Spottings & Jottings

Issue nr. 12 - 21st November 2009

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Welcome to issue number 12 which as always has some interesting news and pictures many of which have been provided by Gavin Francis and other contributors. Further down the page under the Jottings heading readers will find amongst the interesting items one on my two duties on the 44 Gloucester-London service which I enjoyed very much indeed.

Marcus Lapthorn has visited Daventry and sent an interesting picture report.

Gavin commented he had not seen so much of the Kings Ferry coaches transferred to NEx Crawley.
Well maybe this is because they have been away for repainting into NEx livery as seen by C0097 above on 14th November.
Picture by Malcolm Crowe.

Some late news for this issue concerns tendered services for Oxfordshire County Council. The results of the latest County Council Review of subsidised bus services in Bicester show that Heyfordian have won seven buses worth of work for Bicester Town services 22/23 (2 buses from Grayline), Oxford – Bicester services 25/25A (3 buses from RH Transport), Woodstock Wanderer services 203/220/242 (1 bus from RH Transport), Kidlington Town services 223/224 (1 bus from RH Transport) and off-peak service 37 from Grayline. This leaves Grayline with only their commercial bus service No.21 in Bicester plus the tendered service 44 in Abingdon. Heyfordian have also just won an all day bus working on an inter-worked network of services east of Banbury from Northamptonshire County Council. The revised network of subsidised bus services in the Woodstock, Kidlington and Bicester area start on 14th December. A more detailed list of these service changes can be found on Oxfordshire County Council’s website.

Again many thanks to all those who have contributed to this week's S&J issue and an apology for the delay in publication but as you can realise I have been rather busy and working some days away from home, at least the dreaded 'flu has abated!


Nigel Peach writes "You show a picture of Volvo B6 3117 and rightly say that it is one of the last of its kind at Wycombe. They seem to be down to just three of these attractive Northern Counties bodied vehicles at Wycombe. 3117 3128 and 3133 are the only survivors where there were once about 10 of them. Plaxton Pointer bodied 3138 (L38 MEH) is also still working and is now the oldest single decker at the depot."

"I haven't seen ex Oxford Dart 3833 (M503 VJO) lately and wonder if that has now departed. The oldest double decker, Olympian 5094 (F544LMJ) also appears to have gone."

I understand that 3833 has joined 3834 at Harlow. Ed. 

November 7th, 2009

Service 110 replacing 260/261 service

The service 260/261 has now been replaced by the service 110 link below for new timetables

New 110 service timetable


Adam Green reports "saw 2177 in Hemel on the town route yesterday and my Dad and other people saw a decker on 300/301 which runs between Hemel and Stevenage!"

Peter Cabin writes that he noted in service "On service Line 800 was recently transferred W452.XKX. This and Scania N712EUR still have roller blinds installed from their previous depots. Normally Arriva in High Wycombe get them changed over to digital straight away and I wonder if the Scania is just on loan to High Wycombe after all."  

and then "Blue route 32 liveried Scania 3162 (N712EUR) has now received a digital display (at last!). (Haven't seen 3452 lately.)" 

I've noticed Volvo B6LE 3240 (P601 RGS) at Cressex the last couple of weeks but I've not yet seen it in service. Others in that batch have also been at Cressex in recent weeks, but again (other than similar 3298) I've not seen them in service."

On 18th Peter adds "I noticed that 3162 - N712EUR. has now received its long awaited electronic blinds and also 3217 - S217SPP has been doing Wycombe work for the last couple of days instead of its usual route 353 Slough-Berkhamsted." Yesterday it was on blue route 32 Micklefield-Lane End."

Finally we have a report which suggest that routes 305 and 353 are up for re-tender in January as Arriva has delicenced the routes mentioned from January.

This was once Arriva 4059 which haw joined STS of Tonbridge. It is seen at Oxpens in Oxford.
Picture by Gavin Francis.


Arriva 5141 in Totteridge Lane on the Asda service on 11th November.
  Picture by Gavin Francis.

Keeping up to date with Arriva in London, Gavin Francis took one of the Wrights deckers which have replaced Citaro bendis on route 38.

Now just a memory! of the bendis on the very last day of 38 route operated by this type - by Gavin Francis.


Stuart Harvey writes "Just to let you know, the second MCV bodied MAN has now gained its fleet number of STL10 (AF53GCY).

Two readers including Stuart reported that Routemaster RM2198 CUV198C was on Line 1 to Bourne End last Tuesday.

Paul Davis writes "Malcolm, this morning (Tues 17Nov) I was flabbergasted to see RM2198 actually working a Route 1 service in the morning peak! No blinds were shown apart from paper slips in the downstairs windows and it definitely stopped to pick up a passenger whilst I was waiting to turn onto the London Road. 

