Monday, 27 April 2015

Easters Adventures!

Apologies (again!) for the lack of posts for a month, however I have had a lot going on and been rather busy.

This post will just be about the various goings on over the last month, including Stagecoach South Wests 2015 orders, my Easter Adventures and a new thing or two for the blog!

Something quite local to start with, Rail Riverlink's new toy; an ex-Go Ahead London VP17 (new to Durham Motor Services) Volvo B7TL/Plaxton President X169FBB has joined the fleet for use on route 100. It is rumoured to replace the Leyland & Volvo Olympians later in the year. X169 saw it's first day on the road at the end of March in it's very smart Maroon and Cream livery. I sampled a ride on a Totnes-Paignton 100 and it performed exceptionally well on the hills considering it came from London, and looks really tidy inside. Volvo Olympian 5 N589BRH has been treated to a spruce up inside, with new seat moquette and a painted floor and panels. Certainly doesn't look it's age of 19 years!

Whilst I'm on the subject of Go-Ahead London Volvo B7TLs, Plymouth Citybus will be withdrawing some of there early examples that they received in 2011, mainly those that are currently in the 'old' two-tone red livery. They are being replaced by 8 2002 Transbus Trident/Presidents, of which all but two have arrived from Brighton & Hove this week. The Tridents that have arrived so far are: PK02RDU/V/Y/Z/RFF/J. Photos of the Brighton & Hove Tridents with many thanks to Bobby Darch.

Interior shot...
A trio of ex-Brighton Transbus Tridents at Plymouth's Milehouse depot
It's not only Go-Ahead Plymouth upgrading the fleet, but also First Kernow! I fear the time for the Volvo (and two Leyland) Olympians is slowly coming to an end, with the arrival of Volvo B7TL/Alexander ALX400s 32097 KP51WCY from Leicester, and 32027 V124LGC (Open topper) from Buses of Somerset. An ex-Metroline Transbus President bodied Trident turned up at Camborne on the morning of the 22nd April, this being ex-TP465 LK03GKD. In addition to this, 3 Tridents are rumoured to arrive at Camborne in the next week or two from Olive Grove. With many thanks to David Letcher I can bring you a photo of LK03GKD...

LK03GKD at Camborne
Whilst First increase their fleet, I am told that Western Greyhound's Summercourt depot is now empty, with the final vehicles from the fleet making the journey to Ensignbus last week. This brings the end of an era, and one of the most well known independent operators in the country. Word has it that Mark Howarth has also sold off his heritage collection, with the Routemaster RM1062 and "Sea Dog" Leyland Atlantean 724XUW being seen at Ensignbus too.

A little further North, at Stagecoach South West the 2015 vehicle orders have been announced. They are as following:
5x Alexander Dennis euro 6 E40D Enviro400MMC's, numbered 10452-10456
11x euro 5 Scania N230UD/Alexander Dennis Enviro400's, numbered 15250-15260
18x Optare Solo SLR, numbered 48003-48020

The Enviro400MMC's are destined for Exeter's Honiton Road 'RED' Park & Ride service I've been told, displacing the current '59 reg Enviro400's to do other routes. I've heard these may be transferring to Torbay. As for the 11 Scania N230UD's, all of them will be built to 'Stagecoach Gold' specification, and used on Exeter-Brixington route 57 except from 15250 which will be delivered to Torquay depot for use on the Plymouth service, or the X46. From what I've heard, the current 2010 Scanias on the 57 will be transferred to Torbay to work routes 13/22/23, and replace 17003 S803BWC, 17056/7/8 T656/7/8KPU aswell as some of the later 04 reg Tridents. Finally, the 18 Solo's are bound for Exeter depot, presumably to work high street services.
Our oldest fleet member - 17003 is seen earning it's keep in Paignton on the 22

One of 12 Torbay based Gold vehicles
Although I'm no fan of modern buses at all, and like to moan and groan when new buses are ordered to replace older stock I have to say how quickly Stagecoach have turned the fleet around in the South West. It was only four years ago that passengers were riding around in Mercedes 709D's, Leyland & Volvo Olympians and step-entrance Dennis Darts. As I said, thats my idea of heaven but Stagecoach South West had a bit of a reputation for their cascaded, and aged fleet. Four years on, the age profile has been significantly lowered and 'Gold' has been introduced, providing passengers with extra comfort.

