Saturday, 14 December 2013

Southern Vectis week - Saturday

Southern Vectis 752 - R752GDL - Shanklin (crossing Landguard Road) - Summer 2003

Finally, the livery and operation that is probably most associated with the R-reg batch of Volvo Olympians. They were bought in 1997 to give the Island Explorer 7 series of routes a new brand, advertising stunning views and a 4 hour round trip. Heading for Ventor and Alum Bay is 752, numerically the first of the batch, in the original livery with accompanying hot air balloons on the front. These buses are still in service with sister Go South Coast company Wilts & Dorset, and were for a time again associated with another major route - the 184 from Salisbury to Weymouth.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Southern Vectis week - Friday

Southern Vectis 711 - TIL6711 - Shanklin (Landguard Road) - Summer 2003

I was never sure if I liked this livery. The red seemed to fade over the years (as red tends to do), but when new and gleaming these buses did look excellent. I suppose I also grew up in my pre-enthusiast days with the mushroom and cream livery, which I much preferred. Here 711 (TIL6711) heads for Cowes, via Godshill and Newport. It is pictured on a lovely day in Shanklin. 711 moved to Wilts & Dorset following the arrival of Scanias in 2008 and 2009.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Southern Vectis week - Thursday

Southern Vectis 683 - 934BDL (DPX683W) - Shanklin (town centre) - September 2003

Bristol VRs have always had a long association with Southern Vectis, and their last hurrah and livery was on the Open Top Tours network, wearing this rather eye-catching orange and sun livery. Today, the bus and the route have gone - 683 was dispatched to York Pullman where it continued open top duties, where the 43 became the Sandown Bay Tour, and was eventually cut in favour of the reduced PVR on the Shanklin Steamer. Summer afternoons photographing these in Shanklin and Sandown were glorious!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Southern Vectis week: Wednesday

Southern Vectis 741 - K741ODL - Oakfield - a very wet day in October 2003!

Route 8 was not part of the Island Explorer network. It connected Ryde Tesco, Oakfield and the town, with Seaview. It was really a glorified town route, that flitted between Iveco minibus operation and Olympian operation throughout its operation. The Olympians were sometimes overkill - especially on rainy Autumn/Winter days - but in summer months, sometimes the Ivecos - especially the 23 coach-seated examples - didn't have the capacity that route 8 sometimes demanded. Here is 741 heading for Seaview, with a Dart on route 1 in the distance behind. Pictured in Oakfield.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Southern Vectis week: Tuesday

Southern Vectis 743 - K743ODL - Shanklin (railway station) - Summer 2003

743 is one of only two Olympians native to Southern Vectis to still be in service with the company. It was one of two of the K-reg batch to receive Route Rouge livery - advertising the 2 and 3 from Sandown, Shanklin and Ventor to Newport and Cowes, via the centre of the island. It is pictured heading past Shanklin railway station. It could, this summer, still be found on open top routes on the island, but there was/is a rumour it was the last year for these grand buses on the route.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Southern Vectis week: Monday

Southern Vectis 817 - G526VYE - Ryde (Brading Road) - 24th April 2004

Former London United Dennis Dart 817 (G526VYE) was bought in around the turn of the millenium (2000 / 2001) to bolster services and the quota of short Darts that could fit down to the Red Jet terminal in Cowes. This is pictured on the then-recently extended route 1 - every half an hour from Cowes to Bembridge (via Ryde and Newport), with hourly extensions to Sandown. A long time on a Dart methinks! This Dart is now in preservation, carrying this livery.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Southern Vectis week: Sunday

Sorry for the false start a month ago! This week, we will be looking at some recent old photos from the island, looking at Southern Vectis. They've all been photographed in the last 10 years, and will bring some fond recent memories back for different enthusiasts...

