Sunday 20th March 2005
next update week ending 26th March 2005
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I am able to report on several interesting items this week but will digress from our area initially since chronologically this last week started with your Editor visiting Belfast.
Day Tripper - Belfast
Your Editor and friend Chris Maxfield spent Monday in Belfast on a "gricers" day out. I had never had the opportunity to visit Belfast for a "bus day" and so all was quite new to me. I enjoyed not really knowing too much about the Belfast scene and without a fleet book and only vague memories of Bus fleet news for what to expect enjoyed a really excellent day out.
Our day started with a trip to Gatwick on 0400 X80 service from Oxford. Coach 62 was rostered for this working and gave a very smooth and enjoyable run. The drivers p.a. was excellent as he bid us all a hearty welcome to the X80. Traffic at that early hour was light and we arrived in Gatwick, having called at Heathrow Central plus terminal 4, bang on time. We had ample time to check in for our 0715 Easyjet flight to Belfast, boarding the Airbus A319 and securing front row seats. (lots of leg room for Chris !!) On arrival at Aldergrove Airport we had a 15 minute wait for the Airbus service into the city. When the service (300) turned up it was a Scania with Wright bodywork and we left the Airport with a pretty decent loading with several stops en route. The one factor which surprised me was the £9 return fare for a 20 minute journey.
Scania 704 gave us a good if firm ride into Belfast City and lacked the luggage space normally provided by buses on this route.
After a Mcdonald's breakfast we set about photographing what the city has to offer. What a variety and a great mix of the old and the new. Whilst the Bristol Re s have now all gone there are still plenty of Leyland Tigers in service running alongside brand new Volvo BT7Ls with Alexander Dennis bodywork.
I have included a few interesting shots but can recommend a visit to Great Victoria Street garage which was within easy walking distance of the city centre.
A great mix of buses at the depot including a withdrawn Bristol RE. Many Tigers still in service carry these large advertising boards.
The view of Gt. Victoria Street depot from the road bridge. It appears to have included land which was once railway lines.
An old Leyland Leopard now converted into a tow bus for Ulsterbus.
One of the brand new Volvos 2969, seemingly on its third registration alongside an old Alexander bodied Leyland Tiger.
The latest issue of Buses magazine for April gives comprehensive information of the new Metro scene in Belfast and fleet details. Finally I was intrigued by these overall advertising buses for Heinz which were at another garage we visited.
We ended our day back at Aldergrove for the late flight back Gatwick having taken over 1000 photographs between us and having both enjoyed the day very much indeed. The buses are indeed fascinating in variety and age. The staff were all most helpful and friendly and the weather very kind until a downpour as the late afternoon light made photography less than acceptable. We then took the opportunity for a ride on one of the Mercedes Benz articulated buses in service on new route 1B. The outward journey was very busy but inbound we hardly picked up anyone at all.
Whilst this type of MB artic is familiar to me from my time in Germany the model is rare in the U.K.
I hope no one minds this diversion from our area to Belfast, I did personally find this excursion a very pleasant one indeed, especially the pint of Guinness and plate of Irish Stew for lunch.
Oxford's Bus Information system live
A significant event taking place over the past couple of weeks is the Real time bus information system in Oxford. The site can be viewed at this link - http://oxfordshire.acislive.com/ - and proves very interesting indeed. It appears that most of the Oxford Bus company vehicles are fitted with transmitters and so you can see buses as far away as Abingdon and track their progress. Each bus stop can be brought up in a separate screen and these update constantly if left live. In the case of Stagecoach buses on the 7, 25, 27, 28, 29 and U1 are also shown as the system is presently related to the Banbury Road corridor. Whilst it might not be compulsive viewing it is certainly a major step forward for bus travel in the Oxford area. The system does rely upon each driver putting the correct journey number into his ticket machine and of course the correct route number. From an observers point of view I would have preferred the maps to be slightly larger as it is not so easy to determine the locations with the present size, especially if you are not so well sighted. I hasten to add there is nothing wrong with my sight but if you look at the site you will see what I mean. I would also note that I have a 19" TFT screen so am getting a very good resolution. I understand that eventually the Tube will also be linked to the system and as mentioned before, the stop at Lewknor is now prepared for this facility.
