Friday, 30 May 2014

200th Post! The Return Of SEL763

 Hello readers. Before I get on with the post, I would like to say a MASSIVE thank you to everyone who has constantly viewed my posts, given me positive feedback and making the blog so successful! I never thought my blog would have over 23,000 page views. Frankly, I thought my blog would have 2300 by this time, but clearly things have worked out well for me. I have learnt so much more about London Transport, and I have become a better photographer and reporter over the last year and a half.
           Coincidentally, a very major and personal event has happened recently, after waiting over 7 months for it to happen. On the 9th May 2014, my favourite vehicle in London (SEL763) re-entered service, with a brand new engine and refurbishment.
           In November 2013, SEL763 broke down. The engine on the vehicle had blown, meaning it was just sitting in the CELF for months on end, waiting for it to receive a new one. In February 2014, I got fed up of waiting and decided to go down to Perivale myself to see if I could spot my favourite bus. Four other SEL's were off the road at the time, but I didn't see one! I tried again in April, and saw SEL747, looking pretty unwell. It was an SEL, but not the right one. In May, I thought I would never get to even look at it again, knowing the 7 month deadline of it being off the road was getting closer. I tried going to the CELF once more, but I didn't see SEL763 anywhere in the industrial estate. I was about to give up checking on London Vehicle Finder (a brilliant source of finding out where individual vehicles are) too, but on the 9th May, the bus came back into service at 17:15 on route 90!!!! I was so happy, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming about this event.
         It later moved onto the 7, and on the 17th May I decided to hunt it down to get some pictures of it. But, London Vehicle Finder decided to stop working when I was checking where SEL763 was at Waterloo Station. I'd just got off the 53 at Lambeth North, and I was hoping to get on a decent bus after my horrible experience on the Stagecoach London Gemini 3. My chances of catching SEL763 were near to zero, but I decided to head down to Russell Square and wait for half an hour to see if it turned up. 25 minutes later.............

It pulled in!
   Yes, SEL763 decided to come and meet me at Russell Square! I was delighted, and decided to take lots of pictures of the refurbished interior and exterior. It has had it's blue skirt removed, and is one of the all-red SEL's, along with SEL743, SEL746, SEL750, SEL760 and SEL764. SEL747 and SEL749 should join the club soon.
Year Of The Bus sticker alongside new doors.

Front view of SEL763. Annoyingly, it parked right behind a cycle rack.

SEL763 in the distance...and some bicycles.

A shot of SEL763 from a different angle.

The new lights and code.

New logo on the side!

     I boarded the bus, and took pictures of the refurbished interior.
Refurbished downstairs interior.

The upstairs interior.
               I grabbed the front seats on the right (with heaps of legroom) and enjoyed the view from the massive window.
iBus of SEL763, taken at 4:16 PM.

Now, doesn't the air-conditioning look better!
       I sat back, still excited about being re-united with my favourite vehicle in London. But on Oxford Street, my bus hit heavy traffic, and 40 minutes later I still hadn't got passed Marble Arch. The Eastern End of Oxford Street was pretty empty, but the Western bit needs to get sorted out soon. Transport For London can easily re-route some buses down Wigmore Street, a road that runs parallel to Oxford Street close by. A more expensive thing TFL could do is build an underpass under Oxford Street for specific buses only, but that would cost too much. Many people have complained about the congestion on Oxford Street, and it is causing many bus routes to bunch, making the service unreliable.
       Once SEL763 cleared the traffic, it sped up a bit and by the time I got to Paddington, LK07 BDE (the registration plate of SEL763) was travelling at normal pace. But, in Ladbroke Grove my bus got delayed again, due to some badly parked cars on Cambridge Gardens, near Ladbroke Grove.There were now two buses directly behind us, and it remained like that until I was doing 40mph round East Acton Trading Estate. Despite the delays, I really enjoyed my journey on SEL763 and to me, it will always be one of the all-time greats (bus-wise). Although it has had mishaps and isn't the most reliable of buses, the ride is always so amazing you don't even notice that it might have been faulty for 7 months.
      On Monday 19th May, I bumped into the bus again on Du Cane Road, so I took one more picture:

 From 21st June, this vehicle will start a new(ish) life on routes 79 and 297, and I will probably never ride this bus on my favourite route in London ever again. It has made appearances on the 79 and 297, but I really will miss this bus being on the 7. Also, I think SEL763 came back out at the perfect time. If it had come out a lot earlier (which would have been brilliant too) or later, I wouldn't have been able to write the 200th Post about this major event. I shall end the post here. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

GAL Gets Bigger

Metrobus, part of Go-Ahead group, will no longer be called Metrobus. All of Metrobus's routes will transfer to Go-Ahead London General operations on Sunday 1st June. Metrobus haven't sold they're operations, as they're already part of the Go-Ahead group, but the Metrobus logos will disappear from London vehicles and now more Go-Ahead London General ones will be seen. Thanks for reading.

I'm Not Getting Overcrowded, You Are!!

   At the moment, there is a fight between Abellio and Stagecoach. It all started on Saturday 10th May, when route 136 got extended from Peckham to Elephant And Castle. They did this to help out with Abellio London route 343, which was getting extremely overcrowded in the North Peckham area. It was getting so overcrowded, that a TV show about London's buses called Route Masters, actually had a whole section with people complaining about the 343. But, on the same day as Catford Garage open day, the 136 got extended to Elephant And Castle.

An allocated bus on the 136.
 Since the extension, route 136's Enviro 400's have gained white blinds, because of the extension. However, an increasing number of ALX400 buses with yellow blinds are appearing on the route, with yellow blinds. I managed to get on one myself, and I saw many going in the other direction, like:


 The 136 also sees Euro 6 Enviro Hybrids on the route, although I didn't manage to get a picture of one. Also, Abellio London seem to be taking advantage of the fact that another route is serving Southampton Way, so instead of trying to provide an even service on the busy stretch, some 343 drivers wait at bus stops until the 136 is ahead of it, so the 343 doesn't get overcrowded. Even in the odd-peak periods this happens, so when I was passing the Alsace Road I wasn't surprised when I saw this:

The bus behind the 136 is a 343!
   When I rode the 136 on 17th May, it was quite busy. I knew the extension was necessary, and I'm sure people in the North Peckham area are very happy they have another bus they can use. Thanks for reading!

Monday, 26 May 2014

The NB4L's Little Sister

               The bus I'm about to write about is very similar to the NB4L in a lot of negative ways. Before I even got on, I could tell the bus I was about to ride for at least 45 minutes was not going to be a good one. The Wrightbus looked quite good from the outside, but the windows upstairs looked so small I didn't think the ride was going to be a good one. Also, the effect of having small upper deck windows is if you are sitting towards the back of the vehicle you feel like you're in a dark prison cell. Also, if you have claustrophobia, I wouldn't recommend going upstairs if you're not going to get a seat that's near the front. The bus is way too quiet, the window at the front is way too small meaning if you are a bus photographer, you will probably end up feeling annoyed that you missed so many shots that would be possible on an Enviro 400. I'll talk more about how this bus is similar to the NB4L later on in the post, but I think you've all figured out that the bus I'm talking about is the Gemini 3 B5LH.
           I was excited about getting on the Gemini 3 B5LH when I was speeding through Blackheath on the brand new E40H's allocated to route 54. However, I knew immediately that it would take some time to get out of Maze Hill on the 53 because of the traffic on Shooters Hill Road. Trust me, it looked horrendous. I got off at Vanburgh Park, only to find I'd just missed a 53. Luckily, it was an Enviro, although I would rather get an Enviro every day than get on a Gemini 3 B5LH ever again. I found out that the next 53 was in 14 minutes, so I walked up to the Vanburgh Park/Stratheden Road stop. I hoped at least one of the two buses coming in the next minute was a Gemini 3 B5LH. As it turned out, both of them were. Stupidly, I boarded the first one, and I regretted minutes after I boarded. For a start, the bus behind was 13001, the first Gemini 3 in the batch. Secondly, the bus I was on was packed so I had to sit in my least favourite seats on any double-decker; right at the back on the far right. They are extremely uncomfortable and they make me feel a little sick, but thankfully it's not too bad. However, this was my worst experience in these seats yet, because the bus was so dark inside. Like the NB4L, the Gemini 3 has extremely slim upper deck windows making the bus dark. I seriously don't know why bus manufacturers have decided to make the upper deck so unpleasant for passengers. To make matters worse, my bus was stuck in stand-still Greenwich Park traffic. I was so glad my bus wasn't curtailed, the iBus and blinds said Whitehall. Although, the iBus didn't have a clock, whereas the bus behind us (which was then in front of us) did.