Southern Vectis 100 - HW52EPK - Shanklin - summer 2003

Photographed about within its first year of service, it seems crazy to think that these buses have now been in service on the island for over a decade. It is pictured shimmering in the sun heading for Ventnor and onwards to West Wight. This batch of 7 Volvo B7TLs are still in service on the island, and have never been in public service work on the mainland.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Lest we forget

BlueStar (Marchwood) 443 - HX06EZC - Hythe (Ferry Yard) - 6th November 2009

Go Ahead South buses wear poppies to commemorate Remembrance Sunday, and have done for many years. Pictured in the no-longer-used Hythe Ferry Yard terminal, 443 is about to head back to Southampton on a cold November morning. Credit to the staff at Solent Blue Line/Marchwood, who started off this tradition many years ago.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Greyhound Sunset

First Hants & Dorset 23319 - YN55PXK - Fareham (Hartlands Road) - 22nd May 2012

As the mid evening sun shines on the arrival of Scania coach 23319 from London Victoria, the Portsmouth and Southampton - London Greyhound services were in their last weeks of operation. Cut later in the year, gone are the sights of these smart coaches - and just to think that at the start there was mostly an hourly frequency on both routes.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Star!

First Hampshire & Dorset 63042 - SK63KHT - Cosham (Highbury Buildings) - 29th October 2013

26 brand new Stars shining in Portsmouth. Named after 26 different Royal Navy Warships based at Portsmouth, the Streetlites feature leather seats, live information, announcements and this variation of First's interurban livery. They are very noticeable when out and about in Portsmouth, and can be found on routes 7 and 8 - 10 buses per hour between Portsmouth and Waterlooville.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Volvos takeover Gosport

First Hampshire & Dorset 66199 - S799RWG - Gosport bus station, 1st November 2013

Interesting times at First Solent (the new name for Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport) as allocations shuffle following the delivery of a combined 39 Streetlites to Hilsea and Hoeford depots. Usually found in Portsmouth on services 1, 2 or 3, Volvo B10BLEs are appearing in increasing numbers on the Fareham - Gosport services. Here is 66199 interesting blinded for Cherque Farm - as far as I am aware this did actually continue through to Fareham.

Southern England Bus Scene- change of scenary

With my commitments to the First Hants & Dorset Enthusiasts site and my own website, running this blog has proved unsustainable. I have not been able to post regularly to it for a good few months now, despite having a huge variety of content sitting offline. Therefore, I have two options - (1) to cancel it, which I don't really want to do, or (2) change the format.

I've decided that I will, for the foreseeable future, treat this blog almost as a "photo of the day" or "photo of interest" blog, where I post a photo from my collection a day(ish) with an associated caption. Some users of flickr do this tremendously well, and I hope I can replicate such a feature on this blog.

I may return to my old days of long features at some point. However, with forums, enthusiast groups and the internet covering developments better seemingly week by week, I feel it is rather pointless to replicate some of this information. My photo focus will still be the West Sussex-Hampshire-Dorset-Devon area, with accompanying posts from Berkshire, South Wales, Somerset, Avon and Cornwall.

Let's see how this goes!

Thank you for the continued support.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 18th August

Once upon a time, these were an every day sight in Portsmouth...

First Hampshire & Dorset 52070 - L170TRV - Southsea (South Parade Pier) - 15th February 2005

The Iveco TurboDaily - bouncy, vibrating, rattly buses, but a type of bus that I think you'll find nearly every enthusiast growing up in the People's Provincial area will have a small soft spot for. L170TRV was the last one I needed on camera from the batch that was in service at the time in February 2005, and I was rather chuffed to catch it by luck at Southsea's canoe lake, just up from South Parade Pier. 2005 saw the slow beginning of the end of the Iveco, with mass withdrawals in 2006, before the final buses went in 2007.

