Spottings & Jottings
Issue nr. 1 - 24th August 2009
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Welcome to a new idea for a weekly update. It has become increasingly difficult to keep up with the flow of news which so many of you send on a very regular basis and I though it would be nice to revert to a weekly format for the most interesting and important developments in our area. Also I and others see vehicles passing us by which are of interest and I gave some thought as to how I could get this new out to readers in a timely fashion.
The result is Spottings and Jottings which will, I hope, be published on a weekly basis. Photos will be limited and the original format of the full issues will continue with detail on the various subjects covered to date.
Ex Go-Ahead Plaxton President seen on the M40 near junc. 3 on Tuesday 18th August just before 05:30 heading north. I was saw this bus pass me, minus any fleet names or ownership indications and noted that it had no rear lights whatsoever. Although the dawn was breaking it was rather poor light and it did have lights on the front. I wonder where it was going to?
Arriva service 321 on Wednesday 19th August surprised me, when on my way from St Albans along the A1081 towards Luton I was passed by Volvo Olympian 5146 heading towards St Albans and Watford. It would have been around 12:50 and this route is now normally wholly worked by Citaros except on Sundays.
Roselyn of Par have acquired ex Arriva training coach M53AWW, a Scania K113CRB with Van Hool bodywork. I think this is the one which had a window cut in the rear?
Arriva Optare Solos based at Wycombe for Line 40 have recently received a modification to their destination displays and the route number is now on the right had side of the display i.e. the nearside. This is in accordance with DiPTAC rules governing such matters. I wonder if this heralds a change to all displays on Arriva vehicles? It appears that Aylesbury and Wycombe depots are out of step with the rest of the Arriva The Shires fleet on this point.
Carousel - I understand that the Plaxton Primo is for sale. It often appears on Line 4 to Chesham but seemingly the destination display no longer works.
Oxford Bus have now received Scania deckers for Brookes up to 210. These buses now seem to have the workings on U1 and U5 fully covered and I have not seen any of the elderly Volvo B10Bs out and about recently.
Stagecoach in Oxfordshire - UPGRADE FOR S-SERIES S2 – CARTERTON-WITNEY-OXFORD. Five Scania/Enviro 400 double decks to Stagecoach Gold specification will arrive next week to upgrade the vehicles used on the S2 service. The new buses will be in a gold and blue livery and will be to a very high standard of specification with more comfortable seats, leather trim, more legroom etc.
Passengers have been telling Stagecoach that they would like more comfort on longer distance services and these buses will meet that request and hopefully enable Stagecoach to encourage more people to switch to using the bus. In other parts of the country where Stagecoach Gold has already been introduced the results are very impressive.
If these buses are well received in Oxfordshire then more will follow, enabling some of existing double deck fleet to be redeployed elsewhere within Stagecoach UK Bus.
The five new buses will be allocated to Witney depot and should be in service by mid-September.
Also they have have recently repainted M A N saloon 22926 which continues the work on this batch of buses now in their 11th year of service. East Scotland have now received ex Brookes Trídents 18195-7 and these buses are expected to enter service at Aberhill depot on service 95 which runs from Leven to St Andrews. They are presently being repainted.
Woottens Tiger Line started its T2 service from Chesham and Hemel to Watford last Monday - 17th August - and I am told loading are encouraging.
Stagecoach have been given until September 11th to make a bid for all or part of the National Express Group and it is the buses which is that in which they have expressed interest. There are rumoured to be talks with the Cosen family in Spain regarding this whole matter. Upcoming developments should prove interesting.
Now that Transform Oxford has become a reality in what concerns bus stop locations in the city centre some less than acceptable points are coming to the fore, especially in correspondence in the Oxford Times. I had personally noted the lack of shelter facilities in New road where the services along the Botley Road pick up, their old stop in Castle Street now being used by Barton services. When it is raining the intending passengers have no shelter at all unless they move up the road to the 300 stop. This is also crowded at busy times and offers little shelter. This will become increasingly apparent in the coming winter months and one can only feel sorry for these people, especially the elderly. Equally at certain times of the day Castle Street is very congested and the pedestrian crossing located on the corner of New Road and Castle Street is somehow like an accident waiting to happen. People dart out from the rear of waiting traffic to cross and it can be disconcerting, even for the best of drivers, to avoid giving everyone a fright.
