Another jaunt southwestward on 28th January took me to Guildford and Horsham and back via Crawley. There you find that Metrobus has the entire town under its control, having ejected Arriva five years ago. Since then, the bus scene in the town hasn’t just been a case of operating London’s cast-offs (though the lower age profile of such buses makes this less of a perceived hardship than in some other towns I could mention). Several batches of Scania OmniCity full-size single-deckers are now in operation, with two orders following that for TfL contract route 358. After the Gatwick Fastway vehicles, the opportunity was taken to convert Crawley town service 1 to OmniCity operation – although there is a capacity cut from the previous Volvo Olympians (which had replaced Darts not long after Metrobus swept into town). The flashier version of the company’s revised colour combination adorns these buses, personified by 553 (YN55 PWK) in the surprisingly amenable bus station.
Thursday 21 December 2006
Tuesday 19 December 2006
Another in the drip-feed I’m giving you of my travels round the south earlier in the year took me to Basingstoke. Yeah, why would I want to go to a place like that, you wonder, but it’s in the way when I’m trying to get to prettier places like Winchester or more varied hunting grounds like Southampton. Anyway, as this picture will show you, it’s got a lot of London buses running around in it – mostly pensioned off far before their time due to fairly trivial reasons of not being low floor, or having a centre door. Stagecoach Hampshire Bus 34109 (V109 MVX, left) was born SLD 109 with Stagecoach East London and was delivered to North Street late in 1999 to finish the conversion to SLD of the 247 that had started with the filtering in of various Alexander-bodied compatriots spare from elsewhere. However, the 247 was converted back to double-deck in 2004 and the Darts had to go. Fitted with the latest dot-matrix blinds (which I have rather a soft spot for and will cover at greater length sometime in the future), 34109 pauses at Basingstoke Station on Saturday 14th January 2006.
By comparison, here is a shot of the bus’s London spell (centre) – but not at its home garage. When the 230 was single-deck operated between 1996 and 2004, its operator, Leyton garage, would often fall short of Darts for this busy route and would borrow from adjacent garages, usually North Street. Anything was possible, with all of DW, DRL and DAL classes of step-entrance Dart photographed by myself, and accordingly on Monday 21st August 2000 SLD 109 was loaned; it is seen setting off from Wood Green.
Monday 18 December 2006
From time to time I’ll take you to the best photographic pitches in London, with the odd bit of advice about what time of day and what conditions are best for pictures. If this was five years ago I’d send you straight to Edmonton Green – an easy spot during the mid-afternoon and a little earlier in the winter; all you had to do was present yourself just forward of the pedestrian crossing, opposite the bus stops, and click away, but not any more. This location, which had never been much of a bus station in the conventional sense, has been flattened to accompany some freshening-up of the area. A new leisure centre has sprung up to the immediate south, with the replacement bus station just about finished and awaiting opening imminently (I’d tell you when, but I’m pretty out of the loop; check TfL’s periodic updates. I do know that its opening was put back a bit until they address concerns like the safety of exiting straight onto a busy roundabout).
On 12th May 2001 First Capital 316 (GYE 416W), a Metrobus purchased second-hand from London General and new as London Transport M 416, works the W8, which had otherwise long been converted to TN-class Trident operation but could still see a few Metrobuses. Nowadays it’s Metroline-operated from Potters Bar.
Thursday 14 December 2006
On Saturday 2nd December the opportunity was taken to introduce a new route in advance of the extension of the Congestion Charge westward into Kensington from early next year. But the new route, known as 452, doesn’t seem to have much of a purpose.
Much like the 414, a route introduced during the initial period of breakneck expansion that came grinding to a halt once the money ran out (hence the massive increase in the Charge and its impending extension), the 452 doesn’t perform the vital role of taking passengers from the suburbs into town and out again, stopping just short and then veering off at an angle. Commencing from Kensal Rise, where it follows the 52 to Knightsbridge, the 452 then picks up the 137 as far as Chelsea Bridge, after which it terminates at Wandsworth Road station. Critics have complained that not only is Wandsworth Road not much of a traffic objective and that the route would be better served continuing to Clapham Junction, but that it has forced a substantial reduction in the PVR of the 137; the increase of buses to that route was perhaps the only good thing that came out of its OPO conversion on 10th July 2005 (and it was certainly necessary, given the decreased speed of one-man buses).