These Ivecos, new between 1993 and 1995, and then supplemented by a predominantly Mellor bodied batch acquired from Blue Admiral with First's take over in 1996, dominated the Portsmouth bus scene for over a decade. With the withdrawal of most of the former Blue Admiral buses, combined with the shift of several Iveco-operated routes to bigger buses, the former People's Provincial Hoeford based buses were shifted over to Hilsea. They were allocated to high frequency routes, such as the 3, then at five buses an hour between Paulsgrove and Southsea, or the 6, 13 and 14, all Portsmouth city services with six buses an hour. Long after the last regular Iveco service disappeared from Hoeford, Ivecos still ran all the way through Fareham to Warsash on the 57.

With Portsmouth routes receiving 37 Streetlites later this year, it is likely the entire network will be operated by large low floor buses. The smallest bus found will be a Solo. The goal will have finally been achieved - large, more comfortable low floor buses at lower frequencies - set in motion with the beginning of the end of the Iveco, back in 2005.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Why not try these...?

Just a quick prod in the direction of my photo website for those of you interested.

Click here to view photos from Appledore and Bideford in North Devon.

Click here to view photos from the North Cornwall town of Bude.

Click here to view photos from the west Dorset town of Lyme Regis, and the Devonian town of Seaton.

Photos from Plymouth, Christchurch and Portsmouth, amongst other areas, to be uploaded over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Ride the North Devon Wave...

Stagecoach now rule the roost in North Devon following the closure of First's Barnstaple depot, and now they are cementing that advantage, with a fleet of brand new Scanias...

The North Devon Wave is the brand Stagecoach introduced in 2010 for the main North Devon route - connecting Barnstaple to Bideford, and onwards to the towns of Westward Ho! and Appledore. First used to operate these as the Atlantic Goldline and Atlantic Connection, amongst other brandings, but it is Stagecoach's version that now operates the main corridor in North Devon. A large batch of Scania N230UD/Enviro400s have been placed into service, with 15887 (WA13GDF), or 'Poppy', indicative of the batch.

The 22 North Devon Wave Scanias have been introduced, upgrading the corridor beyond Barnstaple, up to Ilfracombe too. The two routes combine on the Barnstaple - Bideford corridor, giving 6 buses per hour - three via East-the-Water and three via Instow. 15894 (WA13GDY) heads along Bideford Quay for Braunton on the 21. 

A number of unbranded buses have also entered service alongside the Wavers- what seems to be a standard policy where Stagecoach introduces a brand new fleet of buses. 15899 (WA13GEY) is named 'Abbie Rose' - I believe the names the buses carry are the names of bus drivers' children who won a competition. 15899 is pictured heading along the quay at Appledore, past a particularly attractive ice cream van.

The old order were former Stagecoach Oxford Transbus and ADL Tridents. These buses have literally run First off of the roads in North Devon - the old order pictured to the right. On 9th August 2010, Stagecoach's 18394 (KX55TLN) is pictured next to First's 42449 (R449CCV) - a bus now in service in Weymouth. An image of the Dart was perhaps a little unfair on First - most journeys were operated by Tridents (new in 2000 or 2005), with a few ex-London Tridents chucked in too. However, First had recently upped the route to a 10-minute frequency and they didn't have enough Tridents to cover all the workings - hence the drafting in of a couple of Darts each day.

A final view of another unbranded Scania - this time 15900 (WA13GFE). 'India May' is pictured heading along Bideford Quay for Westward Ho! on the 21. These are certainly impressive buses, and despite being a rather common (boring?) design for the enthusiast, the buses still ooze class and style with their attractive curves, clever use of glass and expected high-standards of presentation from Stagecoach.

To view the timetable, please click here. The Appledore photos were taken from about 1200 until about 1430 - although as the buses turn in the car park the sun is perfect whenever you visit. Nearside shots at Bideford possible AM - don't visit early afternoon as the sun will be too head on. Offside shots possible PM, and Bideford town's bridge is excellent for photos too, if a little tricky with the traffic.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 11th August 2008

Today's Sunday Lost Scenes comes from Lymington back in 2008. I'm sure I've used this one on posts before, but I thought it was very apt for events at present...

