Monday, 2 June 2014

The Blame Game

    This post talks about one of four major events that took place on Saturday 31st May 2014. Routes E1,E3,E10 and H98 have all received new buses, and this post concentrates on what happened to route E3. On that very busy Saturday, Metroline lost the contract for the route to London United, who said they were going to use 29 existing Scania OmniCity buses coming from route 10's old allocation. Because this is a very long post, it has been split into 6 parts, some longer than others.This will also help you understand the different stages of the E3's conversion, before and after.

                                          PART 1;WHEN METROLINE OWNED THE ROUTE:

TE1730, a Metroline Alexander Dennis Enviro 400, arrives at the Hessel Road stop in Northfields.
     The reason why Metroline lost the route is because they couldn't run the service properly. It was always bunching, and they never put more than 21 buses out at a time despite the PVR (Peak Vehicle Requirement) being 26. Even on the last day, the service was bunching and it seemed like Metroline weren't actually making any effort to run the service properly. The Enviro 400s that used to be allocated to the route will be split between Uxbridge (UX) garage for the U4 and Greenford (G) for route 282 respectively. This will mean more Trident President buses will leave the London fleet, and both these routes will have newer vehicles. These Enviro 400 buses won't be refurbished, although they are five years old and aren't clean inside. This is because they've been wrecked and damaged by school kids using this route and the E1, the other route that these Enviro's were allocated to. That route was lost to Abellio London, but that's a whole different story.
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.

iBus on TE1724, also known as the boss bus (SN09 CEO). When I boarded the bus, I realised that I wouldn't ever go on an E3 owned by Metroline for at least five years, which actually made me feel quite sad. However, I was really looking forward to the E3 being owned by London United, with my 2nd favourite bus type in London.

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.

     Another problem that London United had to solve was the fact that Stamford Brook (V) garage didn't have space for route E3 when it was announced that the route would be running from there. To make room for the E3, route 419 transferred to Shepherds Bush (S) garage, and took all of it's Dart Pointer's with it. Since the transfer, Enviro 200's have started to appear on the route, and Dart Pointer's are starting to appear on routes like the C1 and 72. The other route that left Stamford Brook was the 391. It's Optare Versa's migrated to Fulwell garage, and have also been refurbished. Since the transfer, Trident ALX400's, Scania OmniCities and Enviro 200's have been appearing on the 391 and it's Optare Versa's have been working route 33. So many oddities!!!!!!!! Sadly, I haven't been able to take pictures of any of these rare workings yet, but hopefully some will appear in my Random Observations posts later on. Although I haven't got pictures of any of the rare workings taking place, I do have got a picture of a refurbished Optare Versa on the 391:

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.
   Yes, good old London United decided to put out the refurbished Scania OmniCity buses destined for route E3 out on the route as a replacement for the Versa's. The 391 is an extremely overcrowded route, and I think it should have a full allocation of double-deckers every day, not just on Friday 30th May 2014.
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.
     I assumed the first-day bunching trend was happening on route E3, and I blamed London United for all the curtailments and big gaps that were on the route.
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.
     In the afternoon, I decided to ride 2 Scania's on the E3, to see what the ride was like. When I checked Live Bus Arrivals (a website which can tell you how long you have to wait for your bus), the website stated there were two E3's coming in 5 minutes, and another in 29 minutes. Again, I blamed London United for the bunching, despite the fact that I'd heard that there was horrendous traffic in Chiswick which was disrupting the route.
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
    I looked out for E3's passing in the other direction, and I saw a couple.

SP158 again, this time curtailed to Hanwell Broadway.
iBus screen on SP159. Note the inconveniently placed CCTV screen.
SP137, curtailed to Turnham Green.
    When I was on my first Scania E3 journey, I noticed how much these buses vibrate when they are not moving It can get annoying, but the sound of the engine is brilliant and it is one of the things that I love about the OmniCity DD, it's always got something that's broken or noisy, unlike those stupid, silent Gemini 3 B5LH's.

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.
                                           PART 4;THE CAUSE OF THE BUNCHING:

     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.

SP155, again.

           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.

                                              PART 6;CONCLUSION:

          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!!!!