Tuesday 30th September 2003
next update week ending 11th October 2003
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Last Sunday was the annual day out to Duxford for Showbus which as ever turned out dismal and wet for a greater part of the day. However a number of interesting photos were taken and are included in this news page.
However my heading picture was provided by Phil Rumsby who took his photo from a hot air balloon as he passed over Charlton-on-Otmoor and the Charlton Services depot on a recent Sunday morning. The time was 6am and one can just imagine the peace and tranquillity associated with such a trip and the nearly full yard of Charlton at this early hour. One can make out various buses and coaches including the ex Oxford Olympian. Indeed as can be seen in this report there are still quite a number of ex Oxford Olympians operating in our area and wouldn't it make a great sight to have a rally, maybe at The Oxford Bus Museum of these buses before too long and dispersal starts to take place. Apart from one or two still working for Oxford there are examples with Charlton, Jeff's, Wootten's and Worth's to name but a few. Further afield Confidence of Leicester also have examples still in service.
a service to Penn on the 363 and also the 305 to Beaconsfield. Arriva also provided Lynxs to run a historic route, the 37 to Henley via Lane End and Fingest. I was in time to see the first departure on the 37 operated by Lynx 3070. A number of photos were taken including it passing through Lane End and Fingest. It must be many years since a large bus went through that village.
Phil Rumsby's photo of Charlton-on-Otmoor taken at 6am on a recent Sunday morning.
To wet the appetite for an Oxford Olympian gathering a Worth's example was at Duxford.
Worth's ex Oxford Olympian BBW216Y seen at Showbus.
Indeed ex Oxford Bus vehicles were very well represented at Showbus with an ex Citylink Leopard, RFC13T, subsequently rebodied by Willowbrook with a Warrior bus body.
Emblings Willowbrook Warrior bodied Leyland Leopard RFC13T at Duxford..
Niz who is much involved in the Oxford Playbus project was at Showbus with their recently acquired Leyland National Greenway which has been converted into a special needs vehicle for people with various emotional problems including autistic children. This bus visit schools, residences and even private homes to bring much need care and treatment for sufferers needing special treatment.
The double deck featured in these pages some months ago alongside the recently acquired Greenway single deck.
The interior of the Greenway has facilities including special lighting effects which can help emotionally disturbed people and bring much need comfort. I must say it was most comfortable and welcoming and I tempted to rest my weary feet - one walks milers at Showbus - especially when dodging rain showers later.
The cost, exceeding £100,000 was sponsored by the National Lottery, drawing many favourable comments
about the way in which this money had been spent.
On the London front I felt this RT reflected our area of coverage, especially as the 301 used to traverse much of the Chilterns on its way to Aylesbury all those years ago.
Richard Sharman, a young man whose enthusiasm for buses has been one of a number of years now - I first met him at Gloucester Green as a 13yr old - now works for Stratford Blue and brought this Tiger to Showbus. It was formerly an Oxford Tube having started life with Southern National, Devon as a National Express coach. It was originally B896YYD and is now B167XBU (an Oldham registration once upon a time)
Richard had ensured full details were displayed on the coach which looked pristine and a credit to its present operator and driver.
Michael Wootten is a Leyland fan and his company has acquired a number of this brand. His most recent purchase is this ex Wycombe Bus/Arriva The Shires example E227CFC. Looking much as it did when new to COMS, 227 started life as a dedicated Park & Ride bus in white without destination blinds. It was subsequently green and then survived for a long time in an advertising livery at Wycombe. Single door conversion took place on transfer from Oxford to Wycombe.
The hearside of 227 showing the excellent Leyland wheel trims. Good work Michael.
Trevor Wilson noted in his photograph that the Arriva web site was still featured on the upper deck rear window of 227.
Finally on Duxford another operator from our area is Red Rose of Aylesbury who sent their latest Optare Solo, RR03BUS, to Showbus. It is more normally found on the 275 from High Wycombe to Oxford.
