Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Ryde & Southern Vectis update

A quick update from the Isle of Wight, based on sightings and photographs from Ryde over the weekend.

Following the fire on board one of Southern Vectis' Omnicity double deckers, two Volvo B7TLs with Plaxton President bodywork have been drafted in to cover. 1928 (W498WGH) is one of the two Volvos, and is painted in the ubiquitous Go South Coast livery, used initially for a variety of fleets (Damory, areas of Southern Vectis school services, Tourist Coaches). The dual door layout is very prominent in this view, as 1928 turns into Cross Street, in Ryde, heading for East Cowes on route 4.

The two former London PVLs that belong to Southern Vectis seem to be escaping to Ryde far more now than when they first arrived on the island - 1951 (PL51LDK) and its sister seemed to be rigidly allocated to route 5 whenever I visited for their first year or so in service, but now in my last two visits they've appeared in Ryde. Here is 1951 also heading off for East Cowes on route 4. The 4 interworks with route 37 in Ryde - the latter a route that has the potential for some wonderful country shots that I've never realised yet. Next time I get my car over, I may go hunting for more rural shots.

Here's the other one - 1952 (PL51LDN) heading for Newport on route 9. Both 1951 and 1952 retain their dual door layout, and are instantly recognisable in the fleet due to their shorter length than the native SV Volvo B7TLs.

New this year are cherished registrations on old Olympians. Rumoured to be the last year for these beasts on the open top services, 4637 - previously R737XRV but now XDL872 - heads off for a tour of the Downs.

Former Solent Blue Line 4641 (R741XRV) is now VDL744 while I also noted 4639 as WDL691. 4641 is pictured heading out of Ryde bus station, with railway bridge and Hovercraft Freedom 90 in the background.

Hopefully soon I'll be able to report on some of the Vectis Blue school fleet, which, unsurprisingly, are hard to find on a Saturday!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Sunday Lost Scenes - 28th April 2013

After visiting the island recently, I thought that I'd reminisce back 10 years or so, to when Southern Vectis introduced their first low floor buses onto the Isle of Wight.

Southern Vectis 100 - HW52EPK - Shanklin - July 2003

Southern Vectis introduced 7 Volvo B7TLs with Plaxton President bodywork into service in Autumn 2002. These all wore an updated version of the Island Explorer brand, which was used to advertise routes 7, 7A and 7B as they toured the island. These were very impressive buses in my eyes back then - I was used to step Darts, Leyland Nationals and Bristol VRs over in First Provincial land! 

I'm featuring this post as this batch are receiving their third coat of paint at present. The pleasant Island Explorer blue was disposed of in 2005 with the arrival of new MPDs and the return to a green-based livery. This livery was developed by Best Impressions and now is the livery that the service bus fleet wear on the island today - a livery that many think suits any bus. Now, the Volvo B7TLs are receiving their second coat of this livery, and third overall coat.

The President bodywork has always had admirers and haters. Some people feel it is too bland and boring. However, I've always been impressed by the style, and think that it looks excellent. The bonded glazing, as featured on 100, certainly helps the effect. 

Bringing it back to the modern day, here is 190, now numbered 1991 in the Go South Coast fleet, pictured on Saturday, heading off again for Sandown and Shanklin, but this time on a route 2 or 3 of the updated network.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Lymington update

The picturesque, coastal town of Lymington, on the border of the New Forest, is one place that is suffering from bus subsidy cuts and rising operational costs. I posted about the everyday services back in April 2011, when both the weather and bus services were far sunnier...

The latest breaking news is that Lymington bus station is the latest Go South Coast bus station to be closed. With only 4 scheduled hourly departures Mon-Sat, and being located in a prime location in the centre of Lymington high street, it seems a sensible decision to close the bus station. Early indications are that buses will turn around, and sit out of service at Lymington depot, next to Lymington town railway station. The scene last week was of an Olympian-fest, with Wilts & Dorset's BlueStar livered DAF 1663 (W163RFX) mixing up the scene. Like some of the railway closures, it will be interesting to see if in 20 or 30 years time, the closure of these bus stations is seen as a sensible decision. No date (that I can find) has been announced for the closure, yet.

Hands up if you thought the two-hourly frequency of the 56/56A would last when it became BlueStar 6? I certainly didn't - it had all the feeling of a service reduction. They originally were playing around with a short Southampton-Rushington trip to keep up the half-hourly frequency across some of the route, but now it is just down to one an hour. The three BlueStar livered Spectras are supplemented by a couple of Solos, which do the honours. This is 1665 (W165RFX), arriving in Lymington from Southampton. The destination is already set for the return journey.

The 119 was the next to be cut - the half hourly frequency to Pennington, was reduced to hourly, with the route extended to New Milton to cover service withdrawals there. The PVR is now two Solos rather than three (I believe) that covered the initial workings. This is 2675 (V675FEL), arriving in Lymington.

Breaking the trend, it is expected the X1 and X2 will see investment at some point of 2013, with the Scania Omncitys on the X3 cascaded to Lymington. These will replace DAF SB250/Optare Spectras and Volvo B7TLs. 1670 (Y199FEL) heads of to Bournemouth - a journey it has completed countless times before.

