Friday, 24 August 2012

Gosport Bus Station - about 1430-1600

I like photographing in Gosport bus station. The angles of the sun change throughout the day, without any angle impeding you. There is a steady but not boring nor over-baring flow of buses to keep you entertained, and if you get bored you can pop on the ferry over to Portsmouth and The Hard. Or an ice cream on the front, watching as the nautical world goes by.

Photography wise things get better and better as you go throughout the day, until, in my opinion, you reach peak photographing conditions at around 2.30pm. There is such a richness and variety available - the trees in bloom, the Spinnaker Tower, or the old bus station which hasn't changed much since the days Nationals and Bristol VRs passed this spot? There's even a grassy bank, so you can raise your angle of shot like I've done here, or use the usual kerbside shot. Furthermore, the path, in my experience, is relatively empty and cars are very rare along here. Therefore, very little can usually get in your way. Here's 42136 (S636XCR), heading for Fareham's West End on the lengthened route 83.

And you've got BRT. I've tried photographing on the busway and there are some really good places - especially in the afternoon (Tichbourne Way and Wych Lane spring to mind). However, if you are visiting the area and want that variety, go to Gosport on a sunny day at 2.30. You'll have 8 Eclipse buses an hour with backdrops you can play around with, plus the variety of the standard fleet. Here is one of Hoeford's brand new Volvo B7RLEs 69543 (BF12KWG) heading off for Fareham.

Gosport does not have variety in terms of fleets. One First serve Gosport, although the odd coach will drop in. However, you will have a variety of bus types. Pretty much any Hoeford bus can turn up in Gosport - even the Optare Solos, of which only two remain at Hoeford. 53008 (W808PAF) was new to First Western National in 2000. It is heading for Fareham on route 88, the only route to serve Stokes Bay.

This even works in the winter. Here is a shot from February 2008 - Dart 47304 (N604EBP) heads for Fareham on route 87B. Neither the bus nor the route now exist with FHD - N604EBP is now in Bristol and the late afternoon 87B has been cut to form the standard 87. 

The shadow on the ground from a lamp post gives you an idea of the angle of the sun at this point of the afternoon. Offside shots are possible as the buses move out of the bus station, and then as they turn right, you can get the nearside.

I know bus station shots are "boring" (apart from at St Ives, Cornwall), but Gosport is certainly not bad (and in my opinion, better for photos than Fareham, even if the buses are less frequent). Here 69387 (HY09AUW) heads off for Fareham on the 85 - the only Volvo B7RLE of this type at Hoeford.

To finish off, if there are any photographers thinking of a visit any time soon, in a rough two-hour stint at Gosport on a Monday to Friday you should get:
* an ice cream
* all of the Eclipse Volvos out in service on that day
* all of the workings on route 83 and 85 (likely to be Dart SLFs, Scanias or 69387)
* the Gosport town bus 29 or 30, which could be anything (Olympians aren't unheard of!)
* 2 of the 14 buses used on Solent Ranger routes 4/4A/X4
* something older on route 87, and maybe the 34 or 88

If you leave at 4pm-ish, and catch the Gosport Ferry to Portsmouth Harbour, you'll be just in time at The Hard for all the peak workings too.

This post started quite structured and then got away from me a little - well blogs are designed for this kind of thing! If you are still reading, thank you and I hope you enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

X1 Weston - Bristol

First Somerset & Avon operate route X1 between Bristol and Weston-super-Mare using former First Devon & Cornwall Enviro400 double deckers. The transfer was discussed in Sunday Lost Scenes a few weeks ago. Today I'm going to look into the service in a little more detail.

This was how the X1 looked last October. Weston-super-Mare operated Volvo B7TLs and Volvo B9TLs on the route. The branding was applied on the First livery. X1 services operated half hourly, supplemented by the slower 352 or 353. This is Volvo B9TL 37315 (WX57HJO) picking up passengers in Weston town centre last Autumn.

The X1 has just been given a facelift. Using the former Plymouth P&R Enviro400s, the route has been transformed into an even better express route. Although slippery for some, the leather seats have provided more comfort. The route has been increased in frequency to every 20 minutes - now 4 buses an hour combined with the slower 352 or 353. There is also wifi on board. 

This is how the Mon-Fri timetable looks. The Saturday timetable also has 4 buses per hour - a welcome development for First under the new management. The buses take 54 minutes for the route end to end. This is significantly longer than some of the train times (any First Great Western HSTs or X Country Voyagers are timetabled to take 17 minutes). However, the stopping train services take 35 minutes (average time 28 minutes), but then a leather seated Enviro would offer more in terms of quality than a Class 143 or 150. Furthermore, the bus is more flexible arriving in either terminus, able to serve right into the local community.