Another matter in Oxford which bears giving an airing to is the strange sequences on various traffic lights. The bottom of Headington Hill is a location in question where traffic is stopped in one direction whilst it moves in the opposite direction and vice versa. This is especially frustrating in the night hours when one is held for a time whilst the lights go through their sequence and no traffic moves since there is no traffic to move !! I hope readers can understand where I'm coming from? Surely in this modern age lights can be phased in different ways at different times of the day and night? High Wycombe is another place which is full of traffic lights. So many in fact that one wonders if someone somewhere has shares in a manufacturer of such steet furniture. One can only say that much fuel is wasted waiting at lights and it can't do the "green" atmosphere much good either. It is strange how if and when traffic lights fail the traffic seems to move much better.
First Bus are launching a new coach service to compete with National Express and Megabus. America's Greyhound buses, celebrated in song and film, will soon be roaring down UK motorways. First Group, which bought Greyhound two years ago, is to start services from London next month. The company, led by Sir Moir Lockhead, chief executive, plans to use the famous brand to take on National Express and Megabus, which is owned by Stagecoach. Fares will start at £1.
The first routes will be to cities within a two-and-a-half hour drive of the capital, in Oxfordshire and the Midlands. First Group declined to comment but it is understood it will start small, with “tens” of buses rather than a big fleet, and will use the grey Greyhound livery. A number of Scania-Irizar PBs have been refurbished at Plaxtons of Anston and feature leather seats, WiFi and power points on board.
The US company was set up in Minnesota in 1914 by Carl Wickman, a Swedish immigrant. The coaches’ grey livery led to them being nicknamed “greyhounds” and the company took on the name in 1929. Mass car ownership and low-cost airlines brought hard times and the company has twice filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. First Group bought its parent company, Laidlaw International, for £1.9 billion.
A press release from First Group reads as follows:-
THE GREYHOUND HAS LANDED
FirstGroup today unveiled the first Greyhound coaches which will introduce the iconic brand to the UK. Greyhound UK will launch on September 14th between London and the two cities of Portsmouth and Southampton and the company hopes to add further destinations from 2010.
In the USA and Canada, Greyhound offers the only countrywide network of coach services. Celebrated in film and song for nearly a century Greyhound has become the most famous bus brand in the world. Greyhound UK will offer unrivalled product and service quality with a large range of cheap fares starting from £1, plus 50p booking fee, on www.greyhounduk.com. Onboard features will include spacious leather seating, free wi-fi, power sockets, air-conditioning, complimentary newspapers and Greyhound will also offer industry-leading customer service.
Sir Moir Lockhead, FirstGroup’s Chief Executive, revealed the new vehicles and said:
“For 95 years Greyhound has been an icon of American life carrying millions of people across the USA and Canada. Since FirstGroup took over Greyhound in 2007, we have hoped to bring this famous brand across the Atlantic and I am absolutely delighted to reveal the first authentic Greyhound coaches in the UK.
“Although built on a venerable and famous brand, these vehicles will offer the latest in customer service and comfort. Greyhound UK will offer unrivalled value for money with fares available on-line from £1 each way plus 50p booking fee. All vehicles will be equipped with free wi-fi, air-conditioning, up to 20% extra leg room compared with rivals and industry-leading customer service. Passengers will travel in comfort and be able to use the time spent onboard for work or leisure. When we introduced these features in the USA, with Greyhound’s BoltBus subsidiary, passenger demand exceeded our expectations and I am confident that Greyhound UK will do the same.
“Our services will be more attractive than rival bus and train options, but we also believe that Greyhound UK’s growth will come from persuading more people to leave their cars at home and opt instead for our coaches. By providing these services at an unbeatable price, and doing so with the carbon footprint around 23% of journeys by private car, we think we will really make an impact on how people will travel in the future. I am pleased to be able to say that “the Greyhound has landed” and I am confident that it will set new benchmarks for travel in Britain.”