I hope 13010 receives a clock soon, like most other London buses.

              The bus crawled along Shooters Hill Road, meaning the gap in front of our bus got bigger and the bus got busier. The traffic eased off a little bit once my bus had passed Greenwich Park, although I was still sitting at the very back by the time we'd left Deptford. It was near here where the quite empty 13001 overtook us, and picked up all the passengers. So, at New Cross Gate Station, I began to edge forward as the bus got a little emptier. By the time our bus had turned on to Old Kent Road, I was sitting in the seats right by the stairwell. I quite like these seats, because you can still see out of the front window if you look straight ahead. That is the case on most buses, but this bus and the NB4L's front window are so small you have an extremely limited view from it, meaning you can't see much from the seats behind the stairwell on these two buses.

           Mercifully, the bus emptied out on Old Kent Road and at Malt Street, I managed to get the front seats. I looked out for Gemini 3's going the other way, and at Dunton Road I saw one!

13014 braces itself for the journey to Plumstead. Can you see how small the upper deck windows are?

           At Bricklayer's Arms, we overtook 13001, now with only three people on the bus. Now that there was another bus behind us, I was surprised the iBus still said "53 to Whitehall, Horse Guards." However, at Rodney Place we got overtaken by 13001 again, but I did see something else that was quite odd sitting at the bus stop.

13016, was sitting at Rodney Place with nothing on the blinds and no one, not even the driver, on it.
 There were only three people on the bus when we overtook 13001 again at Elephant And Castle, but at Lambeth North those three people went down to 0. Yes, my bus got curtailed to Lambeth North, despite the iBus still saying "53 to Whitehall, Horse Guards." 13001 was waiting behind my bus, but I didn't get on that for two reasons. One is that I wanted to check the blinds on 13010 first, and the other is that I couldn't be bothered to get on another Gemini 3 B5LH just for a few stops. So, I checked the blinds on 13010, and they said:

 I just thought, why didn't the driver let us know that the bus was going to be curtailed IN ADVANCE? Anyway, here are a couple of other pictures I took at Lambeth North.

Rear of 13001.

The front of 13001, the transfer bus for 13010.

The rear of 13010.
   Overall, I think the Gemini 3 B5LH could do with a lot of improvements, like making the upper deck a nicer place for passengers. It is similar to the NB4L, because they are both Wrightbuses, dark, claustrophobic and unpleasant. They also both look good on the outside, but are horrible on the inside. I personally think it's better to have a bus that maybe doesn't look so good on the outside, but is comfortable, bright and welcoming on the inside. One example of that, is the Gemini 2, the model the Gemini 3 replaces. The Gemini 3 has ruined the 53, and I'm sure if I went on the route end to end on an Enviro, I would like it very much. The 53 is a type of route I would normally like, but the buses that will now be allocated to the route just ruin the experience completely. On the whole, I really don't like the Gemini 3 B5LH, and I'm really not happy about the 7 getting them. It will still be my favourite route, but it won't be the same without the bright, comfortable, nutty and likeable Scania's. I saw VWH2004 (one of the new Gemini's for the 7) at the CELF the other day, and they look identical to route 53's. I also saw my favourite vehicle in London, SEL763, in the CELF. I hope that it doesn't become faulty again and it enjoys its new life on routes 79 and 297 from June. There will be a special post coming out about the return of SEL763 very soon. But for now, thanks for reading!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Metrobus Are Utterly Livid-Routes 54 And 75