Here are the buses. All but three are in this livery - 33412 is in paint, 33413 is in the new First livery, with 33419 awaiting repaint. 33418 (WA56FTT) looks great as it heads along Rupert St on 11th August.

Some First brands can be accused of being rather minimalist. This livery cannot be accused of being so, and is a great example of the new vision of First - an all over dedicated brand of high quality buses, specifically allocated to the route. Although I'm sure someone will prove me wrong, I haven't heard of one of these being off route yet either. 33411 (WA56FUB) departs Bristol bus station on 11th August.

Thumbs up for First - these do look very good. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

Sunday Lost Scenes - Monday 20th August

This week's Sunday Lost Scenes comes from an area in the spotlight at the present time...

First Devon & Cornwall 52516 - S516RWP - Poughill (near Bude) - 3rd August 2006

First in Devon and Cornwall will soon be pulling out of North Devon altogether. They'll only have one service left into North Cornwall too - as the Plymouth operated tendered route 76 will continue into Bude. From 2002, operations in Bude have been cut back hugely, and the most recent route to have already passed to another operator is route 128 - the Poughill to Stratton town service.

S516RWP was new to First Midland Red in 1998, and brought massive improvements to the Worcester city services. In 2004-5, a large number of the 64-strong batch of Mercedes-Benz Varios moved to Devon & Cornwall. 52516 was allocated to Bude outstation for most of its time in the south - it was the first FDC bus I photographed in 2004, and was still in Bude in 2006. It was always identifiable by the fact the number dot-matrix display didn't work from the time it arrived until at least this view in 2006. The bus has long since departed the fleet, and the 128 was won by Stagecoach in Devon last year, who will  operate at least 4* routes into Cornwall when they add the X9 to their network. 

Also gone are the surroundings. The T-junction is still present, but the post office has since closed and is, on my last visit, now a residential property. Also, the Cornish sun seems to have been out very little in the past few years also...

* Stagecoach services into Cornwall will include: the X9 Bude - Exeter, 85 early AM outbound/late PM inbound Bude - Barnstaple via Holsworthy & Bideford, 128 Poughill - Stratton via Bude and the 319 Bude - Barnstaple via Hartland and Bideford.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Norfolk Bus Scene 5B - smaller operators in Norwich

This is the last of my Norfolk posts. This has been an area of the country I've enjoyed documenting. Today's post finishes off with the smaller operators in Norwich. Sunday Lost Scene's will be running late, coming tomorrow.

I'm going to start with Konectbus' Mercedes-Benz Citaro artics. A number have entered service in Norwich following their removal from service in London. They seem to have settled down on the 604 Park & Ride route, which connects with Norwich bus station. This Citaro is 800 (BD57WDA).
Konectbus are one of a number of companies in Eastern England owned by Go Ahead. Their owners have transferred these in from London, and they certainly look smart running around the city. This one is 801 (BD57WCY).
The second Go Ahead operation in Norwich is Anglianbus. A variety of Omnicities, Omnilinks, Tempos and Solos seem to serve Norwich. These are typified by Tempo 407 (YJ06FZK), which as just arrived in Norwich with a service from Great Yarmouth.

Sanders Coaches operate a number of services into Norwich, such as the 44 to Cromer and the 45 to Holt. Another route is the 55 to North Walsham, operated here by the numerically the first bus in the fleet - 101 (YJ07JPV).

Konectbus operate a fleet of Enviro400s on the high profile route 8. This connects Norwich with Dereham and Toftwood. 601 (SN61CZX) is pictured departing Norwich bus station on 30th July.

Tempos are operated by Anglianbus, Konectbus and Norfolk Green in Norwich. Here two of the companies stand side by side - Norfolk Green's YJ56ATU stands out of service, as Konectbus' YJ57EGY heads off for Wymondham.

Here's one of Anglianbus' Solos, just arriving into Norwich city centre on route 123. This bus is 303 (YJ51XSM), and is pictured along Castle Meadow.

Finally, here is Norfolk Green's Optare Tempo 105 (YK57FHM) circumnavigating the bus station to find the correct stand for it's X29 to Fakenham. This Tempo wears the new livery for Norfolk Green, and the photo doesn't really do justice for how smart this bus looked. 

Thank you for viewing my posts from Norwich and the Norfolk area. Back to the South now!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Norfolk Bus Scene 5A - First in Norwich

These are my final two posts from Norfolk. I'm going to post one on Saturday and the second on Sunday, so there will be an intended late running Sunday Lost Scenes this week. I'm going to start with First in Norwich, part of First Eastern Counties t/a First in Norfolk and Suffolk, and part of First in East England.

