Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Olympic Interlopers #2

Another instalment from the south coast, documenting the strange buses temporarily operating Stagecoach routes around Portsmouth, Chichester and Worthing.

Operating a little further East than usually expected, Stagecoach Eastbourne Scania N230UD 15774 (GN61EVX) is pictured entering Chichester bus station on 26th July. 15774 wears attractive branding for route 99, advertising the connection between Eastbourne and Hastings.

A number of new Tridents have been acquired by Portsmouth depot for the 23. 18172 (GX54DVP) was new to East Kent and has since operated from Eastbourne. It is pictured in Clarendon Road, Southsea, heading for South Parade Pier on route 23.

A number of P-reg Volvo B10Ms have been resurrected from the reserve fleet over the Olympics. Chichester seem to be the temporary home of many of them, including  20543 (P543ESA) entering the bus station out of service. 

A number of Aldershot's nearly new Enviro200s have gone on loan to Worthing. This is covering Worthing's own Coastliner and Pulse Enviro300s spending the summer in London. 36431 (GX61AYJ) is pictured in Chichester, surprisingly on a Brighton - Southsea route 700 working.

A little bit of Stagecoach Devon in Hampshire here. Dart SLF 33782 (T131MGB) is also pictured along Clarendon Road in Southsea. This batch of Darts once operated in yellow for the Exeter Park and Ride.

Another Wave 99 branded Scania - this time 15772 (GX61EVV). These Scanias are actually a year and a half younger than the usual Coastliner700 Enviro400s that operate the route.

Finally for today, another of the former East Kent Tridents in service along the south coast. 18174 (GX54DVT) is pictured entering Chichester bus station on a 700 for Southsea.

I must say, from an enthusiast's point of view, it is certainly interesting having a nearly entirely new Stagecoach fleet operating routes 23 and 700 into Portsmouth. I haven't even found any of the ex-Oxford Darts or Enviro300s yet, or the Hull Enviro300s. Olympic Interlopers will hopefully have many future entries...

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The End of Red Bus

As has been widely published over the past few days, the Competition Commission have refused the sale of First Devon & Cornwall's Barnstaple depot to Stagecoach. Following this, First have confirmed they will withdraw all services operated from North Devon with Stagecoach and Western Greyhound launching new routes to cover these. It marks a sad end to a situation that could have been handled differently by the OFT.

The beginning of the end - First lost the contract for the 309/310 to Lynton and Lynmouth many years ago (2005 I think), and since then, it has been a steady downward trend. Here is Mercedes-Benz Vario 52566 (S866NOD) parked up in Lynton coach park back in August 2004.

The end of the competition? On the majority of routes yes. This picture kind of sums up the scene over the past few years - specifically branded Tridents competing against old Darts and tired Tridents of First. Yes, First have been operating 5 Tridents new in 2005 on the 1 / 2 set of core routes, but two of these went on holiday last year to Dorset, and all 5 have gone on holiday this year to Plymouth over the summer.

The only route to see at temporary winner in this whole business is the Bude - Exeter corridor. Presently exclusively First (except two Western Greyhound departures and Sunday operations), the corridor will now have an increased Western Greyhound 599 competing against a newly introduced Stagecoach Devon X9. Certainly a temporary benefit for the customers - but how long will this last? And I bet fares won't be interchangeable.

Lets spare a thought for the drivers and depot crew at Barnstaple. A few may get a new job with Stagecoach, who are introducing replacement routes. All will get a temporary redundancy - deepening First's pockets even further. A couple may even go to Western Greyhound or Filers, but this could be hit and miss due to location logistics. I hope they get a satisfying solution sooner rather than later, and aren't without a job for too long.

The new Stagecoach Devon network will look very similar to the First network of 2005 now. Core inter-town routes connecting Barnstaple, Bideford and Ilfracombe, with a few local services from each of those towns. They will also operate the tendered Holsworthy, Hartland and South Molton routes, with commercial exploits to Exeter and Croyde. They've also won the Bude town service - so at the next retendering, will we see Stagecoach move in on the remaining Bude local routes? Interesting times ahead for the enthusiast, although very disheartening times for all involved with First.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Tridents in Weymouth

First Hants & Dorset have never operated any Tridents from new. However, over the past couple of years a number of second hand examples have joined the fleet and are in service from Weymouth. Here are a number of photos of the buses in service in the seaside resort. 

