Issue 63

Sunday 18th January 2004

next update week ending 30th January 2004

Please note that any comments made in this news page are those of the Editors' and in no way constitute 
any official points of view from the bus companies mentioned,  or indeed any other official body. 
As a news page we reserve the right to make valid comments as seen from an editorial point of view.

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The recent week has been one of considerable interest in our area with trials of a new 13.7 metre long coach in Oxford and the launch of two new initiatives by Bucks County Council in Aylesbury and High Wycombe. Bucks County Council have signed up to the Government's ten year plan to get passenger number up by 10% by 2010. The launch programme of the new services was covered in last week's page and this week there are photos of the two new operations in "the tin" so to speak.

On the debit side tough action is being urged in Oxford, after several attacks on buses by elements in one of the city suburbs. Missiles and even air rifle shots have been aimed at the buses and coaches using the London Road in the Headington area. The increase in problems have not been limited to Oxford and one coach on the London services last Saturday was hit by an air rifle shot at Action. One nearside window was broken, fortunately only the outer of a double glazed unit. However it does seem only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured. Thames Valley Police have launched the police helicopter over Oxford to follow buses and try to stamp out this wave of vandalism. There is even a dedicated police officer to investigate bus crime. Nationally it is reported that, in London and maybe other areas, some form of guards will be appointed to ride on buses and so we might see "bus marshals" not unlike "sky marshals" who ride on aircraft to stop hijacking. What is the world coming to?

On another safety note it is announced that members of the Oxford County Council's transport implementation committee have backed plans to implement a 20mph zone in the city centre. It is stated that although the limit will not be enforced by cameras or speed humps, signs will clearly mark the speed limit. Personally speaking I would suggest that a series of digital speed signs which illuminate with the speed of approaching vehicles would be the most effective measure to reduce speed. Some sort of similar device has been seen in use on Headington Hill recently and are also in use on the A34 at Hinksey in the 50mph limit.

As mentioned above trails took place last Thursday evening of a 13.7metre coach, when Stagecoach officials invited fellow bus companies and city officials to witness a series of clearance tests in the centre of Oxford. The weather was appalling but I secured a few photos to record the event.

Here the Buzzlines Neoplan is seen negotiating Carfax corner in heavy rain.
I was sheltering under an umbrella with my camera on a tripod.
It did not stop the odd drop getting on the lens but the basic record is there.

Another shot of the Neoplan this time rounding the corner from Castle Street.
A number of invitees can be seen under umbrellas witnessing the capability of the long coach
which also has rear axle steering.

Tests concluded at Gloucester Green Coach Station by which time I had to leave and so missed this part of the trials. I am told however that the station was almost clear of other coaches and nothing was parked on the layover bays behind. It would seem, and this is only a personal opinion, that such trials would also need to take place on a busy peak morning around 11am when GG is full of National Express coaches and many other coaches are returning from the morning peak to London. It seems that if one operator was to use such long coaches then surely it would be only a matter of time before other operators followed suit. Inevitably therefore if such coaches are to be permitted the whole station will have to redesigned to cope. Certainly the coming months promise to be most interesting.

Well, now on to the reports for our area. Your contributions continue and I am pleased to receive them each week. My thanks to everyone who sent information.

Malcolm Crowe, 18th January 2004.

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News of the local companies – 18th January 2004

After a shortage of news on Arriva I am pleased that this week we have news of new deliveries and some photos.

Steve Warwick writes "The three new Transbus Darts for the U9 are: 

3837 KE53NEU
3838 KE53NFA
3839 KE53NFC
    (note the ex Oxford serial NFC !!! Ed.) 

MPD 3482 (W482YGS) is currently at Garston being repainted in TfL red for a spare for the U9s. I believe the vehicle requirement is now three.

Indeed 3178 (P178 SRO) is now a Aylesbury based vehicle although it is still sporting Red Route 33, route branding. 

The new Transbus Dart 3829 (KE53NFG) was today on the 232 Thame-High Wycombe (unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me)

Chris Maxfield took a trip on Friday last a got this shot of 3837 in Uxbridge.

