Tuesday, 29 January 2013

New Buses - 2013

The South is once again seeing investment in bus services across the region. Confirmed are:

BlueStar and Wilts & Dorset - 21 ADL400s due for routes Wilts & Dorset routes X3 (Bournemouth - Salisbury) and 8 (Andover - Salisbury) and BlueStar route 1 (Southampton - Winchester)

Southampton's Unilink - receiving brand new buses for the U1 and U6 - the U6 being double deck'd in the process. Expected to by ADL400s.

Stagecoach South - 10 Enviro300s are due in Basingstoke for the Jazz 2 - some of which have already been delivered, which will be supplemented by 7 further Enviro200s with '13' registrations to upgrade the Jazz 5. Furthermore, 11 Enviro200s are in the process of being delivered to Portsmouth to upgrade local services, and will be allocated to route 39, amongst others. Two are already in service and have been pictured on route 20. Finally, 6 Enviro300s in Stagecoach Gold livery are due to upgrade route 51 in Chichester - again when the '13' registrations come into effect.

First Hants & Dorset - have introduced 14 Volvo B7RLEs to Hoeford and 10 Enviro200s to Southampton in the last year, but apparently interesting developments for Portsmouth will be announced with First's 2013-14 vehicle order.

If I've missed any, please let me know. These deliveries and the resulting cascades will mean 2013 will become an interesting year for buses across the South...

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 27th January

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

First Hants & Dorset 191 - M191XTR - Fareham bus station - Summer 2003

In May 2003, the Portsmouth Overground network was introduced. It covered five routes (including the Zip 41 corridor). With second-hand ex-London Darts still 9 months away, the  first operations on route 6 saw 9 Iveco TurboDailys receive Barbie 2, and 7 branded for route 6. These rarely strayed off route, but above I have an example of First Hampshire's 191 in Fareham well away from Tipner and Southsea.

191 is pictured on route 57 - a route operated by Hilsea's Ivecos until route changes in 2004, by which time Hilsea and Hoeford shared the route. The 57 was then cut to every hour, exclusively operated by Hoeford. This saw Hilsea's presence in Fareham restricted to simply a few early and late peaks. 

Today, the Ivecos are long gone, and the 57 has been split between the X4, 4A and 16. The weekday service to Hayling Ferry is also exclusively operated by route 15.

Monday, 21 January 2013

The Zero has unravelled...

The planned Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport network is back, and there are a few headline routes. Firstly, the Zero has unravelled, and instead been replaced by a far more sensible arrangement on the 17 and 18 (yes, they are back), a route from Fareham into Havant is nearly restored (terminating at Farlington), and the evening connections are sorted (in theory).

Return of the 17 and 18 - but not as we knew it
The Zero has been developed. It is now replaced by route 17 and route 18. Both operate half hourly along their respected routes. Route 17 connects Tipner, Copnor, Eastney and Southsea (Palmerston Road), which then turns into route 18, connecting Southsea (Palmerston Road), with Fratton, North End, Cosham and QA Hospital. The route is expected to be operated by Hilsea depot, and will see the connection between Southsea and QA Hospital restored (by First - the Stagecoach 20 did this a couple of weeks ago). 

Route 3 - the 3A is dropped
Route 3/3A becomes the 3 throughout. The Hard - City Centre - North End - Cosham - QA Hospital - Paulsgrove at every 10 minutes, with three buses an hour then heading for Portsdown Inn, and three buses an hour heading for Fareham. The North Portchester link is cut by this route, and the Fareham-Portsmouth via Cosham buses are cut to three an hour. Combined with the X4, there are now 5 buses between Fareham and Portsmouth an hour. The 3 also now interworks with the 1 - which presumably will mean Volvo B10BLEs and Scania Omnicities provide consistency across the route. Again, presumably, the 2 will solely be in the hands of Hilsea Darts until improvements are made.

Route 22
Route 22 has changed rather a lot. The Farlington - Drayton - Cosham - QA Hospital portion remains the same, and remains half hourly, but here the route splits. The new 22A heads to Lower Wymering, hourly, while the 22 heads off to Portchester, Dore Avenue and Fareham, again hourly. Portchester's four buses to Cosham are maintained, with the axe of the hourly 3A extension.