FirstGroup is Britain’s largest bus and rail operator and is already one of Britain’s biggest scheduled coach operators with over 250 vehicles operating under a variety of brand names. First is evaluating plans to roll out new Greyhound UK services from 2010.
Alex Warner, Greyhound UK’s Managing Director, explained the product and service offering:
“Greyhound UK will provide fast and frequent services. On September 14th we will launch with an hourly service each way between London and Portsmouth and London and Southampton. These services will be provided with convenient kerb-side pick ups at a number of locations in both south coast cities with all services in London arriving and departing from Bulleid Way, Victoria Railway Station, London. Greyhound services will also integrate with ferry services to and from the Isle of Wight. All services will be non-stop between the two cities, taking under two hours and providing a journey time advantage up to 40% over other coach operators whose services typically stop a number of times at intermediate locations including Heathrow.
“Customer service will be at the heart of Greyhound UK. Buying a ticket through our website www.greyhounduk.com will be simple and great value with a large number of cheap fares from £1 plus 50p booking fee. Our Scania Irizar coaches have only 41 seats rather than the 50 or so typically operated by other coach companies and the level of comfort eclipses anything else in the marketplace. We’re recruiting and training our staff to be committed to providing safe, reliable and customer focussed services.
“Market research we’ve conducted shows that 46% of existing rail customers and 73% of current coach customers would consider trying a new coach service based on the Greyhound product and service proposition.”
The new services will be marketed through a multi-media campaign with a focus on targeted online advertising complemented by more traditional print and field marketing activities. The services will be particularly attractive to a young demographic profile that is media and technologically savvy – such as the large student populations in the cities served. In addition, commuters, day trippers and those attending sporting and other entertainment events at both ends of the routes will also be attracted by the Greyhound product, service and value proposition.
All Greyhound UK coaches will have names. The theme will be women’s names from popular American songs such as ‘Sweet Caroline’, ‘Barbara Ann’, ‘Jolene’ and ‘Peggy Sue’.
In his first real estate investment since calling the bottom of the property downturn, Stelios has paid £2.27m for the north London site. Stelios plans to set up offices and a depot at the site, acquire buses and expand easyBus, which operates between London and Luton, Gatwick and Stansted airports, to Heathrow and other UK airports. Stelios described easyBus as a "virtual operator", outsourcing the operations of its buses to Arriva, the transport group, but said that would change.
"easyBus is now big enough and old enough to do its own work," he said. "We have applied for our own licence and need our own premises for that." Stelios said the route extension to Heathrow would be a "big step for the business" and could come as early as December. easyBus currently transports around 1m passengers each year. The entrepreneur said he had paid for the new site in cash, having had an offer accepted at 35pc below the asking price.
The Binders Yard
surprise finds - a reply from Robert Williams - I am delighted to have
response from Robert about the Optare Pacer and the Leyland PD decker mentioned
and pictured in the last OCBP - 293. Roberts writes "Your two surprise finds.
H847UUA has a Reading link.
New in April 1991 the vehicle was originally an Optare demonstrator. It was acquired by Reading Transport for the Newbury Buses operation (fleet number 217) in 1994 following a short period on hire there. It joined two older examples that had been acquired from Lancaster City Transport in 1992. The trio later moved to Reading as part of a low cost unit running competing services against Reading Mainline. 217 was one of two Pacers sold to Thames Travel following the purchase of Reading Mainline in mid 1998 and the withdrawal of route 105 between Reading and Wallingford (at which point Thames Travel boosted their similar route 132). Beyond that I'm not sure of the exact detail, but it was withdrawn by Thames Travel following an engine failure and purchased for preservation. Now nearly a decade later it's about to have a replacement engine fitted from Binders Yard resident E514 PWR. After that the intention is to restore it to Reading Transport livery.
I believe that the double decker is linked to FoKAB, and although never a King Alfred vehicle itself, it is to be restored as a representative of a type which featured in the fleet. The windows have been panelled over to help protect the vehicle from the elements whilst in storage outside. I'm sure that there will be others who can fill in more detail."