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|
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|
|Brijan Tours PJZ4110 in Southampton|
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:
- Service X64 Exeter-Totnes will be extended to Dartmouth on Monday to Saturday
- Subsequently, Stagecoach GOLD Totnes-Dartmouth is being withdrawn
- Stagecoach have re-gained the Marks & Spencers Willows contract
- Minor timetable changes to route 13, 22 and X46
|Exeter based Trident 18116 WA04FOH stands at Totnes on |
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!