The London Bus Page In Exile

Wednesday 31 January 2007

Random Buses – VN 178

Filed under: Historical, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 7:55 pm

Stagecoach East London Volvo Olympian VN 178 (R178 HHK) at Woolwich, 4th March 2000 Just a random bus from the last few years; today it’s the last of the Stagecoach Olympians, VN 178 (R178 HHK). These buses suffered a severely curtailed lifespan due to the mass influx of low-floor vehicles into London at the turn of the century, and their withdrawal is all the more galling when you consider that they were streets ahead of the replacement Tridents in almost every way; they were faster, lighter and offered far more seats. They would have been good for up to a decade more, but London’s loss is the provinces’ gain, with this bus (now known as 16178) now working out of Stagecoach Fife.
Northern Counties Palatine I-bodied VN 178 was the last of 178 Volvo Olympians taken by the then Stagecoach East London and Selkent between 1996 and 1998; although mixed between Alexander and Northern Counties bodywork, only 29 of them were full-height (and these, VN 82-110 of the 54 and 75’s batch, were short-wheelbase as well). It was delivered to Leyton in June 1998 to displace Titans from the 48, 55 and 56, but when Tridents arrived only a year later, passed to Plumstead. Unusually for a ‘long and low’ VN or VA, it was restless and was moved around comparatively frequently, serving at North Street, Catford, Plumstead (again) and Catford (again) before ending up at Bromley, from where it was still working in time to receive its new national fleetnumber, 16178, in January 2003; withdrawal and cascading to Scotland followed a year later, losing its exit door in the process.
This shot, taken at Woolwich on 4th March 2000, shows it unusually on the 178, which has been single-deck for over a decade and remained so when won back by Selkent on 23rd January 1999.


Saturday 27 January 2007

Edmonton Green bus station opens

Filed under: Facilities — londonbuspageinexile @ 10:14 pm

First Capital Dennis Trident TN 32852 (T852 LLC) at the new Edmonton Green bus station, 27th January 2007
A while ago I posted about Edmonton Green bus station – well, the new one is open at last, so I went to see what I could see.

Shifted north ever so slightly so that the entrance is actually on the roundabout, the new bus station combines the ‘Bedouin’ design of Stratford with the layout of Walthamstow and Turnpike Lane, with pinched entrance and exit and a large area in between for terminating buses to stand. The migration is to accommodate a new building, with new shops and restaurants giving the area a somewhat more upmarket feel than perhaps it had been used to, with the excellent market still reachable but now through something of a canyon between the new buildings. To this end, maybe the designers haven’t given enough thought to how pedestrians were going to be using the bus station, because when I visited most of them were milling across the bus exit lane in a straight line, with an official on a PA having to shout increasingly irritable admonishments at them to cease and desist (not to mention two cyclists, who cheerfully ignored the instructions not to ride within the bus station!). People don’t like being herded off the straight line, and I hope that no accidents turn an otherwise promising beginning into a North Finchley-type farce (where the reconstructed bus station was open for only a few weeks before a fatal accident involving a 221 bus forced its closure, which remains the case nearly a year later).

Routes 191, 192 and W6 are probably the easiest to photograph at today’s Edmonton Green, as their stands are unimpeded, and accordingly here is First Capital’s Northumberland Park-based Dennis Trident TN 32852 (T852 LLC), with its willow leaves removed but the upper half still bearing the yellow band that was part of this discontinued livery.

Thursday 25 January 2007

Comforting Metroline

Filed under: Companies — londonbuspageinexile @ 10:00 pm

Metroline Alexander Dennis Enviro400 TE 676 (LK55 KKF) at Warren Street, 12th March 2006 Poor old Metroline seem to be taking a bit of a hiding in the comments you’ve offered, so I might as well stand up for them – I don’t think they’re any better or worse than any other London bus operator. Their territory is varied enough for versatility of operations, they’ve been successful both in tendering (especially recently) and in the acquisitions game (MTL London in 1998 being their biggest coup, and they were bad – remember them?), and they have big group backing (though ComfortDelgro appear a lot more hands-off than might have seemed the case when the Singapore-based transport group (owners of the terrific SBS Transit) took them on. Their livery is unique enough to be attractive, with the otherwise clashing colours of red and blue separated elegantly by the all-important white band, and its subsequent dumbing down to just a skirt was no fault of theirs (I won’t mention the abortive change of shade to the light blue, which was awful, and is best forgotten!).