I took this to be the 08:25 Bourne End - High Wycombe working.  Needless to say I hurried home to get my camera and off to Bourne End for the next working - but she'd been subbed by an Olympian."

Did anyone get a picture of this event?

Dan B sent this picture of one of the Centrebus vehicles on route 46.


Charlton Services 

Charlton Services seem to have some new buses!

Alexander Rose writes "Most recently a Leyland Tiger/Plaxton Paramount 'H459FLD'. I think it was from 'Aldermaston coaches' but was used in National Express livery in its early life.

In fact this coach was new as follows:

TR00600   Leyland Tiger   TRCL10/3RZA    H459FLD     Plaxton  8912LCA0953     C53F       12/1990       Pan Atlas,W3

Aldermaston show two similar coaches, H458 and 459 FLD.

Greyhound had a number of extra coaches in London recently seemingly on type training. Gavin Francis was on hand to record the event.

Five of the refurbished Irizar PBs at Green Line on 12th November pictured by Gavin Francis.

Another view of part of the fleet seen in the picture above taken by Gavin Francis.


See the note above that this company has won a number of routes in Oxfordshire County tendering processes.

Matt writes "As I'm sure someone has already pointed out, the Volvo B10M AJZ9161 reported (ex-B161FWJ) is a former Tappin vehicle now run by Charles Paine of Didcot, who trades as Total Employment. It left Tappin in March 2007, having been new to them in June 1985."

Simon Caygill writes "on your most recent letter, someone queried a Tappins, coach 161, now with daft reg,  There were four vehicles purchased in year B - B161-164 reg ending YAY or VAY and one of X90 drivers John Jarvis had B164 from new"

Now that raises the question, what was the actual registration - FWJ, YAY or VAY?  

Little Jim Buses 

Jim Petty writes "Mercedes S107HGX is just a short-term hire to keep the service going whilst we do some work on the Optare Solo."

Selwyn's have a new Levante on the 303 - Picture by Gavin Francis.

Hayton's of Manchester have this brand new M A N - Plaxton seen here on service 420 at VCS.
Picture by Gavin Francis.

David Beardmore reports that Greys of Witchford have a recently arrived Volvo B10B/Plaxton Verde P631FFC has been single doored, repainted all over cream and reregistered ESU308.
Sister vehicle P634FFC is currently in the workshops for the same treatment and when finished will be reregistered ESU307.

Gavin Francis
took this picture of 113
with its new super rear ad, see the last issue for the previous removed.

Another picture now of 115 which has also gained a new super rear. Picture b y Gavin Francis.

Gavin reports seeing at least three Airline coaches on the X90 in one day.
Here is coach 94 in VCS pictured by Gavin Francis on 11th November.

Richard Sharman
took this picture of Volvo 818 on 6 road which now often sees larger buses in place of the Darts.

This coach was once COMS 10 but is now with Damory, having been reregistered for a third time
. Picture by Keith Hemmings.

Stagecoach in Oxfordshire routes S1 and S2 Consultation

Stagecoach in Oxfordshire are inviting people in West Oxfordshire to have their say on proposed changes to the S1 and S2 bus services between Carterton, Witney, Eynsham, Botley and Oxford. 

They have a number of ideas on how to develop these services, so have come up with some proposed timetables which they would like comments on.

Plans for some minor changes to the timetables on both routes to help improve reliability, particularly when traffic is at its worst during school term time.

As part of this they are adding an extra vehicle to the fleet to help services stay on time. This will also allow SC to run extra Monday-Friday departures on route S2 at 0635 from Witney to Oxford, 1535 from Witney to Carterton and 0850 from Carterton to Oxford. On route S1 there will be an extra departure at 1820 from Carterton to Oxford. 

Interested parties are invited to let SC know if they regularly experience problems so that Stagecoach can make sure that their plan includes a solution for it.

Click here to download timetable

S2 between Carterton and Witney
It has been suggested that the S2 should run direct between Carterton and Witney via the A40 instead of running through Minster Lovell. This would make journeys a couple of minutes faster but it would leave parts of the village without a bus service, and other parts with a service to Witney every 90 minutes. 

The main objective is to meet the needs of the majority of the passengers, and there is no particular view as to whether this alteration would be of benefit to as many people as it would disadvantage. Stagecoach would therefore welcome comments.