There are other smaller changes, but these are the headline details. Changes begin on Sunday 17th March.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Welcome Back... Sussex Bus!

This is the second installment of my infrequent "Welcome Back" feature, where I share long lost photos from fotopic. 

My first trip to Chichester was in the sunny summer of 2003. The Nationals had gone, and the Stagecoach swoops livery were just replacing the strips of Sussex Bus and Stagecoach. However, on a few buses, the red stripes remained...

Back in 2003, the Sussex Bus livery remained on a number of Mercedes-Benz 709Ds that were in service on Chichester city services. 40891 (N191LPN) is pictured on route 48, heading for Chichester bus station. Route 48 still exists as a free bus Tesco - city centre route, but these days tends to be operated by Volvo Olympians. From the (irregular) journeys I've observed or photographed, the capacity of the 709D is still about appropriate.

Sister bus 40893 (N193LPN) is pictured here, reversing off the stands of Chichester bus station on a 47A for Parklands. These minibuses provided the main service on the small Chichester routes, and the Bognor town services until the 2007 delivery of Optare Solos. The 47/47A is another route still completely intact from this photo - taken almost 10 years ago, operating every half an hour.

Finally, here is 40164 (N364AVV) pictured on the stands at Chichester. A stripey Dart can be seen in the background. Again, the 56 is another out largely intact in nearly 10 years - operating from Old Bosham to Chichester, via Fishbourne. 

I find it amazing in city such as Chichester, under a company who develop and change their networks so effectively, that the route structure has more or less remained untouched for 10 years. I guess this also illustrates the example of good Stagecoach management - if it ain't broke, don't fix it, just upgrade it with younger and better buses frequently! More updates from Chichester in approximately two to three months time...

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Out with the old, in with the new at Southampton

Followers of First at the moment are under a bit of a guessing game as to which areas are to see investment, and which areas are to be sold. Does Weymouth losing its recently acquired Tridents suggest it is up for sale? Does Plymouth receiving younger Tridents and 08-plated Enviro400s indicate it is no longer on the for sale list? One location that is seemingly safe under First is Southampton, where 10 brand new Enviro200s have entered service.

Firstly, out with the old. Of the many ex-Glasgow Darts previously in service in Southampton, only 4 remain. 40792 (R296GHS) is one of those remaining local though - popping up the coast and now allocated to Hoeford. It is pictured at a rain and wind swept Lee on Solent, heading for Fareham on route 6. Hoeford has received another also - 40790 - along with Hilsea receiving two Darts that have seen service at all three Hampshire depots now. The rest have gone elsewhere, with the lucky residents of Wales being the recipitants of a number.

In with the new - 12 spotless Enviro200s - primarily allocated on route 7. 44529 (SN62AZA) is pictured here, loading passengers along St Denys Road in Portswood. The 7 is now eight buses-per-hour, competing with BlueStar 16 at three buses an hour. There does seem to be an increasing allegiance to BlueStar's younger B7RLEs and Citaros - however the new leather seated Enviros may now sway the balance back towards First. The Enviros also occasionally turn up on route 2, and assist the 2009-batch of Enviros on route 6. These are only rare occurances, however.

A few of the older Dart SLFs are still in service at Southampton. The 4 Pointer 1 bodied Darts new in 1996 are still in regular service, along with the entire batch of 1997 Darts. These will probably go in time, so I specifically focused my efforts on the buses during my flying visit on Sunday. This is 42507 (P407KOW) - FHD incidentally operate 42407 and 42507! Despite their age I regularly see the 4 Darts out in service - they can't be that unreliable.

Finally, a wider look at the First Southampton fleet. All of the Volvo B7RLEs and Wright-bodied Volvo B7TLs are now in the fleet livery. 4 Millbrook Flyer Darts are assisted by 7 Solent Ranger Darts on the X4 from Hoeford. 66883 (MX55HHP) was new to Manchester, and is pictured heading for Sholing on the 9.

