The London Bus Page In Exile

Sunday 11 February 2007


Filed under: Companies, Equipment, Uncategorized, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 3:06 pm

Travel London Dennis Dart SLF DP 703 (R503 SJM) at Walton-on-Thames, Saturday 10th February 2007 Over the past few weeks, my local bus operator Travel London (West) – formerly known as Tellings-Golden Miller – has been re-equipping its Byfleet-based fleet of Dennis Dart SLFs with LED blinds. DP 703 (R503 SJM) is just the latest example, and it’s sure to kick off a debate in these pages that I hope will be as involved as that set off by my mention of Metroline a few posts back.
Most operators around the country have adopted LED blinds as standard, especially since the technology has improved considerably from the first generation of vulnerable and error-prone flip-dot displays, via dot-matrix panels that were subject to the same vulnerabilities, to today’s versatile units that seem to be programmable with just about anything, and which, most importantly for the photographer, don’t just reproduce as two unintelligible single lines. It’s not just the enthusiast who found this a nuisance – think of publicity photographs for operators and the manufacturers, who would be looking pretty daft with their products showing themselves up this way. The previous generation of LED panels would not show at shutter speeds above 1/60, which ruled out pictures in any level of sunshine! Even so, I’ve always kept my camera on burst mode, so that out of a round of five shot off, one would work. This picture shows that the blinds displaying satisfactorily were the least of my worries (despite the fogged glass panel) – there was a lot more traffic than you’d expect for a Saturday morning and I had to shoot through it.
Transport for London, of course, have a different way of going about things. They don’t, and don’t intend to, adopt LED blind technology on their contractors’ vehicles. Given that the standard of blind display since the secretive and highly intransigent ‘BBC’ (Bus Blinds Committee) have come into being is totally inadequate to the point of negligence, with no via points allowed and just a destination (without the benefit of any qualifiers) expected to offer passengers what they need to find out, this is inexplicable. I may be something of a traditionalist, but I’ll declare myself a big fan of the latest LED panels – TfL don’t know what they’re missing and are mad to write off the possibilities this technology offers. For instance, even though this 461 just displays ‘Kingston’, other boards for the 218 in the same region display ‘Kingston’, with ‘via Esher, Walton-on-Thames, Shepperton and Laleham’ scrolling by leisurely underneath. It’s all legible, and from a considerably greater distance (especially at night) – and since I’ve had lousy eyesight since I was born, surely I have a better claim on what is legible and what isn’t.
There’s great potential in this. With GPS technology already coming into play for the successor to Countdown (known as iBus), is that once the bus crosses a point on the route the system can knock out the appropriate via point from the display, thus nullifying one of the objections to via points. Buses can also display them in the opposite direction, without the need for expenditure on linen (or Tyvec); since operators never seem to trust drivers to change the blinds anyway (and the unions reluctant to let them without a little something in return), all this doesn’t even need to be done at the push of a button. You can even have different colours for route numbers, like the panels on buses in Reading.
So give it a try, TfL. I have a feeling that in ten years or so all London buses will have LED displays.


Thursday 8 February 2007

2006 In Review – GTL’s Last Titan Day

Filed under: Companies, Special Events, Travels, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 7:50 pm

This may be a London-oriented page, but I reserve the right to leave the crazy place behind once in a while and explore what else is to be found up and down the country. After all, the general consensus seems to be that right now London’s bus scene is at its very lowest ebb in terms of quality and appeal. Still, the cascade of vehicles out of the capital has led to them leading often more eventful (and certainly longer) lives in the provinces than they ever would have in London.
This time last year the rule of the Leyland Titan in Liverpool finally came to an end when GTL retired its last four serviceable examples amid ceremony on Saturday 4th February 2006. The Gillmoss garage that was separated from the old MTL North (formerly Merseybus) when Arriva bought the majority of the company had continued on as GTL (Glenvale Transport) and even found itself acquiring an equally sizeable neighbour, CMT, adopting that company’s all-red livery but maintaining the GTL tradition of naming buses after employees’ children or pets (which produced some wacky titles that were fun to collect!). However, in 2005 Stagecoach swept in and within six months the company was unrecognisable – out went all the ex-London Metrobuses and Titans, together with the motley collection of Dart and Volvo B6 single-decks scraped together from all over the place, and in their place came seventy new Dart SLFs. With Arriva and Stagecoach now effectively sharing Liverpool between them, the scene is considerably duller, but the Titans represented a more carefree sort of time. Liverpool’s certainly a nice surprise – friendly people, smashing buildings and certainly worth visiting.
GTL Leyland Titan 10850 (A850 SUL) at Liverpool Pier Head, 4th February 2006. From a peak of over 250 vehicles a decade ago, by February 2006 only four Titans were left – identified first by their Stagecoach numbers they were 10046 (WYV 46T – formerly 2046, T 46), 10337 (KYV 337X – 2337, T 337), 10624 (NUW 624Y – 2624, T 624) and 10850 (A850 SUL – 2850, T 850). Of this quartet only 10337 was red and had been converted to single-door. The latter two were comparatively recent arrivals from Stagecoach Selkent’s final clear-out in 2001, but T 46 had been one of the first Titans to leave London for Merseybus. Unfortunately, it proved unserviceable on the last day, so the farewell tour mounted by Gillmoss’s staff was led out by the other three. Joining for the day were a handful of other Titans, like T 1 from Stagecoach East London and 10698 (T 698) in Stagecoach corporate. T 910, preserved in London Transport condition, was also present, and of the non-Titan types you could see Atlanteans and even RML 2716. In this convoy a couple of dozen enthusiasts were taken round town over some of the numerous routes to have been operated by Liverpool’s Titans thirteen years of operation. The main picture shows a successful attempt to cram four of them into the width of the seafront road at New Brighton after a trip through the Mersey Tunnel, while the inset shows 10850 bringing up the rear of a static display at Pier Head.
A belated thanks to Gillmoss’s people for putting on the event – it was a lot of fun!

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.

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.

Thursday 21 December 2006

Knocking Around The Home Counties 3

Filed under: Companies, Travels, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 7:56 pm

Metrobus Scania OmniCity 553 (YN55 PWK) at Crawley bus station, Saturday 28th January 2006
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.

Tuesday 19 December 2006

Knocking Around The Home Counties 2

Filed under: Companies, Travels, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 7:58 pm

Stagecoach Hampshire Bus Dennis Dart SLF 34109 (V109 MVX) at Basingstoke, Saturday 14th January 2006 (14:07) (Olympus C2000UZ, f5, 1-80) Stagecoach East London Dennis Dart SLF SLD 109 (V109 MVX) at Wood Green, Monday 21st August 2000 (07:16) (Olympus C2000UZ, f2.5, 1-500
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

Easiest Photographic Pitch No More

Filed under: Companies, Historical, Travels, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 9:03 pm

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.

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