Rumour has it that at least some of the existing convertible Volvo B7TLs will move to Southern Vectis to replace the Leyland and Volvo Olympians next year on the Breezer services. This still has to be confirmed, I must stress. Here, 1826 (HF05GGJ) arrived in Lymington on an X1.

If an outside looks at Lymington's fleetlist, they will see a large allocation of Leyland Olympians. I must stress these seldom see service work. They often operate the Wednesdays only 118 to Ringwood, or sometimes sneak onto the X1, X2 or 6 - but these sightings are extremely rare. The Olympians tend to simply operate school work, or the Brockenhurst College services. Here is former Southern Vectis 4736 (K736ODL) heading through Lymington high street, somewhat catching me off guard as it heads through the town out of service.

The last service route operated by Lymington depot is the 112 to Beaulieu and Hythe. Again, due to subsidy cuts, the Mon-Sat 112 was cut to Tue/Thur/Sat, and most journeys curtailed at Beaulieu. This is the only arrival in Hythe - getting into the coastal town at about 2.30pm. I'm very glad the 112 still operates, and it is good to see that the funding is used to preserve bus services. The 112 bus operates the Ringwood-Christchurch 176 on Mon/Wed/Fri, and it is very important these communities still have their respective services, rather than them being cut altogether. 3662 (V662DFX) is pictured in Hythe yesterday, as I messed up the photo when I visited Lymington last week!

My only slight criticism of Go South Coast is that they don't seem willing to develop the network in the New Forest area. The BlueStar 6 had a complete rebrand, yet they still (2 years later) occasionally operate it with Wilts & Dorset livered buses. Intiatives such as First's X4 have shown already how patronage can grow, with appropriate branding. 

Furthermore, the New Forest (I assume) sees higher ridership levels in the summer - this is where their fantastic New Forest Tour is an excellent example of how a brand new route can be developed over the years (there are Red, Green AND Blue routes this year!). Remember the Bristol VRs started the service in 2004 (I think) - and look how well this route has grown. Even my idea of a "New Milton and Barton on Sea Breezer" is in operation this year, as the Blue New Forest Tour connects these two towns with Lymington, Burley and Brockenhurst.

Finally, Hythe and Ringwood do not have access to the main train line - now I know the Hythe rail-link failed to generate revenue in years gone by, but possibly a summer only Hythe - Brockenhurst - Burley - Ringwood, Hythe - Lyndhurst - Brockenhurst - Lymington, or Ringwood - Lyndhurst - Brockenhurst - Lymington service could generate money. If it carried on through September, it would also help ease the loads on BlueStar route 6 early in the academic year at Brockenhurst college. 

Ah well, what do I know? Better men and women than me probably know the answers!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Cancellation of the Watersider

I'm back! Or at least I'm going to try being back for a few weeks and see how long I can keep the posts up, with lots of new material and latest news happening at the moment. Since my last post there has been a whole host of route introductions, route cancellations, competition, new deliveries announced and new buses launched, so its going to be a bit of time before I cover everything.

I'm going to start with the rather sad cancellation of First's route 11 - the Watersider - in Southampton. The route was launched last Autumn with two Volvo B7RLEs, connecting Hythe with Applemore, Marchwood, Totton and Southampton. This was to fill a gap in the market, with BlueStar's route 8 expected to come off. Lo and behold, following First's route registration, BlueStar doubled the 8 and even introduced an hourly service on Sundays - a service the company tried to drop many years ago (I remember Velvet operating it in 2008). First's loads naturally didn't materialise, with supposedly the passengers for one service per hour now being split between three. 

The Watersider in all of its glory- former Yorkshire Volvo B7RLE 69246 (YJ07WFN) pictured at the now-closed Marchwood railway station, heading for Southampton on the 11. I looked at the loads on BlueStar's 8s and First's 11s, and I'd be surprised if either service is making either company any money. As an aside, as I was waiting, I heard two youngsters complaining about Marchwood station. "What's the point of having a railway station without running any trains to it?" they complained. Fair point - it was closed c.47 years ago - money may be made along the Hythe branch now...

The competition - BlueStar's Citaros on route 8. This one is 2431 (HX06EYZ), and is pictured outside Marchwood church. Since First's cancellation, BlueStar have already put in a route variation on VOSA... we await with baited breath to see if the 30-minute frequency and Sunday service remain...

On contract to HCC, First won the Hythe town services at the same time as launching the 11 commercially. Here is Southampton Dart 42411 (R411WPX) pictured loading passengers in the town centre.

To finish off, the other branded Volvo B7RLE. This time sister 69245 (YJ07WFM), pictured heading along the delightfully named "Prospect Place" towards Hythe Ferry Yard. This bus came in with about 3 passengers on, and left with three or four more. 

Having viewed the loadings today, I think First are making (unfortunately) the right decision. I also think BlueStar and First may had it right - one bus per hour. However, BlueStar are now stuck with two buses an hour or the certainty of a barrage of criticism if they reduce the frequency. 

Thanks for viewing.