Southampton's looking positive. With Hoeford possibly receiving double deckers in the future for the X4, along with Hilsea possibly receiving younger second hand Volvo B7RLEs for routes 2 and 7 and/or brand new buses for the Zip 8, the future is looking bright. 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 13th January

With new Enviro200s and Enviro300s soon due for Stagecoach South, the affectionately named SPuDs will soon be moved onto other services and possibly other companies...

Stagecoach South Dennis Dart SPD 33058 - X956VAP - Southsea, Southsea Parade Pier - 29th August 2004

Stagecoach acquired a large batch of Dennis Dart SPDs in 2000, to upgrade the premier route between Southsea and Leigh Park. Route 23 operates every 10 minutes - branded here as "6 buses per hour". Following the 2008 delivery of Enviro300s, the SPDs were moved to Chichester and Basingstoke. 2013 will again see the SPDs replaced by Enviros, as Chichester route 51 is to be 'Gold'ed, with Basingstoke route 2 upgraded. It will be interesting to see where the SPDs end up - probably around Hampshire still but on secondary routes.

I miss the old stripes livery - I prefer the swoops but this livery was traditional Stagecoach. I hope to bring you photos of the new Enviros as and when they are delivered. The first ones aren't too far away...

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The New Portsmouth Network - Part 3

The new Portsmouth network has been in operation for nearly two months now. After the typical and expected angry response from passengers, along with slight bus allocation issues from First, many are seeing the merits of the new network.

* Increased frequencies across common corridors.
* Common types of bus allocated to most routes, meaning consistency is achieved.
* A PVR reduced across Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth of 7 buses.
* Great publicity across the internet and in travel shops.
* Effective and efficient evening connections between routes 2, 3 and 7, meaning that evening services are preserved but at a lower bus demand.

However, there are a few next steps found across the network that First could put into place in their next network review.

* The great connections are not always made clear in the timetables, and there have been reports of bus drivers not having any connections that they have to meet being written on their schedule. Addressing these two points could make the connections even better.
* Small buses on the X9 suffer in peak times, but the small buses are necessary because of Purbrook, Denmead and Hambledon. An interesting issue to address. With Stagecoach moving off the M275 this week, loads could grow even more on the X9.
* Darts keep on appearing on the 1, 2 and 7 from Hilsea. First have a desire to change this when buses become available. The 7 also sees capacity problems at some times with students from South Downs College.
* The conundrum of route 0 - between Fratton, Cosham and QA Hospital, and further into the future with Tipner P&R.
* Some route numbering could be adapted - this is mainly a Fareham/Gosport concern for routes such as the 6 and 9.

First say a statement is being released shortly, so it will be interesting to see what happens!

For the enthusiast, I've found the changes to be wholly positive so far. There are more regular corridors of service, meaning that if you're just going for a few hours you get more photos. Common frequencies aren't down either, as the 2, 3 and 7 have increased in frequency based on their old routes. Despite some routes being withdrawn, the other more profitable routes see more buses. If you're planning a day trip, here are are some tips:
The Hard- routes 1, 2, 3, 3A, X4, 8, X9, 14, 15, 19, SC 20, SC 21, SC 700, SC Hoverbus - more buses and good for sunny photos any time of the year, if you photograph them either in Edinburgh Road or as they enter The Hard. Best time is about 1130 to 1330 at the mo.
Portsmouth City Centre- the worst location for pedestrian but the best location for buses. You see the 1, 2, 3, 3A, X4, 7, 8, X9, 13, 14, 15, 19 and all Stagecoach routes. The sun can be a pain but there are some excellent shots available.
South Parade Pier- fewer buses than before - you only get 12x route 1s an hour, 6x route 7s an hour, 2x SC route 20s an hour and 6x SC route 23s an hour. Still is probably the best aesthetically-pleasing location though!
Cosham- the same amount of buses previously - 2, 3, 3A, 7, 7C weekdays, 8, the new SC20 and SC 23 along with the town services of route 12 and 22. I recommend either Northern Parade after 1pm, or Highbury Buildings (just north of the railway station) for any time of the day.
QA Hospital North Entrance- a little goldmine of a location since the changes. You can photograph the 2, 3, 3A, X9, 12, 22 and SC 20, and it is absolutely fine for low winter sun around 1200-1400. My Solo and Vario posted above were taken here.