First up, here is the smartest and the most recent acquisition. Proudly wearing First Wessex fleet names, former Devon & Cornwall Trident 32763 (WJ55CSF) is pictured on the X53 about to head for Poole. 32763 was new to Falmouth outstation in Cornwall, for use on the 89/90 Falmouth - Newquay route. It has since spent more time on the X80/X81 Plymouth - Paignton - Torquay route. Although questions have been asked about the paint matching the lines of the bodywork, this bus is extremely smart when you see it up close. It also has a small amount of branding on the rear for route 10 - a route it will operate in conjunction with route 1 in school term time.

Bristol have sent two Tridents down to the south coast following FHD's route 387 (Poole - Dorchester win). 32708 (W708PHT) was enjoying the sights and sounds of route 2 earlier on this week - a route that seems to be predominantly double decker worked this summer.

Thunderbirds are go! 32766 and 32767 were acquired last summer as emergency Thunderbird vehicles to ensure reliability on routes 31 and X53. 32767 has returned to Devon, but 32766 has now moved to Weymouth, and is pictured here bolstering capacity on town route 1.

The second East Lancs Lolyne bodied Trident in the Weymouth fleet is 32707 (W707PHT), pictured here on the summer route 502. It is photographed at King's Statue. Both of these Tridents are pristine in appearance, having recently received a coat of Barbie before the new livery was introduced.

Finally, hiding away in Weymouth depot is former London Trident 32876 (HIG1527, or T876KLF if you prefer). Two Presidents are on loan from First Devon & Cornwall for the summer to boost capacity, and a couple of drivers were investigating their new toy in this photo.

The Tridents certainly add variety to Weymouth and Portland. They make the bus scene more interesting and I had a good time getting the best angles for photography. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

An Everyday Saturday in Ryde...

Over the weekend, I travelled over to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Here are a few photos from the day, documenting a standard Saturday bus scene.

The first thing to meet me off the Hovercraft was this coach. 7225 (P125RWR) is a DAF3000 with Ikarus bodywork, allocated to the Fountain Coaches division of Southern Vectis. It is pictured here, parked up in Ryde bus station out of service.

Ryde Esplanade was looking wonderful in the sunshine of Saturday. We seemed to stay away from the cloud that was hanging over the mainland. Scania Omnicity 1148 (HW09BCK) heads away from Ryde bus station out of service.

One of the buses on the Saturday route 4 / 37 circuit has been one of the ex-Wightbus Dart SLFs for my last two visits. For Saturday, it was 3363 (HW54DCU), departing Ryde bus station. The other bus was an Omnicity. Route 37 is a Ryde town route that circulates around Binstead and Haylands, predominantly carrying free bus pass holders. Nonetheless, loads for Saturday appeared to be good. When I started photographing in Ryde, Darts were frequent sights, first with step example operating routes 1, 4 and 8, before MPDs took over in 2005.

Another of Southern Vectis' many Southern Vectis Omnicitys out in use regularly on the island. This one is 1142 (HW09BBU), and is pictured heading for Newport on route 3, via Brading, Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor and Godshill. 

My last ex-Metrobus Scania Omnidekka I needed to photograph this year was 1054 (YN03DFL). It still carries the school bus sign, leftover from its days as part of the Southern Vectis school fleet. It has just turned away from Ryde high street as it heads to Newport on high frequency route 9.

I still haven't caught up with Southern Vectis' two former Go Ahead London Volvo B7TLs that are in green. Nevertheless, here is native 1997 (HW52EPV) pictured against a backdrop of the solent, as it heads for Newport on route 9.

Finally, with the return of summer comes the return of the open top Breezer routes. Former Solent Blue Line Volvo Olympian 4641 (R741XRV) heads along Ryde Esplanade on Saturday afternoon.