There's only one place to start, and this is with First's magnificent Volvo B9TLs. A sizeable batch is in service in Norwich, predominantly routes 25 and 35 which serve the University. Unlike the X1 Volvo B9TLs, these buses have Mk2 Wright bodywork. This one is 36179 (BD11CDY), pictured along Castle Meadow. 

However, these buses are only a small percentage of the double decks in Norwich - the majority being Plaxton President bodied. Norwich resembles an outstation of London these days, with both Volvo B7TLs and Dennis Tridents in operation around the city. This one is a Volvo B7TL - 32104 (LT02ZCO). When you are photographing in Norwich, it is quite common to have a three or four Plaxton Presidents passing down Castle Meadow at once!

A Dennis Trident this time - fleet number 33163 (LR02LXZ). Amongst Norwich's many Tridents, they have 33151-33163, which, being from a FHD region and we have had Volvo B10BLEs numbered 66151-66163, felt very familiar!

There's a few Volvo B7RLEs in service around Norwich - three were diverted (I think...) from a batch new to First Somerset & Avon in 2005-6. This one is 66950 (WX55TZM), pictured heading for Stalham.

After the Presidents, the next most common bus are Volvo B7Ls, recently acquired from First Northampton. 66329 (MV02VBD) is pictured arriving in the city centre on route 26.

Two Volvo B10BLEs new to First Yorkshire are in service in Norwich at the moment - sisters of the two at Great Yarmouth. Here is 60807 (S658RNA) loading passengers for Wymondham on route 14 at Norwich bus station.

A few Solos new to First Essex are in use in Norwich - predominantly working route 9 in the week. 53119 (EO02NEY) is pictured heading for Ives Road back on 30th July.

As discussed previously, the X1 connects Norwich with Kings Lynn and Peterborough in the North and Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft in the south. Pictured heading south is Volvo B9TL 37565 (AU58ECD), loading passengers in Norwich bus station.

The number of Dart SLFs operating in Norwich are reducing all the time. One of only 4 that I saw during my visit is 43474 (R474CAH), here pictured along Castle Meadow heading for Taverham.

Finally, here's another view of one of Norwich's year old Volvo B9TLs. These are very impressive buses. There has been some debate in the enthusiast work as to whether the mark 2 styling is better than the mark 1. I do prefer the mark 1 styling myself - however I do think that the Wright bodywork needed updating and this certainly does the job well. This Volvo B9TL is 37162 (BD11CFV), pictured heading for the railway station on route 25.

Thanks for viewing - tomorrow I'll do the smaller operators.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Norfolk Bus Scene 4 - North Norfolk

This is my penultimate post about the Norfolk Bus Scene, returning solely to matters South after my next post. For this one, however, we visit North Norfolk, and a variety of the smaller towns around the area.

Lets start at Sheringham, a town just up the coast from Cromer and where the Bittern line of the National Rail Network meets the preserved North Norfolk Railway (NNR). The services are frequent and of interest to any passer-by - here Class 9F "Black Prince" stands on platform two.

Sheringham is served by Sanders services 5, 9 and 44, amongst other more irregular services. Here Scania Omnicity 306 (YN03UWH) passes the entrance to the preserved railway station, heading for Fakenham on route 9.

The Norfolk Green Coasthopper serves Sheringham half-hourly in either direction most days. Here is slimline Solo 303 (YJ57EHO) caught in a torrential thunderstorm on 29th July. Your courageous photographer was only stood in the station porch - that rain was too heavy for me!

Occasionally a fleet livered Solo will slip onto the Coasthopper. Here 619 (X49VVY), the only Solo in the brand new livery, stands outside the NNR Sheringham railway station, having arrived from Hunstanton.

Moving on to the other end of the NNR, Holt. Standing in Holt marketplace is former Arriva VDL120 207 (YJ07JSV) of Sanders Coaches. 207 is heading for Fakenham, where the Sanders 9 meets the Norfolk Green X8 and you can travel onto Kings Lynn.

Sanders were using this relatively young Mercedes-Benz Vario on Holt town service route 46. YN09LME is fleet number 221. Holt's main services are the 9 to Fakenham and the 5 to Sheringham and Cromer, but there are also more infrequent services such as the 45 to Norwich.

Moving north, and now to Wells-next-the-Sea. Norfolk Green are the sole operator here, using Optare Solos on pretty much everything. The Coasthopper route passes through the village at 30 minute intervals, heading for Cromer in the south or Huntstanton in the north. Furthermore, the hourly-ish route 29 operates to Fakenham, where it meets connecting services to Norwich (X29) or Kings Lynn (X8). Here Coasthopper Solo 318 (YJ10EYB) passes standard-livered Solo 621 (MX53FDD), which still wears the older Norfolk Green livery.

Here's another Coasthopper Solo - this time 302 (YJ07EGF) - heading southwards for Cromer.