Thanks for reading - I hope you've found the posts interesting.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

The New Portsmouth Network - Part 2

Tuesday's post saw me review the initial stages of the brand new First in Portsmouth network, focusing on routes 0, 1, 2, 3, 3A and X4. Today will see the other new routes reviewed - 7, 8, X9, 12 and 22. [There also several other unchanged routes to serve Portsmouth - the 13, 14, 15, 16 and 19 were only slightly affected by the network changes.]

With route 40 somewhat in decline, suffering from a shortage of Volvo B7RLEs, operated by Darts and only operating every 15 minutes, the new 7 seems to have been re-energised. Route 7 connects Southsea with Wecock Farm, but now at every 10 minutes. It is operated by the same branded Volvo B7RLEs, but these have also seen a refresh with new bluey-purple branding. 69382 (HY09AOU) is pictured heading through Cosham on a 7 for Southsea. 

Route 8 is the new 41 - and principally unchanged. Still every 15mins Mon-Fri, now every 15 on Saturdays and every 20 on Sundays. The Volvo B7RLEs' branding has not been updated except for the 41s being removed and the 8s added. In theory, Spring 2013 will see a delivery of something brand new for route 8 in conjunction with the status as a High-Quality Zip route - maybe this is a reason the branding has been left. It is crazy to think that 69400 (HY09AZJ) and it's sisters are two months away from being 4 years old...

As discussed in my Solo 734 piece, the X9 is a combination of routes X42, 45 and 45A. Here, former Devon & Cornwall 53006 (W806PAF) is pictured heading for The Hard. Until Monday, the First X9 competed with Stagecoach 20 on the QA Hospital to The Hard via M275 corridor. Stagecoach have moved away now - the 20 adds a greater Stagecoach presence to Cosham and Stamshaw now - so will the X9 loads increase? Time will tell - perhaps Solos and the narrow lanes will have to be moved away from this route.

The 12 is a new route connecting Port Solent with Northarbour Tesco, Cosham and Highbury college, and tends to be operated by the remaining First Mercedes-Benz 709Ds or Mercedes-Benz Varios. 51723 (P723KCR) does the honours here, on the first Sunday of operation.

The 22 is the second Cosham town service, connecting Paulsgrove with Cosham, Drayton and Farlington. The 12 and 22 provide Cosham with 4 buses an hour to QA Hospital, on top of the 12 an hour provided by the 2, 3 and 3A. The 12 and 22 are both operated by two buses Mon-Sat. Here former First Essex Vario 52581 (V481GTW) does the honours.

It is also worth pointing out here two further changes - Stagecoach have muscled in on the The Hard - Southsea corridor, operating route 20 Mon-Sat every half hour and route 23 on Sundays at three an hour. (Route 23 remains on its original route Mon-Sat).

In part 3 we'll look forward to potential further changes for the network and the new network from the photographer's point of view. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The New Portsmouth Network - Part 1

Due to various reasons, I haven't posted my sightings or photographs from the newly introduced First in Portsmouth network yet. Today I will put this right, and bring observations of the new network around the Portsmouth region.

We'll start with route Zero. This brand new route connects Tipner with North End, Southsea, Eastney and Hilsea and vice versa. This route seems to be mainly in the hands of Mercedes-Benz Varios and Dennis Dart SLF/Marshalls. Former First London 41636 (R636VLX) does the honours here, pictured in the bus turning circle at Tipner. Tipner is set for a transformation over the next year. By spring 2014, Portsmouth City Council expect a new junction to be built at Tipner, serving a brand new purpose built Park & Ride site. As a result, new Park & Ride bus services would connect Tipner to the city centre. Furthermore, there have been many suggestions to connect route Zero to the QA Hospital. With the forthcoming service review, it will be interesting to see what happens to the Zero - I can't see it remaining the same in 18 months time.