Today, Sunday, I took this shot of 3839 in Newlands Bus Station entrance.
All the U9 buses are in the depot on a Sunday

As mentioned in an earlier page the ex London Olympians have now gained
proper route number displays. Here 5853 shows off the large route number.

Carousel Buses, High Wycombe.

A Carousel Metrobus M524 on Rail Replacement recently.
Photo by Colin Cooke

Cressexpress - Silverlink (BCC)

Today, Sunday, was the first day of the Sunday 400A service operated by Ambassador Travel on behalf of BCC with new Ford 8 seaters. The service runs from Cressex via High Wycombe to Mill Road, Stokenchurch. There were no passengers on the inaugural journey and one hopes that there will be usage otherwise the service will not survive.

The first service at 1035 from Mill Road. The bus had arrived empty from Wycombe.

6 seats are provided in the body with two by the driver. A small ticket machine is mounted
on the dashboard. A sign says coach 3 and the registration carried is KX53DNO.

James sent the picture below saying "here is a picture of the Silver Rider that I took when I started my duty driving them yesterday"

YN53SUO on the new service in Aylesbury. Photo from James.

Colin Richardson wrote "I attended the launch at 09.30 hrs in Aylesbury Rail Station Forecourt. Plenty of media coverage - local Tv & radio locals papers on a VERY WET and dark morning;. Two trips to Fairford Leys for invited guests take place, before refreshments, as reported earlier, then off to Saunderton."

Ed Maun wrote "The new Silver rider service appears to use service no. 1 (departure screens in the bus station waiting room display SR 1) and appears to require 2 vehicles to maintain the 15 minute interval.    The vehicles in use today (Friday 16/1) were an overall white Optare Alero registered YN53 YGX (no silver rider branding) and one of the County rider Optare Solo’s in the new green livery.".



All five new Scania Irizars in espress livery have now arrived though nr 3 had not entered service at the time of writing. Nr 1 had its first outing on Friday evening on a night service and was my steed on the first part of  a Saturday London duty. It really is superb to drive a brand new coach and the passengers were most impressed.

Nr 1 seen on arrival at Victoria Coach Station still lacking a fleet number.
This will doubtless be applied by service on Monday.

This is another "toilet tale" this time in nr 1.
One for rail enthusiasts!!

Seen on the M40 on Friday last, coach 4 was the subject of filming for the shortly to be introduced
DVD safety videos to be shown on Oxford Bus express services.
(Before anyone asks, no I was not driving and not on the motorway.)

More coaches are returning from refurbishment and coach 22 is the latest so to do.

Coach nr 22 seen in Gloucester Green last Friday on the first day in service

A rear shot of coach nr 22 with a new cartoon not so far used on any other members of the fleet.

Scania nr 61 arrives at Central Bus Station, Heathrow on a X70 working. This was fleet number 39.
Photo by Chris Maxfield.

Adrian Lancer notes the following : 

Thu 15 Jan
Dart SLF 401 on 2 road.

Fri 16 Jan
820 - 5A

Adrian adds "It's nice that there is once again a family resemblance to the airport and London services. The resemblance becomes very clear in the dark when the blue/green and the yellow/orange start to look similar to each other."  (I'm not sure I fully agree though the layout has a family resemblance Ed.)

Phil Rumsby writes "Thanks for another excellent news page. However I must just say that I disagree with you on one point you make - that the X90 livery is "the greatest change to the service for 20 years". From my point of view, the start of a 24 hour service by Thames Transit in the early 90's was by far the biggest change compared to repainting the coaches and taking out a few seats. The old days of missing the last coach from
Oxford at 2220 or from London at 0040 are hopefully gone for ever!! I'm sure the customers left standing when the coaches go past the bus stops full up on Saturday mornings will be most impressed at the new livery and the fact that those luckily enough to get a seat will have a couple of inches extra leg room!"