My final town to report from is Hunstanton. Hunstantion was recently served by First from its Kings Lynn depot, until 2010 when the town operations were sold off to the Norfolk Green. Since then, the town has been solely in the hands of the operator, who seem to operate a very professional, modern and smart fleet on all services. In Hunstanton, the Coasthopper 1 meets the Coasthopper 2, as we see Solo 303 (YJ57EHO) depart for Cromer. I noted all Coasthopper Solos were all immaculately presented and gave a really good impression of Norfolk Green.

Low floor deckers are the order of the day on the dedicated Hunstanton - Kings Lynn services. The 10 and 11 operate three an hour, operating different routes between the two ultimate destinations. Norfolk Green appeared to be using a variety of Spectras and brand new Enviro400s on the route. Pictured first is Spectra fleet number 4 (YG02FWB), another former Reading Buses specimen operating in North Norfolk. You will note it carries branding for route 505, a route that actually goes the other direction out of Kings Lynn. Secondly, here is Spectra 7 this time (YJ51ZVF). Another former Reading bus, this was fleet number 722 in its former life. Both buses are pictured entering Hunstanton bus station.

Finally for today, is one of two brand new Enviro400s for Norfolk Green. These were only introduced to service recently and I was very happy when 21 (SN12EHM) turned up! 21 was also driven by an incredibly helpful driver, who slowed on different turns to allow me to grab different angled shots. The photos were taken on 31st July. If the driver is reading this blog, I'd just like to say thanks again - you helped me to get some good shots! The first view shows 21 negotiating the bus turning circle at the bottom of Hunstanton bus station. The second view sees 21 head back off to Kings Lynn on route 10. The bus carries different "tweets" of users on the side - written by passengers for the company. Indeed, one on the nearside of this bus is from Andy's Bus Blog, and you can visit it by clicking on the link. 

Many thanks for reading - I'll finish off with Norwich over the weekend.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Norfolk Bus Scene 3 - Great Yarmouth

My next instalment from Norfolk comes from Great Yarmouth. This seaside town sees First as the major operator, supplemented by Anglianbus, Sanders and a couple of other fleets.

First Eastern Counties operate the majority of the town services. Some, such as the 3, are developed over the summer to make use of the extra summer trade. Route 3 connects Hemsby Beach and Vauxhall Holiday park with the town and the beach. Four buses are used - two Routemasters and two Volvo B7TLs. This is 39480 (JJD480D), pictured going past Priory Plain in the town. The other Routemaster is NML623E, which was also out earning its keep during my visit.

The X1 is First Eastern Counties' premier cross county route, connecting Lowestoft in the south with Peterborough in the north, via Great Yarmouth, Norwich and Kings Lynn amongst other places. This is Volvo B9TL 37577 (AU58EDF).

First have just purchased a number of second hand Enviro200s to improve town services in Great Yarmouth. Until these are ready, the older order prevail, as illustrated here by 43440 (P440NEX), heading off on route 2. I always think these Darts look better with the blue under the windscreen.

The most common type of bus in Great Yarmouth are former London Volvo B7TLs. Illustrating the batch is 32203 (LT52WTG).

Anglianbus operate Scania Omnicity, Scania Omnilinks and Optare Tempos into Great Yarmouth. YN07EZB is a former Omnilink demonstrator, pictured here heading for the town centre.

In 2005, First acquired a number of late Volvo Olympians from the Yorkshire Coastliner outfit. Initially allocated to First Somerset & Avon, they moved onto First Eastern Counties later in their life. Here is 34110 (W437CWX), heading through the bus station on route 1. This bus was one of a number that used to compete with First services around York and Leeds.

Another native Dart, this time with Pointer 2 bodywork. 43487 (R687DPW) heads out of the bus station on route 7. Great Yarmouth once had a really interesting fleet of Darts with East Lancs and Carlyle bodywork; unfortunately these days they are more bog standard...

Sanders Coaches operate route 6 from North Walsham to Great Yarmouth at a frequency of about every 2 hours. Former Luton Airport bus W261CDN is pictured arriving in the town.

Finally for today, here is Volvo B10BLE 60813 (S664RNA) heading for Great Yarmouth town centre on route 5. 60813 is one of a number of former First West Yorkshire Volvo B10BLEs now operating with Eastern Counties - I managed to catch up with three during my stay.

Great Yarmouth certainly has an interesting bus scene and is well worth a visit if you are in the area. During high summer, the bus station is very busy and difficult to photograph in. However, if you walk out of the town you find some quieter locations. With the second hand Enviro200s also coming in soon (with presumably the new First livery), the Great Yarmouth bus scene is also changing.

For all of my Great Yarmouth photos, please click here!