I don’t seem to get to Metroline’s turf as often as I used to since I moved out of town, and accordingly haven’t managed to catch up with their latest vehicle intake, so I’ll go back a bit to when I photographed their first batch of Enviro400s. This bus doesn’t do a lot for me at all, to match my indifference to the equally dull Enviro200 single-decker, but I’ll worry about criticising the design in another post and for now just present you with a sample picture. Here is Holloway’s TE 676 (LK55 KKH), based on its regular 24 and captured on 12th March 2006 heading north past Warren Street station. This plum central route always gets the new buses, while the 4, which was ahead of it in the pecking order for new vehicles after watching its ex-London Suburban Buses Volvo Olympians deteriorate into decrepitude, had to make do with the 24’s cast-off TPs and VPs.

Sunday 21 January 2007

Random Routes – 219

Filed under: Historical, Service Changes, Travels — londonbuspageinexile @ 12:33 pm

London General Dennis Dart SLF LDP 134 (Y834 TGH) at Clapham Junction, Saturday 20th January 2007In the absence of much going on at the moment, not to mention the weather getting in the way of any serious forays, I’ve decided to institute a new piece concentrating on routes; a bit of history, a current vehicle used and so on. Today’s features the 219, which was one of the only routes I got a decent picture of while out in south-west London yesterday.
The 219 is one of those routes that has migrated away from its original geographic area since introduction; in this case it was created to fuse the ends of two crew routes and save just that little bit of money on a few conductors’ wages. The routes in question were the 19 and 88; when introduced on 21st November 1987, the 219, in its path from Sloane Square to Mitcham allowed the 19 to fall back from Tooting Bec to Clapham Junction and the 88 from Mitcham to Tooting Broadway. Merton DMSs were in charge.
On 17th June 1989 an alteration to the northern end was made to the 219 with its re-routeing to terminate at South Kensington, but the Wandsworth area scheme of 25th May 1991 restored the Sloane Square section to allow another new route (349) to pick up the South Ken section. At the southern end, the Mitcham segment was diverted at Tooting to Colliers Wood, allowing the service to terminate outside its home garage. By this time Ms had replaced most of Merton’s DMSs, with the last Fleetline moving on in January 1992.
However, unrelated problems began to retract the 219 from its cross-river remit; Battersea Bridge was hit by a careless freighter and closed for much of 1992, forcing all routes to cross via Chelsea Bridge or terminate short. When the bridge re-opened on 7th February 1993 the change was made permanent, with the 219 falling back to Battersea and the emphasis given to new route 319, introduced on that day. It wasn’t long, therefore, before the route was pulled back still further to Clapham Junction (14th January 1995) and the inevitable minibuses introduced (30th June 1996), though in this case the route had declined to a secondary status and its Metrobuses were reallocated to the far more important task of restoring an upper deck to the 155. Merton’s mixed fleet of Darts (DRs and DWs, later joined by DRLs and DPLs) continued to ply between Clapham Junction and Tooting Broadway (the Colliers Wood leg coming off with the single-decking). The crowding with buses of the stand at Longmead Road has never thrilled residents of this street, however, and the 219 was extended to St George’s Hospital on 12th December 1998 – but the most important change to affect the 219 occurred on 29th May 1999 when it was extended over the 155 to Wimbledon, acknowledging finally the timetable-destroying congestion suffered along the Clapham Road.
Low-floor buses appeared in 1999 in the form of LDP-class Dennis Dart SLFs with Plaxton Pointer 2 bodywork, and thus has been the case ever since, with the various batches taken by London General (as superseded London Buses Limited in 1994) co-existing peacefully at Merton despite differing numbers of doors and engine specifications. Today you’re likely to find the extra-long Pointer Dart variety holding the fort, exemplified by 10.7-metre LDP 134 (Y834 TGH) at Clapham Junction on 20th January 2007. These buses were bought to try and make single-deck operation viable on the 155 for a second time, but any passenger of this still-important service would tell you that was never going to work, and indeed the 155 is now double-deck again with PVLs.