George Street roadworks
Roadworks continue in George Street and I spent 20 minutes watching traffic on Saturday morning at the corner with Worcester Street. It is amazing how drivers seem to totally ignore the very clear signs placed to ensure the free flow of bus and taxi traffic at this point. George St is ONE WAY during the road works but this seems to escape some drivers as shown in my picture below.
One can only wonder at why there has not been a serious accident at this point since there is steady flow of traffic coming up George Street in the correct direction.
To add to this, as can be clearly seen in the next picture there are some rather large NO ENTRY signs and yet a number of motorists totally ignore these signs and turn into George Street from Worcester Street.
My pictures don't really capture the steady flow of traffic on George Street but I think the message is clear. I really do wonder how many drivers will be caught out when the cameras go live on the city centre later this year. The authorities are spending a lot of money on this matter and I read in The Oxford Times last Friday that Bus Lanes will also have camera enforcement.
My third picture shows the current very tight turn out of Gloucester Green for buses and coaches proceeding up George Street. Whilst one could expect the new longer Tubes to have a tight squeeze, it is noticeable that most shorter coaches leaving The Green are kerbing on their exit. In fact since the drivers on the Tube are now well used to the longer length they are "kerbing" far less at this point than other operators.
March in London last Saturday causes delays to Oxford-London operations
Last Saturday there was a large march in London which caused the closure of Park Lane for several hours. This resulted in some significant diversions on both the services of the X90 Oxford espress and The Oxford Tube. Running times were up to two and half hours for both operators and X90 coaches could be seen in Notting Hill and Kensington Church Street and both operators were also using Sloane Street to get to and from Victoria. An alternative outbound route was from Victoria via Pimlico Road, South Kensington and the Kings Road to get to Notting Hill Gate. I wonder if anyone got pictures of coaches on these diversionary routes?
Ex Reading Titan YJB68T
Martijn Gilbert writes to say "Having been on the internet I came across your excellent website. In issue 112 you quote 'Midland Routemaster also own ex Reading Titan YJB68T (usually parked overnight at Bleak Hall)'
I can confirm that this vehicle is still owned by us (Centra) and was merely on short term loan to this operator, along with Volvo Citybus NCME G119MGN which was also on short term loan for a period. Both are now off loan and back in the Centra fleet!
Martijn Gilbert Operations Development & Infrastructure Manager Centra (Central Parking System of UK Ltd)."
Thanks to Martijn for the update.
An unusual bus from Kevin Stephens
Don't you just love this picture submitted by Kevin this week. French of course.
the timetable booklets for Slough/Windsor Running Day on Sunday 17th April are now available price £5 inclusive of postage from
Cheques payable to Amersham & District Motorbus Society please.
For those in the Oxford area there is a special X20
Returning from Slough @ 13.25 & 17.25
There are 136 scheduled departures from Slough Bus Stn on the day
Now on to this week's News and photos. Thank you to everyone who has contributed this week.
Malcolm Crowe - Sunday 20th March 2005
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News of the local companies – 20th March 2005
Abbey Coaches, High Wycombe
Gavin Francis sent this picture of the latest acquisition by Abbey. It appears to be an interim livery and I am told should be painted all over green.
Entry into service of the route 31 branded Volvos is now set for very early April. When I visited Newlands Bus Station this morning I was able to get the pictures below of the first of the batch, 3861, now at Wycombe for driver training.
3861 seen in the bus station with the rear view giving a comparison between brandings for the 31 and 33.
Two interior views of the new buses
The drivers cab on 3861 which appeared very compact.
Whilst taking pictures and generally having a look to see what was around I noticed several buses had some pink substances on their front dash panels. anyone know what is going on?
5133 displays the pink substances ????
Vario 2198 with its new destination screen was working a 329 departure to Reading this morning.
