Saturday, 9 February 2019

United In Standardisation

In happier times, London United were rather well-known for their eclectic mix of exotic vehicle types which, albeit in small numbers, were popular with enthusiasts. Unfortunately, in recent times this operator has decided to ruin the fun for everybody and order a load of monotonous Enviro 200 MMCs to wipe out almost all of their variety. Here's an attempt at explaining the rather long-winded process of cascading the more interesting vehicles, although there won't be too many pictures representing the "new" as there are far better things to be doing than photographing a bus type which probably has near 1000 vehicles in London already.

That construction on the pavement made getting off the bus slightly awkward...
We start off with Park Royal (RP) garage, who have already featured on the blog in recent times for their new E200 MMCs which work the 223. Since then, two more batches have arrived for the 224 and H17 - initially the former route was meant to stick to "classic" Enviro 200s due to a tight turn but somehow that's been dealt with using the power of drawing lines on the road. The H17 was a contract renewal and as its former allocation of classic E200s were still pretty young, many enthusiasts were quite surprised that the route was being niced with new vehicles again. Inevitably, the E200 MMCs turned up really late, but they've now settled in nicely and form a large common user pool with those on the 223 and 224, as well as some more recent appearances on the 440. I do wonder if the stop-start technology that these buses possess will be a nuisance on the H17 because of all the steep "hill-starts" around Harrow School, but as a compulsory installment to single deck vehicles now there's no getting around it. With the 283 buses (see later) and eventually more E200 MMCs for the 440, the garage won't have any other single deck types by June 2019 except for a couple of classics for the 398, but I predict that they'll be replaced anyway.

One of the ex-H17 buses is seen on the bridge which prevents the 72 from having double deckers.
These buses which used to work the H17 have started to receive a refurbishment, which looks pretty horrid as the current green "S-stock" moquette has been fitted without changing the orange London Sovereign poles, which leads to a rather gross colour combination. Nonetheless, their transfer to Shepherd's Bush (S) garage has been swift and they now work the intensive 72 service instead, which holds the title of the busiest single deck route in London and only uses these buses because Hammersmith Bridge will collapse with anything heavier. I'm not kidding, if you walk along the bridge and a bus gingerly trundles past the whole structure starts shaking and there's even a barrier system in place so only one vehicle in the same direction can cross at a time. The weight restriction also prevents the 72 from receiving new single deckers as the MMCs are too heavy, so "classic" E200s were the best solution. Although this won't work in the long-term, the bridge will probably have to close to traffic soon unless some cash is found to strengthen it. This certainly poses a problem for the 72, which is the only "through" route across the bridge - all the others terminate at Hammersmith Bus Station which is just on the other side. This route runs from Roehampton, Bessborough Road to East Acton and is hugely popular because of how quickly it travels from South-West to North-West London. A diversion via Putney Bridge will make journey times considerably longer and undoubtedly put off passengers. Amphibious buses, anyone?

This type was commonly found in its heyday. Now it's almost extinct.
The aim of this conversion is to oust the remaining Dart Pointers in the London United, which are becoming rather old and worn out now after their stint on the 72. Even though this is an inner-London service, it somehow held the title of being the last route officially allocated Dart Pointers and has become rather famous in the enthusiast community for that reason. Unfortunately, this could only happen for so long due to low emission corridors and despite a couple of stragglers which have survived for considerably longer than the rest, the 72 is now almost fully E200 whilst the remaining Pointers have only a couple of days left, maybe none at all. For whatever reason, the night element of the 72 almost always had a Pointer on it until the very end despite the vehicle requirement only being for three buses and the fact that they cause a racket when starting up in the quiet residential estate pictured above. It's very telling about driver's preference in regards to new vehicles.

An Optare Versa is seen causing a traffic jam on Du Cane Road.
As a route, the 283 is a little bizarre now as it spends 70% of its time duplicating the 72. Previously it also crossed Hammersmith Bridge and ran South to the Wetlands Centre in Barnes, but in an attempt to reduce the number of vehicles using the unstable structure the route has been curtailed to Hammersmith Bus Station, running between this destination and East Acton. Intermediate points include Shepherd's Bush and White City Estate, with the latter location being the only reason why the 283 survives. Although the East Acton to Westway and Shepherd's Bush to Hammersmith sections do follow the 72, as it'd so busy some support does come in handy, but the main purpose of the 283 is to deviate from the main route to Westfield and serve the aforementioned Estate. It does this in a rather complicated way due to one-way streets and turning restrictions, but is very popular in this area which does currently have a very poor public transport accessibility rating - the 4 mile 283 warrants an impressive 8 minute frequency for a 35 minute end-to-end journey time, soaking up 14 buses in the peak.

Alright alright here's an MMC, already looking rather grubby at Hammersmith.
Park Royal (RP) garage are responsible for the 283 and until recently used an allocation of Optare Versas for the service. Although these are generally unpopular with enthusiasts due to their unreliability and excessive vibrations when idling, the withdrawal of this batch means London United only have one group left. The 283 hasn't actually had a contract renewal recently, but as this operator are adamant on being spoil-sports they ordered some new buses anyway. The conversion took place very quickly, with all being over in around three weeks and now the route is solidly MMC. Hopefully the locals do appreciate their new vehicles, even if the enthusiasts don't...

The surviving batch of Versas are at Fulwell (FW) garage. Here's one turning out of the stand.
After the number 10 service was withdrawn in November, a void was created at Stamford Brook (V) garage and as it's conveniently placed for so many routes, transferring something else in compensation seems like a sensible decision. The 391 is the chosen one, but type training all the drivers on Versas was deemed to be a waste of time, so it has stolen the 33's Enviro 200s instead. This is only a temporary measure as more new E200 MMCs have been ordered for the 391, which means the 33 can have its buses back and ultimately results in the withdrawal of the Optare Versas, which the 33 has been using temporarily. A large number of them have been running around with missing destination blinds recently, which emphasises the neglect that Fulwell (FW) garage show towards these poor vehicles. To my understanding, both drivers and passengers on the 33 aren't too pleased with the downgrade, which is once again shown through the night element which almost always 100% E200 despite there being eighteen Versas available for a PVR of 3. When the MMC revolution progresses even further, I hope the locals appreciate that their slightly less rattly vehicles have caused the extinction of a bus type in London, although I'm not convinced this will be the case.

