Already fairly lengthy First Dorset Coast service X53 has been extended beyond last summer’s Wareham terminus to Poole, with some trips on to/from Bournemouth from May 23rd 2004, with an overall journey time of about 5 hours between Exeter and Bournemouth, and new low floor DDs on most journeys, this is now a formidable service with stunning sea and inland views throughout the route. Now also running daily, beware that you can’t get from Exeter to Bournemouth and back in a day, but you CAN make the total round trip from the Bournemouth end, except on Sundays.
Exeter’s Stagecoach depot has had an influx of new and old DDs in recent months, both standard floor DD hand-me-downs from up-country along with new and older DLFs for routes 50, 54 (DLFs), 55 and PR2 (DLFs), which has resulted not only in Double Deck types appearing regularly on routes which have always seen some ‘upstairs action’ like the 57 and X46, but also now on routes which hither-to only very rarely have seen Double Deck types, like the 60 illustrated, plus 85A, 39 and on at least these Exeter City local services: A, K, R & S
The popular Bristol VR, liked by drivers and enthusiasts alike, will saw out it’s last operations in the Essex and Greater London areas this in March 2004 with special last journeys on First/Eastern National/Essex routes 351 (Chelmsford – Romford) and 72 (Chelmsford – Braintree). Our 20 odd year old X-reg example, waits at the stand behind Romford Station.
The newly Double Decked 412 brings an upstairs for the first time in many years to Selsdon Road (since the 12 ran through to Selsdon) and Mitchley Avenue (since the 127/127A and/or 234/234B ran this way). I must admit I could probably reel off a number of services that I feel could have done with Double deckers before this one, as in my experience the 412 never seems THAT busy, but any double deck upgrades are for the good in my book!
Also part of the Croydon swap round saw Metrobus gain the 466 from Arriva, while Arriva grabbed the 194 off of Stagecoach from 30th August 2003. The strange visitors didn’t take long to come out of the woodwork, as GD(Godstone Garage)’s new ‘more-red’ liveried SLF pops up on the normally DLF’ed 466, along with Blue and Yellow non low floor DD Olympians, while the scheduled red DLFs have been showing up on the 409!
Adding to the highest total of buses on London’s streets in 45 years is totally new route 434, from 30th August 2003, opening up new areas of Purley and Kenley to the delights of bus services for the first time, though this excitement was not shared by the folk of the Rickman Hill area of Coulsdon who arranged various protests both before and after the start of the new service. Blinds apparently showed Rickmans Hill in error, and the spacing of the words on our example probably suggests that this extra ‘s’ has been blacked out.
Croydon Area changes from 30th August 2003 saw the once main trunk route to New Addington Estate diverted to Norwood Junction opening up new links across Shirley and to South Norwood. Now operated by Metrobus it strangely terminates on the north side of Norwood Junction from the 197, being the first scheduled service to operate under the infamous Portland Road low bridge.
With a certain amount of inevitability it was announced on 11th August 2003 that one of the last privately owned large NBC successors has been bought by one of the ‘big 5’ for in excess of £30m. There is no comment on the W&D web site, but Go-Ahead group top management have already moved in to ‘take control’… Here’s an unusual Open Topper odd working on the 143 at Swanage Steam Railway Station earlier in the summer. 143 is usually mixed DD/SD, with open toppers more commonly seen here on the 150 to/from Bournemouth via the Sandbanks ferry.
The 297 was due for DLFs later in the year, but due to problems with fitting Metroline’s new DLFs under Edmonton Green Station bridge (on the W8), a quick decision was made to swap these vehicles with the SLFs on the 297. Thus, until the road under the bridge is lowered, SLFs will operate the W8, with DLFs on 297. Seems odd that no previous DLF or ordinary DD types have ever had a problem with this bridge at Edmonton, even DMS’es in the 70s, which were renowned for being slightly higher than most other more recent double deck types at 14ft 6in…. ?
This month’s featured strange visitor is a DLF on the usually SLF 232. 232 has always been single deck, but previously was double deck as the northern half of the 112 when the North Circular service was one long DD route. Previous to that, back in the 70s, it ran as 2 routes again, but as 112 and 212. DLFs on 232 seem to be fairly common visitors at the moment, though the loadings would suggest it wouldn’t be a bad permanent idea…
Apparently due to shortages of Single deckers at Uxbridge Garage, June 2003 saw the first reported sightings of DDs on the usually SLF’ed A10 between Uxbridge and Heathrow. Curiously the slip of paper in the windscreen says ‘Reserved for A10 use only’, though I have no idea why this might be…. Was there a problem with the vehicle which was preventing it’s use on the usual 607 for some reason?