The island service fleet seems quite stable at the moment, with a core network firmly established providing a great service. Changes will come with the school fleet, with SV winning a new contract warranting new buses. The forthcoming changes will be very interesting!

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 22nd July

This week's Sunday Lost Scenes is an image rather than a bus or service...

First Hants & Dorset 42818 (S818KPR, front) and 42821 (S821KPR, rear) - Weymouth (Town Bridge) - 5th March 2010

Weymouth is, at present, undergoing an Olympic transition. With hundreds of buses arriving in the town from a wide variety of bus fleets, I feel confident to say that the Weymouth bus scene has never been so busy, varied, or perhaps, young! With Olympic Park & Ride buses for both athletes and spectators coinciding with upped frequencies on the First operated town services, there is a lot of variety to be found in Weymouth.

I choose just a small token of that variety to document today. Pictured above are two of the native Southern National Dennis Darts, both with old Yellow route branding for route 10. Both Darts are off route, kept to local town services in and around Weymouth. The KPR batch are presently going through a rather surprising refurbishment and repaint, deployed back out on the Dorchester - Weymouth corridor. They are receiving the new livery, and rumour is leather seats also. 42821-3 have been done so far, and I hope to bring you some photos of these later on this week.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Memories of the Cornish VR...

Unfortunately, my memories of the Western National VR are limited. I only started following buses around 2001, and was not in any position to photograph any of them until 2003. Luckily, in 2005, I did get to deep Cornwall, and get the VRs on camera during their last big year of service. As one commenter recently said on Sunday Lost Scenes, I also agree that the Bristol VR is one of the all time best buses.

Where else to start but at the first photo! First Western National 1237 (BEP966V) arrives in Polperro on an 81A from Plymouth. This bus wore the "interim" version of Barbie 2 without the fades. 

It has been years since any First double decker last reached Polperro, and this summer, for the first time, First have pulled out of the Polperro route altogether, leaving it to Western Greyhound and other services.

My second shot quickly followed. 22 year old 1201 (LFJ845W) looks spectacular as it loads passengers in Looe. Both of these shots were taken on 5th August 2003... it would be good if we could have similar weather this year!

Fast forward a year, and we have this most unexpected pleasure in Padstow. Back in 2004, the internet was developing but still didn't have things on it such as the Padstow Park & Ride route. As this roared down the hill, I was very excited. First had pulled out of Padstow the year before with the 55 moving to Western Greyhound as the 555. The bus photographed is First Devon & Cornwall 38747 (AFJ747T), new as fleet number 1145 in January 1983.

Fast forward to 2005, and here is 38608 (XDV608S), only the mere 27 years old. 38608 was the oldest VR I photographed in Cornwall that year, and she is seen heading for Lands End on route 1. Pictured in Penzance bus station.

Wearing First's white and blue Western National livery, here is 38871 (LFJ871W) in Helston. New in March 1981, this makes this bus 24 and a half years old in this photo. I remember 38871 being one of the smartest in Devon & Cornwall during my visit, and I photographed it on 4 separate days.

Another very smart VR is this former First Eastern Counties example. 38887 (VEX287X) was fleet number 1309 before the national numbers came in. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint), It never did receive finished Barbie 2 livery. Pictured in a small town called Penryn, just north of Falmouth.

The award for the scruffiest VR went to 38928 (XHK228X) during my visit. She is pictured here in St Ives bus station, having just arrived on a seasonal service. It wears Western National livery minus the tickets, but has a Barbie front panel. For the service these buses put in, I felt that there was a complete lack of respect for the presentation of the buses towards the end of their service life. I suppose the problem was that the management kept expecting their withdrawal... although nothing better was on offer at the time!

When I returned in 2006 for a flying visit to Truro, one more surprise was in store. One that got away from Western National, ever seeing service with First. Seeing only 3 years of service with Western National, AFJ771T passed to Devon General in 1983. The majority of the others stayed with Western National or Southern National. Indeed, Rob Sly's wonderful website only shows this AFJ VR passing to Devon General. The bus is pictured in service with Truronian when I took the photo.