Shilton Park Evenings – S1
A proposal to make a slight change to the S1 route Monday-Saturday evenings in order to serve Monahan Way (for Shilton Park) after the last S2 has gone. Buses leaving Oxford after 1900 would turn right out of Brize Norton, missing the stop at the Post Office, but adding Monahan Way and the Health Centre. Journeys through to Carterton Crossroads would take a minute or two longer than present, and journeys leaving Carterton after 1900 would also leave via Monahan Way.
Evenings in General
There have been requests for evening journeys on the S1 to be diverted into other villages to provide a service over a larger geographical area. This would however leave parts of the main route with a reduced service, making the service less attractive to use and potentially less likely to cover its costs. Given that the S1 receives no subsidy from the Council it is therefore the view that any additional service is likely to need some form of financial support from the local authority and best run as a standalone route.
Stagecoach Gold
Stagecoach introduced a fleet of brand new high specification vehicles onto route S2 in September 2009, taking S-Series to the next level in terms of comfort and environmental credentials. 

They are now planning to introduce a larger batch of similar vehicles onto route S1 in March 2010 and would like to hear your views. If you want to give the vehicles a try and aren’t able to catch the S2, the route S1 journeys Monday-Friday at 0620, 0650 and 0755 from Thorney Leys to Oxford, and 0537, 0712 and 0758 from Oxford to Thorney Leys are also run by these vehicles.

Daytime Spruce Up
Behind the scenes further planning for some improvements that will allow each Stagecoach Gold bus to be swept out and given a full exterior wash during the daytime, in addition to the usual daily evening clean. Stagecoach hope that this will  keep the new buses looking new for longer!

The above plans should also improve the presentation the Gold fleet. Picture by Malcolm Crowe.

A rather elderly Volvo from Wales on the M7 to Cardiff pictured by Gavin Francis.

The latest Volvo tri-axle seen is 54061 based in Wales and recorded by Gavin Francis.

One of the Rugby based Volvos working the revised M34. Picture by Richard Sharman.

The spare Scania 15439, devoid of any route branding, works an X30 service on 12th November. Picture by Gavin Francis.

Tony wrote to say "I understand that 18129 (KN04XJD) and 18130 (KN04XJE) are to be heading north to Stagecoach Fife shortly.  I think these are the last of those going north.  This was posted on the Dundee Area Bus Forum recently."

Tony is indeed correct and these two have now gone to Fife. 

Terry Longhurst was in Milton Keynes last week and managed to get a picture of a bus with On a Mission, the bus being an ex Stagecoach Leyland Olympian from the Magic Bus routes in Manchester.

This was one of the last Olympians delivered to Greater Manchester PTE before the Stagecoach takeover. Picture by Terry Longhurst.

I thought I would leave the matrix showing which rear advert each new Tube has.


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Burn It At Both Ends


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Burn It At Both Ends


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The West End


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Oxford… the City Inspires


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Big Smoke Without the Smoke


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Capital for less Capital


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Business Coaching


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The West End


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The West End


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Business Coaching


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Westfield Shopping Centre


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Westfield Shopping Centre


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Oxford the City Inspires


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Big Smoke Without the Smoke


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Capital for less Capital


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Oxford the City Inspires


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Oxford the City Inspires


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Business Coaching


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Westfield Shopping Centre


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Westfield Shopping Centre


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Big Smoke Without the Smoke


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Burn It At Both Ends


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Capital for less Capital


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Capital for less Capital


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Big Smoke Without the Smoke


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Business Coaching

Bova MSV557 puts  in time on the X88. Picture by Richard Sharman.


The latest arrivals with Weavaway - three Leyland Olympians from Jeff's, Helmdon. Picture by Ken MacKenzie.


Michael Wootten writes to advise some changes to the Tiger Line services from 4th January 2010.

Essentially the changes are;

T1 - is being reduced to one bus.  To accommodate this the link to Hemel Hempstead is being removed, with the service terminating at HMP The Mount. Tiger Line have decided to concentrate on the section between Bovingdon \ Chesham and
Aylesbury as there is no alternative service.

T2 - from January 2010 the service will increase to every 30 minutes.

T3 - is essentially a 321 routing to Princes Risborough / High Wycombe and fills in the gaps between the contract workings.  It will be operated by the ex-COMS Olympian.

The PVR will be 3 Tigers on T2, 1 Tiger on T1 and 1 Olympian on 106/321/T3.



Picture by Richard Sharman

Stagecoach, the company which runs  the Cross Country service between Oxford and Cambridge, has won a prestigious award at the 2009 UK Bus Awards thanks to its coach route X5.

Route X5 runs from Oxford to Cambridge via Bicester, Buckingham, Milton Keynes, Bedford and St Neots every 30 minutes, 7 days a week.

Route X5 won the ‘Express Operator of the Year’ category at an awards ceremony yesterday, beating 5 other high quality bus operators across the UK after achieving passenger growth of 150% during the past five years. The judges described the X5 service as "a unique and vital, first class cross-country express service".

Tony Cox, Managing Director for Stagecoach East said:
“It is an honour and a credit to our staff that our coach route has won this top award. We are committed to providing high quality, good value, reliable bus and coach services and I am delighted that our staff have been recognised for their hard work in achieving this."