Conveniently, whilst waiting for a rare on the 222 this double decker turned up.
Back in September, when the long E200 MMCs for the 293 were late, this route borrowed some Optare Tempos from Hounslow (AV) garage, which meant the H37 had to take Mercedes Citaros from the 203, which had to convert to double deck operation temporarily. This was usually in the form of Scania OmniCity vehicles and as the 20-minute frequency on the 203 is inadequate, the extra capacity was greatly appreciated. Even though the Optare Tempos have returned, double deckers still work the route on a daily basis because of how busy it gets. Riding the 203 from upstairs is a brilliant experience as it uses some rather wacky roads - some are narrow residential streets whilst others are open dual carriageways, with urban high streets, industrial zones and airports being some of the backdrops available. Unfortunately when I rode the route on a DD the bus broke down at Ashford Hospital so I have to do the whole thing again, but hopefully this shouldn't be too difficult if the decker appearances continue. The route itself runs from Hounslow Bus Station to Staines, via Hounslow West, Hatton Cross, Stanwell Moor and Ashford Hospital, with the 10 mile service soaking up 7 buses in rush hour. End-to-end journey times are usually around an hour and the route is particularly important in the summer months, as taking the tube to Hatton Cross and then catching the 203 to Staines is a much cheaper method of reaching Thorpe Park than forking out for a train ticket.

Whilst waiting for the rescue bus an Optare Tempo turned up for the camera going the other way, so it wasn't all bad.
The future of the 203's allocation is unclear at the moment. All we know at the moment is that a batch of long Enviro 200 MMCs have been ordered to replace the Optare Tempos at Hounslow (AV) garage, which will make my favourite type of single decker in London extinct - I definitely recommend taking a ride on one before they go. Although the MMCs should theoretically work the H37, at the moment the 203 is using the Tempos every day alongside double deckers, whilst its Citaros are now stuck to the H37. Having sampled one recently after refurbishment, I'm not surprised at all that they avoid the 203, being incredibly sluggish and often stalling before pullaway. Although I've had some incredibly fast H37 trips, it is a much more urban route and unlike the 203, doesn't use any dual carriageways. This unofficial switch-around raises the question of where the MMCs will end up and what's actually going to be withdrawn - it seems silly to dispose of perfectly healthy Tempos and keep the Citaros which can't even handle their allocated route anymore. My theory is that both types will go and the 203 will use spare double deckers, perhaps the OmniCity vehicles from the E3, but what's clear is that those MMCs need to arrive pronto before the Citaros can't handle anything.

No longer fit for purpose?
The reason for all these complex manouveres is standardisation - maintaining and finding spare parts for exotic vehicles is becoming increasingly difficult and clearly for London United it's more viable to just invest in new buses than faff around trying to repair the old ones. Although you might be too late for some of them, the 33, 203 and H37 still have their fair share of interesting buses, so get out there and take your farewell rides while you still can.

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Saturday, 2 February 2019

In The Absence Of Purple

This post focuses on three routes which don't have too much relevance to one another, but all were forced to undergo changes of some sort during December.

I vividly remember waiting a long time for a bus to show up with correct blinds...
One of London's youngest bus routes is the 452, having only existed since 2006, essentially acting as a relief for the busy 52 service. Starting at Kensal Rise, the route becomes more popular as it heads further South, picking up passengers in Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill and Knightsbridge, before offering some unique links to Sloane Square, Wandsworth Road Station and lastly Vauxhall, where the route was extended to in 2016. Although it's one of the lesser used Central London services, patronage has picked up considerably over the years and its now regarded as a useful method of crossing this part of London. Abellio previously operated the service from Battersea (QB) garage with a batch of ADL Enviro 400s, but Trident ALX400s preceded them and more recently E40H MMCs started to appear. Being 9 miles in length, journey times generally take around 70 minutes, with a peak vehicle requirement for 18 vehicles satisfying the 10 minute frequency, which inevitably reduces to every 12 minutes on Sundays and during the evening. Generally, this operator managed the 452 rather well, with no other base controlling the service until this latest contract change. However, Battersea (QB) garage have been losing a lot of work recently, even if the other Abellio division is blossoming a little too much...

At the same location, except in daylight.
Even though Abellio are situated en route, Tower Transit were always going to provide some stiff competition with their recently expanded Westbourne Park (X) garage. Existing buses were specified for the new 452 contract and these are in the form of Wrightbus Gemini 2 B9TLs, which have been refurbished recently and are still in a very good condition despite running around on the busiest route in London prior to this. Coincidentally, the 25 service has had a heavy PVR reduction recently with a curtailment and removal of 50% of its trips, which meant its former allocation could quickly transfer over to work the 452 and since the first day no other vehicles have worked it. Predictably, the service has been hit and miss, with not so many curtailments but lots of large gaps and a fair bit of bunching, but this is natural when an operator first takes over and hopefully Tower Transit will be able to settle in soon. I wish them the best for the next five years, with an excellent batch of vehicles to complement this change.

I wasn't meant to snap here but ended up waiting at the wrong stop for this 308, whoops.
Whilst the 25 cut was pretty severe, the 452 took away a little too many vehicles for the former route to still function with its new routeing. Conveniently, the 328 at Westbourne Park (X) garage received a frequency cut on the same day as the 25/452 changes, which freed up five of its Wrightbus Gemini 3 B5LHs for use at Lea Interchange (LI) garage. This introduced a new bodywork to this base as its only other Gemini 3s are smiley-face models, but these buses seem adamant on not working the 25 and after one trip on the very first day of the cutback, they've rigidly stuck to the 308 instead. At the moment I can't think of a suitable explanation justifying this allocation change, but it does mean there are now two types working the 308 instead of one neat batch. They do bear similarities to one another, both having the same B5LH engine, so the change isn't too drastic. However, these are the 25s buses after all and the remainder of its PVR has to come from somewhere.

An array of vehicles at Stratford Bus Station.
In addition to Wrightbus Gemini 2 B9TLs and ADL Enviro 400s, since the cutback MCV EvoSeti hybrids from the 308 have also become common the 25, with around 5 or 6 working the route each day. Surprisingly, for a Central London service, this introduced hybrid technology to the route en masse for the first time -  ironically though since the use of cleaner buses the 25 stopped travelling through the most polluted part of the route. In coincidence with the opening of Crossrail (or not), TfL decided to slaughter London's busiest route even more through a curtailment to Holborn Circus,
although the official destination is displayed as City Thameslink, presumably to glorify the Western terminus and make it sound more useful than it actually is. This change has removed the 25 from Oxford Street and Chancery Lane, upsetting many commuters who frequently rode this service all the way from Ilford and East London as a cheap method of travelling to the West End. I'm sceptical the introduction of shiny new trains would remove any patronage from the 25, but TfL had the audacity to cut the route despite the fact that the 'alternative' is not even operating yet. The hopper fare isn't actually applicable for most trips, given that the journey time from Ilford to City Thameslink still exceeds 70 minutes during the day, whilst the saving grace that is the number 8 doesn't even make it to Oxford Street anymore, stopping short at Tottenham Court Road. This means that it now requires three buses to directly travel between Oxford Circus and St Paul's, which is slightly ridiculous considering how close the two destinations are. This change has resulted in the introduction of a new night bus route, the N25, which continues to run through to Oxford Circus, but its operation hours are quite limited and I thought it would at least extend into the early morning rush hour, which is where the 25 used to thrive. Another example of poor execution is the state of the bus stop tiles a couple of months after the change - some still claim the 25 is a 24-hour route, whilst other N25 tiles lack the blue background. On the same day as the curtailment, Westbound 25 buses were sent into Stratford Bus Station too, which makes journey times significantly longer but does improve accessibility for those wishing to travel to Westfield or the railway station. From my observations, the 25 is nowhere near as busy as before - buses used to be heaving in rush hour but now they're leaving Central London only half full, whilst the number 8 has surged in popularity as one of the only routes left travelling East from (the edg) of) the West End. The once almighty 25 has fallen considerably into nothing more than a commuter route which dumps passengers in the middle of nowhere and certainly won't be in the top spot next year for patronage - its downfall reflects the Central London bus network as a whole, falling to pieces.