Now...time for some exciting news! Inspired by NorwichBuses blog, I have begun creating fleetlists for operators in the South West. So far, I have completed Jackett's Coaches, and Stagecoach South West. I am limited for time so progress will be slow, but I hope to start on Dial-a-Bus Local Link, Rail River Link and Plymouth Citybus next, and launch them on the Blog shortly. Any thoughts on them, or further ideas for the blog will be much appreciated!

So what have I been up to over Easter?

For the first week of my fortnights holiday, I mainly stayed within the local area. Saturday 28th March saw us have a final bash on the late Brixham Local services 17/17A & 18 before journeys after 18:00 would be withdrawn the following day. Optare Solo M880SL 47699 WA59CSO was our steed for that evening.

Monday 30th March saw me ,for some mad reason, catch the 06:45 X46 off of Paignton up to Exeter (vehicle 15963 YN63OWR) where I would then sample various rural routes. My steed to Folly Gate was ex-Manchester Transbus ALX400 Trident 17706 ML02KCU, one of few Tridents ordered by Stagecoach. After a ride to Great Torrington on former Oxford 18134 and back to Exeter on 18395, I made my way to Exmouth to catch 'The Big Beach Bus' 17701 ML02RWO on it's usual 95 service to Devon Cliffs.

Although a bit slow in doing so, which is unusual for me, I finally got around to sampling the revised X64 service on Wednesday 1st April, which was re-routed to Dartmouth and taken over by Torquay depot in January. My vehicle for the lengthy run from Exeter to Dartmouth was 19093 MX56PHK , one of the better integral Alexander Dennis Enviro400's that Stagecoach South West have. It made good time on the journey, coping with hills well and even arriving into Dartmouth a few minutes ahead of time!

After a relatively boring week running round Devon, Saturday 4th April was far more exciting! I had pre-booked a ticket for the overnight train to London, though with a difference! Due to engineering work at Reading, services from the South West to London were diverted via Basingstoke and terminated at London Waterloo, whilst services from Wales were diverted via Oxford, Banbury and then the Chiltern Mainline, though they terminated at Paddington as usual. Because the usual Sleeper Mk3's aren't cleared for the line through Basingstoke and into Waterloo, a HST set (Powercars 43198 + 43148) was used on the Overnight service, with a rake of standard daytime Mk3's. The service was coded as 1O35 rather than 1A40 as it would usually be. 5 hours in the newly refurbished First Class was very pleasant and we arrived into London right on time at just gone 6am. Rather than spending the day in London, I decided to go over to East Kent for some Volvo Olympian action. A good day was had, with haulage on the following:

47661 GN58NXF
47677 GN58PXC
17402 Y103GHC
16788 P718GND
16505 R505UWL
16361 N361LPN
20955 R955XVM
16139 R139EVX
15188 YN64AXK
15484 GN09BAO
20654 R654HCD
36893 GN13NNG

Apart from a slight mishap regarding tickets, which was later resolved and I was refunded what I was owed, it had been a great day! I headed back into London St Pancras on SouthEastern 395013 from Dover, giving me plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and jump on the 18:27 HST from Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads to clear the other diversion. After boarding the train, it would seem my luck had finally begun to run out; an announcement was made just after departure time saying that there was a problem with the Powercar and that it needed fitters attention. About 10 minutes later,  heard a group of staff members bickering by the leading Powercar, shortly followed by an announcement that the train could not be fixed and for passengers to transfer onto a spare HST set on Platform 4. Eventually, with 43094 + 43185 for haulage we departed London Paddington 23 minutes late. I was a little concerned about making my connection at Bristol Temple Meads (the 21:44 to Newton Abbot, also the last Newton Abbot bound train of the night) however we slowly made up time en-route...until Chippenham where a passenger had decided to do something stupid. I'm not exactly sure what, but said individual was removed from the train, causing us great delay. We arrived into Bristol Temple Meads just minutes after my connection had departed, which worried me. After a word with staff at BRI, I was told to catch the 22:30 all stops to Exeter St David's, and then First Great Western would pay for a taxi to Newton Abbot, demonstrating their fantastic customer service. My traction for the service to Exeter was, to my surprise, 158957 so that was a decent ride. I have since been refunded for my delay so it's all good. :-)