Tony continued:
"Much of our success relies on strong partnerships, operational expertise, innovative marketing and a commitment to customer service and we are continuing to attract more people on to the busy route from Oxford."

Nat Ex goes to shareholders for cash

National Express Group (NEG) is making a last-ditch attempt to restore its tattered balance sheet by announcing a 7-for-3 Rights Issue to raise £360m, by issuing up to 357m new shares.

It is wrestling with a £1.1bn debt mountain, which crucially includes a €270m bridging loan that expires in September 2010.

Raising cash from shareholders will reduce the group's debt gearing ratio to below the limit of 3.5 times EBITDA required under its borrowing facilities, by the time this ratio is tested on 31 December. At the moment, it would fail the test.

The outlook for NEG remains bleak. It is now banned from bidding from any more UK rail franchises, following the DfT’s formal termination notice of its East Coast franchise from 2359hrs on 13 December, due to its financial collapse and the refusal of NEG to support its subsidiary. It also faces being stripped of its East Anglia and c2c franchises.

There is also a boardroom split. While the Board voted to go ahead with the Rights Issue, major shareholder Jorge Cosmen (whose family owns 19% of NEG) voted against it, saying it is not in the best interests of the company and all shareholders.

The problems stem mainly from NEG’s April 2007, purchase of Spanish express coach operator Continental Auto for €659m, which was financed by a €540m bridging loan, which NEG intended to refinance through the bank and capital markets.

Go-Ahead is preferred bidder for Plymouth

Go-Ahead Group has beaten off competition from Stagecoach to become the preferred bidder for Plymouth CityBus (PCB).

Completion is subject to final due diligence and full council approval, expected at the end of November. Owned by Plymouth City Council, it operates 173 buses and 11 coaches from a large freehold depot in the centre of Plymouth, and carries 14 million passengers a year.

Go-Ahead Chief Executive Keith Ludeman says: “We are very pleased to have been selected as the preferred bidder and are now working closely with Plymouth City Council to complete the deal.  

Plymouth CityBus has an excellent reputation and fits well with our strategy of investing in high quality bus companies in urban areas which then maintain a strong local brand and high degree of autonomy to ensure close links to local customers and other stakeholders.”

CC orders Stagecoach to sell Preston Bus

The Competition Commission (CC) has ruled that Stagecoach must sell Preston Bus to a competing company.

The CC says that the sale of a reconfigured Preston Bus will be the “most effective way to restore competition and safeguard passenger interests.”

It goes on to say that the CC will approve the successful bidder to “ensure that it is capable of operating as an effective competitor to Stagecoach.”

The sale will include a bus depot, other assets and a network of routes, including services formerly run by Preston Bus but since transferred to Stagecoach following the acquisition.

Comment from G Cunliffe 

This morning's local BBC news reported that Stagecoach have been told they must sell Preston Bus which they bought some time ago, basically on the grounds that the acquisition stifles competition and is against the public interest (my words). You may well be aware of this through your contacts within the company. 

Some immediate thoughts are that it could well pass to Arriva who took over Ribble's Liverpool operations and still works into Preston. It is thought they brought the matter to the attention of the Competition Commission in the first case. 

Presumably Stagecoach will have to give up Deepdale Depot they took with the operation. 

What about the Preston City network which has been slimmed down, in part as some Stagecoach routes into the City have been re-routed to cover some of the discontinued local routes? 

Finally, what about Preston Bus Station. Fewer competing routes mean fewer buses have been using it, and pedestrian walkways have been created across the main apron, much to the benefit of bus users. The only access previously being by subways was always a problem but that's what you get by employing an architect to design a building for you! In any case, the proposed new bus station in the City is only about half the size of the present one which may or may not be appropriate now. 

TGM to sell Burtons to its MD

Arriva subsidiary Tellings Golden Miller (TGM) has exchanged contracts for the sale of its Haverhill-based operations of Burtons Coaches to Yellow Star Travel Services (YSTS), a new company set up by Burtons MD Paul Cooper and his wife Tracy Atkinson.

The transaction, expected to complete in December, will see the leased Burtons Coaches depot at Duddery Hill, Haverhill, Suffolk, transfer to YSTS, which will acquire the rights to the Burtons Coaches name.  

Employees and vehicles of the Haverhill business will transfer to the new owner on completion.

TGM MD Stephen Telling says: “We wish Paul and his team all the best as they embark on the next chapter of the Burtons Coaches story at Haverhill.  

“Meanwhile we will be retaining other operations managed under the wider Burtons Coaches organisation within TGM.

Paul Cooper, who along with Tracy will manage the business on a day-to-day basis, says: “We are pleased to be given the opportunity to take the business forward and build on the successes of the past 12 years with TGM involvement, whilst maintaining the traditions which Burtons has become known for during its 60 years of operation.” 

