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!