4454 - KRU854W - Lymington high street - 10th June 2008

With Wilts & Dorset's Lymington's present use of elderly Leyland Olympians on the X1 and X2 at present, I thought this week we'd return to 2008, which was the last year of the Lymington VR. This photo is the last ever Bristol VR I photographed in service (albeit it is operating a strategic empty bus movement!), and was the only one of Lymington's VRs I ever got a decent photo of. 

This VR photo is sort of symbolic of the problem enthusiasts have in photographing Lymington's Olympians. Usually, they are strictly used on the 118 Wednesdays only service to Ringwood, and the Brockenhurst school contracts. They are a relative nightmare to photograph- a situation that will return when the New Forest Tours end, or the rumoured Scania Omnicitys move to Ringwood. This is why the opportunity to photograph them on X1 and X2 is important for anyone who would like to grab some more, final photos. Apparently two Spectras have been moved to Ringwood for use on the X1/X2, but this still leaves at least one allocation on the PVR 7 route that will be an Olympian. That's assuming all Spectras and Volvo B7TLs are fit and healthy.

Now this VR was made before I was born, so bare with me on the technical details. A KRU***W registration means this bus was new between Aug 1980 and July 1981, meaning that at the time of this shot, the bus was about 28 years old. F707RDL has been used on the X1, X2 and 6 in the past week - new in 1989 I believe. Therefore, the bus is 24 years old. As such, the present Lymington Olympians have got a little bit further to go before they can be equated with using Lymington's VRs on the same services.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Holsworthy on Market Day

Holsworthy is the first town in north Devon from Bude. It is a traditional market town, with a quiet square, library, wonderful church, two former railway viaducts and a scattering of rural bus services. On Wednesdays, however, services increase meeting the needs of the traditional market.

The standard services to Holsworthy form part of Stagecoach Devon's X9 and Western Greyhound's 599 between Bude and Exeter. Stagecoach Devon use a variety of Scania N230UD double deckers on the route, while Western Greyhound tend to use their youngest Solos since the fire. Usually Stagecoach use former Oxford 15431/2/3, but on Wednesday 31st one of their youngest Scanias sneaked onto the route, in the form of 15864 (WA62ANU), escaping off the Honiton and Seaton routes they were purchased for. 

In addition to the X9/599, Stagecoach Devon also operate about 5 daily departures on route 85, connecting Holsworthy to Bideford and Barnstaple. This route is operated by a Dart that usually starts and finishes the day at Bude outstation, as the first 85 is extended from Bude to Holsworthy, and the last arrival continues onto terminate in Bude. Finally, one service of Stagecoach's route 71 to Great Torrington is extended to/from Holsworthy early in the morning and late at night.

On Wednesdays, there are many more buses though. First into the library/church car park were two Mercedes-Benz Varios of Carmel Coaches - VX04KTT near and YK53BKF far. The 638 is a Wednesday only service from Halwill Junction, taking an hour and ten minutes to meander between the tiny villages and hamlets. The 639 is another market day service, this time from Hatherleigh. This bus takes 50minutes journey time, and on every second Tuesday, is extended from/to Northlew. Who thought rural services were on their way out?!

Next to arrive was Western Greyhound's Wednesday's only variation of route 530. The 530 is the most idyllic rural bus route, navigating tiny villages from Bude to Kilkhampton and Morwenstow to the east. However, on Wednesdays, it travels fast from Kilkhampton to Holsworthy, and then again fast into Bude. On Wednesday 31st July, appropriately registed Vario 560 (WK02BUS)  pauses outside of the library, as it allows the regular weekly passengers to alight.

Next to arrive was Turners of Chumleigh's Enviro200 KX60DVP, looking a little large and out of place to be used on a market days only route. This bus was operating the 641 to/from Great Torrington.

Finally, the smallest bus to join the market day fleet was Group Travel's BV57VGU on a 208. According to Bus Lists on the Web, this is a Mercedes-Benz O530. The 208 comes to Holsworthy from Warbstow Cross, taking 55 minutes end to end. 