Looping the bus station.
 Whilst the 25 uses the most direct route between Stratford and Manor Park, the 104 decides to take a much more scenic journey, passing through Upton Park, Lonsdale Avenue and East Ham along the 6-mile route. It's an intensely used service (just not necessarily for end-to-end trips) and a 10 minute frequency is required during the day, with a drop to 4 buses per hour on Sundays and during the evening. Interestingly, this one of a handful of routes in London to retain a dramatic increase in frequency during rush hour, presumably due to strong commuter flows into and out of Stratford, so in the morning peak buses depart at 6 minute intervals. The journey takes around 55 minutes to complete, requiring 18 buses in rush hour. Stagecoach London previously operated the route from West Ham (WH) garage, with a mixed allocation of ADL Enviro 400s and older Trident ALX400s. Rarely, E400 MMCs and Scania OmniCitys would appear, especially during the evening. Although the service was run to a decent standard and an existing vehicle allocation was available, with the proposed changes to the 104 Go-Ahead were much more strategically positioned for the service, so a loss was almost inevitable.

At the other end of Stratford Bus Station.
Go-Ahead London assumed operation of the 104 on Saturday 8th December 2018, with buses based at River Road (RR) garage. Its new allocation is extremely messy, with ADL Enviro 400s scraped together from around five different batches, as well as a couple of Wrightbus Gemini 2 B9TLs, yet these rarely work the service in practice. This operator actually won the 104 as a route running from Stratford to Beckton Station - in conjunction with Crossrail TfL proposed to split the U-shaped service at Lonsdale Avenue, with this service turning right to serve Beckton, whilst the Manor Park element would turn left towards Newham Hospital and Custom House, with this new service numbered 304. This was meant to occur on December 8th, with Go-Ahead running the 304 too, but for now they've had to embrace the 104 alone in its current form. At the moment, operation is looking quite good ; as always some first day syndrome was apparent but other than that Go-Ahead seem to be off to a good start. My only criticism is that somehow since the 104 was lost Stratford Bus Station has become an overcrowded mess - previously the main parking area was only used by Stagecoach but since Go-Ahead joined the party some hostility has arisen and vehicles like the one pictured above keep having to undertake circuits before finding a space. When Arriva make their debut in March for the 158, goodness knows how the bus station will cope. Apart from this trivial matter, things are looking promising for the 104 and I wish Go-Ahead all the best in running this service, and the 304 if it ever emerges, for the next five years.

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Random Observations - January 2019

Another 10 images, freshly picked from the album.

I wonder what happened to the number plate on that Audi.
This particular vehicle was pretty uncooperative when it first appeared in October, but luckily a random trip to the hospital in December coincided with its arrival on the 92. Previously, the ADL Enviro 400 could be found at Potters Bar (PB) garage, but for some reason it turned up at Greenford (G) one afternoon on the 282 school run. Since then, it has settled in nicely and usually sticks to the 92, with the only difference between this vehicle and the rest of the E400s being the livery, as this bus was an original Metroline Travel vehicle as opposed to the ex-First buses Metroline West have inherited. Initially, enthusiasts suspected that this bus was cover for the refurbishment of the 92s own vehicles as they're pretty worn out, but none have entered the workshop so far and it seems that TE1313 is just a general, long-term spare. It does add some variety to the rather bland bus scene in West London and hopefully I'll be able to snap it on other Greenford (G) routes in the future.

This rare working just sprung up on me in Highgate, which was rather fortunate.
 For a Central London route the 134 hasn't had many hybrid vehicles on it over the years, especially since its transfer to Potters Bar (PB) garage. ADL Enviro 400s have become the staple allocation, although recently Metroline have actually made the effort to reblind its Wrightbus Gemini 3 B5LHs officially allocated to the 34 and 125, which have become increasingly common on the 134 as of late, making almost daily appearances. They suit the route rather well and if emissions were ever an issue, a swap with the outer London services would be pretty easy to undertake, although the 134 is earmarked for some rather fancy all-electric vehicles soon. These will be in the form of Optare Metrodeckers and the route should remain at the rural base, but given the difficulty in delivering 6 Optare Solos within three months of a contract date I'm sceptical that 27 buses will be here anytime soon. Nonetheless, it introduces a new type to the London bus scene en masse and I look forward to their arrival. Some enthusiasts are also claiming that the 134 will be receiving, in the short-term, some of the endless number of MCV EvoSetis that keep showing up on delivery, but keeping up with where those buses are meant to be is almost impossible so I've decided not to bother.

Ewisham. Some would say a more appropriate name for the place, but I rather like the hustle and bustle.
Go-Ahead London are down to just two Volvo/B7TL Plaxton Presidents, a type which was very common only a few years ago and could be found on most of their double deck services. The last few have been residing at Merton (AL) garage over the past year, but only one (PVL296) remains there. Almost all of the others have been withdrawn, but a solitary example (PVL284) has transferred over to Bexleyheath (BX) garage and seems pretty dedicated to the 89 service, between Lewisham Station and Slade Green. They're pretty iconic buses and I'd definitely recommend going after them, with PVL284 being my preferred choice as it's much faster and the whiny ZF gearbox is slightly more audible, whilst the 89 offers steep hills which really test the engine for youtubers, but also offer stunning panoramas for those who prefer sitting upstairs. If you own a "proper" camera, Shooters Hill can be a perfect photography spot, but I chose to stick to Lewisham Station as the sun was somehow in the right place during December. The picture above also demonstrates a rather shocking discovery I found on my most recent trip to South-East London - everyone seems to have abandoned the designated standing area. I've lost track of what's happened to Lewisham Bus Station over the years, but what I do know is that a spacious new area was opened up fairly recently along Thurston Road. The main problem with this place is that it takes ages to travel from the stand to the first stop - up to 7 minutes during rush hour - so instead buses are just being dumped all over the street (like PVL284 above) and keep blocking the flow. At first I thought it was just stationary traffic, but for somewhere with 11 terminating routes I was quite surprised that only two vehicles were present at the stands when I ventured up there. I can't help but understand that using them is a complete pain, but what it does show is that the old bus station, which worked perfectly fine, should never have closed.