As you may know, routes 54 and 75's contracts were awarded to Stagecoach London from late April. Metrobus have lost 6 routes in the past 5 months to Stagecoach, most of them quite high profile (for Metrobus anyway). For Stagecoach, routes like the 54,75 and 261 are just bog-standard Greater London routes, and aren't treated the same way as routes 15 and 205. Metrobus now only have a few double-deck routes remaining, and they aren't very happy at the moment. The 33 lovely Scania Olympus buses have transferred to Go-Ahead London, for use on lots of school routes in the Romford area, route 498 and route 474. Most of them are now in service, and now Go-Ahead London have got a whole new stash of newish buses at Rainham. Lucky them! At the moment, they are doing a lot better than their sister company, Metrobus.
             Right, let's crack on with the main bit of the post now. Routes 54 and 75 were meant to receive Hybrid Gemini 3 buses, but these were diverted to route 53 at the last minute, meaning routes 54 and 75 received new Euro 6 Enviro 400 Hybrid buses instead. These are the first two non Central London routes to gain a full allocation of Hybrid buses, and I'm not surprised they got Hybrids. TFL is so concerned about pollution levels in London now, the majority of new vehicles being delivered in the whole of London are now Hybrids. Also, this is the first batch of Hybrid Euro 6 vehicles in London. Inevitably, these buses are 10cm longer than the Euro 5 ECWTVA spec E400s and 20cm longer than the UK Spec Enviro 400s. If Euro 23 ever exists (and if Alexander Dennis are still making the Enviro 400) these buses will theoretically be 12m long.
           Some of the new Euro-6 vehicles arrived a month or two early, so they were tested on routes that terminated at their garage (like the 47 and 199). Clearly, Stagecoach was being careful with these new buses.

Stagecoach London 12262, at Canada Water Bus Station.

12268 arrives at Liverpool Street Station on a route 47 journey to Catford.
         Although the buses are now mostly on routes 54 and 75, they still do stray onto routes like the 47,136,199 and 208. Also, diesel Enviro 400s and ALX400 buses seem to be making daily appearances onto the 54 and 75. Since Stagecoach won the contract for the 54 and 75, the two routes have become extremely bunchy, as I experienced on Saturday 17th May on route 54. I saw two buses right behind each other, then a 28 minute gap!! Thankfully, I only waited 6 minutes for my 54. Most of the pictures have been taken in the area of Catford.

A brand new Hybrid gets ready to turn onto Catford Road. This route goes from Lewisham-Croydon, which is quite long for a London bus route nowadays.

12273 arrives at The Catford Centre, not far from it's terminus.

There was bad traffic around Lewisham, which was probably the reason why the 54 was bunching so badly. Having said that, it seems to be bunching every day according to Countdown. Maybe the traffic in Lewisham is always bad.

This bus was racing along Lewisham High Street in a surprisingly quiet moment.
However, when I was on board my 54 I got caught in really bad traffic in Central Lewisham. Here is part of the bus jam.

The rear of a new 75 bus.
I personally think these new Enviro 400s are lovely buses. They are comfortable,smooth,quiet (but not so quiet that you can't even hear the engine) and fast. On Belmont Hill, the bus was probably doing over 40 miles per hour! These buses are certainly nicer than those claustrophobic, dark and boring Gemini 3's on route 53. 
iBus on 12272.

12277 heads down Lewisham High Street, halfway between Woolwich and Elmers End.

Here's 12286, starting a 75 journey to Croydon.

12267 stops on Belmont Hill.

The rear of my bus.