I include those comments from Phil as I feel the page should reflect the views of the readers. I thereby have a chance to answer the comments and would say I was referring to the COMS/Oxford Bus operations in the past 20 years. I would look at the Oxford Tube service as another operator and not intended to be included as such. Certainly the leg room, charging points and livery change are very new for Oxford Bus operations on the X90 and inevitably reflect competition on the route. On the matter of Saturday morning peaks the route is often full for ALL operators and the increase to a 12 minute headway at peaks on the X90 should do a lot to address this problem. As a result it actually means more seats per hour rather than less!

On the fleet front coaches 96-99 (1-4) have now been withdrawn and are expected to leave the fleet in the next few days. Indeed 99 was used on Saturday evening on the 2245 Didcot-Banbury Rail Replacement service. It was the last one of the quartet to be in service with Oxford.


Steve Annells sent a photo of a P&R 600 branded Merc on the 44, X4 N4???? service and pictured in Abingdon. Can anyone answer what route it was working as the blinds seem to show N4? Steve says "I mentioned I'd taken a snap of a Churchill Park and Ride Stagecoach Mercedes on 44. It was lunchtime when I shot it! The photograph was taken at Abingdon Regal Cinema stop.  It was early afternoon and teeming down with rain; those blobs are not paranormal orbs, they're falling rain.  It was William's camera and I was much too far away; basically even blown up, everything is wrong with the shot. However, check the destination.  I had believed it to be a 44, but was it an X4? Definitely taking on passengers.  Having said that I have noted one of these Mercs on 44, but not with a camera in my hand!"

In reply I noted the blind display to Steve who says " Well, there's the rub - the 44 I believe now picks up in West St Helen, outside the Co-op, along with Whites' town service, but the impression I get is that it's a bit fluid because since the advent of the X4 not everyone (I'm a good example) knows which buses use which stops.  So although it undeniably shows N4 it could conceivably be an X4, although the 44 would normally be worked by this type of vehicle.  If pressed my money would still be on a 44.  If I get a chance I will try and confirm which services officially use which stop. West St Helen is a difficult issue, the oldies complain that the Town Council has taken away the disabled parking spaces, but in fact that's not the case,it's just where people used to park their cars for the Co-op.  Now they can't do it, and they're not happy.
The whole thing is subject to change in the future:  apart from ABITS there are plans to re-open the Old Gaol in Bridge Street as a combined leisure centre,
library and museum.  The County Hall (which currently holds the museum) overlooking the marketplace is unsuitable for use as a museum, but as an important listed building they have to find an alternative use for it.  Local people are not happy about the library being moved away from the surgery and the Day Centre - and the multistorey car park - and there's also resistance to making Stratton Way (planned to be two way traffic) the main departure point for bus services, and since the whole debate on Drayton Road's traffic problems seems to have come to an impasse, it could be years before it gets sorted out

The picture discussed above by Steve Annells.

Last Saturday evening two departures to Bicester were worked by M A N s, this one 22203 followed by 22932 on a 28.

Ex Cambridge 22057 (KV53FAA) was first seen by me in service last Saturday on the X4 service between runs at High Street.
Ironically later in the day one of the X4 branded Volvos was working a 31 service.

A comment from a Stagecoach source says "As to new Tubes, the recent staff newsletter says that it is likely that the Oxford Tube fleet is to be replaced in the spring. They are evaluating three options, 1) Upgrading the existing vehicles as per the work currently being carried out on fire damaged 50038, 2) Replace the fleet with new 12 metre double deckers, 3) Replace the fleet with new 13.7 metre double deckers."

Most interesting times ahead and a chance for another special news page issue.

Noted last week was 16524 on the X4 and last Saturday the same bus was on the U1.

Keith Wood from whom I have not heard in a long time writes "... latest news from
Warwickshire is at Rugby where ex Oxford Dart 32058 has finally entered service. Minibus 40654 is back in service ex loan at Leamington. At Nuneaton (Please Note I am now based here not Coventry / Rugby) the latest minibus repaints are 40148 & 40150. National 25402 (The Last One) is still doing it's regular Monday to Friday school run."

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This is a most interesting site which I do recommend

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