Full details of what was at Showbus 2003 can be found at http://www.showbus.com/subind1.htm
Coach & Bus Show, NEC 2003
I visited The Coach & Bus Show at the NEC last week and although there were very many interesting exhibits found this bus featured below to have the most interesting points and innovations for a double deck. Indeed I think that from my first Show at Earls Court in the late '50s, this represents the most innovation from a passenger point of view for many years.
Using the Wright Eclipse Gemini as a base, Harrogate & District have packed in many novel features. The livery is very eye catching although one wonders how the silver vinyls will stand up to a daily bus wash. Also I could not help but wonder how much effort can be expended to keeping the livery pristine, with the possibility of broken windows and damaged panels.
That apart, it is nevertheless a very striking bus and must make a considerable impression on the road between Ripon and Leeds when it enters service.
The interior is even more impressive, with a welcome mat - route 36 branded - at the door and this striking vinyl just behind the driver.
Everywhere the 36 motive is to be found, especially on seat headrests. In the lower saloon the seats are fabric covered but upstairs leather seats of a sumptuous design make a distinct impression on travellers. The use of TFT screens to give journey information is most useful and a great help to passengers, especially those unfamiliar with the route.
Last Saturday there was march in London causing much delay plus an incident in Oxford's High Street which resulted together in producing the scene shown below. Gloucester Green at 1615hrs almost devoid of any vehicles at all.
The situation lasted for only about 15 minutes whereafter three Tubes arrived in a rush plus two or three National Express coaches and an open topper. However the picture below is rather unusual for a Saturday afternoon.
There are a number of operators serving Oxford but the three majors are Oxford Bus, Stagecoach and Thames Travel. My photo below captures all three in the current liveries if one accepts that the new Oxford Bus livery is still not finalised.
The Stagecoach PS is on the new X4 and came from Cambridge to Oxford sometime ago now.
Much a feature of discussion in the South Oxfordshire area recently has been the changes to bus services, especially those provided by Stagecoach. One of my correspondents writes "The Moretons and Astons Shuttle linking Didcot with villages to the south has gone from Abingdon Minicoaches to Abingdon Taxis. My mother reports a 'glorified people carrier' running the service - I'll try and find out what, but the description suggests either a people carrier or a Sprinter-type vehicle.
The fare revisions announced by Oxford Bus for the Abingdon area will go some way to mollify South Abingdon bus users angry at being abandoned by Stagecoach. I understand one side effect of the revisions is the use of an additional double decker on school contracts into Abingdon in place of a coach, but as yet I don't know from which operator.
Incidentally, in 1965 the journey time from Drayton Green to Gloucester Green, Oxford was 35 minutes, on the hourly joint City of Oxford/Thames Valley 12 service Oxford-Newbury.
In 1974 the journey time between the same points on the hourly joint Oxford-South Midland/Alder Valley 112 service was 39 minutes (Alder Valley) or 37 minutes (Oxford). This was immediately prior to the opening of the Abingdon Bypass, which was not exploited by bus operators until much later.
In 1999 the best journey time was 30 minutes from Drayton Green to Castle Street, Oxford, on Stagecoach Oxford's half hourly 32A service.
In 2003 the best journey time is 42 minutes from Drayton Green to St Aldates on the half hourly Oxford Bus 35A.
The new vehicles planned for delivery to both Oxford and Stagecoach should introduce regular low floor bus operation to Abingdon for the first time. At present the best chance of a low floor bus is on Thames Travel's Wallingford service or Weavaway's Sunday service.
Showbus confirmed my suspicion that the 'new' and still quite unpleasant Oxford Bus livery as modelled by two Volvo B10s is a slight variation on the Best Impressions livery for Trent Barton, and I was most amused to see the green Stagecoach Park and Ride 'decker, which would not look out of place in the Oxford Park and Ride fleet. I take it this variant on the standard Stagecoach livery is another Best Impressions design? This bus livery design business is a doddle, methinks.