Your Editor works away from home

Last weekend, Friday and Saturday, a request was made by Stagecoach Gloucester for the loan of a National Express driver to work their 444 service from Gloucester to London. As luck would have it I was on  a long four day weekend and so could be spared to work from Gloucester.

The duties I was asked to cover involved the 15:30 from Gloucester to London Victoria via Cheltenham Spa returning with the 20:00 from London to Gloucester via Cirencester and Cheltenham Spa. This duty signed off after midnight and I elected to stay in Gloucester overnight and take the opportunity to see the bus activity in Gloucester on Saturday morning.

The  journey down to Gloucester was uneventful until I reached Cheltenham, not having realised that there was racing on. Traffic through Charlton Kings was gridlocked and I took for longer than planned to reach Gloucester. This should have forewarned me about my trip up to London but sadly I failed to realise that Charlton Kings would be a no go area later on as well. However more of that later.

I reported to the depot at 14:15 and noted my coach ready and waiting at the entrance to the depot in London Road. Stagecoach Gloucester has five Levante tri-axles, 53901-53905, requiring four to  maintain the seven return services each day.

Scania/Levante tri-axle 59301 ready and waiting at the depot in London Road, Gloucester.

Now, I'm used to driving the two axle Levantes and have done so now for nearly three years but this was to be my first experience of the tri-axle variety. I checked the coach over noting that all was in order, these coaches are still 49 seaters with the extra length being used to improve legroom and allow for a table on either side at the rear. The toilet is somewhat different to the earlier Levantes with more room and seemingly better operation.

The tables are popular with families and groups.

I left the depot just before 15:00 and made my way to the bus station and bay 2 which is the departure bay for National Express services. I had time to check my loading which, seemingly as always for a Friday afternoon departure, was fully booked from Cheltenham. We were due in London at 18:30 and I made a prompt departure from Gloucester at 15:30 with some 18 passengers on board. I was a little late at Cheltenham and have to admit missing the fact that there is one way in and out of the Royal Well Bus Station. As such I loaded on the last street stop which was luckily vacant. A seeming mass of customers advanced on the coach and I quickly loaded the bags, noting there were a lot less than on the 737 service. Also there was no problem to separate the bags for different destinations as on the 444 there is only one, Victoria Coach Station. Boarding some 31 passengers took a little time but eventually we were away by 16:15, some 15 minutes late. Our departure was not helped by an individual who said he was waiting for the 15:30 departure which had not turned up and insisted I take him on my service  which was full or contact National Express to resolve his problem. When I looked at his ticket he had booked on the 03:30 service that morning which meant he was twelve and a half hours late. When I pointed this out he melted into the gloom outside the coach without another word! I wonder how he got to London?

Now came the fun, the traffic was slow to stationary leaving the town, probably added to by the race day, Friday night and the heavy rain. Progress through Charlton Kings was painful and I wondered how the regular drivers coped with such delays. Eventually getting clear of Charlton Kings, we climbed up the long hill towards Andoversford, the time now being 17:15 when I should have been running past Oxford. Traffic was clear in front except for half a dozen cars the first of which seemed to be driven by a very nervous driver. It was dark and raining and every time an oncoming vehicle approached our convoy our friend in the lead slowed down to 10-20 mph and on one occasion even stopped. To say progress along the A40 was painful, especially as we were already very late, is an understatement. As we approached the dual carriageway near Witney I heaved a sigh of relief and we got by the slow car. I glanced down as we passed and saw an elderly gent clinging on to the steering wheel for grim death still doing only around 25 mph. The time now was approaching 18:15 and we joined the long queue up to the A40 junction with the Woodstock Road by Oxford. More time was lost as we progressed ever so slowly up to the junction and then onwards towards the M40 and a hoped for clear run to West London.

Having left Green Road on the east side of Oxford progress improved and we were now bowling along the M40 at a steady 100 kph, passing a number of inbound services to Oxford including several Oxford Tubes, some showing "Sorry Coach Full".
We had a clear run through to Hillingdon and onwards towards The Westway. No real delays were experienced and we turned off the A40 towards Shepherds Bush as I concluded that the A40 Marylebone Road would be congested and slow. Indeed progress up Holland Park Avenue was good, once again passing in and outbound Tubes all with good loads. We rounded Marble Arch and then made slow progress down Park Lane, is it ever any different?

By now it was 19:45 and I gave my passengers an expected arrival time in Victoria of 20:00, some 90 minutes late. I must say they were all very good about the delay as it seems that Friday evenings are often late. Good job I avoided the M4 which had lengthy delays from junction 3 through to 1. After unloading in Sammy's I advised National Express that I could not operate back before 21:00, an hour or so late. VCS was rather empty and I only saw one X90 on stand 10 beside my stand 9 during the hour or so I was there. As I turned into the departure side of VCS, I was instructed to go straight onto stand 9 and wait my time there.