Today, luckily a number have survived and are in preservation. Times move on, and I'm sure there are some enthusiasts (and management!) out there who are surprised how long the Cornish VR did remain in service for. Regardless, I'm glad they lasted as long as they did and allowed me a chance to grow up and get some photos of them. If you would like to see any more of my Western National VR piccies, please click here.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Olympic Interlopers - in the flesh!

On Saturday, I went out to Southsea's South Parade Pier to grab some photos of the "new" buses on route 23. Stagecoach's Portsmouth depot are temporarily losing all/most of it's Enviro300s for the Olympics, meaning a variety of older buses are taking their place on route 23...

One of a number ex-Hong Kong Darts now in service in Portsmouth, here former Stagecoach Devon 33160 (P760FOD) departs South Parade Pier on a 23. Hong Kong buses have always found a new home in Portsmouth - first it was the Stagecoach Volvo B6LEs, then First's recent Pointer Darts acquired from Plymouth, and now some more Stagecoach Darts. They certainly add interest around the city.

A Welsh bus in very Welsh weather! I had to dodge the showers on Saturday, but my new camera performed admirably. 33611 (R611SWO) pauses at South Parade Pier. This Dart is one of at least 5 SWOs in Portsmouth over the Olympic period.

Here is another Dart SLF acquired from Stagecoach Devon for the Olympic period. 33783 (T132MGB) fits in well with First's R reg Marshall Capital bodied Dart SLFs. She is pictured here heading for Leigh Park, in the middle of a downpour...

The last photo for today is one that has been in Hampshire for a while. Revived from the reserve fleet, former Stagecoach London 32310 (N310AMC) heads off for Leigh Park on Saturday. It has been a while since anything as old as this has operated route 23!

Still more to come over the next weeks... Oxford Darts, Hastings Scanias, Eastbourne Tridents Hull MANs and even more...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 15th July

Today's Sunday Lost Scenes comes from First Devon & Cornwall's Falmouth outstation in 2005...

Back in 2005, I went to Falmouth on a family holiday. After finding the depot and asking for permission to enter, I took a variety of different photos documenting the bus scene. 2005 was the last big year of the Western National VR, with many different examples having already disappeared from service. The VRs were still common place on the 2, 7, 8, 89 and 90, with various other examples also active on the tourist services (which were also far more in number than the few they have today).

Pictured are native Western National VR 38872 (LFJ872W), Badgerline-livered Olympian 34709 (A809THW), fresh from recent transfer from Weston-super-Mare (I think), and former London Dart 46102 (K102CVW), which my records show as already having been withdrawn at this point. All three buses are long gone now, although the Olympian lasted the longest and did receive Barbie livery in due course. FDC still have an interesting outstation at Falmouth, and it would be great to go back one day.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Olympic Interlopers

The first of the 13 Stagecoach buses to enter service in Portsmouth for the Olympics have arrived. All of Portsmouth's 21 ADL Enviro300 single deckers are off to London for the Olympic Games, being replaced in Portsmouth by a mixture of different older vehicles. Thus, the Portsmouth bus scene will look very different for the next month or two, and it is an opportunity photographers should grasp. Matt, owner of the Stagecoach South forum, has already been out and about - visit the forum for piccies...

Some of the arrivals thus far have been Dart SLF/ALX200s that were being held in reserve by Stagecoach South Wales. Five Darts - part of the R---SWO batch - are due. 33614 (R614SWO) is one of the batch not coming to Portsmouth - some of its sisters are already in service.

Stagecoach have a Marshall Capital bodied Dart SLF in service, in Portsmouth! Former Stagecoach Devon example T132MGB - sister to pictured example T131MGB - is in service in the city having arrived from Stagecoach Devon's reserve fleet.

A couple of Dart SLFs new to Stagecoach Oxford have also arrived - 33803 and 33823 thus far. Pictured is sister bus 33801 (R801YUD) - a Dart SLF one time of Devon that hasn't arrived yet. 

It is strange to have these interlopers in Portsmouth, especially when the oldest Stagecoach bus regularly in Portsmouth comes from early 2004. The Darts are all around the average age of the First Hants & Dorset Dart SLFs too, although First in Portsmouth do have a pretty decent fleet. Yes, they still operate 5 Mercedes-Benz 709Ds, but a fleet of 22 Volvo B7RLEs along with regularly the 20 Scania Omnicitys, does mean First certainly aren't weak in Portsmouth.

