Sunday, 18 January 2015

Torbay Transfers!

Enviro400 19093 MX56PHK stands at Exeter on an X46
As I mentioned last week, Torquay depot were to start running the Stagecoach X64 as of Monday 19th January and that some vehicle transfers would be taking place. Well, I can bring you the news! Yesterday (Saturday 17th) saw Alexander Dennis E40D's 19657/8 WA60FHO/P respectively transfer from Torquay to Exeter. In return, Exeter sent down slightly older, Euro 3 Alexander Dennis Trident E400's 19093/4/5, MX56PHK/N/O respectively, which will run on route X64. Also noted at Exeter Bus Station was Torquay based Transbus ALX400 Trident 18065 WA04CRK. I'm not sure why that was there.

19657 WA60FHO in Torquay, November 2014
I had managed to get a ride on 19093 on the X46 from Paignton to Exeter and she performed really well. 19093 has always been among my favourite of the Enviro400s at Stagecoach South West, far superior to the newer euro 5 ones in my opinion.

Torquay based 18065 rests in Exeter.
A short spell of 15 minutes in Exeter gave me just enough time to zoom round to the depot and see what was in, as well as check the Rural Car Workings board to see if there were any sign of 19657/8 out in Exeter. I just missed out on a shot of 18065 & 19065 parked together at Exeter, and in the depot was ex-Torquay 18067, along with Euro 2 Dennis Dart SLF/Plaxton Pointer 2 34115 V115MVX which is now a driver training vehicle. It was accompanied by 18062, and open top Dennis Trident 17701 ML02RWO. The rural car workings board showed 19658 as being on the X38, however there was no sign of 19657 out in service.

Exeter Depot
24148 WA59FXE in Plymouth after completing an X38.
Although, to the normal passenger the Enviro swap would seem totally pointless, and a downgrade for those at the Torbay end, it makes life for Torquay depot far easier as the older Enviro400s share more parts with the current fleet of Transbus/ADL Tridents. The newer euro5 Enviro400s, however, have slightly newer engines, which means just the two of them are oddities at Torquay. Personally, i strongly dislike the Euro5 Enviros, so I'm really happy with the transfers. I find the Euro 3 Enviro400 Tridents far better, louder and more powerful.

After my very brief run round Exeter, I pressed on to Plymouth and my chariot on the X38 was most unhealthy sounding MAN A69/Enviro300 24148 WA59FXE which achieved a mere 18mph on the Plymouth bound section of the incline after Splatford, in first gear with the fan belts screeching away. I'm quite shocked at what sort of state the MAN's are in after just 5 years service! Though in fairness, MAN haven't had the best reputation for reliability within Stagecoach Group.





Sunday, 11 January 2015

Eventful New Year!

Well, just 10 days into 2015 and I'm quite shocked at how much has happened so far, and how much I have to blog about! This post will cover a fair few different bit's and pieces about the end of last year and what's occurred so far in 2015!

So, after a fantastic year where I visited various parts of the country, I ended 2014 having clocked up a mighty 13892 miles on the railways and made 2107 bus journeys, from my usual commute to school to thrashing through the Kent Countryside to dawdling around Manchester City Centre on Magic Bus Tridents! I really did do some amazing trips, and had great laughs with both old friends and I met quite a few new people too!

My top 5 trips last year (excluding my holiday to Manchester which saw me visit Merseyside, Cheshire and Burnley) were as follows:

  • London Transport C-stock 'Explorer' tour Sunday 13th April 
  • East Kent Olympian bash Saturday 2nd August
  • West Midlands with Ben S. Saturday 23rd August
  • Chesterfield & Sheffield visit Saturday 6th September
  • London DLA bash with London Transport 3001 (Josh) Thursday 30th october


First Great Western 158798 at Southampton Central
Now - onto 2015 where I kicked off the year with a 'Freedom of the South West' which I had two days remaining on from 2014, so I took a trip to Southampton & Eastleigh on the 2nd January. It was mainly a railway based trip where I saw the Gunwharf Quays liveried First Great Western 158798, along with Freightliner 70014 at Southampton Central. I also caught fairly new GBRF 66706 & 66755 at Eastleigh, in the company of Colas Rail 56078,66846 and another UID 56. DB Schenker also had EWS liveried 66143 out shunting, along with another Shed at Westbury. From what I hear, DBS are having a cull of the majority of their Class 08 'Gronks' and using various Sheds and Tugs on the Gronk's shunting duties. 