Seeing a large gathering by gate 9, I thought I had better let my passengers know that we would be late departing and got a real telling off for my trouble from a lady who said the service was always late and what were we doing about it? I tried to explain about the traffic from Cheltenham and the legal requirement for me to have a 45 minute break but she didn't want to know and continued to grumble even when she boarded the coach. Such is life!

53901 waits in solitary isolation on stand 9 for departure.

I received my loading chart in the time honoured manner of VCS, under my nearside windscreen wiper. It told me I had 41 passengers for my return with some getting off at Cirencester and most at Cheltenham before a final stop at Gloucester. I started loading up at 20:55 and by 21:07 was off towards the M4 via the Cromwell Road. We passed Harrods where they now have some wonderful Christmas windows and onwards past the Natural History Museum with some nice exterior lighting. Traffic was quite clear and I made excellent progress out of London. As we joined the M4 I turned off the main saloon lights and my passengers settled down to an uninterrupted hour long run along the M4 towards the A419 junction and our turnoff for Cirencester. The M4 was fast moving and we maintained a steady 100 kph for some 70 miles. Our speed was maintained and after just over 70 minutes we turned off the M4 and followed the A419 towards Cirencester. Two kind ladies on the front seat helped me with taking the correct route to the stop in Cirencester and we pulled up at the stop some 95 miles from Victoria, the time being 22:55, just under one hour late. After unloading she said some drivers turn on the next island or go round the block. I opted for a turn around the mini island and found no trouble in negotiating this turn.

We now followed the A435 past North Cerney towards Charlton Kings and Cheltenham which was reached at 23:30 where the half of our 41 passengers left the coach. Fifteen minutes after leaving Cheltenham we were into Gloucester Bus Station and after unloading I was back in the depot by five minutes to midnight. The roads had been clear all the way from Cirencester and even the traffic lights were kind.

At Gloucester drivers are expected to clean the coach interior on their return and this took me just over 30 minutes, my passengers had been a tidy lot but windows need cleaning, the carpet sweeping, the rest of floor mopped out, curtains and seats straightened leaving everything in good order for the next journey. I can imagine that if the passengers leave a lot of mess, maybe some is sick etc etc it can take a lot longer.

I retired to my hotel feeling quite pleased  with the journey and now knowing the route for the next day, Saturday.

In the morning after breakfast I went towards Cheltenham on the A40 to investigate the First Irizar PBs I had seen parked up at the Scania base near GCHQ. I wondered why they should be there and only later discovered it is an outstation for the coaching unit at Bristol. Up to six coaches are based there and would appear to work the 222. There we only two coaches there in the late morning and I got a few pictures one of which is shown below.

Irizar 23310 parked up at Scania Cheltenham , an outstation used by First.

I returned to Gloucester by way of Staverton and Churchdown noting this to be the 94 Stagecoach Gold route and I include one of the bus stop flags used for this service which I think look rather good.

Stagecoach Gold bus stop flag at Staverton.

I arrived at the depot in London Road and parked my car. I now had a couple of hours to myself and I was able to get a number of interesting pictures in the depot and around Gloucester itself.

The depot in London Road which I was told had been a tram depot many years ago. It was inherited from the Bristol Omnibus Company.
It is well appointed and offers under cover parking for the whole Gloucester fleet.

An excellent workshop is provided with well lit pits.

Under cover parking is available for almost all the fleet.

There is some outside parking for the reserve fleet which include this elderly Dart once based at Coleford.

It was still rather wet when I decided to go into the town centre and catch up with local service buses.
My transport from the depot was this Stagecoach Gold Scania 15527 working through from Cheltenham on the 94.
It is seen here loading for its return departure to Cheltenham.

Clarence St is the departure point for a number of local services operated by a variety of buses.
These include Tridents, some ex Manchester, new M A N 18.240 Enviro 300s and a solitary Versa.

The bus station also sees some departures and two are shown above.
One of these is worked b y one the refurbished Volvos once the price of route 66 is on the 97.
A Scania is also seen on route 5.

The depot held two nice surprises, one being RML2657 (12657) often used on race services and available for wedding hire
plus an ex Brighton & Hove open top Lodekka.

After an excellent all day breakfast at the bus station cafe, most reasonably priced, I joined "my coach" on its way back to the depot off its first run, once again 59301. After cleaning, fuelling and an exterior wash it was ready for me to operate the 15:30 departure to London via Cheltenham. This time I was "up to speed" and we were off on time, once again with a full load advised after Cheltenham. I left Cheltenham spot on time and noting slow traffic through Charlton kings took a slightly different route out of the centre, via The Promenade, to join the A40, then choosing the A435 towards Cirencester and the M4 at Swindon. We made good time to the M4 and this proved clear right through to London. The bus lane from Heathrow to the fly over added to our fast run up to town and apart from one car in front, not a taxi, only the person who forced his way out of the outside car lane against our right of way caused any problem. Traffic was heavy along the Cromwell Road  but this only cost us ten minutes and I pulled into VCS at 18:40, a much better performance than the previous night. Indeed one kind passenger commented it was like being on the train, it was such a smooth journey.