I hope to go to Portsmouth on Saturday to grab some of my own piccies!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 8th July

Today's featured bus now lives on the South Coast...

First Bristol 32708 - W708PHT - Bristol (Rupert St) - 4th May 2010

First Bristol used to operate the Blue P&R corridor in the city. Using a fleet of Dennis Tridents new in 2000, route 904 the only P&R route that First operated in the city. The Tridents wore this attractive blue livery. First has since lost the contract for the 904 to CT Plus, but has gained another route (the 903 to Long Ashton). Thus, the Tridents have moved on to other routes.

32708 is now one of three former Bristol Tridents on the South Coast now with First Hants & Dorset. 32708 is one of two now at Poole outstation, used to operate the recently won 387 from Poole to Dorchester. Both are in Barbie fleet livery these days. 

In slightly different news, the first two buses in the new corporate First livery have arrived in Dorset. Dart 42821 (S821KPR) - new to Southern National - is one of them, and the buses wear "First Wessex" branding.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Corporate First

Which one's your favourite?

Barbie 1 - First's ubiquitous livery across the whole UK network. The willow leaf is famous country wide, and the livery has graced many towns and cities around the country. It is now being gradually phased out for...

... what we at the FHD forum call the Marmite livery - you either seem to love it or hate it! A livery which will soon be all over the (shrinking) First empire, I think it suits a single decker more than the double decker. On the double decker, it has too many empty spaces in my opinion. Locally, FHD have applied branding on a number of their Darts and this certainly looks good too. I must say, the livery is growing on me, but I'd much rather the national livery to have come from the future...

... the ftr livery, found in Swansea, York and Stanstead airport amongst other areas. It looks great on Wright products and I think this should have been First's national livery. The colours are soothing and also can be modelled to work along the lines of different types of buses. This livery, in my opinion, is the only one in front of...

... the rail link / one time suburban livery. This looked great on coaches and buses alike in my view. The Volvo B7RLEs new to Somerset & Avon in 2005 looked great as they travelled between Bath and Bristol on the X39. This was regularly applied to coaches, but now it seems they have gone for a plain and rather boring white with accompanying willow leaf.

Finally, Barbie 2. The real love it or hate it livery. It suited some buses down to the ground, whereas when the fades faded it made the bus look dreadful. I think this livery could have been more effective if it were not for the unclear directives. A low floor bus without the corporate interior was the requirement, although this was never rigidly adhered to. Furthermore, painting a bus in a livery to show it is "inferior" was always rather strange too - not one of the premier fleet in Barbie 1. I miss Barbie 2 - it added variety and on the right bus looked fantastic. I thought it suited the Dennis Dart SLF/Pointer 2 styling brilliantly, but not many received the livery. It has been long consigned to the history books at FHD, and I think First Cymru has just withdrawn the last Barbie 2 bus in the south.

What's your favourite?

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 1st July

Today's Sunday Lost Scenes comes from Brighton, from my first visit in 2010...

Brighton & Hove 777 - P877VFG - Brighton (North St) - 4th June 2010

The last type of non-low floor double deck to operate in Brighton were these Scanias with East Lancs Cityzen bodywork. Brighton & Hove once had a sizeable batch of these buses, but back in 2010 they were on their last legs in the fleet, with only a reduced number in service. Today, only one remains, and this one is strictly dedicated to open top tour work. These buses are very rare around the UK - I think I've only ever photographed two, and these were both on this trip in 2010.

777 (P877VFG) moved on to M-Line Coaches in Alloa, although at least initially it retained Brighton & Hove livery and bus seats. Deliveries of Volvo B9TLs to route 7 eventually killed off this type in the fleet, which caused the cascade of Dennis Tridents onto routes where these found work. This photo is a surprise working - 777 was on the high profile route 25, a 24-hour route connecting the Universities with Palmeira Square. 

Another lost scene from along the south coast.