour from Southern Vectis. The 2 operates half hourly between Newport and Shanklin (and on to Sandown and Ryde), and the 3 operates half hourly between Newport and Ventnor (again, onto Shanklin, Sandown and Ryde). All buses are double deckers. This post is a comparison between Godshill on Saturday, in 2012, and my last visit to Godshill, back in 2005.

In 2005, Godshill was also served by routes 2 and 3, but back then these were the two Route Rouge routes. The routes were operated in the main by Leyland Olympians of F, G and H registrations. Route 2 connected Cowes with Newport, Godshill, Shanklin and Sandown, where route 3 connected Cowes with Newport, Godshill and Ventnor, if I remember correctly. Here is 717 (TIL6717) heading through Godshill back on the 4th August 2005.

The once large Leyland Olympian fleet has now all moved onto Wilts & Dorset and Damory on the mainland. 710 was numerically the first example on the island, although sisters 706-9 were with Solent Blue Line at the time. 710 (TIL6710) heads for Cowes on route 2. To reach Cowes from Godshill, you now need to change at Newport onto an MPD and route 1.

Two K reg Olympians were painted into Route Rouge livery - one being 738 (K738ODL). 738 heads for Ventnor on route 3 on 4th August 2005.

Two Volvo Olympians also made it into Route Rouge livery and were often found on routes 2 and 3. Here is 751 (M751HDL), pausing to collect passengers for Newport and Cowes. On 4th August 2005, I did not find any blue livered Island Explorer buses in Godshill, but this was not uncommon.

Fast forward 7 years and, although the place hasn't really changed, the buses most certainly have. Low floor, modern, green double deckers are now the main allocation. This bus is Scania Omnidekka 1051 (YU52XVL), new to Metrobus and transferred to Southern Vectis in 2010.

Throughout 2008 and 2009, Southern Vectis received a large delivery of Scania Omnicity double deckers, which saw off all of the Leyland and Volvo Olympians. State of the art 1150 (HW09BCU) powers through Godshill on a 2 for Shanklin and Sandown.

The Volvo B7TLs were around in 2005, but these were predominantly allocated to the Island Explorer routes. Renumbered twice since then, 1992 (HW52EPL) heads for Newport on route 2. 1992 was new to Southern Vectis as 101, but following the Go Ahead takeover, it became 191 and then 1992 this year. Route 2 now operates Newport - Godshill - Shanklin - Sandown - Ryde, and route 3 now operates along the same lines but also via Ventnor.

Another former Metrobus Omnidekka in Godshill, this time 1055 (YN03DFP). The green of the Southern Vectis livery certainly matches in with the green of the rural village. 

For anyone heading over for a few days to the Island over the summer, I certainly recommend spending an hour in Godshill. 8 buses per hour in each direction, and if you visit either on a cloudy day or between 1230 and 1400 on a sunny day and you'll get them all. 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - 20th May 2012

Today's post comes from Southampton in 2005...

A2B Travel - N919ETM - Southampton city centre - 22nd October 2005

In 2005, A2B acquired route 22 on lease from First Hants & Dorset. Route 22 connected Southampton city centre with Shirley. It was operated by this Mercedes-Benz 709D - N919ETM - which acquired from Arriva Kent and Sussex. Due to nature of the route lease, the Beaver had to wear First livery despite being operated by First, leading to many initially confused enthusiasts but a route that was part of a larger network. It ran this way until early 2009, when Black Velvet Travel won the contract for the 22. Purple Solos took over, and soon after even the route 22 number was consigned to history, renumbered as the S2. Now even the 22's sister route, the 21, has lost its number, becoming the S1. The S is for Shirley, where both operates serve local estates.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Portsmouth's newest Open Topper

On Saturday, Xelabus introduced their brand new open top route in Portsmouth. The X25 connects The Hard with Clarence Pier, the sealife museum and D-Day museum, South Parade Pier, the Royal Marines Museum and Eastney Caravan Park. The route is a carbon copy of First's former route 50 and 70, which they unfortunately withdrew in 2002.

Leyland Atlantean GJZ9571 operates the X25, and is seen here at The Hard on the first Saturday. Atlanteans very much like this bus were once found all over Portsmouth, but these were inherited by Stagecoach before the company sold onto Blue Admiral. They didn't last long after that.

First in Portsmouth's finest at the moment stands next to the Atlantean in The Hard. It will be interesting to see how popular the X25 gets on a bright, sunny day later in summer. Loads were quiet on the first day for the departures that I observed.