Metroline do seem to be getting more than their fair share of glory in this post.
Theoretically, Boxing Day is very unlikely to throw up any rare stuff since a Sunday timetable is in operation. However, Metroline West decided to buck the trend by forgetting to unlock Wallingford Road (UE) outstation after the Christmas break, which meant that a load of single deckers and Gemini 3 B5LHs were trapped inside. This meant an increased number of double deckers on the U3, whilst on the 222 and 114 some extremely odd workings turned up, with these being in the form of Wrightbus Gemini B7TL vehicles which rigidly stick to the 607. Due to their age, it's unlikely that they'll stray again as replacements are due in April. Whilst the 222 working has happened before, the 114 had never seen this type until VW1564 made its debut in the afternoon. Unfortunately, I'd already travelled to the other side of London when this happened so I wasn't able to photograph this historic moment, but one rare is better than none I guess. The 114 has actually seen B7TLs before in the form of its allocation at London Sovereign (the infamous Myllenium Vykings), but the Gemini 1 bodywork certainly was new.

A proper icon!
London has only one Marshall Capital remaining and it's the good old DMN1 at Northumberland Park (NP) garage, which has somehow outlived the entire 193 batch at River Road (RR) garage. The former base did have another example, DMN17, but unfortunately this was involved in a road traffic collision and hasn't seen service since. This vehicle is ageing and is used sparingly, occasionally on the 192 service and more commonly the W10, where an appearance on a Saturday is almost guaranteed for some reason. It's in a decent condition and is apparently more reliable than the Wrightbus Streetlites at Northumberland Park, which justifies its use into 2019, hopefully for as long as possible. Although so many enthusiasts are riddled with childhood memories travelling on these buses (226, E10 and PR1 over here), they weren't actually that common and finding one now is near impossible. Almost all of the 193 vehicles have gone for scrap given their diabolical state, although it is believed that DMN9 has gone into preservation, which is a bonus at least! If anyone does have the space or finances conserve DMN1, please consider it as this bus will always be one of our favourites in London for its sheer determination to stay alive!

A very large number of power lines tower above the EL1s.
The Barking Riverside development is probably the biggest housing project in London, which involves turning wasteland into thousands of new homes and retail units, along with a beach apparently. The London Overground will be extended there in a few years and the area even boasts its own glorified bus service, in the form of the East London Transit, which currently has three routes allocated branded New Routemasters. Although the EL1 is the shortest, it is by far the most substantial and is very popular for its convenient Barking to Ilford link, as well as connecting residents of the Riverside to nearby town centres at a 6 minute frequency. Recently, it has been extended within Barking Riverside to a new stand at Northgate Road and even though the new section only lasts for around two minutes, at the moment it is quite easily one of the best sections of route in London. There is so much to take in, ranging from brand new houses and schools, construction sites, industrial wasteland, views of the Thames and glimpses of South London, as well as a close-up of the isolated Dagenham Sunday Market, something I've always wanted to visit. All this is from an empty bus speeding along brand new roads - what's not to love? In a few years all of this will be built up property, so I urge you to get over there quickly before this amazing opportunity passes by.

Perks of an SWR strike - the platform at Clapham Junction was empty!
The London Overground Class 378 units are still pretty neat, being relatively young after all. However, a refurbishment programme has been deemed necessary for some reason and the first few units have returned from the workshop, with some more orange stripes and lots more black, which I personally approve of. The interior is slightly more interesting now as splashes of green have been added to the seats, although the process is on hold at the moment due to the crisis on the Gospel Oak to Barking (GOBLIN) line. Its new 4-car Class 710 Aventras are ridiculously late and West Midlands Railway are fed up of being refused their promised Class 172s from London Overground, so have demanded that two units per month must leave which will leave the line short of trains by March unless the new trains quit with the software issues. As an interim measure, three Class 378s have had a carriage cut off and are expected to act as crowd busters on the GOBLIN soon, in an attempt to mitigate the effects of having so many cancellations. The current plan is to run the service at a 30-minute frequency with 4-car trains, which does technically increase capacity but doesn't make the line "turn up and go" and deprives some parts of South London of a frequent train service, where these trains have been taken from. It is said that a month of free travel will be co-ordinated at some point in an attempt to compensate GOBLIN users for this farcical electrification project.

Luckily the sun was behaving itself at IKEA, even if it meant ruining my shoes by standing in a muddy field
Rather unfortunately, on New Years Eve a warehouse caught fire in Croydon and caused extensive damage - the building was considered to be unsafe for around a week after and the Tramlink service which runs in the area was closed. During this time it operated in segments, between Wimbledon and Mitcham Junction, as well as Croydon and Elmers End, Beckenham & New Addington. The section between these two destinations was served by a replacement bus, which operated every few minutes using a plethora of interesting vehicles. A wide range of buses, often ex-London, could turn up - these include Gemini and Plaxton B7TLs, along with Ensignbus Olympus & BCI models. This was brilliant for enthusiasts wishing to experience these older vehicles before they become extinct, but the route was brilliant too. It could become pretty congested at times, but the combination of urbanised Croydon, rural Mitcham and industrial Therapia Lane, often on single-deck only roads, makes it one of the best replacement services I've sampled and if this section of track is ever closed again I urge you to go out there and try for yourself.

Swerving a roundabout in style.
You may recall a recent publication on the fall-out of route 10's withdrawal and the resultant conversion of the E3 to Enviro400H operation. For some baffling reason London United have decided to make the process even more complicated, through swapping buses of the exact type for no immediately obvious reason. The E3 has only just got used to having its 62-reg E40Hs from the 27, but now these are appearing at Shepherd's Bush (S) garage on the 94, whilst its older 60-reg examples are travelling down to Stamford Brook (V) garage and have made their debut on the E3. Low emission corridors are the most sensible reason for this manouevre, but it is still very random and no one really knows whether it'll be a temporary or more permanent situation. Surprisingly, the example I managed to photograph on the 94 showed green blinds instead of the white-on-black variant which almost all of the 62-reg now possess, although this may have simply been an anomaly. Nonetheless, I hope 94 commuters do appreciate their slightly new buses and I am quite envious of them - having such brilliant replacements taken away from my local route at such short notice does not make me happy.

