Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Days before DDA

With just two days left of stage carriage work for the majority of elderly single deck vehicles before the much dreaded DDA comes in on the 1st January 2016, I thought it would fit to write a post about what I've seen in the lead up to Christmas that may not see 2016.

Whilst the DDA law double deckers doesn't come in until this time next year, operators are sadly replacing the step entrance examples at an alarming rate.

First Kernow 42471 T471JCV at Newquay
A recent visit to Cornwall on Friday 18th December saw a surprising amount of non-DDA vehicles on the road. Single-deck wise, these included First Kernow Dennis Dart SLFs 42801 Y1EDN, 42471 T471JCV, 42521 R421WPX and Optare Solos 50284 W215DWX & 53012 W812PAF as well as Travel Cornwall UK Mercedes Vario RIL5199 on a Truro College working,

Whilst I've never been fussed over Dart SLFs, I decided to ride aboard Dart/ALX200 42471 on the lengthy 87 route which connects Newquay to Truro via Perranporth. I guess I'll have to admit to missing the Torbay ones a bit, in comparison to the crap that has replaced them in recent times. I later caught up with my Cornish 'Stalker' Dart, 42521 R421WPX on route 21 which I rode from Quintrell Downs to St Austell.

43810 KU52RXJ at Truro Bus Station
As I've previously mentioned, the majority of the newer low floor vehicles from Plymouth depot were transferred to Cornwall to replace Olympians and non-DDA Darts in the fleet. However, I noticed on that visit that the non-DDA Darts replacements are infact, Non-DDA! Former Torpoint Transbus Mini Pointer Dart 43810 KU52RXJ has been treated to a repaint into 'Olympia' livery and looks rather smart, however she lacks a side destination blind meaning it cannot be used after the 31st. Some of the former Truronian Optare Solos are similar, 53404 TT54TVL has been repainted into a rather smart semi-Barbie like livery, however lacks the side blind, as does 53205 HIG8434 which was the former Dartmouth Park & Ride vehicle.

Although many replacements have arrived in the form of 2002 (and one 2005) Ceatano Slimbus bodied Transbus Dart SLFs from Hereford, Essex and Great Yarmouth, it will be interesting to see if buses such as 2005 Solo 53205 and 2002 Dart 43810 are fitted with necessary equipment to comply with DDA, or if they'll be disposed of in the new year.
42863 EG52FFK in Norwich - thanks to Cameron Robinson

661-4 R904BOU at Cribbs Causeway
A visit to Bristol on the 22nd December was a real shocker, at least three non-DDA Volvo B10BLEs out and about in the First fleet! I was delighted to be able to have a couple of 'last rides' on them, those were 66104 R904BOU and 66162 S362XCR, both of which were excellent machines with years of life left in them.  I had 66104 on route 78 from Bristol to Cribbs Causeway (although it continues to Thornbury), it had lovely Dual purpose seats in the latest First moquette as well as a powerful and sweet sounding Volvo D10A pounding away underneath. 66162 was had on a round trip to Nailsea and back to Bristol Bus Station on route X8, and provided a smooth and fast ride on a route that gives the B10s a decent run!

With only around 8 B10BLEs in line to survive DDA in Firsts South Yorkshire fleet, and a small number in Somerset, they are certainly becoming a rare breed and will be missed!

Y243DRC at Nailsea
Another surprise on that Bristol trip was Abus', former Trent Barton, Optare Excel Y243DRC. I'm unsure to whether it is DDA compliant or not, however it was only my second Excel for haulage in my life and a decent ride back into Bristol from Nailsea on route X9!

The much loved Volvo B10M will be another type thats up for the chop among fleets, including Stagecoach, where in various parts of the country there is still a minority out in service! Whilst the farewell event in Manchester back in November largely marked the end of the type, some depots in Scotland and the South ran some for schools until now.

Two Varios at Summercourt depot
One operator that was very intriguing was Western Greyhound with their large quantity of Mercedes Varios, only two of which out of the 30 they had when they ceased trading were DDA compliant. They had already made significant progress in replacing these, as they once had 55+ examples of the type, some of which were up to four years younger than their DDA replacements!

Brijan Tours also kept their step entrance Dennis Darts in service surprisingly late before their demise, however I found out the other day that N5BJT that has passed to XelaBus was still being used, and had a final swansong just the other day!
N5BJT at Hedge End Superstores

Sadly, whilst DDA has a lot of supporters, in my opinion it is awful. Small independent operators are having to invest money they can't afford into buying vehicles that are compliant, which are often in worse condition than the older vehicles they are replacing. It's a real shame to see perfectly good buses, like Volvo B10BLEs pensioned off with so many years left in them.

I would like to wish all my blog readers a very Happy new year for 2016!


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