Thursday, 20 June 2013

2013 in Taunton

There is a lot of speculation over the future of bus services in Taunton at the moment. With the depot of the erstwhile Southern National operation providing the majority of the town's services, First is retreating ever more. Webberbus are encroaching upon the network, and Stagecoach are around too following their takeover of Cook's Coaches in 2009. The last time I visited Taunton was three years ago - what will Taunton look like in another three years?

First's premier route is the 21, connecting Taunton with Bridgwater and Burnham-on-Sea. The route is operated by twelve year old former Bristol Park & Ride Volvo B7Ls, which received very smart route branding last year. This is 66355 (MV02VEL), pictured heading out of the town on 31st May.

The town services are operated by a mixture of Enviro200s and Optare Solos - the Mercedes Minibuses removed since my last visit by further Solos and route cuts. I rode on 45114, which I must say sounded as if it had real mechanical problems with it - the shuddering while the bus was stopped was a new experience! Here is sister 45113 (YX58FRL), heading passed the railways station. These are the youngest buses First uses in Taunton.

Back in 2010, Town route 4 was in the hands of Darts new in 2005. Now, route 4 is operated by Darts new in 1998 and 1999. The majority of the '05' Darts have been moved to other depots. First transforming travel? Here is 42825 (S825WYD) heading along Corporation St.

Another example of a depreciation in quality. Back in 2010, route 54 was branded an operated by '55' plate Volvo B7RLEs. Now, in 2013, the 54 was operated by Volvo B7Ls new in 2002. This is former First York 60917 (YG02DKV), which I must say was sparking and very smartly presented.

One of the most recent arrivals was this 1997 Dart SLF from First Southampton. New to Glasgow, 40786 (R290GHS) was pictured heading out of Taunton on the 25A. I must say all First buses were externally exceptionally presented - ok, less hard when the sun is shining but certainly credit where it is due.

Volvo Olympians rule the roost in Taunton, with a number of examples that first saw service in Bristol now around the town. Here is 34173 (S673AAE), heading out of the bus station having just arrived from Axminster on route 30.

Following the takeover of Cook's Coaches, Stagecoach have heavily retreated in Taunton. They had a noticeable presence in the town back in 2010, but now the only routes observed were the 99 to Yeovil, and the 20 to Seaton. On the former, here is Optare Versa* 25256 (WA09KWN) arriving along Castle Way.

The problem for both the major groups may be Webberbus, a very impressive local independent that seems to have massive amounts of money to spend on very young or brand new buses. Here is one of a number of brand new Wright Streetlites in service around Taunton- MX13BBF is pictured arriving on route 18.

Since my last trip, Webberbus have also taken over the Taunton Flyer Park & Ride service from Stagecoach (and prior to that, Cook's). Versas were introduced in 2010 in a retro-Badgerline style livery. Here is YJ60LTT heading along Corporation St.

Following problems for Webberbus in Weston-super-Mare, the green and yellow Solos in service to the north were transferred south to upgrade Taunton town services. Here is YJ10EYW arriving in Taunton to load passengers for route 27.

Taunton is certainly an interesting place at the moment. Stagecoach seem to have the routes they want - simply the 20 and 99 - and First seem to be withdrawing further more into a core network. Since my last visit, the 2 and 23 have been cut, the 29 has been reduced in frequency, the 92 no longer goes to Exeter and many of the younger buses have been moved to other fleets. Webberbus seem to be doing very well with their young, vibrant fleet. What will the future hold?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The First Hants & Dorset Enthusiast's Website

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a little self-publicity. Therefore, this post is dedicated to my First Hampshire & Dorset Enthusiast's website, which has recently been woken up, refurbished and upgraded, with further changes to come in the future.

Firstly, the home page has been refreshed. I've added an introduction, as I realised the last version didn't actually introduce you. Along the bottom are menu columns taking you to various parts of the website, and one box which tells you what is updated most recently.

With recent problems involving our previous forum provider, local enthusiasts and IT guru Matt has created a new forum for First Hants & Dorset enthusiasts. Membership is free and you can sign up yourself, for those interested. With Southampton taking over the management of First Berkshire, we are especially looking for a few Slough, Bracknell or Reading members, so if you fancy joining a friendly forum then please feel free to create yourself an account. The rules and guidelines are available on the forum, but are based on usual enthusiast etiquette.

The fleetlists are all up to date at present across First Hants & Dorset's Hilsea, Hoeford, Empress Road, Weymouth and Yeovil* depots. In the coming weeks, either the photos will be re-uploaded since fotopic's demise, or I will change the layout to include the history of a bus. I'm not sure what to do yet - time will decide. *Note- Yeovil buses still have FHD legals on the side, so we are still counting them as FHD at present.