I got here just in time - all the lights went off afterwards!
The 339 is one of those capricious routes which can't decide on where it wants to serve, often making deviations at the last minute. Only a few years ago it was a rather insignificant back-street service simply running between Shadwell and Fish Island, but extensions to Stratford City and then Leytonstone, along with various re-routings through the Olympic Park have seen the 339 surge in popularity. The most recent tweak occurred on Saturday 29th December 2018 and is nothing more than serving a different part of the Olympic Park where a school has opened recently. Unlike most consultation processes which drag on forever, this change was executed remarkably quickly and the bus stops along the new section don't even have proper names, nor do they appear on tracking apps. TfL have clearly taken their foot off the pedal regarding presentation - needlessly having dollys in place for such a long period of time is unacceptable. Nonetheless, the re-route has demanded an extra bus to cater for the PVR, with this new vehicle being in the form of a 9.6m WM-class Wrightbus Streetlite - Tower's first model in this particular configuration. It seems to have settled in nicely on the 339 but hasn't strayed elsewhere yet - it'll be interesting to see if Lea Interchange (LI) keep up their amazingly strict allocation policy with this one.

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Saturday, 19 January 2019

The Ghost Of West Ealing

One of London's exotic parliamentary services has undergone a change recently, still existing but being much harder to access for most people.

On the last day of operation into Paddington...
Providing an exact definition for a parliamentary train is quite difficult as there aren't any strict guidelines separating services which qualify and those that don't. Essentially, they're publicised trains which run the most basic and limited service, merely to keep a section of railway open, as running a train once a day is more viable than officially closing the section of track, which is a costly and complicated process. There aren't too many in the South-East, but one very well-known example was the daily Chiltern service into Paddington, using the exclusive New North Main Line which parallels the London Underground Central Line, to access the normal Chiltern route. Its outer termini have varied over the past few years, but the most recent diagram was in the form of the 1057 South Ruislip to Paddington, with the return being the 1136 Paddington to High Wycombe. As oyster cards were only valid on the first service, this was generally more popular with rail enthusiasts. The arrangement could only work for so long though, as HS2 have demanded a section of track that this service used near Old Oak Common, which means it can no longer run into London Paddington.

The last Chiltern parliamentary train into Paddington operated on Friday 7th December 2018, with the outbound service making additional calls at South Ruislip and Gerrards Cross for the benefit of rail enthusiasts. Much to the surprise of many people waiting on platform 14, where the parliamentary could usually be found, the service was diverted onto platform 1 instead, presumably to help with crowd control. It also provided a much nicer backdrop for photographs at Paddington! The event was extremely well attended, with 192 passengers travelling on the last service out to High Wycombe. Usually the train doesn't carry anyone, so this turnout was pretty impressive. Chiltern Railways generously provided a three-car Class 165 instead of the usual two carriage train and from my observations this was certainly necessary - upon departure almost all the seats were taken. It'll be disappointing for many to not have the luxury of accessing a ghost train in Zone 1, but for Ealing residents like myself, the new configuration is much more convenient.

During the first week of operation into West Ealing...
Fortunately, the parliamentary service hasn't been withdrawn entirely, as there's still a chunk of the New North Main Line that needs to be covered to avoid formal closure. The destinations at the country end (South Ruislip and High Wycombe) remain the same, but instead of running alongside the Central Line all the way to North Acton, the new service uses a previously freight-only curve to join the Greenford branch. It then runs non-stop down this section of track to the West Ealing bay platform, where it sits for half an hour before repeating the same thing and extending the journey to High Wycombe. During this time the stopping GWR shuttle to Greenford arrives and departs further up the bay platform, but to prevent any local passengers accidentally ending up in Buckinghamshire the Chiltern train is locked until the Greenford service has left. Interestingly, on the return journey to High Wycombe there is a pause at South Ruislip for crew members, but passengers aren't allowed to alight which is rather irritating. As the journey to West Ealing is shorter than to Paddington, the train leaves South Ruislip slightly later at 1102, before returning at 1147.

Chiltern and GWR share the bay platform, whilst TfL Rail operate a service to Paddington.
 Chiltern started their parliamentary service to West Ealing on Monday 10th December 2018, just after the biannual timetable change. A much smaller crowd of enthusiasts turned up to ride the service, but having anyone even remotely interested in my local station is pleasing enough. Since then, loadings have remained higher than usual as railway aficionados find time to ride the new service, but sooner or later I'm sure the passenger count will return to 0 on a regular basis. For the very first trip, it wasn't possible to buy a ticket for the service as the machines at West Ealing would naturally send people wanting to reach High Wycombe via Paddington and Marylebone. To rectify this, for the parliamentary train only London Terminals tickets are now valid from West Ealing, which does glorify the station somewhat, but I'm not complaining. Although this is certainly a random manouvre, its quite reassuring to have a local link to Buckinghamshire even though I'll probably never use it.

Today also marks a rather special occasion for the blog, since it has been functioning for six years now! It's quite shocking that the site has survived for so long, but the support from all you dedicated viewers has been incredible and I certainly wish for publications to continue for many years to come! Now that you've read this, how about a visit to the superb London Connected, who coincidentally also turn six today.

Thanks for reading, keep safe out there and here's to another year "on the go."

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Sainsburys' Sovereign

Although most of the activity on Saturday 8th December 2018 was centered around South-East London, and there should've been a lot more due to Crossrail, two routes in the North-West also swapped operators, with these being the 79 and 292.

A Wrightbus Gemini 2 B9TL is seen at Edgware Bus Station, representing the old.
Metroline Travel haven't operated the 79 for that long, with First London being responsible for the service before 2011. Since then, the route has switched between Perivale West (PA) and Perivale East (PV), with the latter garage being used for the final part of the contract. At this base the typical diet consisted of Wrightbus Gemini 2 B9TL vehicles, although Gemini 3 B5LHs (smiley and frog-face) were also common. At the previous garage, the much more interesting Scania Olympus vehicles also made regular appearances, but now they stick to the 90 and 297. Running between Alperton Sainsbury's and Edgware, the 79 has a fairly average route length of 7 miles and a reasonable frequency of every 12 minutes from Monday to Saturday, with a slight reduction to every 15 minutes on Sundays and during the evening. A PVR of 11 vehicles is required for this fairly busy service, which passes through Wembley, Preston Road, Queensbury and Canons Park en route. An end-to-end journey takes around an hour to complete. Generally, Metroline provided a reliable service, but with many garages close by there was always going to be close competition in the tendering process, with London Sovereign undercutting them this time, a trend which has become all too common lately.