Thursday 18 January 2007

C1 Extended with E200Darts

Filed under: Service Changes, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 7:56 pm

Travel London Dennis Dart SLF DP 13 (BX54 DLZ) and Alexander Dennis Enviro200Dart ES 2 (LJ56 VST) at Victoria, Saturday 13th January 2007 On 6th January the C1 was extended from Kensington High Street to Shepherd’s Bush, receiving six new Enviro200Darts to accompany the change.
The C1 was very nearly withdrawn entirely at one point, but has survived to find itself on the front line of forthcoming Congestion Charge expansion, which is expected to funnel more people onto the route (irrespective of a postponed change that would have taken it down Blythe Road in Holland Park rather than up the main drag; this may still happen).
Twenty years ago the C1 started as a bit of a gimmick, introducing minibuses to London streets some time after provincial operators had figured they were good for not only increasing penetration of narrower streets, but for freezing wage costs. The Volkswagen-based Optare Citypacers then used were undeniably cute, with their executive-minicoach ambience and subtle piped music (classical!), but they were too flimsy for the capital and were replaced very quickly – first by SRs, then followed Metroriders and Darts, and when the tender was lost to Connex, Optare Solos stepped up. Today’s operator, Travel London, has just taken six Enviro200Darts to accompany the existing Mini Pointer Darts that supplanted the Solos, and a chance shot at Victoria on 13th January sees DP 13 (BX54 DLZ), a bus normally on the P13, joined by one of the brand new E200s, ES 2 (LJ56 VST). I’m not sold on the Enviro200Dart – it’s unadventurous and bland, without the dash of the Dart, but orders are beginning to pick up even if companies you’d expect to buy it sight unseen are now beginning to dabble in other chassis (Metroline taking MANs, for example). Travel London have also got some of the longer version for the 152 (don’t ask me what the chassis designations, if any, are – it’s hard enough juggling all the SFD-etc business that came with their predecessors!), while on the other side of town Selkent have also put a handful of the shortest version into service on the 273, which they regained last Saturday after several years with First.

Saturday 13 January 2007

RM on the 22!

Filed under: Routemaster, Special Events, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 10:03 pm

Had a bit of a surprise today while in the Putney region monitoring the 14 after its extension the short way beyond Tottenham Court Road to Warren Street – its former partner in crime, the 22, hosted an RM!
RM 848 (448 UXS, ex WLT 848), which saw out its service career at Clapton on the 38 and is now privately owned, was doing short runs to Sloane Square in conjunction with an exhibition held by Will’s Art Warehouse, an art gallery at Putney Common. I didn’t know a Routemaster was involved, so I was lucky to be on hand when I saw it emerge from Lower Richmond Road at 3:35.

Wednesday 10 January 2007

Fuel Cell Trials to end

Filed under: Announcements, Companies, Equipment, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 8:29 pm

First London Mercedes-Benz Citaro fuel cell bus ESQ 64992 (LK53 MBU) at Aldwych, 14/11/05The Fuel Cell trial ends on Saturday after nearly two years of operation. During that time three adaptations of the standard Mercedes-Benz Citaro single-decker ran on the 25, switching after six months to the more sedate RV1, both operated on a special dedicated schedule out of First London’s Hackney (H) garage. They were part of a Europe-wide trial in which ten cities have been evaluating the buses.
So what’s next, is the question. To hit you with a barrage of questions all at once, in fact, I’ll start with where are the buses going to go? What of the hydrogen fuelling facility, in this case sited at Hornchurch (admittedly some distance away from the RV1’s roads but still within range after a morning’s work). Are we, the public, to be privy to the results gained from the experiment? And most importantly, is there any future in the project – because, as a convinced fan of this type of propulsion, I should hate to see the whole thing quietly dropped now that hybrid buses seem to be in the ascendancy, especially when hybrids, from experience of the 360’s feeble and rarely-seen DAF SB120 adaptations, are clearly not up to the task. There is, of course, a colossal cost differential, but funding has never been a problem for TfL, not recently in the public’s estimation at any rate. How about putting the recent extortionate fare hikes towards some more fuel cell buses?
So here’s a view of ESQ 64992 (LK53 MBU), the second of the three fuel cell Citaros, at the RV1’s Aldwych terminus on 14th November 2005.

Saturday 6 January 2007

Farewell to Armchair

Filed under: Companies, Historical, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 6:34 pm