A 54 bus curtailed to Beckenham Junction....

....and right behind it is another 54, going the full distance to Elmers End. Call this every 12 minutes Stagecoach? This is a diesel bus from route 136's allocation. Obviously, the 136 had a hybrid on the route that day.
Thanks for reading!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Imperfect 10

Hello and welcome to another late post! As you may know, route 10 converted to full New Bus For London operation on 26th April 2014. As I was unavailable on that date, I decided to cover it on a much quieter Monday May 5th (bank holiday), although I could tell instantly that the conversion had a rocky start and the LT's were still malfunctioning. For example, I know that LT170 managed to crash itself into a tree on the first day of the conversion, and I also saw LT149 in the middle of the road with its hazards on, clearly showing it had broken down. The buses seem to spend ages at stops and the service has now become extremely bunchy and you can often find big gaps in the service, especially on Sundays.
                Nevertheless, I arrived at Hammersmith Bus Station at 11:45 and then found out that LVF wasn't working. This was bad because I was trying to catch the new Gemini 3 buses for Stagecoach London and the LT's for the 38. Luckily, I found out later that they weren't out after all. The allocation numbers for the 10's batch of New Routemasters are LT148 (LTZ1148 etc etc)-LT175.

The rear of LT154, a bus which I annoyingly just missed.
In the end I boarded LT174 and rode it end to end. I took quite a few pictures of number 10 buses passing in the other direction, as well as some pictures that I took whilst on the ground.
LT161 heads west towards Hammersmith.
  I also accidentally discovered a running day on routes 9H and 15H that same day. I do have a few pictures, and they will be on a post which should come out within the next week.

Tut Tut Tut. Here is a broken down LT149, which is standing on Tottenham Court Road like a lemon. Personally, I thought this was quite a surprise, although these buses seem to be constantly breaking down and getting involved in incidents.

Rear of LT156 at the stand on York Way, Kings Cross.
Oh, it's LT154 again. This is the sole picture I have of a new LT on the 10 displaying Kings Cross on the front of it.

This is a rather special bus, because it's the first LT in a chrome Year Of The Bus livery. It first appeared on route 9, where I got a picture of it in a Random Observations post, but it has now become part of the 10's allocation. Having said that, this bus and quite a few of the other buses allocated to route 10 are straying onto route 9, meaning that its LT's seem to be straying onto route 10. There is a picture of one of the Routemasters allocated to route 9 on the 10 later on in the post.

The bus I was on, LT174, stands at Hammersmith Bus Station.

OH, NOT AGAIN!! Here is the front of LT154 at Hammersmith Bus Station.
  Routes 9 and  10 are the best of friends. They are very similar routes and are both based at Stamford Brook Bus Garage. However, they had a falling out in October 2013, because the 10 was jealous about route 9 gaining new, classy-looking buses (which are just a dark and dingy prison cell on the inside). But thankfully, the falling out ended when route 10 also received the new buses exactly half a year later. Because the 9 and the 10 are now friends again, I thought it would be nice to include a picture of them together, both with new buses.
.Here is a picture of the two routes together at Hammersmith Bus Station.

The iBus on route LT174 is deafening. Also, TFL installed a 12-hour clock on iBus from 11th April, which can be really handy if you don't have something with you that has a clock on it. However, it only appears when the Bus Stopping sign isn't present, so if the bells on the bus keep ringing, it's bad news for you.

Here is LT88, straying onto route 10 despite being allocated to route 9.
  Although the mixing and matching between the two routes at Stamford Brook continues to happen, the 10 mostly keeps its newer Routemasters to itself. However, at Holloway garage there are also two NB4L routes, and Metroline have decided to put most of the newer Routemasters allocated to route 390 onto the 24 and vice versa.
Finally, LT156 on stand at Kings Cross.
The Scania Omnicity buses that were allocated to route 10 will transfer to route E3 from 31st May, when London United win the contract from Metroline. Thanks for reading!