Lastly, next Monday/Tuesday see the annual Michaelmas Fair in Abingdon, with attendant disruption to services as Ock Street and High Street are closed and Stratton Way goes two-way. Nearly as disruptive is the following Monday's Runaway Fair, where only High Street is closed and services normally using High Street are diverted via East and West St Helen. This is an interesting photo opportunity as vehicles from a number of operators swing round a near-hairpin by St Helen's Church, particularly if you get there as the schools turn out."
Now I am not wishing to join in the debate about livery but there certainly are some varying comments about the Oxford Bus developments. It reminds me of the 50s when there was much made about spray painting and even unpainted buses. I remember both Liverpool Corporation and North Western fielded unpainted buses. Thank goodness this never got any further but we all mourned the passing of complicated liveries with lining out for the later more usual all red or green, sometimes even spraying over the window rubbers which then perished. I am still saddened when I see makers plates painted over, I expect because its easier and less time consuming than masking such items. Today, even if one does not like a livery, one cannot but help appreciate the effort of companies to bring a brighter more informative image to our roads. Maybe some you have other views?
Geoff Cunliffe asks a question which readers may be able to answer and makes comment on photographing in Chipping Norton.
1. Does anyone know of any supplier offering 4mm scale transfers of "Oxford Tube" for model makers?
2. If anyone, like me, wants a photograph of the former City of Oxford Motor Services depot at Chipping Norton, they would be advised to contact the Group 4 security office alongside first! I tried it, not realising that it is part of the Parker Knoll empire these days. I maintain that is not obvious from the layout of the site. Anyway, one of their guys was intrigued as to why anyone should want a photograph of a rather dilapidated building. No great hastle, but it would be best to just have a word with them first.
Please remember the Amersham Running Day which this year will be on Sunday 5th October 2003.
Amersham & District Motor Bus Society 15th Running Day, in association with RT/RF Register. Amersham London Underground station car park starting at 10.00. Details: Brian Barlow, Orchard Hose, 20 Wheelwrights, Weston Turville, Aylesbury, Bucks, HP22 5QS. Phone: 01296 613001 or Anthony Bassett, phone:01494 522531. Info from - http://www.busweb.co.uk/aecbus/rallies.htm
Well, now on to the reports for our area. Your contributions continue and I am pleased to receive them each week.
Malcolm Crowe, September 30th 2003.
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News of the local companies – 30th September 2003
Dart 3833 appeared this week on the Aylesbury service on Saturday, making an interesting comparison with
pictures shown here over the past two weeks. All Darts but none quite the same.
Arriva Aylesbury fielded this Olympian 5104 at Duxford. photo by Trevor Wilson.
Correspondents advise the following
2176 - 323
Solo Y49 HBT on 260
Reference your comments in recent issues re SLF Darts on services 232 and 323. Whenever I see a service 232 vehicle it is invariably an SLF Dart; I would hazard a guess that the Oxford County Council contract specified a low floor vehicle. I note the photo of Lance 3376 on service 260 with final destination set to “School day service” – not very useful; then I guess this bus still has to be fitted with an Aylesbury blind!
Charlton Services had this Leyland Royal Tiger/Plaxton at Duxford. The combination of chassis and budy
makes this a rare beast. It is the usual Charlton pristine condition.
One of the three remaining Olympians, 222, was on show at Duxford, it appearance belying its 20+ year age.
It was interesting to have an X13 duty last Friday evening and see first hand the through working on this route, now extended beyond its Abingdon-City sector to serve the John Radcliffe Hospital. One had thought that maybe traffic would cause delay through the city centre, especially on a Friday rush hour, though this proved not to be the case and I able to operate every journey to time. There were a number of through passengers and I am sure the connection is much appreciated. My steed was Volvo B10B 613, the one with the electronic blind which certainly looks good. These B10Bs are a great pleasure to drive. They have good acceleration and the driving position gives one a commanding view of the road ahead. Indeed I must say I prefer them to the later low floor 8XX series.