Next up, route 1. Route 1 is two circular routes operating every 10 minutes Monday-Saturday. It connects The Hard with Old Portsmouth, Palmerston Road, Southsea South Parade Pier, Eastney, Fratton and Portsmouth City Centre, and vice versa. Mon-Sat it seems to mainly see Scania Omnicity, although the odd Hilsea working is operated by Dennis Dart SLFs. Sundays sees Dennis Dart SLFs all the way though, which seem a bit poor for Portsmouth's premier city route. The oldest Dart SLF in the Portsmouth fleet - 41147 (P247OEW) - does the honours on the first Sunday of service.

Route 2 is a joint Hoeford-Hilsea route that connects Paulsgrove with the QA Hospital, Cosham, Eastney, Portsmouth City Centre and The Hard. It operates every 10 minutes Mon-Sat, and has some interworkings with route 1. There seems to be a discrepancy between the quality of buses put on route 2 by each depot. Where Hoeford allocates Scania Omnicities, Hilsea seems to operate Dart SLFs on the route. However, I know First are addressing this in the medium term, as second-hand Volvo B7RLEs are in the process of being sourced from elsewhere. Former London Dart 41348 (V348DLH) does the honours here.

The new route 3 is an interesting new route. Route 3 principally operates at every 20 minutes between Fareham, Portchester, Paulsgrove, the QA Hospital, Cosham, North End, Portsmouth CC and The Hard. Route 3A interworks with this to provide an every 20minute service from The Hard - Paulsgrove, but then terminating at Portsdown Inn, which route 3 does not serve. However, one route 3A an hour continues from Portsdown Inn to Portchester, Linden Lea and Fareham. The route seems to be primarily operated by Volvo B10BLEs, although sometimes a Dart SLF or Omnicity may sneak onto the route. Here is a view of former First Sheffield 66202 (S802RWG) outside the QA Hospital's North Entrance.

Route X4 also serves Portsmouth as part of the Solent Ranger network, operating to Southampton every 20 minutes. Routes 5 and 6 are Fareham-Gosport routes which will be featured in the future. Routes 7, 8, X9, 12 and 22 - the other new Portsmouth routes - will be featured in Part 2. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 6th January

With the dull, grey weather recently making it very difficult for good quality photography, my first Sunday Lost Scenes of the year takes us back to summer 2007...

Southern Vectis 719 - TIL6719 (G719WDL) - Bembridge - 9th August 2007

The first of these grand old buses are leaving the services of Go Ahead. This batch of all-Leyland Olympians have provided years of sterling service for firstly Southern Vectis, before moving onto Wilts & Dorset and/or Damory. These buses suited many of the liveries that they wore - however I've got to say the mushroom and cream Southern Vectis livery, and the Best Impressions livery - as illustrated above - were the best in my opinion.  

TIL6719 was one of 7 Vectis Leyland Olympians to join the Damory outfit of Go Ahead South, following the delivery of Scania Omnicity double deckers to Southern Vectis. 719 was last allocated to Poole. Two of its sisters - G715/6WDL - have been bought by Xelabus - and one was at the Winchester Running Day on 1st January.

Here's to brighter and dryer times ahead this year - and to think we started 2012 with hose pipe bans and drought warnings! Down south at least it is supposed to turn sunny, cold and crisp by the end of the coming week - a perfect January day.

Friday, 4 January 2013

A Unique Solo

First acquired a one off Optare Solo in 2003. It entered the fleet as number 734, and was registered as YN03ZVW. It was the first new bus at Hoeford depot since the 1998-9 delivery of Volvo B10BLEs - and most of the later examples went to Hilsea anyway. It would also be the last brand new bus to enter service at Hoeford until the recent Eclipse Volvo B7RLEs, that entered service last year. 

734 entered service on the recently launched Sainsburys Shopperbus routes. The 51, 52 and 53 operated weekdays and served the suburbs of Fareham, such as Titchfield, the Highlands and Wallington. All routes were operated by this Solo when it entered service. It is pictured here in its first week of service - looking excellent, even if the dot matrix display hasn't quite been programmed with correct grammar. 