Dave Stewart writes "Arriva tell me that they are now targeting Monday 4th April as the first day for the B7RLEs to enter service on the 31 in Wycombe. Numbers are 3861-67, of which 3862 is at Wycombe, 3864/5/6/7 parked at Aylesbury, 3861 is (I think) parked at Stevenage and 3863 was still in Northern Ireland last week."
Well as we can see above 3861 is now at Wycombe but I was told this morning there is one at Stevenage as well.
When passing by the main yard this morning I notice L563 in a rather good position for a rear view shot showing off its branding. I wonder, did this bus get a total repaint or was the deep red applied over the old all red livery?
The Enviro 300 demonstrator was still on loan to Oxford last week and continues to be confined the the Minchery Farm route.
Ben Morroll was in London on Saturday at Victoria just in time to get this picture of coach 56 on an X90 working in VCS. I had earlier seen coach 11 on an X70 working to Heathrow.
The second ex London Dart appeared in service on Tuesday and I managed a picture from our staff transport as we made our way down The high.
This may have been 411 s first day in service.
The second picture shows how well the new destinations screens have been applied.
They must be some of the largest screens fitted to the rear of Darts in the U.K.
Another shot of the second of the two Darts, 412, this time on route 16 which I always understood they were purchased for.
Ian Pinnell writes "I like the new BUSNET Map for the new Real Time Displays. Very informative. Especially the map of the City Centre and the times information. Very informative."
Ian adds "Trident 102 seen on a 2 road working this week (16/3/05)"
Here are some more observations by me today (17/3/05)
Oxford Bus 651 was on the 2A towards Kidlington, although the front blind had the company logo displayed.
Our friend Bus Monkey sent several reports this week
412 on 13
604 on 5
403 on 2
818 on 4A
807 on 6
834 on 13
411, 412 on 13A
631, 642 on 15
413 on 16
646, 827 on 400 - 646 noted in morning, 827 morning and evening
Coach 21 runs along Worcester Street on diversion due to the works in George Street.
Volvo 609 passes through the "bus gate" in Worcester Street.
Martyn Banham writes "Oxford Bus have repainted Volvo 606 back into more normal fleet livery. however the red used appears to be far brighter than usual."
606 at Headington shops inbound to Oxford - Picture by Martyn Banham.
Gavin Francis sent this picture showing 827 now returned from repaint
but working on green route 300
Nigel Peach writes "I've noticed in your pages that you no longer seem to have reports from one of your previously regular contributors, Neil Gow.
However, I thought you'd like to know that there is a very interesting letter from him in the new Buses April magazine about his experiences on getting from his home in Maidenhead via First Berkshire to his work in Slough."
Indeed having read this letter it does make an interesting point regarding reliability of First in this area. I had a friend at work who lived in a suburb of slough and he found it impossible to use the bus for work due to the fact it was totally unreliable.
I did, at the time, find it difficult to imagine that any bus service could be that bad but here we have yet another example.
M K Metro
Matt Cooper writes regarding new deliveries. He Says "We have had a delivery of two brand new Optare Solos, numbers 26 & 27 (YJ05JXU/JXV) which are the 10.2M long variety and can seat 37 as well as space for a wheelchair. These vehicles, like all new examples in the fleet have CCTV fitted. They both entered service on the 16th.
One of the new Solos and also an interior shot both by Matt Cooper. departs Gloucester Green on a 7757 working bound for Stansted.
Coach D2 departs Gloucester Green on a 7757 working bound for Stansted.
Following my visit and report in last week's issue of this page I received the following comments from Rob Williams saying "In response to some of the questions in the latest OCBP. Reading Buses - the interior in the new Wright Solars matches that in the new Scania OmniDekkas that were launched in November, except that the interior vinyls in the Solars are green to match the livery, whilst the OmniDekka's internal vinyls are purple. The Solars haven't been treated to the same detailed interior branding that the OmniDekkas were."
Monkey writes "on
150305 Mercedes N802GRV was on the 275 as it was again later in the week."
I thought the 275 was supposed to be a low floor tendered route ? Ed.