The new look of the 79, seen at Alperton Sainsbury's.
Rather controversially, the new allocation for the 79 consists of Scania OmniCity vehicles, which are ever so slightly older than their predecessors under the old contract. The plan for the allocation of this route under London Sovereign has changed regularly, with ADL Enviro400H MMCs, ADL Enviro 400s and Wrightbus Gemini 3 B5LHs all considered. A brand new batch of the latter type was ordered against the 79 contract, but due to the Chiswick High Road low emissions corridor these have been diverted to the H91. A swap has occurred, with the Scania OmniCitys previously allocated to
this route transferring to Edgware (BT) garage and they now work the 79. Regular users generally consider this to be a downgrade given the uncomfortable seating, although I'm delighted that a dying breed is being given more work and I feel these buses suit the 79 perfectly. As usual, the vast pool of double deckers at the depot all intermix with one another, so regular Enviro 400s, MMCs and Gemini 2 B5LHs have worked the service already, with the former type being almost a daily occurrence. Although this operator haven't made a particularly good impression in Edgware lately with their dominance and banditry, the 79 buses have all been presentable and so far the service has been decent - hopefully they can keep this up for the future. Originally, the contract changeover date was Saturday 24th November, but as the route couldn't physically fit at the garage due to overcrowding, Metroline were given two extra weeks to run the service and it passed to London Sovereign on Saturday 8th December instead, where space was made available due to the loss of route 292. I wish them the best for the next five years, hopefully with Scanias for the remainder of the contract!

A Scania OmniDekka is seen on the 292, a type now extinct within London.
 The 292 runs between Colindale Superstores and Borehamwood, Rossington Avenue, being one of a handful of services which leave the Greater London boundary and travel into Hertfordshire. Intermediate destinations include Edgware, Apex Corner and Elstree, with end-to-end journey times taking around 50 minutes in average conditions. A peak vehicle requirement for 10 vehicles satisfies a 15 minute frequency, which drops to 3 buses per hour on Sundays and half-hourly during the evening. TfL propose to reduce the usual frequency to every 20 minutes once the 384 is extended to Edgware. Under the old contract, London Sovereign operated the service from Edgware (BT) garage, which is conveniently in the middle of the route. A wide variety of types could appear, ranging from modern Gemini 3 B5LHs, common ADL Enviro 400s and its official allocation, Scania OmniDekkas. The route became rather famous in the final months of the contract as it was the home to London's final batch of SLE-class N94/UD Scanias and even though appearances reduced significantly as time went on, they were still going strong on the last day. The type is now extinct within the capital, although a couple are still sitting in a yard near Canons Park looking sorry for themselves - ironically this can be viewed from the 79 service. Reliability was decent under the old contract despite the problematic A1 dual carriageway which this route uses, with this operator being very familiar with the 292 having operated it for a number of years. However, Metroline can hardly be considered an outsider when their garage is basically next door to the old depot.

The new, Wright look.
Saturday 8th December saw Metroline Travel commence operation of the 292, from Edgware (EW) garage. Predictably, a batch of existing vehicles were sourced for the new contract, but interestingly these are in the form of Wrightbus Gemini 2 B9TLs, which did introduce a brand new type to the base. However, they have settled in well, working other services too and more are expected to show up next year for the 240 retention. An overnight transfer was necessary to push these vehicles into service since they've come from the 79, although one example (VW1199) did leave prematurely for
type training. In addition to the Gemini 2s, existing vehicles at the garage have started to work the 292, usually in the form of Enviro 400s and occasionally MCV EvoSetis. The first few days proved challenging for Metroline, with the unfamiliarity of the service combined with roadworks making operation difficult, but since then the service has become much more reliable and to the same standard as under the old contract. One bizarre feature of the new contract is the scheduled driver changeover time at Edgware Bus Station heading Southbound - usually a couple of minutes is manipulated into the timetable to allow for this, but in the case of the 292 buses on the London Vehicle Finder are shown as having up to 8 minutes of just sitting around. This usually isn't fulfilled, so the whole service runs around 5 minutes early for the remainder of the trip. I suppose it does help to improve reliability and allows recovery time, but it was rather infuriating when trying to snap 292s as buses would turn up much earlier than expected and I'd miss them! Apart from this trivial matter, Metroline seem to be doing well and I wish them all the best for the next five years.

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Smarter Bromley, Woolwich Doubled

In addition to the changes concerning Orpington (MB) garage, some other contract changes and retentions have occurred in South-East London, with Stagecoach being the general losers again.

Somehow, the oldest Trident ALX400 seems to be living the younger official allocation for the 61.
Stagecoach London managed to retain route 61 in the tendering process, which was rather surprising given their current losing streak. The service runs between Bromley North and Chislehurst in a U-shaped roueting which involves travelling through Locksbottom and Orpington, so it certainly isn't direct. Conveniently, it passes Bromley (TB) garage which is where the 61 is based. A peak vehicle requirement for 9 vehicles satisfies a 15 minute frequency from Monday to Saturday, with a typical reduction to three buses per hour on Sundays and during the evening. Previously, the 61 had an
interesting allocation consisting of 56-reg Trident Enviro 400s, which were the only full batch in London to have a long wheelbase configuration, something which is actually very common outside of the capital. These were supported by even older Trident ALX400s acting as spares, along with newer Enviro 400s from the 208 and 261 allocations. The 61 as a route is almost always empty apart from during the school run, where persistent heavy loadings justify a double deck allocation, although from time to time single deckers at Bromley (TB) garage do work the service. Stagecoach London operate the 61 pretty well, although the exotic E400s have almost all been withdrawn now and won't be serving the route for its next contract. With the 261 receiving brand new MMCs, its fairly young existing ADL Enviro 400s are a perfect fit for the 61 and its conversion is almost complete. Luckily, the Trident E400s won't be leaving London entirely, as some will be used as trainer buses whilst others have a new life ahead of them on the Mega Sightseeing tour bus routes in Zone 1, so hopefully we'll still be able to see them running around. The solitary example at Rainham (RM) garage, which is also the Sprit Of London vehicle, still sees regular service too.

One of the exclusive 61 vehicles has a day out on the 261 days before withdrawal.
Like the 61, the 261 passes Bromley (TB) garage and was retained by Stagecoach London at this base. This latter service runs between Lewisham Station and Princess Royal Hospital, via Grove Park and Bromley Town Centre. It's a fairly busy South-East London trunk service which is used for long distances, in addition to more localised trips at either end. Being 9 miles in length, end-to-end journey times are around 60-70 minutes during the day, with most of the route being urban in nature. An unusual 13 minute frequency from Monday to Saturday requires the same number of buses for the PVR, with a reduction to every 15 minutes on Sundays and every 20 minutes during the evening. Previously, Metrobus at Orpington (MB) garage operated the service and there was speculation that the route would return, but for once Go-Ahead were unsuccessful in their tender application. Although the 261 did receive its own ADL Enviro 400s in 2013, the route is lucky enough to have another batch of new buses for this contract, with the conversion taking place quite rapidly now.

One of the new buses is seen on a crisp Winter morning.
 This route was retained at the start of December, but the new buses didn't enter service until a couple of weeks after - so far there haven't been any strays. They perform very similarly to the examples at West Ham (WH) garage, essentially having a more whiny diesel E40D engine with efficient super-capacitators and other technological advancement, being well-suited to slow-moving urban services such as the 261. As ever, there were rumours that the buses would move to West Ham and join their slightly older counterparts, but in the end this didn't happen and South-East London can, for once, actually appreciate brand new vehicles. Conveniently, the future for the 63-reg former 261 buses is at the same garage, so reblinding is not necessary and the upgrade for route 61 is also taking place quickly. I wish Stagecoach all the best for both services and hopefully they continue to provide their commendable quality of service for the next five years.