613 is seen here in Abingdon High Street on a late evening journey through to the JR.
Various correspondents sent in their notes and these follow.
Rob Williams notes:
406 - 5B
224 on 5 502 on 5A
Trident 106 suffered an embarrassing break down at around 5pm - it was stopped half way across the entrance to Gloucester Green! Two controllers were on the scene directing the traffic, thanks to them there didn't seem to be too much disruption whilst I was there. No idea how they resolved the situation though - getting a tow truck in would have completely blocked the entrance, if not the whole road.
(Pete Thomas was also visiting Oxford and sent me a note about the Trident .)
510 on 5 803 on 22 805 on 5B
649 on 400 X3 branded 615 on 2C
WORKING OF THE MONTH: 223 on 35A
104 with full standing load on 5 at 8.15am 402 on 5B
402 - 5A 633 - 5 649 - 35
Brian Matthews writes "Following on from my note a couple of weeks ago re the ex-COMS Bristol VR around the Faringdon area I now attach a couple of photos of it parked up off duty. Its companion is an ex-Lothian Regional Transport Atlantean, still showing the Lothian / Edinburgh livery but both buses are looking rather weather beaten.
I think the 1970's 'poppy red' is beginning to show through on the VR - given another few years perhaps the old fleetname might appear."
As mentioned above Oxford Bus Company vehicles past and present were well represented at Duxford Showbus. The newest offering was a Citaro, 827.
Here 827 is seen arriving at Duxford. It had made the long journey round the M25 still arriving in good time.
In this week's Editorial the new Oxford Bus livery is mentioned. I think this maybe the first time one or other of the Volvo B10Bs have appeared on "film" in the dark.
Here 606, the first one to be done, pauses at Abingdon on a 35 service last Friday evening.
Oxford Express coach 18 turns into Baker Street. Picture by Richard Griffin.
Following the problems last Saturday in London and the delays in High Street,
the lack of returning coaches was covered by Oxford Express using on The Airline
Jonckheeres, nr 33 which is seen here loading an X90 service to VCS.
The difference between two manufacturers products can be seen in this picture.
To cover crew changes in the city Stagecoach are employing several small vans like the one above, A4.
It is seen here having brought a driver down from Horspath last Friday.
Adrian Lancer writes "There are two new posters at Gloucester Green:
routes 63, 65A and 66 Unirider holders can ride free between Oxford ad Elms
Parade, paying £1 if this wish to travel past this point as far as Faringdon.
If you show a Brookes Library (ID) card or an NUS card then you can travel
between Oxford and Elms Parade for 80p.
2. From Monday 1st October (when the new TT will come into operation), the route is being moved from Gloucester Green into George Street. It will pick up outside the Old Fire Station (i.e the 2 stop to Kidlington) - anyone know where it will stand?"
16140 - 10!!!
Rob Williams writes "16616 has arrived from Leamington, along with a driver - he has been over to Oxford before now and has been out on various routes this week. 16616 meanwhile has been used on Brookes duplicates - they weren't sure how busy the services would get, so they have had duplicates available just in case - if there is nobody on board then they don't go beyond the city centre.
The new scrolling LED destination displays for the new Brookesbus vehicles were launched at Coach&Bus 2003 at the NEC in Birmingham this afternoon (Tuesday). Messages about Stagecoach winning a major five year contract were being displayed.
The new double deckers for Oxford are supposed to be Trident / Presidents - hence the President from Cambridge being tested under the Botley Road bridge. I have even seen the artwork for them!
Re the question about the 7 Darts being promised for both routes 10 and X4 - new vehicle deliveries to other South Midlands depots (ie Nuneaton) should displace older low floor vehicles for one of the routes, probably the 10. Nothing to say what will happen following these latest vehicle orders though.
