Sunday, 27 October 2013

Decades of good memories!

As many of you will be aware, the introduction of Stagecoach Gold from Torquay to Paignton , Totnes , Dartmouth & Plymouth has meant First Bus are 'giving in' on the X80/X81. Today (Sunday 27th) at 00:27 saw Alexander Dennis Pointer Dart WA56FTV return from it's final voyage to Paignton and Torquay, and from that point, the X80/X81 was officially withdrawn.

Saturday 26th was the last day, so I decided I would go out on the X80 and X81s all day to see if I could get every vehicle out in one day. I didn't quite manage a ride on every bus, but I was almost there;
  • Volvo B6BLE W833PFB
  • Dennis Trident/Plaxton President HIG1523
  • Dennis Trident/Plaxton President X954HLT
  • Dennis Trident/Plaxton President LR02LYS
  • Dennis Trident/Plaxton President LR02LYW
  • Dennis Trident/East Lancs Lolyne X504BFJ
  • Volvo Olympian/Northern Counties Palatine K803ORL
  • Dennis Trident/Plaxton President X954HLT
  • Dennis Trident/East Lancs Lolyne W715RHT
  • Alexander Dennis Pointer Dart WA56FTV 

As far as I know, I missed Marshall bodied Dart T291JLD and maybe a couple of Tridents. Today was one jolly good day albeit saddening with the withdrawal of such a long standing route.

The X80 and X81 routes date way back into Western National days, with Bristol VR's being the mainstay of the route, followed by the A-VAF Olympians, then in 1993 Volvo Olympians  K801/2/3/4ORL were delivered for the route.After this came the ex-Airbus Alexander Royale bodied Volvo Olympians and finally in 2007 came a batch of East Lancs bodied Tridents from Bath Park and Ride which have remained on the route until now. Aswell as the buses I've mentioned, the X80's have been notorious for strange and unusual choices of buses on certain journeys from time to time, having seen quite a few ex-London Marshall bodied Dennis Darts and Volvo B6BLEs on the route, that is certainly the case.  

As I mentioned earlier in this post , Volvo Olympian 34003 K803ORL was out in action on the X80/X81 today. It is rare for this bus to work anything other than the Dartmouth Academy school contract route. Weather it was a simple coincidence that 34003 would come out to play on the last day of service due to a shortage of Tridents or weather it was planned as a 'treat' to reflect the earlier days of the X80, when the service was run with 4 coach spec Olympians , for the benefit of enthusiasts we cannot be sure. Although, having had a trip on her from Torquay to Woodlands, it was certainly a great way to round off the operations.

First have always run this service well, despite some passengers describing the buses as "Old and shabby" etc. In 2008, Stagecoach Devon launched route X45 which was Paignton to Plymouth via Ivybridge to compete with the X80, however First Bus were quick to retaliate by lowering their fares and introducing a more frequent service. Stagecoach soon realized who was in charge and withdrew the X45, once again leaving First victorious! On 30th September 2013, Stagecoach announced a new "Gold" service in the South West, this service would be pretty much identical to the current X80/X81 routes run by First. With Go-Ahead Plymouth Citybus taking on First with the 4 (Plymouth-Keyham) , 81 (Plymouth-Torpoint) and 83/84/86 (Plymouth-Tavistock), it was decided First would concentrate on improving their Plymouth City network rather than fighting over Torbay, so the decision was taken to terminate operation of X80/X81 on 26th October 2013. 

After finishing it's day on the 48 Wembury service, Alexander Dennis Dart WA56FTV turned up in Plymouth (Although 20 minutes late due to a Hanover Display problem) to work the 19:35 X80 from Plymouth to Paignton. This would be the last ever X80 departure from Bretonside. On arrival at Torquay, it would work back to Totnes and return to Torquay, just in time for the 2300 departure for Plymouth. This would be the LAST EVER First Bus to operate out of Torbay. 

At 00:27 when the last X80 was due in to Plymouth, the route was officially withdrawn. That's it- the end. Over 3 decades of different bus types and many many journeys to and fro' Torbay on the X80 is over, nothing more than fond memories.

You can view my tribute video BY CLICKING HERE

Farewell X80/X81!