Apart from a trip to Taunton to catch up with the fleet on Wednesday, I had a fairly restful second week until the weekend when we went up to visit family in Luton. After the rather tedious (I hate car journeys!) drive up to Luton on Friday, I was straight out bus 'vegging'. I had the afternoon to explore a fleet I'd not yet done; Arriva the Shires. Whether it was down to luck or not I don't know, but it was a bloody great afternoon. My first ride of the day was Volvo Olympian 5138 N38JPP on route 8 as far as Luton & Dunstable hospital, followed by DAF SB220/Plaxton Prestige V272HBH. As far as I can remember, that was my first trip on a Plaxton Prestige, and I very much enjoyed it! Next was Dennis Trident 5443 W443XKX, which was...well...amazing! The loudest euro2 Trident I've ever been on, and with the Voith gearbox is really was a treat. After doing about half of the route 24H on that, I alighted and boarded 5429 W429XKX back to Luton, which again, was brilliant! A very pleasant surprise awaited as we pulled into Luton Interchange; a DLA! Or to those not so clued up on Londons fleetcodes, a DAF DB250LF/Alexander ALX400. In the form of 6286 Y486UGC, I headed over to Leighton Buzzard. It made a nice change to have a DLA being worked hard, rather than dawdling around London. After that, I headed back to Dunstable on one of Arriva's rather posh Scania L94UB's, KE55CTF. A trip on the new(ish) Luton Busway was a must, so I boarded Volvo B7RLE 3956 KX12GZT and rode to Luton Airport. I must say how quick the route is on the Busway, it really cuts out a lot of wasted time. That brought the day to a nice end, and after a ride back to my uncles on Stagecoach Dart 34426 and a nice meal in a local pub, I headed to bed for a very early start the following day...

After being woken at the great hour of 4:25am by my alarm, it was time to hastily get ready and head down to Clophill Village Green for the 05:00 81 into Luton. All very well, until the bus didn't turn up... At around 05:30 I got a lift into Luton, however when we found the A6 was shut, we began tackling the lengthy diversion through Hitchin into Luton, delaying me by around 2 hours. After boarding the 07:04 train to London (I had planned to be on the 05:46), with 387124 for haulage, I had hoped to make up some lost time. A dash through London, and a tight connection at Liverpool Street allowed me to make up a bit of time, and I caught the 08:00 train to Ipswich. Unfortunately, it wasn't the loco hauled 90+Mk3 set I had hoped for, instead 321343 turned up. Because of engineering works between Ipswich & Norwich, I had to catch a rail replacement coach for the last leg of the journey, this being in the form of Horizon Travel's Scania K114/Irizar PB YN04GGV. Very tidy machine indeed. I met up with fellow enthusiasts Sam Larke and Cameron Robinson and gained haulage on various interesting vehicles. These being as following:

36173 BD11CFX
Konnect 502 YJ05PXC
33152 LR02LXL
66339 MV02VCO
Norse N/A
42921 EU05AUN
36179 BD11CDY
The large quantities of Dennis Tridents, and various Volvo B7TL and B7L's in the First Eastern Counties were of great interest to me, and it was nice to have the opportunity to photograph another fleet that I'd not yet done. 
A Postwick liveried Trident in Norwich

Another thing that stood out for me in Norwich was the amount of Park & Ride services. There are 6 sites in total, with Park & Ride bus routes being operated by Norse and Go-Ahead Konnect. Norse use a fleet of former London  '03 reg Transbus Trident/Plaxton Presidents, whilst Konnect use native VDL DB250LF/Wright Pulsar Geminis, and Enviro400's. It provides great photographing opportunities with such variety, in both buses and liveries and it's great to see a Park & Ride operation use second hand vehicles, rather than excessive fuss being made over top spec, modern buses which passengers sit on for no more than 20 minutes! Unfortunatley, that will change in the summer when the Norwich Park & Ride is all re-shuffled, with Konnect taking on all routes with a batch of brand new double deckers.

A pair of Konnect Wright Pulsar Gemini's at Thickthorn
Norse's depot
Towards the end of the day, we took a walk over to Norse's depot, which is a short distance from the Airport Park & Ride site, to view the schools and spare fleet. We also visited an independent operator in Wymondham and got some 'through the fence' photos, which again was an interesting visit.

The couldn't have ended any better either; as I walked into Norwich Railway Station for my train to Cambridge and then London, Talisman's exceptionally smart Leyland Olympian H47MJN pulled in, about to work an Ipswich bound rail replacement service. After a very quick change of plan, I boarded and it made a cracking run over to Ipswich, fantastic sound and turn of speed. Not everyday you can head home on something like that! The day came to an end with a Greater Anglia 321 pair, and a Thameslink 377 to Flitwick. It had been a fantastic weekend, and also thanks to Sam and Cameron for the company, and knowledge of the area! 
Talisman's H47MJN at Ipswich