I was interested to note that 20417 now has Oxford fleetnames, but I am still under the impression that the pair will go. They certainly aren't as refined as the later examples!
20007 on X31
32609 and 32612 on 1 32??? on 3 Olympian on 10
Three extra buses were scheduled on top of the ordinary Brookes services as part of the contract - the yard was very empty!
32063 on X4, unable to show route number
16616 had arrived from Leamington, operating Brookes duplicates (possibly Monday too)
Two extra buses were scheduled on top of the ordinary Brookes services as part of the contract
16031 on 29 - full blinds fitted, still with Warwickshire fleet names, 16032 still has nothing fitted
Two extra buses were scheduled on top of the ordinary Brookes services as part of the contract
32069 on X4 with full blinds
32627 on 100
41515 on X3
16032 on U1 - showing via/route number blind only - looks like it may become a Brookes regular?
32610 - X4 42371 - 10!!!!!!!!!!!!
Re 16614: I think 16616 was the vehicle loaned for just the one week - 16614 and 16615 both have/had Brookesbus branding applied and have been around since the start of services three weeks ago. Could it be that 16616 has gone back, or has 16614 taken its place?"
Ralph Adams reports "16614, on loan from Leamington with a driver for a week, went back to Leamington on Saturday. Oxford now needs to cover all services from their own resources. That means drivers regularly working a 13 day fortnight due to staff shortages."
Adrian Lancer writes "I presume the Oxford Tube terminal moved on 13th September to Buckingham Palace Road as it has now been removed from the latest LSP document. Also it seems Megabus.com have been successful in being allowed to use the stop in Gloucester Place as a stand as there is a note on their website that the Baker street stop will not be used after 11th October
Some details of buses used on Brookes may be found under the Stagecoach heading above.
Olympian 16078 showing its Brookes branding in High Street
Olympian from Leamington 16615 loading in St Clements in its way to Wheatley.
Adrian Lancer writes re a revised timetable just one months after the launch. This is as follows:
Oxford (Arr Lon)
From London (Arr Oxf)
To go with the new TT from sunday 12th, an extra stop is being added between Sandhills and Headington at London Road (Gladstone Road)
Rob Williams comments on the subject of tickets "I think the eventual aim is to sell a certain number of tickets at £1, then the others at increasing prices as more seats on the bus get filled. The idea is that people will be able to scout around for the cheap tickets by going online early, but last minute bookings will cost more because all of the cheap seats will have been taken.
Looking at the costs, if you had a full bus then revenue for one trip = £94. Wages would be = 2.5 x £8.20 = £20.50. That leaves over £70 for fuel and other costs. No reason why it couldn't turn a profit once the service has become established, and they have developed a formula to set the prices - their question to answer is how many £1 tickets do they have to have available to keep people interested... The key seems to be getting it to catch on, but its all very experimental at the moment."
Andy Churchill writes :..... just had a copy of the new Swanbrook timetable which comes into effect from 1st October 2003 running to the 28th march 2004 and certainly the number of journeys being run are much reduced and that the service will no longer be operating out of Gloucester Green coach station, it will be picking-up from outside the old fire station in George Street Monday to Saturday at 09.30,12.00,18.00,with a late journey on Friday only at 19.45,and there is only one journey on a Sunday at 19.00 from Oxford. The service will arrive from Cheltenham and set down in George street outside Pizza Hut and journeys from Cheltenham are at 07.10,09.45,16.00 Mon-Sat and Friday at 17.45,with the Sunday journey at 16.35,certainly much reduced from the current timetable!.
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Pictured in High Wycombe I came across this Plaxton owned by Sodexho which appears to be something to do with the MOD?
A surprise post van in Marlow, it is fully adorned for use in Wales !!!! I know its not a bus but I
was very surprised by Post Brenhinol. Somehow a match for the Welsh School Bus at Slough
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