A royal kebab, never heard of that one before...
Running between Lewisham Station and Woolwich, the 178 is one of many routes connecting these two town centres. Taking around 45 minutes end-to-end, this service travels via Lee, Kidbrooke and Queen Elizabeth Hospital at a 15 minute frequency, which drops to every 20 minutes on Sundays and during the evening. A PVR for 9 vehicles is necessary to run the 9-mile service. Previously, Stagecoach London operated the service from Catford (TL) garage, using a mixture of single deckers. Initially, these were commonly Dart Pointers but around a year ago they were replaced with slightly more modern ADL Enviro 200s, which were complemented occasionally with MMC variants officially allocated to the 380. For a short period of time in early 2017, the route was temporarily converted to double deck operation using Trident ALX400s, as the new buses for the 167 takeover were late and compliant vehicles needed to be sourced from somewhere. This did not become a permanent feature for the remainder of the Stagecoach contract. However, this "trial run" was clearly deemed a success and from Saturday 8th December, the date Go-Ahead London took over, the 178 is officially known as a double deck route.

I'd like to thank Sainsbury's for making this shot uploadable through their light source.
 Initially, enthusiasts were quite surprised that this particular route was chosen for an upgrade to double deckers, since it was never really busy and other single deck services are still in desperate need of an improvement. However, the new Kidbrooke Village development is likely to result in substantial growth for the 178, providing links to many stations and a hospital. This area was previously known as the Ferrier Estate, which had rather negative connotations, but the new site consists of much prettier housing, surrounded by extensive green spaces with gorgeous lakes, and its pretty vast. Buses undertake a clockwise circuit to serve the area and at the moment it's a perfect time to ride the route, as half the area is complete with residents happily living inside the property, whilst the rest is a building site. Combined with other quirky features like the bizarre double run into Kidbrooke Station, the views of Woolwich Barracks and lovely panoramas, I'd certainly recommend the 178 to all of you. The second (and arguably weaker) reason for decking the 178 is the arrival of Crossrail in Woolwich, but I'm sceptical this will actually cause a net increase in passenger usage as people already commute to catch a train from there, they'll just be catching a faster purple service instead of the DLR or Southeastern (I've left out the other operator as they've been useless in the South-East). The Crossrail related bus changes were all supposed to take place just before the grand opening on December 8th, but only the 178 and 291 double deckings went ahead, as it wouldn't be fair to ask Go-Ahead to source new single deckers when they'd already planned a new allocation.

The hospital was infuriating for finding spots in the sun, but the trees here were nice at least.
 Go-Ahead operate the 178 from New Cross (NX) garage and a batch of ADL Enviro 400s are rostered for the service, having received a deep refurbishment after their duties on the demanding 36. Other double deckers at the garage have been reblinded to include this route too, which means Wrightbus Gemini 2 B9TLs and E40H MMCs also appear on a day-to-day basis, introducing hybrid technology to the route for the first time. From my observations a few weeks after the conversion, locals are still getting used to the prospect of having another seating level, but the amount of young children and families using the service is high and they're usually very keen to climb up the stairs. Whlist the route may not be fulfilling all of its capacity at the moment (apart from in the school run), in the future the 178 will be an essential service for all the residents in Kidbrooke and I don't doubt that it'll run 24/7 sooner or later. I wish Go-Ahead all the best for the next five years and hopefully they build on the promising quality of service delivered so far.

Woolwich has always been good for photography as the roads are quite narrow.
The 291 is probably the shortest route in Woolwich, travelling between Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Woodlands Estate - the latter destination is served by undertaking a clockwise loop. Intermediate destinations include Plumstead Common and Woolwich Town Centre, but the route is only 4 miles long. End-to-end journey times never exceed 30 minutes, whilst a peak vehicle requirement of only 6 vehicles satisfies the rather intensive 10 minute frequency, which drops to 4 buses per hour on Sundays and during the evening. Like the 178, Stagecoach London operated this route under the previous contract, but this time from Plumstead (PD) garage. Before the 386 was lost to Go-Ahead in June, a mixed single deck pool of 8.9m Dart Pointers and 9.3m ADL Enviro 200s was shared between the two services, but in the final few months of the 291 contract only the latter type worked the service and no rare workings occurred as every other route at the base used double deckers. Stagecoach London's operation was exemplary, with the route having no real reliability issues, but when double deckers were specified in the tender award Go-Ahead managed to undercut this operator again, with their unstoppable force of existing 2011 vehicles...

I realise this angle is bizarre, but there aren't any other photos of QEH bound buses.
After a Scania OmniCity vehicle was deemed unsafe to operate the 291 after a route test, it looked like a hindrance to the double decking of the route and perhaps Go-Ahead would need to source some single deckers after all. Luckily, the shortest vehicles in the DD fleet, these being ADL Enviro 400s, passed the route test and the plan to use Gemini 2s quickly changed, with refurbished ex-36 vehicles again being the preferred choice. This does mean that technically no odd workings can occur on this route as all other types are banned, so the closest you'll get is a slightly older E400 with a grey skirt that should be the 180 spare. Morden Wharf (MG) garage run the 291 and for some odd reason they've been really struggling - curtailments are being pulled out all the time and once or twice the entire service has been heading in the same direction. Bunching seems all too common and from an outsider's perspective it looks like no real effort is being made to control the route properly, which is a shame as the upgrade is now offset by the drop in service quality. The good news is that even without the presence of Crossrail, people are really appreciating the increase in capacity on the 291. Although it is a very short route and did use small single deckers before, the Woodlands Estate is pretty dense and it seems there's a lot of demand for a quick shuttle to and from the town centre and station, especially at rush hour and during the shopping run, so the 291 fits the bill perfectly. Although these double deckers may struggle with the tight roads, hopefully they should be much better at tackling the array of hills this route undertakes with a full load. In the school run DDs have been seen with a full load and hopefully once the service settles down the 291 can thrive and become more established in the Woolwich community.

Thanks for reading and stay safe

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Gaps In The Number Sequence

Although the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street has been postponed, TfL are still keen to remove as many bus routes as possible from the area even though congestion has reduced significantly since a few years ago. The two latest victims are the 10 and 23, which have been merged to form one Hammersmith to Westbourne Park service, taking the latter number. Although it's only a trivial matter, this restructuring now means the sequence of numbered bus routes jumps from 9 to 11 and having a gap so early on is very irritating.

