PART 1;WHEN METROLINE OWNED THE ROUTE:
|TE1730, a Metroline Alexander Dennis Enviro 400, arrives at the Hessel Road stop in Northfields.|
|TE1739 passes some shops on Northfield Avenue.|
|TE1722 arrives at the South Ealing Road stop, with two other E3's close behind. Come on Metroline!!|
|The first Enviro in the batch is TE1715. Here it is, in South Ealing.|
|TE1750 passes Kingsdown Methodist Church, in Northfields.|
|Close behind TE1750, was TE1727. See what I mean about bunching?|
|TE1739 departs the Hessel Road stop in Northfields.|
PART 2; THE KNOCK-ON EFFECT:
London United stated that route E3 was to be run out of Stamford Brook (V) garage, with refurbished Scania OmniCity buses which were allocated to route 10. When the route converted to New Bus For London operation on 26th April 2014, it's old buses were refurbished and were kept at Stamford Brook until the end of May, when they were reallocated to route E3. However, it wasn't all that simple. Because route E3 had never been operated by London United before, the Scania's which were meant to operate the route did not have blinds and iBus for the E3, meaning all of the Scania's had to receive new blinds (with route E3 and its destinations on them) and new iBus announcements. However, it wasn't just route E3's new buses that needed new blinds and iBus, route 27's Enviro 400 Hybrid's are currently receiving new blinds and iBus which contain route E3's destinations on them. This means that the Enviro Hybrid's can make guest appearances onto route E3, although none of them have had the guts to escape onto the E3 yet.
|ADH39 is working route 27, with white blinds.|
|OV15 is in Richmond Town Centre, where the route terminates.|
Instead of moving the 391's vehicles overnight, London United started moving them from the afternoon of 30th May. I was wondering what London United would use on the route instead of the Versa's, as there were no spare single-deckers at Stamford Brook garage at the time. As it turned out, London United didn't use spare single-deckers. Instead, they used these:
|SP145 stands at Richmond Bus Station on route 391.|
|The same bus in the picture before, displaying Fulham on the blinds.|
|The rear of SP145, alongside a VW on the 190.|
|SP157 turns into the approach road for Richmond Bus Station.|
|Here it is again, on George Street.|
PART 3;THE BLAME GAME:
In this part and the next part, you will see why I called this post "The Blame Game."
On Saturday 31st May 2014, I looked on London Vehicle Finder (a great website which can tell you where every single bus in London is) to see how the E3 was running on the first morning of operation with London United. Although there were only 8 buses out on the route, the service was brilliant and there was no bunching at all. I was shocked when I saw good the service was, because on most bus routes the service is extremely bunchy and infrequent on the first day of a new operator taking over the route. Also, there were delays of up to 40 minutes in the Chiswick area due to roadworks taking place near the Hammersmith Flyover, but none of this affected the service on route E3 in the early morning. So, at 9:15 AM, I took a couple of pictures on Northfield Avenue, desperate to see the new face on route E3:
|The last bus in the batch, SP162, arrives at the Hessel Road bus stop.|
|Rear of SP162.|
|SP155 heads north, towards Greenford.|
I took some more pictures at 11:00, but the service wasn't up to standard at that point. I saw three buses within 2 minutes all heading in the same direction, one curtailed to Acton High Street. In fact, the more buses that were put out on the route, the worse the service got.
|SP158 approaches Northfields Station.|
|SP148 was curtailed to Acton High Street. This was the second out of three E3's which were very close together.|
|SP138 approaches the Hessel Road stop, Northbound.|
|The third bus out of the three that were bunching was practically empty. This was not surprising, though.|
|SP159 arrived at the stop, and I boarded.|
The bus was extremely busy, but the seats were very comfortable and the vehicles themselves were very clean and bright inside.
|Interior of a refurbished SP159|
|SP158 again, this time curtailed to Hanwell Broadway.|
|iBus screen on SP159. Note the inconveniently placed CCTV screen.|
|SP137, curtailed to Turnham Green.|
|SP153 arrives at Greenford Broadway.|
|SP156 arrives at Greenford Broadway.|
When I waited for the bus back to Ealing, I thought about how bunchy the service was. I mean, 37 minute gaps in the service were just unacceptable. I then realised that all this bunching can't all be London United's fault, it was probably the traffic in Chiswick's fault. Two buses came at the same time at Greenford, and I boarded the second one.
|SP144 braces itself for another journey to Chiswick.|
|The iBus screen on SP144, showing "E3 to Chiswick, Edensor Road."|
|SP150 was one of the buses used on route training for the E3, here it is in service on Greenford Avenue.|
|Rear of SP153.|
|SP145 leaves the Michael Gaynor Close stop.|
To see if the traffic in Chiswick was causing the E3 to bunch, I decided to ride the route from the Chiswick end up to Ealing, to see if it got disrupted.
|The bus I got on, SP139, was curtailed to West Ealing.|
My bus was moving at a fair old pace up Sutton Court Road, but when I got to Chiswick Town Hall, I saw the traffic queues.....and they were huge. I sat in my seat full of frustration, asking myself "why did you take the bus from Chiswick Station when you knew that the traffic might be awful?" 40 minutes later, my bus still wasn't out of Chiswick, and by the time I was out of Chiswick I'd been on the bus for 45 minutes and passed 7 stops. Well, at least I knew what the cause of the bunching was.
Once I'd passed Chiswick, I realised I shouldn't have blamed London United, and the traffic caused all the bunching. Personally, I thought the E3 coped quite well with the traffic seeing as there were delays of up to 60 minutes at some pointes. In the end, I decided to test London United about the service on Monday instead.
PART 5;THE MONDAY TEST:
I checked the E3 on Live Bus Arrivals at every stop in the evening peak, to see how bunchy the service was...As it turned out, very bunchy. There were lots of 20 minute gaps and many buses coming at the same time. It just goes to show that the E3 is probably a very difficult route to run, seeing as three different operators (First, Metroline and London United) have struggled to run it with an every 7 minute frequency in the peak hours.
On the whole, I think the E3 conversion wasn't a smooth one, especially as there was awful traffic in Chiswick which was disrupting the route. However, I also think it's a hard route to run, because it's always getting stuck in bad traffic jams (like on Chiswick High Road and in Acton Town Centre) and often sees a large number of passengers get on at specific stops along the route. I always call the E3 an all day school bus, seeing as it passes so many schools throughout it's journey (Cardinal Wiseman RC, Brentside, Drayton, Gunnersbury RC, Acton High, Twyford C of E and Chiswick Community) along with all the primary schools, which I can't be bothered to name.
Many people complain about the E3 and it's unreliability and I can see why, although most people don't know how hard the operators are working to try and make the E3 a bus route which IS reliable. Hopefully, once London United have got used to running the route, the service will get a bit better, but for now, people will have to make do with the service that is available. I will end the post now, and thanks for reading!!!!