Although rural routes have suffered heavily in recent years with subsidy cuts, the Wednesday market routes of Holsworthy continue to survive. The five special routes or variations of routes provide a vital service to the residents of these local villages and hamlets, who I'm sure are not provided with a regular bus service. The variety is good for the enthusiast too, giving them a chance to grab a few shots that are out of the ordinary. All buses arrive between about 1020 and 1105 (the X9 from Exeter) - you'll have to come earlier or later if you want a picture of Stagecoach's 85 though (next one arrives at 1158). Thanks for viewing.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Lymington's Olympian Swansong

Lymington depot of Wilts & Dorset is a hive of activity at present - more so than any in previous summer. Not only are they operating their usual number of routes, buses are provided for the Blue New Forest tour, the 112 to Hythe has been tripled in frequency for the summer(ish), and the Olympians are getting a good work out, earning their stay late into their service life.

As discussed in previous posts, the X1 and X2 are half hourly services connecting Lymington with Bournemouth. In 2005, the routes were upgraded with convertible open top Volvo B7TLs, such as 1830 (HF05GGY), as illustrated left. However, from the original batch of nine buses, five have been moved elsewhere for use on the New Forest Tours or simply to other depots. Thus, only four remain at present. Therefore, the X1 and X2 is throwing up some rather peculiar allocations at present. 1830 is pictured coming across one of the bridges in Christchurch, heading along Castle Street.

For the month of July, 6 Dennis Tridents were loaned in to Wilts & Dorset (4 buses) and BlueStar (2 buses). Since the schools have gone back, they have all returned to Oxford and are no longer on the South Coast. Here is City of Oxford's 113 (T113OBW), pictured heading for Lymington along Gervis Place back on 13th July.

With these gone, the former Southern Vectis Olympians, now freed from school work, rule the roost over the remaining allocations on the X1 and X2. Here's 4740 (K740ODL), heading for Lymington through Christchurch yesterday afternoon.

It isn't just the Northern Counties bodied Olympians either - this all Leyland "TIL-ley" was out on the X2 also. 4713 (TIL6713) was new as F713WDL to Southern Vectis. These are even sneaking onto the 6 up to Southampton on occasion, but the three BlueStar livered Spectras and associated Solos seem to do the work most of the time.

Three Olympians were out on the X1 and X2 yesterday, and 4736 (K736ODL) completes that hat-trick. She is pictured heading for Bournemouth through Christchurch.

This arrangement is expected by enthusiasts to last for the summer, although nothing has been confirmed by the company itself. Should complaints mount up, I can see them drafting in a few PVLs that are spare. Therefore, should anyone want to have a realistic and likely chance to get these buses in service work again, I suggest you get yourself down to Lymington over the summer - the earlier the better. Don't forget on Wednesdays there is the extra 118 to Ringwood market. 

Monday, 5 August 2013

An enjoyable day out on the South Coast

What an enjoyable day out on the South Coast yesterday was. Today's post gives some of the highlights of the 2013 Stokes Bay rally, organised by the Provincial Society and supported by large numbers of bus owners, stall holders and visitors. The sun came out from behind the clouds more and more as the day went on, and it was a really lovely day. Just one quick piece of housekeeping - to reminisce over the last rally in 2011, please click here

I'll start with a line up of preserved Provincial buses, as the rally was started in 2003 originally to support 125 years of the company. From left to right are unique ACE Cougar H523CTR, Bristol RE ECG112K, Leyland National A301KJT, and Guy Arab II EOR875. There are a wide selection of Provincial vehicles preserved and I've always wondered why - especially when some former fleets do not have any buses preserved. This preservation of history is perhaps why my local fleet is so fascinating - the history seems to effortlessly live on into the present day.