This meant that 743 was free on Saturdays and Sundays. On Saturdays it tended to operate any of the routes operated by small Darts or Mercedes-Benz 709Ds, and I have photos of it operating routes 63 (Whiteley and Havant), 78 (Southampton via Bitterne) and 94 (Wickham), amongst others. However, during summer 2003 it was released onto the Summer Special route 65. Route 65 only lasted for one year, and operated from Fareham railway station to Staunton House, via Fareham, Portsdown Hill (Fort Nelson Armoury) and Havant. It is pictured here having pulled up outside of Fort Nelson. Since 2003, has served Fort Nelson, and following the withdrawal of route 38 in 2009, no service* buses serve Portsdown Hill. 

January 2004 saw the addition of two further Solos from Bradford to the Hoeford fleet. January also saw First's national fleet numbering system reach First Hants & Dorset, which saw YN03ZVW being numbered 51239. However, the number was duly dropped a few months later, and the Solo was renumbered 53151. In 2005, with the delivery of a new Solo to Hilsea, it moved over to Portsmouth, to operate the contracted-low floor service 45A - connecting Portsmouth city centre with Cosham, the QA Hospital, Waterlooville and Denmead. 53151 has remained at Hilsea ever since. 

Today, YN03ZVW is one of 5 Solos at Hilsea that rotate on the new X9 route. The X9 is a combination of the former X42, 45 and 45A routes, connecting The Hard with Portsmouth City Centre, the M275, QA Hospital, Waterlooville and Denmead every half an hour, with hourly extensions to Hambledon. It has been observed by enthusiasts the Solos are struggling for capacity at times, and with new buses for Portsmouth expected over the course of 2013, it will be interesting to see where this unique Solo turns up over the coming months and years.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Welcome Back

I'd like to wish a Happy New Year to all. I hope those of you that went to Winchester today had a good time. Today seems as good as place as any to begin a new, irregular-ish feature I'm going to call Welcome Back. In this feature, I'll post a variety of photos that I'd lost on fotopic but have since returned after they opened up (what appears to be some of) their servers.

Following the demise of fotopic, I found that I had stupidly left a gap from summer 2003 until early 2004, where it appears I had forgotten to back up any of my photos. This meant I had lost the majority of my Leyland National photos, when the final 4 were in service with First Hampshire at Hoeford, and they were out and about on everyday work.

The last remaining Mk1 National in service with First was Volvo engined EEL893V - numbered 400 in the Hoeford fleet at the time. I was never lucky enough to catch it in service, but did photograph it at the last ever Southsea Spectacular rally in 2003.

I used to be rather useless at photographing the last Nationals. However, 401 (A301KJT) seemed to turn up wherever I was. It is pictured here in summer 2003 heading for Southsea on route 3. It is heading through Cosham at the time.
Here's another view of 401 - this time in Fareham bus station taken on 29th July 2003. It is parked up on route 26A - a route operated jointly with First and Solent Blue Line, connecting Fareham and Southampton via the A27 (26A) or Highlands (26), Botley, Hedge End and Bitterne. 
Another view of A301KJT here, pictured arriving in a rather murky Lee on Solent on a short 34. The 34 is now route 5, and operates hourly every day, interworking with route 4 (route 72) and 5A (route 35) to create a half hourly frequency from Gosport to Stubbington, and then Stubbington to Fareham.
My favourite shot that I'd lost is of the last Leyland National to earn money for First. 432 (NLP389V) was painted into the Green Provincial livery for the summer 2003 Provincial 125 celebrations. Fresh from paint (but sadly after the logos had been applied), 432 was parked up in Fareham bus station having pulled up out of service off of route 1. Route 1 is now no more with the recent Portsmouth network changes, although the bus still survives in preservation.

With NLP389V attending Winchester today, that brings us nicely back the beginning of the post. Again - apologies for the lack of posts recently. With Sunday Lost Scenes and the occasional "Welcome Back", plus other features, I hope to have a structure in place this year that will mean at least 7 or 8 posts a month.