GJZ9571 stands alongside HMS Warrior in Portsmouth Hard as it negotiates the roundabout for Southsea. The livery seems a little confusing - the top red band could have done with being repainted green, and the pink is certainly noticeable. The Atlantean was previously in service down in Paignton. 

For those interested in having a ride, the X25 is operated every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday from now until 30th September, and Daily over the termly summer holidays.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Solent Ranger

It is a very strange feeling being an enthusiast in First Hampshire land at the moment. For years we have had cast-offs for transfers, a (in my personal view) lack of investment apart from where contracts are concerned (such as the Hamble 16, Portsmouth 40, Zip 41), and a stagnant route structure which, if there are any changes, were only usually cutbacks.

Now First Hampshire has been thrown into the spotlight. In the last 30 days, all of the following have happened:
  • New Southampton network
  • The introduction of the Gosport - Fareham Bus Rapid Transit Link, accompanied by 14 brand new Volvo B7RLEs - the first brand new buses since a Solo in 2003.
  • A new (and growing) connection between Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham and Southampton - the 57/72/80 cut and replaced by the 4/4A/X4.
  • The only company within First to have a single decker painted in the new livery - and we now have three!
  • The introduction of the Millbrook Flyer and Solent Ranger brands.
First Hampshire has never been so interesting. The management deserve great credit in reviving the First brand and leading the way in First. They have been supportive to passengers and enthusiasts, and innovative in designing new networks. Purely from observations, but I have never seen the 57, 72 and 80 as busy as the new 4 and X4 are. I see the Southampton network less, so can't comment, but reports from elsewhere suggest loadings are good and passengers are more or less happy.

Hoeford Dart SLF 42135 (S635XCR) - which had only ever worn one coat of paint until two weeks ago - shows off the new Solent Ranger branding. Having seen it close up, if the registration was changed there would be nothing to indicate the bus is approaching it's 14th birthday.

Passengers respond to investment, and it will be great to see the network grow that has had so many elements in place since the takeover in 1995. In Fareham and Gosport until last week, the 33, 34, 35, 36, 57, 72, 80, 82, 83, 85, 86, 87, 88, 93 and 95 have all stayed pretty much exactly the same in 14 years - albeit with a few frequency alterations here and there. 

Finally, as can be seen on the Dart, buses at Hoeford at least will be branded as "First Solent". Buses at Southampton are naturally "First Southampton". It will be interesting to see if Hilsea buses are branded for "First Portsmouth" - Hilsea hasn't had a repaint yet.

Keep it up First - things are going well.

* Note: Some people have been a little upset about a lack of investment for other routes. A couple of facts just for lunchtime reading:
- Southampton has a 100% low floor network apart from 2 buses which are being used as paint floats.
- Hoeford has a 100% low floor network apart from 4 Darts and the Olympians
- As well as the Eclipse arrivals, many other routes previously operated by step entry buses have also received buses at least 2 years younger - one of the 2009 Volvo B7RLEs was on previously step-entry route 33 this week.
- More investment will come for Portsmouth next year when the 2009 Volvo B7RLEs move on, on terms of the contract. 
- Post-Olympics could bring further good news for FHD once the transfers have been sorted out. 
- The BRT buses have to be upgraded again in 5-years, meaning Hoeford will receive new buses at least every 5 years.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 6th May

My one and only picture of a Wilts & Dorset Bristol VR in service...

Wilts & Dorset 4454 - KRU854W - Lymington (high street) - 10th June 2008

The first thing to note of this photo is that I'm surprised Wilts & Dorset still had any VRs in service in 2008! These were once the kings of the double deck fleet with Wilts & Dorset, with numerous examples in service from Poole amongst other areas. Sadly, they were largely culled before I reached the age where I could go out independently and photograph them. Therefore, I missed the widespread VR fleet in Bournemouth and Poole before "More" was introduced. I couldn't go out and get the VRs on the Brockenhurst college runs, and never found a W&D VR in Southampton on the 56.

I was extremely happy though, when on the 10th June 2008, 4454 headed off for a school service along Lymington high street. I remember it being a lovely bright, sunny day (anything like the weather we are having at the moment), and had already been quite successful. 4454 put the cherry on top of the cake. It is a shame for myself I couldn't capture any more, but if anyone would like to see more photos, I suggest they click here, and travel to Ant Poulton's W&D VR gallery.