Two companies the rally couldn't have happened without now - First Hampshire & Dorset are the first. They supplied eight buses from Southampton and Hoeford depots, and two of them are illustrated here - former Sheffield Volvo B10BLE 66196 (S796RWG) alongside native Scania Omnicity 65017 (YN54NZP). I do think the Scania would look far more attractive if the front was finished though - the new First livery really sits well on the Scania and has the potential to look even better - this just looks rather wierd. If a FHD manager is reading this, please at least paint one up round the front to see what it looks like? I trust you will be convinced that a full frontal repaint is the right way forward...

Secondly, Brijan Tours, who also sent a large number of buses, including three Darts and this Volvo B10M - affectionately known as Reggie - and formerly N502HWY. Without the support of Brijan, the rally would not be able to take place, so thank you very much - it is very much appreciated!

The local southern fleets were well supported, with various buses from the Go Ahead South fleets or their previous incarnations. Here is preserved Solent Blue Line VR NDL637M heading out of Stokes Bay on the cavalcade.

Sister Go Ahead company Brighton & Hove brought one of their brand new Volvo B9TL/Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 double deckers for route 5. This is 470, interestingly registered BK13OAP.

Stagecoach were well supported with a Volvo B10M and this, an early Leyland Olympian new to Hampshire Bus. F601MSL is still owned by Stagecoach, and is one of an ever increasing number of preserved buses owned and operated by Stagecoach internally - an excellent initiative which recognises the service these buses have given in the history of the company. Still numbered 14951 in the Stagecoach fleet, here she enters the rally site having completed one of the free tours around the south coast. 

Preserved Southdown buses also featured frequently at the rally - here is PUF586R with the destination set for the old X16 express service to Southsea. She is pictured heading out on the cavalcade.

Sticking with Southdown and also veering slightly left to Hants & Dorset, here are two well known and loved buses passing each other at the entrance to the Stokes Bay rally site. Hants & Dorset 5677EL heads out onto the cavalcade, while Southdown PRX189B deposits passengers from one of the free tours. The dedication shown by the owners of all the preserved buses must be applauded as all buses were turned out looking spotless. In addition, without the support of these preservationists, rallies like Stokes Bay would not take place, so it is much appreciated!

Two further glorious buses - this time from Portsmouth. Atlantean VTP262L is blinded up for route 17, alongside BBK236B on the 148B route. Suddenly, you can see the benefits of First's simple network in Portsmouth today!

Finally, this is preserved Wilts & Dorset Bristol VR JJT437N. This is the first time that I've seen this bus, and I was very excited to see it pull into the rally site in the morning. It is pictured heading out of the rally site onto the cavalcade.

Yesterday's rally was well attended with visitors, buses and traders. It seemed all the stronger for missing out a year earlier, due to the consistent and persistent heavy rain suffered in 2012. Yesterday, the sun was out, the buses were rolling, and it was almost like it had never been away. Thank you to all of those individuals - the Provincial Society, officials at First & Brijan, preservationists, traders and enthusiasts themselves - who made the day so successful and enjoyable. Here's to next year!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The X53 - the last 10 years

Arguably, First in Dorset's premier route is the X53, connecting Poole with Wareham, Weymouth, Bridport, Lyme Regis, Seaton and Exeter at a frequency of every 2 hours. The route has been developed in cooperation with Devon and Dorset County Councils over the last decade, but now First stand alone. They've just relaunched the route as the Jurassic Coaster, and this blog entry documents the changes to the route over the last 10 years.

2002 was the last year of the former Volvo B10M mini-coaches that operated the route. Then at an irregular frequency and only Weymouth to Exeter, three of these coaches in Southern National green connected the two places. Following improvements to the X53, G804XLO was transferred up to Hoeford (one of the first transfers of the newly formed First Hampshire & Dorset), to act as a driver trainer. It is pictured on those duties, as it reverses into one of the bays at Gosport bus station.

For the summer of 2003, five Scania L94UBs with Wright Solar bodywork operated the route, now extended to Wareham. The buses were diverted from a delivery to First in Essex, and here is one of the batch - 62408 (YS03ZKE). With the increased publicity of the route, standing loads were more common, which brought in the next new batch of buses...

