The London Bus Page In Exile

Sunday 29 April 2007


Filed under: Companies, Special Events, Travels — londonbuspageinexile @ 12:41 pm

Chase Bus Services Leyland Nationals LS 193 (THX 193S) and LS 209 (THX 209S) at Walsall bus station, 28th April 2007 Chase Bus Services Leyland National LS 382 (BYW 382V) near Walsall, 28th April 2007 Chase Bus Services Leyland National SNB 448 (YPL 448T) at Walsall, 28th April 2007
No, not Leeds – though anybody who knows me would sympathise with (or mock) my other affliction. To take my mind off the inevitable I made my way to Walsall to cover the last day of Chase Bus Services. This independent operator had made itself a name by continuing to operate a large fleet of Leyland Nationals into their thirties, proving that the type was worth its weight in gold after all.

With only comparatively minimal alterations (a new set of headlights here, a refurbished engine there, plus conversions to single-door carried out by previous owners and new seat cushions over the existing frames), the two dozen Nationals, most of which derived from London Transport, held together the handful of routes emanating from Walsall’s futuristic-appearing but terribly cramped bus station to points north like Brownhills and Bloxwich. Following the takeover by Arriva on 26th February, today was chosen to be the last day of the Nationals, as Arriva-liveried vehicles were to be seconded from other parts of the empire. Drivers had already settled into their Arriva uniforms, Arriva posters had gone up inside the vehicles and with the end of the Nationals, so would depart the Chase identity and the distinctive white, orange and brown livery.

However, a twist developed (don’t they always with ‘last’ days?) in that the adverts applied to several of the Nationals have yet to expire, so a half-measure has been taken by applying Arriva livery to the fronts of the buses affected, about six or seven of them. To show you what I mean, pictured top left is duplicate LS 193 (THX 193S) in the GM Buses-inspired livery (with rear ad) passing Arriva-fronted LS 209 (THX 209S) outside Walsall bus station. The duplicate followed Chase’s routes and then posed for photographers inside the Cannock depot. A special £5 commemorative ticket was offered, which gave travel on the company’s buses throughout the day.

Pictured middle is another of their ex-LT Nationals, LS 382 (BYW 382V) speeding towards Walsall from Brownhills via the Lichfield Road. And on the right, returning to the town centre is former London Country B-series National SNB 448 (YPL 448T).
Photographers from far and wide made the trip, and you can see their accounts of the day here (Omnibuses), here (Martin Ruthe), here (Dave Heath) here (Terry Wong Min) and here (Jimmy Sheng).

So just as Leeds may yet survive if we put ten past Derby and Hull lose (it may happen!) the Nationals live on a little longer. All are to be sold through auction on 19th May (Nationals, not Leeds players, though which will fetch more is open to opinion…). Thanks to Chase Arriva Midlands, as I must call them now, for putting on an enjoyable day.


Thursday 22 March 2007

VNs Survive!

Filed under: Historical, Travels, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 8:13 pm

Solent Blue Line Volvo B10B 630 (K130 BUD) in Southampton, 11th March 2006Not so very long ago I talked about the LV-class Dennis Lances, one of the types ordered when full-size single-decker chassis came back into fashion briefly in 1992-1994. Dennis wasn’t the only chassis the dying London Buses Limited was experimenting with, as they took thirteen Volvo B10Bs as well; the VN class came adorned with Northern Counties Paladin bodywork of a taller and wider variety than hitherto seen on Darts and Lances.
Less than a year after its OPO conversion that capped a long decline from what used to be a long and busy trunk route in and out of town into a stub of a route, the 88 at Stockwell (London General subsidiary) was selected for conversion from M to VN operation, and the thirteen B10Bs duly entered serivce on 15th May 1993. VN 1-13 were adorned with personalised registrations that immortalised London General’s managing director of the time, Keith Ludeman (since gone on to bigger and better things after London General fell within the Go-Ahead Group), and an effort was made to personalise the buses themselves with a ‘The Clapham Omnibus’ motif to the London General house style.
Unfortunately, single-deckers just don’t work on trunk routes, but London Buses kept making the same mistakes that LT had with Merlins and Swifts and that their successors are making with artics. In the case of the 88, it wasn’t the reduced capacity that did for the VNs, but the excessive length of the vehicles, which was causing them difficulties in the narrow streets around Millbank where the Tate Gallery is. In 1997 they were removed from the 88 and replaced by returning Ms, which were really starting to knock on by then!
Off they went to Oxford, now a fellow Go-Ahead company, where the smart livery and commonality of purpose with a large number of existing B10Bs in the fleet ensured them a long career, and it is only recently that the input of Citaros into Oxford has caused them to move on again, this time to Southampton where they operate for Solent Blue Line on the key route 1 into Winchester.
Upon their exit from London they lost their K-KLL marks (where have those gone, if anyone fancies perusing the RAC and AA websites) and gained contemporary Oxford plates K118-130 BUD. Hence what is now Solent Blue Line 630 (K130 BUD), seen in Southampton on 11th March 2006, was once VN 13 and spent the middle of its career as City of OXford 656.