Finally, a new feature launched with the refurbishment are my FHD route guides. These are perfect for the visiting enthusiast, documenting what routes are operated in the town or city, what buses operate the route, the estimated PVR from enthusiast observations, and good places to take photographs. These are regularly updated with sightings from members of the forum. Southampton is being created offline, and may be later than the other three areas due to the forthcoming service changes.

All comments are welcome, from existing or brand new visitors. I hope enthusiasts find this website helpful. Finally a huge thank you to the members of the FHD forum, who make my life running this website very simple - your efforts are much appreciated.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 16th June

Today, we look back to Oxford in 2006.

City of Oxford 631 - P631FFC - Oxford (High St) - 7th August 2006

My first visit to Oxford was back in August 2006. With the prospect of applying to Oxford for university, I visited the city and various sites of important university interest in the morning. In the afternoon, I got the camera out... perhaps why I didn't end up in Oxford in the end. The City of Oxford fleet is one of the most rapidly changing fleets in the country, regularly buying in new buses and then quickly cascading them to sister Go Ahead fleets. Very little of what I saw in 2006 remains, with the Oxford Bus Company presently cascading the remaining T-reg Dennis Trident double deckers/

The photo above is of dual-doored Volvo B10B 631 (P631FFC), which has Plaxton Verde bodywork. Verde bodywork is now very rare countrywide, but at this point there were still large numbers of Lances and B10Bs around the country carrying it. 631 is also seen in the older white, red and blue City of Oxford livery - at this point it was gradually being phased out, with even a number of Volvo B10Bs in the new red based colours at this time. 

Since my last visit on a Sunday in April last year, the Oxford Bus Company has purchased some brand new Volvo B5LH hybrid double deckers, and will receive diverted Southern Vectis Enviro400s before the end of the year - before then getting some new buses themselves. With Stagecoach equally prominent in the city, Oxford is one city of buses that doesn't ever stand still.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Sunday Lost Scenes - Sunday 2nd June

Today's Sunday Lost Scenes comes from Sunday 24th July 2005 - presuming I've got my records right...

Falmouth Outstation on Tregoniggie Industrial Estate, July 2005

From front to near:
46102 - already withdrawn at the time this photo was taken in reserve, now scrapped
34709 - was Barbie'd during its time with FDC but has since been withdrawn
38872 - long withdrawn
53007 - now with First Cymru, I believe
48270 - now in Weymouth
38873 - again, long withdrawn
48271 - still with FHD in Plymouth
41154 - withdrawn with FDC - I don't think this ever made it to First Cymru
46160 - ex-First Thamesway, again long withdrawn at FDC
42457 - now in Southampton with First Hampshire & Dorset
48273 - now in Weymouth (the Corlink branded example)
48272 - the other side of 48273, and again with its sister vehicle in Weymouth
53005 - I believe this is another one in First Cymru (Bridgend, I think)

So from all of the fleet posted above, a view taken eight years ago, no buses are in service in Falmouth, and only one remains in the First Devon & Cornwall fleet...

Saturday, 1 June 2013

New Gas Buses* in Reading

Reading Buses are in the process of introducing a batch of 17* Scania KUB270/Enviro300 buses powered by Gas. These are some of the first to be introduced into the country, and feature extra-large covers to make the gas tanks more aesthetically pleasing. The buses are being split across two routes - Greenwave Park & Ride services and the Scarlet route 9.

Last Thursday, I popped out the front of Reading railway station en-route to another location, and grabbed a couple of the brand new Enviros in service. According to the excellent Bus Zone website, the Scarlet batch of buses was only introduced to service on 28th May. Here is 417 (YR13PNU) pictured three days later.

The reason I've starred the 17 above is that 3 further buses are to enter service on other routes too. These are two for Bronze route 11, followed by one in standard Reading Buses fleet livery. The fleet will be numbered 401 to 420 when it is fully in service. Here is another bus in the batch - this time vehicle 415 (YR13PNK).

Scarlet 9 operates at a frequency of every 10 minutes between Monday and Saturday until late afternoon, when the frequency becomes every 12 minutes until about 6pm(ish). Greenwave is again a route with a frequency of every 10 minutes, although this becomes more irregular after 4pm (there is still a good number of 5-6 buses an hour until 7pm though). Greenwave does not operate on Saturday

These buses are very impressive beasts, and well worth a look if you are in the area. These Enviros have replaced Volvo B7RLEs on route 9, which have been taken out of service with the arrival of the new buses. Another fourteen are to be ordered, again according to the Bus Zone website, which should add further variety to the Reading fleet.