After unloading in Sammy's I went round to try to get onto Bay 9 but was told to go away until 19:25 at the earliest. I though the best place to park would be Green Line and on turning into Bulleid Way was met by the sight of four Oxford Tubes on layover. I managed to get the last parking space and went to chat with my colleagues who told me they were all out of hours as the traffic on the M40/A40 had been so bad. I thought how lucky I had been to choose the M4.

I had my break and a nice cup of tea and some sandwiches. At 19:35 I went round to VCS and was allowed on to Bay 9. Once again my loading chart showed a full load with 14 for Cirencester, 26 for Cheltenham and 9 for Gloucester. I was loaded and ready for the off at 19:58 and promptly at 20:00 pulled out of VCS. Taking the same route as Friday evening we were soon on to the M4 for a fast unhindered run down to Swindon and the A419. After unloading at Cirencester, onwards to Cheltenham where 26 passengers left the coach some 10 minutes early and we headed onwards to Gloucester and another 10 minute early arrival.

59301 had performed faultlessly though its hill climbing was less than sparking, unlike our two axle versions. I did not find the extra length any problem, in fact from a driving point there was little difference to the smaller coach. Sadly the seating on all these tri-axles is not wearing well and they do look rather worn compared to the all leather seats on our two axle Levantes.

I must say I really enjoyed the experience and the comment from the National Express Controller at SC Gloucester, Matt Turley, when I told him I was 90 minutes late on the Friday into VCS was "welcome to 444".

The passengers were really nice and there was much less baggage than on the 737 which made life much easier.

Thanks to everyone at SC Gloucester, you were all most kind and I would be happy to help again if required.

Your Editor at Gloucester with 59301.

Alperton Garage's route 83 by Mark E Lyons 

First London is currently receiving a batch of 31 Wright Gemini2 bodied Volvo B9TLs for use on Alperton Garage's route 83.  The first few have now entered service and I attach a couple of shots taken yesterday.

Along with similar vehicles now arriving at London Central these are the first Volvos (aside from the one off prototype B9, three "seed" buses with Enviro400 bodies delivered to London General and the B5 Hybrids with Arriva) for TfL service since April 2006.

Picture by Mark E Lyons.

Why do people wait on bus stops 

Brian Kilham writes "Why is it that even driving instructors don’t know what road signs and markings mean?"

Sign clearly says “No stopping except local buses”

This car was stopped for at least 5 minutes before I took the photo in Norfolk St. Oxford.

I agree with Brian about indiscriminate parking, often by taxis who seem to think the law does not apply to them. They drop on pedestrian crossings and park on blind corners. In general the standard of driving is deteriorating more as the months pass by.

I include a picture I took relating to cyclists and the use of bus lane when a cycle track exists. This one was on London Road, Headington and the picture speaks a thousand words.

Note the cyclist using the cycle track !!!!!!!

Midland Red marks M1’s 50th - CM6T and newly refurbished C5 take a trip down memory lane 

Ian Smith sent this report.

To mark 50 years since the opening of the M1 (November 2, 1959) and the start of the famous Midland Red ME1 Motorway Express service between Birmingham and London, Wythall museum’s Midland Red CM6T motorway coach joined Roger Burdett’s newly restored Midland Red C5 coach and a modern National Express Scania K340 EB6/Caetano Levante (the coach used was Stagecoach West / Gloucester 59304 FJ08KOH - more normally used on service 444.) on a commemorative trip from Digbeth to Victoria Coach Station and back, using the original A45/M45/M1 route first taken on November 2 1959 by two Midland Red CM5Ts.

The C5 was driven by its owner, Roger Burdett, the CM6 by former Midland Red driver Lloyd Penfold and the Scania by National Express controller Matthew Turley.

The threesome left Digbeth just after 9am and arrived comfortably within the scheduled journey time of 3hrs 25mins despite a ten-minute comfort stop at Toddington.

Amongst the passengers on this commemorative run were two Midland Red stalwarts, Martin Hobson, whose 40 years with Midland Red included time as Technical Assistant in the Central Works body shop when BMMO was building its own vehicles, and Jim Pearson, Development Engineer for the original CM5 Motorway Express coach. The two Midland Red coaches certainly made heads turn on the motorway and at Victoria Coach Station where they stood resplendent for an hour and a half before making the return journey. 