Perhaps the 452 will come into its own once the Charge takes effect, and hopefully it won’t be snarled up by the inevitable increase in traffic pushed further west out of central London. Travel London at Battersea garage (QB) have been given the honours, and are using Tridents like TA 116 (LG52 XZB), seen at Notting Hill Gate on the evening of the first day of the route.
Wednesday 13 December 2006
The most famous ticket machine on London’s buses may have been the Gibson used by London bus conductors from 1953 to 1993, but the Almex E designed for OPO buses ran it a creditable second with approximately twenty years of service. The last of them came off at the end of 1987, and indeed had come into their own once the accompanying self-service ticket machinery had been abandoned in 1979.
They issued a little square ticket with a resounding ‘ptatka!’ sound made possible only by the machines’ being powered by an electric current; otherwise, a lever had to be fitted to snap the ticket out manually. A couple of London Transport garages issued their conductors with Almex Es as an experiment, the most familiar in my experience being Norbiton, whose 65 and 71 were treated during 1983. The ticket on the left is from box 5880, which at the time of issue (Friday 26th June 1985) belonged to Southall and was allocated to route 232. The stage number (10) is next, which for this route was Southall Broadway. Underneath you get the usual London Transport ownership markings, and then upside down is the fare code (A), which that year was the child fare of 15p, and beside that the ticket number (9004). When I was a kid, we used to consider tickets that added up to 21 lucky, and there were fairly reasonable odds of getting one with tickets that only ran from 0000 to 9999.
This ticket is from a batch of Almex Es that were actually acquired from Strathclyde Transport in Glasgow, and while broadly similar to the traditional version could be set to display part of the date – in this case 18th October (1985). Box 7100 (showing the last three figures inherited from its original owner) was allocated to Victoria garage for the 39.
An unusual postscript revealed to me recently by former London bus driver and California expatriate Malcolm Allan, who was kind enough to send me the final picture in today’s post, is that some of the Almex Es found new owners once redundant from London Buses. This one is seen fitted to a Long Beach Transit GMC, and is unusually mounted pointing down, baseplate and all! The driver would issue the ticket and then hand it to the boarding passenger.
Thanks to Malcolm for providing this subject matter – readers are more than welcome to send me pictures and information that you think might be worthy of inclusion in these pages.
Tuesday 12 December 2006
The first part of what might be called a Catching Up series, not necessarily related to 2006 in general, explores some of the stuff I’ve seen fairly close to home.
Out in Surrey buses aren’t exactly thick on the ground, and when they are they’re not subject to some of the more desperate edicts that TfL have spent so much money on. Covering both extremes in Woking on Saturday 7th January 2006 is this Plaxton Beaver-bodied Mercedes-Benz Vario of Flights Hallmark, KF02 ZXB. It’s a late build for a Vario, with the model largely forgotten by 2002 in favour of the much more versatile Mini Pointer Dart, which can seat 30 and still carry a wheelchair. Flights Hallmark are the remnant of Central Parking Service, whose reputation was otherwise destroyed by their dreadful experience with Centra, the former Mitcham Belle operations that they managed to make look even worse than the unpopular predecessor. Still, the livery is personable, with a flashy silver stripe adorning the red with blue skirt, and some route branding is in evidence for this pair of Woking routes. You can also see Flights Hallmark’s double-deckers on school routes in various portions of Surrey.
Monday 11 December 2006
In between covering the 159 road run on Saturday 9th December, I snatched an hour in Bromley to cover some of the happenings of the last few months. The 61 I managed to photograph was a Trident, and an indigenous Bromley vehicle at that, rather than one of the multiple loans from East London or what I particularly wanted, one of the just-introduced Enviro400s. I got a passable 402 (converted from Olympian to DAF single-deck some months back) but both 261s I espied were Tridents rather than that route’s incoming batch of Scanias. What I did manage to bag, therefore, was an example of the latest incarnation of the Bromley Park & Ride, route B99, in the form of Metrobus 207 (SN03 WLL). After double-decking the 405, Metrobus have found themselves with these very youthful Darts spare, and they are hanging around to do the B99. Metrobus have had this seasonal route before – indeed, it’s been through the three local operators once or twice each now – but this year the number seems not to be displayed. It also appears out of a different side street, Ringer’s Road, rather than laying over alongside the Glades shopping centre.