Six Scania Omnidekkas and one single decker joined the fleet between 2004 and 2005 for use on the X53, now extended to Poole. These carried a new dedicated livery for the X53, advertising it as the Jurassic CoastlinX53. Here is 36003 (YN04GNY), heading to Weymouth on a Sunday X53 through Lyme Regis.

2008 saw the delivery of 8 brand new Volvo B9TL double deckers - thus far the only examples in the First Hants & Dorset fleet. The livery remained fairly similar. Over the next couple of years, relationships with councils would be strained, frequencies chopped and changed, Sunday services dropped and reintroduced, and it did not seem that the X53 would remain the same for long. Here is one of the batch - 37584 (HX08DHG), pictured heading through Seaton for Exeter in August 2013.

As First now tackles the X53 commercially, the requirement for buses no older than 4 years to be used on the X53 is redundant. Thus, the present 7 Volvo B9TLs are now being re-seated with high back leather seats, and rebranded as the Jurassic Coaster. The base of the livery is First's refreshed livery, using the colours of the existing livery. Thus far, only 37580 (HX08DHL) is the only one to be upgraded but the others will follow. It is pictured in a rather glum summers day in July 2013 in Lyme Regis while heading for Seaton and Exeter.

What next for the X53? Well, the two-hourly frequency is still stretched during summer months, especially when the holiday traffic causes long delays. Furthermore, the buses are still quiet during the winter, which saw the evening and Sunday services withdrawn last year - the Sunday service has recently been reintroduced for the summer but whether this will continue through the next winter is not clear. First seem to be investing long term in the route despite it now being an entirely commercial venture. It will certainly be interesting to see what the future will hold for the X53.

Stokes Bay Rally tomorrow

Just a quick reminder that it is the annual Stokes Bay Rally tomorrow, as organised by the Provincial Society.

The weather is supposed to be light cloud with sunny spells tomorrow - much like the last Stokes Bay rally, in 2011. You may remember last year's rally was rained off... For full details, please visit the Provincial Society's website.

Friday, 26 July 2013

First serving Salisbury... again

First in Avon & Bristol have announced that they will be re-entering the Salisbury bus market, with their brand new extended route 265...

The 265 sees First return to Salisbury for the first time since 2008, when the joint X4 service with Wilts & Dorset was withdrawn, and First cut back their part to Warminster as the 264/265 route. Bodmans took over the X4, operating between Warminster and Salisbury. From 28th July, First will have a larger presence in Salisbury than ever before, operating hourly into the city as early as an 0718 arrival from Warminster - the earliest from Bath arriving just after 10 o'clock. 

The existing buses on the 265 are Volvo B7RLEs new in 2005-6. 66939 (WX55TZA) illustrates this batch perfectly as it leaves Trowbridge for Warminster in March of last year. With brand new Streetlites being introduced onto the X39 (Bristol - Bath), this should free a few more Volvo B7RLEs to operate on this service. Bath depot has also just repainted their first B7RLE into the new colours - sister 66943. 

I wish First well on this service - a route that competes against its own train service from First Great Western from Salisbury to Bath. In addition, this service is being introduced against the background of cuts across the former First Somerset & Avon district, with Bridgwater town services decimated, frequencies withdrawn in Wells, and more. 

For enthusiasts unfamiliar to Salisbury, the best locations to photograph the 265 for the sun would be:
* entering the city via the railway station along Fisherton St - in the morning there are lovely backdrops.
* in the city centre along Blue Boar Row
* entering the bus station mainly around early afternoon
* departing along Brown St late afternoon, but before the bus turns left down New Canal. 
This is assuming the route follows the same course as the existing Bodmans' service.

I'd even like to contemplate that in the future the 265 Bath - Salisbury, which was the X4, may be connected to First Hants & Dorset's X4 from Southampton - Portsmouth. Now there would be a long bus route!