The last few months has seen the continuing trend of giving two different route numbers to sections of lengthy routes that in some cases already operate as two separate services, albeit with the same number. Here are 3 examples from Feb – May 2003… 2/432, 63/363, and 253/254. 260/460 is next, to be followed by the likes of 149/349, U1/U5 and 207/??? in due course…
Although First in Cornwall has by far the largest fleet of Bristol VR type DDs still in service, there are a few others still operating… Southern Vectis’ open toppers are converted VRs, whilst closed top versions still perform school and ordinary duties with Southern National plus regular duties on the usually SD/SLF 101-104 routes between Bournemouth and Poole for Wilts & Dorset…
Southern Vectis have made a start on transforming their Island Explorer round the Island 7 routes to DLF Low Floors, however the LED light displays do not always lend themselves to easy photography, as this example with an apparently blank display shows. Southern Vectis always specifies semi-coach seats and luxury interiors on all its DD orders, and these DLFs are no exception. The Location is Newport bus Station. Check the newly updated Southern Vectis Section!
First in Cornwall could well take a leaf out of Yellow Buses book, brand new Low Floor double deckers, and just for the open top tourist service! Surely the first wheelchair accessible tourist summer service, Sandbanks – Christchurch Quay 12, complete with Bournemouth’s golden liveried vehicle in operation during a week in which all services were withdrawn due to strike action, seemingly becoming a more frequent occurance recently.
Looks like the last London operators Titan DD will perform on Thursday 19th June 2003, vehicle availability permitting, and on the 40. Large orders for both Metrobuses and Titans were placed in the early 80’s as the London DMS replacement programme got underway, and at one time there were over 1100 Titans in London, but the Titan v Metrobus war was never going to be won by the former… More than 1400 Metrobuses were ordered and ran in London, and various companies both in and out of London still use them in regular service, albeit mostly for spare cover and they feature heavily in the north london transport society.
..though to be fair to First in Cornwall, they have got some new vehicles (new to them, that is, not NEW new!) that are less than 12 years old.. AND have low floors.. they haven’t bothered to repaint them, or get some new blinds sets made, but you can’t have everything! Here is one they seem to have been handed down from First in London, on the shortened 2 in the new look Penzance Bus Stn.
aaah, so that’s what First mean by ‘Transforming travel in Cornwall’… replacing much liked VR DDs with Non Low Floor single deck lorries that are only a few years younger… I’d say 2 fingers up to this ‘improved’ service, rather than the ‘thumbs up’ shown on all their publicity.. however, you never know, they may now have enough drivers to operate their new rather leaner network from April 13th… here’s the new order at Truro Bus Station.
Another route upgrade to Double Decks (Again) in the form of the 34 which took place gradually over the last few weeks of April 2003. The 34 has long plied it’s trade between Walthamstow and Barnet Church, previously always looked after by Palmers Green (AD) garage, but more recently operated from the Arriva Edmonton Depot, not to be confused with Tramway Avenue, which is now, like so many other former LT Garages, a housing estate.
A first for Stagecoach Devon, and still not too commonly seen anywhere in the South West I’m afraid, Low Floor Double Decks are now in use on Devon County Council contract 373, as specified on renewal, a far cry from the days when Devon General was under the control of Harry Blundred and no Double Deck types of any sort were operated!! The 373 is an odd choice for Double Decks, let alone Low Floors, as it doesn’t serve any major towns, and rarely seems to carry more than a handful of passengers. Regardless of the merits or otherwise of Devon CC specifying Low Floor DD’s, it is surely a pleasure for the drivers not to be getting 15 year old hand-me-down buses for a change!
So Saturday 8th Feb 2003 brought us the first non-central London and non Red Arrow route in the Capital to see articulation in the form of these new Citaro low floor 3 door affairs from London Cenrtal’s NX (New Cross) Gagage. The 436 is an OPO conversion of half of the Routemaster 36 route by the back door… the 36 and 436 now run in overlapping sections along much the same lines as the 36 did previously, only with both sections being 36 and crew Routemaster DD operated. The 436’s solo section is New Cross to Lewisham, which would appear not to have been getting a brilliant service on the first weekday of the new order of things by my observations, as our example illustrates…
So, well into 2003, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee year well done and dusted, and most if not all of the gold buses have returned to their normal colours, we look once again at the biggest run out of non standard coloured buses in london since long before the 25 silver RMs of 1977… Click on any of these pics for our special Gold bus page!
At this site you’ll find information and bus travel details intended to be of help to passengers and enthusiasts alike, initially covering the London area, and South Coastal Counties of England.