An Enviro 400H makes a rare appearance on the 10.
The 10 ran between Hammersmith and King's Cross, travelling through High Street Kensington, Knightsbridge, Oxford Street and the British Museum in the process. London United operated the service for just shy of a decade, using Scania OmniCity vehicles until 2014, when these were phased out in favour of New Routemasters. These buses were allocated to the service until its withdrawal and appearances of conventional vehicles after its conversion were rare - once or twice an ADL Enviro400H from the 27 sneaked out. The 10 ran every 8 minutes and had a high peak vehicle requirement for 23 vehicles, leaving a large void at Stamford Brook (V) garage. In compensation, the 391 has been transferred to this base from Fulwell (FW) garage, using ADL Enviro 200s rather than the Optare Versas which were allocated previously. Just after 1am on Saturday 24th November 2018, LT166 worked the last ever 10 service and it was very well attended by enthusiasts, whilst the new 23 (a 24-hour route) started just minutes later and led to many obtaining a money shot at Hammersmith of both services in action, never to be seen again.

LT162 is seen under the Oxford Street lights.
There are many problems with this change, in my opinion, and it has been executed very poorly. From my observations, right until the last day the 10 was easily one of the most oversubscribed services on Oxford Street, being consistently busy with tourists and commuters alike. It provided an array of well established links to Kensington and Hammersmith which were very popular and also served the British Museum, which is quite inconvenient to get to from the West End. Removing the service means that people simply have no choice but to switch to the tube, whilst the British Museum now has no bus service whatsoever, which is pretty disgraceful for such a major tourist attraction. TfL propose to send the number 14 route there next year, but it won't be anywhere near as useful since the service duplicates the Piccadilly Line which goes near the museum anyway! I don't see why, out of the three services from Oxford Circus to King's Cross, the two going via Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street should remain whilst the one uniquely serving Russell Square should go. A simple re-routing of the 73 or 390 wouldn't do any harm, surely? This obsession with removing routes from Oxford Street is now unnecessary - severe congestion is quite rare nowadays and ultimately sending services to the shops brings in money, it's as simple as that. The 6 was sent away from Oxford Street last year and lost 2.5 million annual passengers. I wonder why.

The 23 was an icon on Oxford Street, serving so many tourist attractions.
In happier times, the 23 ran from Westbourne Park to Liverpool Street, via Paddington, Oxford Street, Trafalgar Square and St Paul's, being incredibly popular with tourists as a method of crossing Central London and sightseeing simultaneously. In 2017 the route was curtailed to Aldwych, no longer serving Ludgate Circus, St Paul's Cathedral or Bank and with the latest changes the service omits Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus too. There is no denying that usage on the 23 has declined over the past few years, but some of the now missing fundamental links are shambolic.  Piccadilly Circus to Paddington and Fleet Street lacks a direct bus service and with the curtailment of route 25, there's now not a single bus service from Oxford Circus which heads into the City, with the exception of the 55 which skirts around the outside. On Oxford Street itself there is increased strain on the 139, which has the difficult task of being the only route to Aldwych and Waterloo from the West End, whilst the 7 is now the only bus heading to Paddington and Ladbroke Grove. The new, merged service is a bodge job which stuck the outer ends of two routes together even though they're completely irrelevant to each other and aren't symbiotic in any way.

An Enviro 400H is seen working the new service at Westbourne Park.
Route 23 now runs between Hammersmith and Westbourne Park, via High Street Kensington, Marble Arch, Paddington and Ladbroke Grove. It is 9 miles in length, having a peak vehicle requirement for 24 buses which satisifies the 8 minute frequency and taking up to 87 minutes to complete in rush hour. The Hammersmith & City Line does the exact same journey seven times faster. Its allocation remains the same as before, with a mixture of diesel and hybrid Enviro 400s working the service, along with occasional MCV EvoSeti vehicles from the 13. The main problem with the new route is how indirect it is - most of its links are covered by much faster services. From Hammersmith and Kensington to Ladbroke Grove the 295 and 52 provide a direct link much more effectively, whilst the 27 connects these areas to Notting Hill and Paddington via a much quicker routeing. Even the one brand new link created, Knightsbridge to Paddington, was already achievable by taking a 36 or 414 and adding a five minute walk to the end, which is probably quicker to undertake than sit in traffic. The new 23 is incredibly slow, having a loose schedule and trundling around at 5mph everywhere. Passenger usage so far is poor, with most people along the Hammersmith to Hyde Park corridor actively letting go the 23s in favour of the more familiar number 9 service. People from Portobello have stopped using the 23 since it no longer goes to Central London, with usage only remaining stable for local trips around Westbourne Park. The route is hopelessly unreliable, going through so many traffic hotspots, which doesn't make it attractive for new users at all. I can't see the new service lasting more than a couple of years, emphasising how much of a failure this change is.

The new, fallen state of the 27.
Given that New Routemasters aren't the most adaptable vehicles out there, finding a new home for 23 of them was never going to be easy. With the impending curtailment to Hammersmith, the peak vehicle requirement for route 27 will match that of the 10 and as it is also based at Stamford Brook (V) garage, there was no need to introduce them to a new base either. After a re-evaluation, the 27 has somehow passed the test which allows operation of the longer New Routemasters, even if it involves completely ignoring the roundabout at Chiswick Business Park and simply driving over the hump in the middle instead. As the route hasn't been shortened yet, a few ADL Enviro400H vehicles still work the service each day to make up the numbers, although the route has almost converted fully and I'd encourage grabbing a farewell ride end-to-end as soon as possible, as you won't be able to appreciate leafy Chiswick or indeed the rest of the route with proper windows for much longer.

Unfortunately the E3 won't operate with Scania OmniCity vehicles for much longer.
As the ex-27 ADL Enviro400H vehicles are still fairly young, their life at Stamford Brook (V) garage will continue, albeit on the E3 service instead. Since this route joined London United in 2014, its operated with the Scania OmniCity vehicles that used to work the 10, but as a non-standard type which are ageing rapidly almost every operator in London is determined to withdraw them as soon as possible. It's rumoured that these particular Scanias do have a future ahead of them, replacing slightly older versions of the same model, but in a few years the once numerous type will be extinct within London. As not all of the E40Hs are blinded for the E3, in addition to vehicle shortages due to fires and crashes, around six Scanias are still in regular use at Stamford Brook (V) garage, but once the 27 fully converts the type will be gone completely.

ADH45002 is seen at the end of an E3 journey at Greenford Broadway.
In an attempt to remove the Scanias as quickly as possible, two slightly more interesting ADL Enviro400H vehicles have temporarily been drafted in to work the E3. One of these is a loan from Shepherd's Bush (S) garage, which usually works the 94, whilst the other is a demonstrator vehicle that did work the 27 originally, but is not required for the E3 PVR and is actually older than the Scania vehicles it's temporarily replacing.

As you can see, there's been quite a big fall-out as a result of the 10/23 changes, but whether it'll all be worth it in the long run is a question worth asking. Thanks for reading and stay safe!