When the M1 first opened it was expected to carry up to 20,000 vehicles a day: now that figure is around 140,000. Before the coming of the motorway, Midland Red’s traditional express services took nearly six hours to get from Birmingham to London via the A5 or A41 but the opening of the M1 enabled the company to shave a good two hours off that time. This meant developing vehicles capable of travelling at 80mph (there was no speed limit in those days) rather than the 30mph that PSVs were limited to on ordinary roads. 

The legendary Midland Red Motorway Express CM5T coach was big news at the time and was honoured by a Corgi Toys model that sold in its thousands and a cutaway diagram colour spread in the boys’ comic Eagle at that time.  

The commemorative run was a suitable reminder of the pioneering efforts of  Midland Red in having a coach ready to take full advantage of the new motorway and the work that went on behind the scenes to overcome problems such as tyres that disintegrated at speeds of over 50mph and the sheer power necessary to propel a laden vehicle at two and a half times the previously allowed speed. However, just as we no longer have supersonic travel, coaches can no longer travel at 80mph.

The fact that the two classic Midland Red coaches could easily have out-performed the new Scania coach on the anniversary run is a salutary reminder they are from an era when the motorways were emptier and they were built to cruise at a speed that is no longer permitted.


"I'm sending you an invitation to visit my Midland Red site in case some of the pictures there are of interest.

One of these days I'm going to scan in all those old pictures from the 60s and 70s that I mentioned ages ago - Houses of Watlington, COMS of course, UCOC, Heyfordian and many others from that era.

Finally, the old timer attached was taken in  1934 at Southsea: it's a 20-seat Bedford WLB/Duple C20F UD5469 built 1933: the driver is my great uncle Bert. He and my grandad (W& B Smith, or Smith Bros) traded as Miltonian Bus Services from The Garage, Great Milton until  August 1938 when they sold out to COMS fearing the coming war and possible petrol rationing. They ran to Southsea every Sunday and also ran stage carriage services from Little Milton to Oxford several times daily, later COMS 73, and on Tuesdays only from Stadhampton to Thame, later COMS 89. COMS acquired three Bedfords, two Chevrolets and a Dennis Ace but not the premises. COMS built a new 2-bus outstation up Thame Road in the village in the early 50s, now replaced by housing of course. There is still a building near the green at Great Milton that has the same profile as the old Miltonian garage but it's actually a modern replacement.

With the proceeds of the sale to COMS the brothers each bought a farm in Great MIlton, one of which I grew up on, until 1967 when things turned full circle Dad sold out and became a bus driver for COMS at Cowley Road. A year later I joined Midland Red in Birmingham as a company trainee as the then GM at COMS suggested I would get better all round training at the larger company.

This is the only photo we have in the family: there must be some more out there - maybe the appearance of this picture might trigger some memories?! 

More anon.

Marcus Lapthorn goes to Daventry 

Marcus writes "I was in Daventry at the weekend and took these shots on Saturday 7 November which appear to be reasonably representative of the vehicle types used there."

Geoff Amos well loaded bus awaiting departure back to Banbury from Daventry bus station on Sat 7 Nov 2009.

Stagecoach 47410 at Daventry.

Stagecoach Dart 34532 at speed in Daventry.

Stagecoach 16231 taking a sharp curve after leaving Daventry bus station. This bus is interesting as it appears to have coach style seating.

More on 2047LG by Ian Tompkins

I've come across your thread on the Oxford and Chilterns Bus Page about 2048 LG, the Royal Tiger that was lengthened then rebodied by Plaxtons, and ended up in the Berresford's yard at Cheddleton.  I have a colour shot of this - though I didn't know its identity until a contact who used to work for Berresford's identified it to me.

I remember this coach when first rebuilt by Les Gleave of Sandbach and its work with the Smith empire which he owned. It seemed odd to have a 36ft Royal Tiger. Ed.

About J8TCC 

Alex McRobbie writes "Just A Quick E-Mail regarding a coach you featured on your page recently."
"J8TCC - This little 32 seat M A N has Jonckheere bodywork and what appears to be a toilet at the rear. I am unaware of its history or how long it has been with Abbey but it was very smart indeed and someone had parked it most considerately for the camera. 

I know a little bit on the history of this coach. It is still in the colour scheme of 'Dodds of Troon' or just 'Dodds' as it is usually referred to. I think the coach was owned from new by Dodds. Just thought you might like to know as this is still the livery that they use today."


One of the new tri-axle Setras of Shearings seen at Oxpens through the lens of Gavin Francis on 15th November.

Football in Wycombe

The Brighton team coach at Adams Park by Gavin Francis on 7th November.

Once with Yorkshire Traction and then Stagecoach this MCW double deck coach was hidden away at Oxpens when Gavin Francis saw it on 9th November.