Armchair Leyland Olympian G364 YUR at Richmond, 08/09/01.jpg Armchair Dennis Dart SLF DP 1027 (KP02 PVL) at Richmond, 19/03/05
As promised, I told you I’d eulogise Armchair as they too pass into history – they are the other company put to sleep by owners Metroline this weekend.
Armchair had operated coaches in west London for many years, but their big step into London bus operations came in 1990 when they took over the 260 with Alexander-bodied Olympians. Next came the 65, another important service, for which the fleet consisted of new all-Leyland Olympians. In both cases Leyland Atlanteans served as back-up. Out of town, a number of services in Middlesex and Surrey were operated (including my now-local 555 and 556, then operated with Leyland Swifts).
The first retender of the Ealing area network in 1996 brought Armchair the E2 and E8, both of which are still operated by the company. Dennis Dart SLFs introduced low-floor buses to the company, but TfL’s ever-changing standards necessitated a new batch of identical buses (other than being dual-door) taking over; the Alexander-bodied Darts based on the 209 were already dual-door and did not need replacement. Meanwhile, the 260 was lost and a new contract replaced it in the form of the 237, which was eventually restocked with new Dennis Tridents. The 65 departed in 2002 to London United. Other routes operated by Armchair included the 117 and 190, with the 485 since lost to London General.
As examples of Armchair I have included G364 YUR, an Alexander RL-bodied Olympian from the 260’s batch but later based on the 65, and Dennis Dart SLF DP 1027 (KP02 PVL), which not only had an 80%-red livery but dated from after when the company had introduced class codes to the fleet. The Olympian is seen at Richmond on 8th September 2001, while the Dart sets off from Ealing on 19th March 2005. Both were based at Brentford, which will remain open under Metroline.

Thursday 4 January 2007

Farewell to Thorpe’s

Filed under: Companies, Historical — londonbuspageinexile @ 7:32 pm

Thorpes Dennis Dart SLFs DLF 38 (S538 JLM) and DLF 30 (S530 JLM) at Brent Cross, 21/04/2000 Thorpes Dennis Dart SLFs DLF 99 (KU52 YKF) and DML 525 (R625 VEG) at Brent Cross, 21/05/2005.jpg
It’s time to say goodbye to Thorpe’s as Metroline finally subsumes the company beneath their own identity.
Beginning with the Stationlink a decade and a half ago, the company founded by Frank and Jim Thorpe grew steadily to the point where it was running half a dozen routes and a large fleet of Dennis Darts out of a dedicated base in Wembley. Only later in Thorpe’s’ existence were double-deckers operated, firstly Metrobuses and then a handful of former Grey-Green Volvo B10M rebuilds. The company even expanded enough to buy out a neighbour, the Metropolitan Omnibus company formerly known as London Traveller, but itself fell to a buyout which brought it into Metroline’s ambit.
This photo selection shows perhaps the peak of Thorpe’s, which was the 210’s flame-inspired livery carried by DLF 38 (S538 JLM) in the foreground, while repainted stablemate DLF 30 (S530 JLM) sits in one of the usual spaces in Brent Cross, this shot being taken on 21st April 2000.
The right-hand picture was taken at the same spot five years and one month later, with a somewhat different scene to record. Not long after another major win by Thorpe’s, that of the 316 from Metroline, the company was bought by the latter and its operations divided up. The first order of business was to shuffle the routes, with the 143 taking the 316’s place as the host of the red and yellow Darts, although with the transfer of the 326 and C11 into the same garage it was possible to see both liveries in action simultaneously, as demonstrated by DLF 99 (KU52 YKF) and DML 525 (R625 VEG) on the 143.
It doesn’t look like any fleetnumbers will be changed, probably mercifully for crazy folks like me who have to record all this stuff. Tomorrow I’ll be bidding farewell to Armchair, the other London bus company finished off by Metroline.

Wednesday 3 January 2007

The K5’s New Darts

Filed under: Companies, Service Changes, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 7:15 pm

London United Dennis Dart DPK 624 (SN06 JPV) at Kingston, 22/12/06 Been away for Christmas, as you can probably surmise from the lack of posts over the festive season.
Here’s something that happened last year that exemplifies the very small scale of vehicle orders during 2005 by comparison with those of earlier in the decade – with low-floor vehicles all in place, conversions are generally made up of like-for-like replacements. Just such an intake brought two new Darts to the K5 a couple of months after it was taken on by London United from the failing Centra, who had used Optare Solos. Until the new buses arrived, Tolworth had borrowed a Dart from Shepherd’s Bush and had enough of the MPD variety of their own spare for this circuitous service linking Ham and Morden. On 22nd December DPK 624 (SN06 JPV) as TV391 happens through Kingston on its way north; it will be noticed that the fleetnumbers duplicate existing DPSs, both also based at Tolworth! It wouldn’t be the first time London United have mucked up their own numbering system, and they’re far from the only company to have done it. Never mind – we know what they are, and it’s not unlikely that these will have been the last Darts to enter service with London United. Further points of note are the Transdev fleetname which replaced that of London United last year, and the addition of a white band to the grey skirt.

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