Tuesday 27 February 2007

Chased Away

Filed under: Announcements, Companies, Travels, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 8:34 pm

Chase Coaches Leyland National BPL 478T at Walsall, 16th November 2006 Chase Coaches of Walsall have been bought by Arriva.
This company was fascinating for its large fleet of unaltered Leyland Nationals, 24 of which were London Transport LSs and three London Country SNBs with a handful from Hampshire Bus and Ribble rounding off the set. The decent presentation of former London Country B-series National SNB 478 (BPL 478T) entering Walsall bus station last 16th November begs the question as to why operators spent so much money on getting Greenway conversions done when the original would have lasted them thirty years?

Tuesday 20 February 2007

LVs Survive!

Filed under: Companies, Historical, Travels, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 8:57 pm

Diamond Bus Dennis Lance 368 (L942 RJN) in Birmingham, 16th November 2006 During the early 1990s London Buses Limited experimented with the full-size single-decker now that these vehicles were coming back into fashion. 59 Dennis Lances were taken, to the following combinations:

  • LA 1-16 (J101-110, 411, 112-116 WSC) – Alexander PS bodywork, for the 36B at Catford (Selkent).
  • LN 1-31 (K301-331 YJA) – Northern Counties Paladin bodywork, for the 113 at Cricklewood and the 302 at Willesden (Metroline).
  • LV 1-12 (L201-212 YAG) – Plaxton Verde bodywork, for the southern half of the 208 at Catford (Selkent).

It’s the third of these classes that I’m picturing today in the form of LV 12. After spending three years on the Catford to Orpington section of the 208 with its eleven siblings, it was transferred to Bromley on 8th November 1997 and took over the 227, a far better route for these ungainly but surprisingly amenable buses. All-red repaints replaced the superb Selkent livery not long after privatisation under Stagecoach, and withdrawal occurred in 2000 after just six years. Stagecoach South took on the class, soon cascading them to what is better known as Ribble – but then disaster struck! On 8th January 2005 flooding of the River Eden inundated the Stagecoach garage at Carlisle, submerging all twelve former LVs up to seat level. Early reports were saying that over eighty buses would have to be scrapped, including some brand-new Darts, but as it turned out all that was required was a thorough hosing down and refurbishment and they were good as new. Having already been subjected to two changes of registration (from L212 YAG to WLT 461 soon after delivery, and thence to L942 RJN in March 2000) LV 12 pitched up with Diamond Bus, becoming its 368. It is seen in Birmingham on 16th November 2005; other examples of the LV class can be sighted in Walsall, working for A2Z.

Wednesday 14 February 2007

More Blinding

Filed under: Companies, Equipment, Travels, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 7:47 pm

Yorkshire Coastliner Volvo B7TL 406 (YK55 ATO) at York, Sunday 25th June 2006 Just another example of what I think is good practice in the programming of LED blinds – but in this case, helped by having a short destination and an even shorter intermediate point! Good thing I didn’t photograph any Yorkshire Coastliners going in the other direction (Scarborough) that day.
The 843’s a superb thrash, by the way – a foot-down charge through the Yorkshire countryside at breakneck speed. I took this bus (Yorkshire Coastliner Volvo B7TL 406 (YK55 ATO) as part of my journey to Sheffield to cover the last Dominators for Bus & Coach Preservation magazine on 25th June last year (yes, I know Sheffield is south of York, but to get there on an overnight coach the only way to do it was to overshoot, hence I ended up at York at half past four in the morning, and York is so fascinating that it was well worth it).

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!

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 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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