Sunday 10 December 2006
The first anniversary of 9th December 2005 was remembered on Saturday with the procession of several Routemasters down their final normal route, the 159. From Baker Street to Thornton Heath (remembering the extremities of the route before its final service changes rendered it Marble Arch-Streatham Station), it was once again like the old days. Including those buses that gathered after night fell in central London for a tour round the Christmas lights, present at one time or another during the day were nine RMs (29, 291, 719, 1033, 1224, 1397, 1403, 1804 and 2097), ten RMLs (2278, 2372, 2394, 2440, 2472, 2508, 2515, 2544, 2708 and 2730) and RMC 4. Two of those had been active on the last day itself (RM 29 and RML 2730). Meanwhile, at St Paul’s Cathedral six more Routemasters, led by London United’s RML 880, were in attendance to carry the guests of Lucy Davis (Dawn from The Office) to her wedding. And an RT even got in on its descendants’ anniversary, with RT 2043 seen taking its own guests on another Christmas lights tour.
Saturday 9 December 2006
The London Bus Page’s last entry a year ago today contained, at the very end, a promise that I’d be back. ‘In the New Year’, it actually said, and I can get away with that because 2006’s not over yet! Today, the first anniversary of the end of London’s Routemasters, which took with them the legacy of the old London Transport as we knew it, seems an appropriate time to try and pick up where I left off.
Basically, I needed a break. The politics of the last year were so wearying that I just didn’t have much time left after recording the events to put together coherent accounts at the volume or frequency that is expected by readers of topical websites. To which end, I can’t promise the same amount that I used to write – not least because a) there’s a lot less of interest bus-wise going on in London as it is, and b) I don’t actually live in London any more. What visits I make are anywhere from fortnightly to monthly, though I try to do at least one Saturday a month in the capital, often catching up a month’s worth in one go. Hence the title – the London Bus Page in Exile. Accordingly, there’ll be a fair bit around the country as well – 2006 has seen me visit Liverpool, York, Leeds, Sheffield, Coventry, Birmingham, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Salisbury, Southampton, Plymouth, Brighton and other perhaps less thrilling places in the Home Counties. So the first month or two of this blog will be about catching up with the places I’ve been, with news items interspersed as and when I can cover them.
I’ll also shamelessly plug my books (one done, one out soon), which have taken up my time in the last year. They’ve been hugely fulfilling to do and I hope to write as many as the publishers will let me, but between books I get irritable if I’m not doing something, so this blog may sate that urge. I continue to take photos, of course – my Fotopic account is full up, but I publish a dozen or so a month on Flickr to stay within its upload limits (both sites are much recommended and particularly popular with transport photographers). I may delve into reviewing the various photographic equipment I use (you are, of course, more than welcome to buy me more!).
I said I wanted this to be more participatory than of late – please send me anything you think might get a good reading, particularly historical photographs of London Transport buses. My pet period is 1983-1987, but I can work with anything – I need the practice and the research is always fun.
In the same way as I may not be posting updates every day, I definitely won’t be able to reply to comments or emails individually – trying to keep up with that perhaps most of all was what was killing my output on the old London Bus Page, and having several hundred email messages that remain unanswered even today made me feel terribly guilty! To that end, readers can hopefully answer each others’ questions in the comments box underneath each post. I’ll compile a list of various categories that will make it easier to search for past posts – route changes, stuff to do with vehicles, etc.
As this blog grows, I’ll get to grips with its functions and whatnot – WordPress is rather more sophisticated than my old FrontPage and Paint Shop Pro combination, and it appears that if I want to create proprietary logos, themes and suchlike I’m obliged to buy the appropriate CSS plugin – which I will at some point. I fully expect to outrun my 50MB storage quota in due course as I upload pictures, and will be buying more as fit.
So here I am. Wish me luck…