An action shot of 18134 as it round the island in Witney and turns into Corn Street
Rob Williams writes "MANs on X4 - the X4 is probably better suited to longer vehicles than the 10 where some of the roads and turns are a little narrow. The BMW MAN can appear on any MAN duty when not doing tours or uni work, hence its workings in the city are not unusual.
However I did see it on an X4 duty last week and I had not personally heard of it working the X4 before Ed.
Bus Monkey reports:
32367 on 100 this morning
and according to a report on UK Bus Fleet news by Richard Sharman, 16519 and 18132 are this year's contribution from Oxfordshire for the Cheltenham Races.
Richard Sharman then writes that M85/6WBW are in use at Cheltenham, looking very smart.
Chris Lowe says "As well as photos of the former Oxford Olympians that you mentioned me taking and sending to you. I have just remembered another former Oxford vehicle I can try to get for you, this being Plaxton Pointer bodied Dennis Dart 32048 (N48EJO) which is in use at Stockport, Charles Street garage on route 11 (Stockport - Altrincham) for which it also carries route branding. When I manage to catch up with the vehicle I will send you a copy of this as well for your Oxford & Chilterns page. His two photos appear below and I must compliment him upon their quality.
I find the picture of the Dart somewhat nostalgic since I used to ride on the Altrincham-Stockport service as a schoolboy and when I was going to visit North Western's Charles Street works after school in the early '50s. In those days the bus was more than likely to be a Leyland bodied low bridge PD2 or even a Weymann bodied one, also lowbridge. Also who would have imagined an ex Oxford Dart turning up on one my old local routes up in the north west.
The X5 continues to provide a good selection of coaches and is also affected by the diversion due to roadworks in George Street.
Volvo coach 62436 comes along Worcester Street heading for its layover at the rail station last week.
Chris Lowe writes "I have taken a photograph of the vehicle on the 17:30 journey from Manchester to London again this evening. Although the vehicle is not as interesting as last weeks London Volvo Olympian, however it is still an unusual working.
As I understand it, the 11:00 from London to Manchester and the 17:30 return from Manchester to London on Fridays and Sundays are operated by Stagecoach London's Leyton Garage.
However today I saw the vehicle arrive at 16:45 and just before leaving at 17:30 and it was Stagecoach Manchester's normally Princess Road based 13654 (J688 TNF). I presume a London based vehicle had broken down somewhere and this had been used as a replacement vehicle.
I have attached a photo of this normally Manchester based vehicle just after it had arrived at Chorlton Street.
Just a bit of further news over the Megabus seen operating the 17:30 journey from Manchester to London on Sunday.
As I mentioned the journeys mentioned are as far as I understand them to be, operated by Stagecoach London's Leyton garage.
On Mondays (14th Mar) 10:45 Manchester to London journey which is usually a Princess Road vehicle, the surprise was that this one was being operated by another Northern Counties bodied Volvo Olympian, although I didn't manage to see which one as I was driving past on the bus.
This makes me think that as I suggested a London vehicle broke down somewhere and Princess Road based 13654 was deputising. I presume the 10:45 journey today was being used to get the vehicle back to London and that maybe Manchester 13654 will return Monday evening."
Thames Travel, Wallingford.
The company advises that they will operate an X20 service to Slough for the rally/running day as an extension of an Oxford service.
154, the new double decker (The Pink Lady" works a 105 service last Saturday.
This demonstrator Mercedes 616 is filling in the missing new MB low floor for the 17.
however as this one has a manual gearbox it use is limited to where a suitable driver is available.
Hence we see it here in Wheatley on the 103 connector.
I am told the new bus will not be here before April.
Whites of Abingdon
Bus Monkey writes KB51CGU on 108 - is this also new?
Ralph Adams replies "KB51CGU has been owned for quite a while. It was purchased as the spare for the low floor fleet.
My records from a few months ago were as follows.
T645HBF Didcot Town
GX03CCJ 108 Holton
However I recorded T645HBF on the Henley service last week, Ed.
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