After a short period at Eastleigh Station, I headed over to the bus station to see what was out and about. I waited for Brijan Tours service 8 to see what would turn up, and to my surprise, a step entrance Dennis Dart/Alexander Dash registered N5BJT turned up. So I rode that to Hedge End train station before jumping onto First Solent Dennis Trident 32706 W706PHT back into Southampton. Although I was becoming pushed for time, I stuck around Above Bar street to see what would turn up on Velvet's route A as I had sighted ex-Western Greyhound Trident Y447NHK on the route earlier, still in it's Stagecoach London livery. To my surprise, ex-Go Ahead London DWL18, a VDL SB120/Wright Cadet FJ54ZDP showed up, and I couldn't resist a trip on it so I took a short ride before heading home via Westbury. 
Velvet FJ54ZDP at Southampton on route A

WK04KUO is seen passing Southampton West Quay
In light of the previous days excitement with Velvet's surprises and Brijan's step-Darts, I decided another trip to the area was needed the next Day, so I did just that! After disembarking Bluestar's HX51ZRF which I had travelled into town from Southampton Central on, I was shocked to walk round the corner and find ex-Western Greyhound Mercedes O814D/Plaxton Beaver 2 WK04KUO waiting to depart on an A to Hedge End. I, regrettably, turned down a trip on this in favour of getting some daytime shots in Southampton, which I had been unable to do the previous day. After a trip on a First Volvo B10BLE & Enviro200 , I boarded Brijan Tours' Alexander Dash bodied Dennis Dart PJZ4110 on route 7 all the way to Bishops Waltham. To my surprise, Stagecoach South Volvo Olympian 16769 S769RVU was waiting to work a 69 to Fareham just as we arrived, so I jumped straight onto that. After a brief trip and few photos on the "Eclipse" Busway, I headed down to Portsmouth on Volvo B10BLE 66158 S358XCR. After spending a couple of hours in Portsmouth getting some night shots, I caught First Great Western 158961 to Westbury and a HST back to Newton Abbot, bringing to an end my first trip of 2015! 

Brijan Tours PJZ4110 in Southampton
I regretted not doing the full journey on route A after I had heard that Velvet were to cease operating and that all of their routes would be transferred to Xelabus. It's a shame to see yet another independent operator go under. A large amount of buses are to be transferred to replace the remaining Western Greyhound Mercedes Vario's, including the VDL SB120's they've recently acquired. It will be interesting to see what else ends up at Western Greyhound over the coming weeks. As for the Varios, 591 & 592 are DDA Compliant as they have wheelchair lifts, so they are to be kept whilst "Monty" 599 YN53VBO will be kept as a heritage bus, thankfully. 


So whilst Western Greyhound soldier on, another Cornish independent weren't quite so lucky; Cornish Busways announced they'd ceased trading last week with First taking on an emergency contract for the routes. I'd never travelled with Cornish Busways, but it's a shame to see them go, regardless.

Now onto the Stagecoach front, where from the 19th of January there is going to be another shake up. The following changes will take place:

  1. Service X64 Exeter-Totnes will be extended to Dartmouth on Monday to Saturday
  2. Subsequently, Stagecoach GOLD Totnes-Dartmouth is being withdrawn
  3. Stagecoach have re-gained the Marks & Spencers Willows contract
  4. Minor timetable changes to route 13, 22 and X46
Exeter based Trident 18116  WA04FOH stands at Totnes on
the X64
The X64 will be run out of Torquay depot, as will the M&S bus so that totals at an extra 2 buses they need, which I presume will come from Exeter. The GOLD spec Scania N230UDs currently used on the Dartmouth service will be released to allow full Gold spec bus operation on the X46. The "Dartmouth & Plymouth" branded buses have been re-branded to "Totnes & Plymouth", and some have been done to "English Riviera" so they are suitably branded for the journey to Exeter. There have been various rumours as to what vehicles will be used for the M&S contract and X64, the latest being that Torquay will loose ADL E40Ds 19657 & 19658 and inherit four older Transbus Tridents, or Alexander Dennis Enviro400s (which would be nice seeing as I really dislike 19657/8!), Another rumour is that 19658 is to be used for the M&S contract and we would just inherit two other vehicles from Exeter. Only time will tell I guess...

Re-branded GOLD 15391 at Torquay Strand
My biggest bugbear with it all though, would have to be the fact that the Totnes-Dartmouth GOLD service is being withdrawn just 16 months after it first started. The people who use the route are going to be downgraded from high spec, almost new buses with leather coach seats to some clapped out ex-Manchester Enviro400, or Transbus Trident with far less luxury bus seating, and lack of Wi-Fi. Although the downgrade from a Scania E400 to a Trident is most welcome in mine, and probably quite a few other enthusiasts opinions, it really isn't great for the 'normalers' that use the route for their daily commute etc. Surely Stagecoach should have tested the water first before plunging in and spending millions on new ,high spec buses to grab the route from First Devon & Cornwall which in the long run wouldn't be a worthy investment before giving passengers luxury and then taking it away again not even two years after starting. I must give Stagecoach credit for the Torquay-Plymouth route however, since starting they have increased the frequency of the connection to every half an hour, and run much earlier in the morning and later at night than First run the X80/X81!