Friday, 29 August 2014

Highbury Barn-A Misleading Name

     Is there a barn there? No. Were there any other animals other than dogs being walked in sight? No. So why has this area north of Highbury Corner been called this? Perhaps there was a barn there many years ago? Anyway, a new bus route has entered the Highbury Barn area recently, and that is the 263. It has been extended to Highbury Barn to ease overcrowding on the Holloway Road corridor, as there are not an adequate amount of buses serving the area. Still, a route extension is another bus change to cover, and on the 23rd August 2014, I went to Islington to cover this.
    Having alighted a 277, which is a very interesting route from Leamouth-Highbury And Islington, I waited for the 263 at Highbury Corner. I'd already seen the Highbury Barn terminus on a 4, so there was no need to go up there again. Before I'd even boarded, I knew that TFL had made the right decision to extend this route. If the route hadn't been extended, I've have to take 2 buses to get to East Finchley, which isn't ideal, especially when I had to catch an hourly bus straight after (the H3).

TE895 picks up passengers at Highbury Corner.
       The reason I wasn't going all the way to Barnet Hospital, was purely because I didn't think it was an especially nice area, and I'd already been as far out of London as Lakeside at 8am earlier in the day. Even Emma Hignett, the iBus voice, didn't think that Barnet Hospital was interesting. The iBus announcement said "263 to" in a completely normal, average tone of voice. When Emma got to say "Barnet Hospital", she made it sound like a complete dump, with her voice being so low and fierce during the second half of the announcement. The bus stopped at every stop on Holloway Road, and the bus was nearly full up by the time it had reached Holloway Nags Head, where the route formerly started. Clearly, the extension was necessary.

A non-repainted Enviro at Highbury Corner.
   As no other Metroline route terminates at Highbury Barn, new blinds were required. However, only the 263's batch have had them fitted, so when I saw an Enviro from the 82's batch passing the other direction, I wasn't surprised to see it displaying "Holloway, Nags Head" on the front. Obviously, Potters Bar (PB) weren't fully prepared for the extension. The bus quietened down through Archway, but TE895's speedy progress slowed to a crawl after a contraflow near Upper Holloway Station.

A repainted TE passing in the other direction.
By East Finchley, the bus was nearly empty, and because I had 40 minutes to wait for an H3, I stayed on the bus until North Finchley, to get more pictures and the iBus displaying Highbury Barn.

iBus displaying "263 to Highbury Barn", on TE899.

A clear stretch of road!
   Overall, my experience on the 263 was good. The route passes some interesting areas like Highgate and East Finchley (and I think it also goes to some dull ones at the north end of the route), but most importantly, I'm sure the extension was beneficial for many people, and it has made the route more interesting. Thanks for reading, and sorry for the big gap between posts recently!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Yellow Bus

        Not the company in Bournemouth (Yellow Buses, part of RATP group), but a commercial service run by CT Plus, called the 812. It uses a fleet of three, yellow Bluebird Tucanas, to match a PVR of 2. The route used to be run by Mercedes Sprinters, but they were getting old and weak and one did break down, on a route with runs half-hourly. Oyster cards and stuff like that are NOT accepted on this service, but a £1 cash fare is all you need! The route is aimed at senior citizens, who struggle to use mainstream bus services in this North London area. However, anyone is welcome aboard the service and I caught the penultimate departure at 15:30 from Hoxton, Bridport Place. It is a circular route, and the journey takes about an hour.

A Bluebird makes its way around the turn at Bridport Place.
          At Hoxton, two other people got on the bus. It is Hail And Ride, but if the route passes any fixed bus stops, it stops there too.

Interior facing the rear.
      The bus was very nippy, and sped through the back streets in Hoxton. The other two passengers alighted at Packington Street, and it was then when I noticed the weird door sound. It is an extremely loud whine, but it almost sounds like a cat being strangled. I remained the sole passenger until Chapel Market Sainsbury's, which is where the bus almost reached full capacity! There was banter, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, chatting away to each other. I still remained the sole "young passenger", and I did throughout the journey. The bus weaved through side streets to reach Percy Circus, where it circumnavigated the roundabout, and went back in the direction it came. A couple of people alighted here, but the majority were staying on. Near St. John Street, there is a width barrier, where the bus had to crawl at 5mph to get through! I was surprised it could fit, but I'm sure the regular users think it's perfectly normal.

Here is the other Bluebird Tucana that worked the route that day.
       The bus continued down Skinner Street, and briefly went South along Goswell Road, before turning into another main road, Old Street. That, however, was short-lived, and many people alighted on Golden Lane near Barbican, before the bus encountered more tricky turns near Dufferin Street and Radnor Street. I was so close to Old Street Station, and City Road, which takes you straight to Angel. The bus dived into Lever Street, which then leads onto Goswell Road. I thought the bus would head straight up Goswell Road to reach Angel, but it didn't. I was the sole passenger again, but I didn't figure out the bus wasn't heading North until it was circumnavigating Percy Circus again! I went through the width barrier again, crawling at 5mph, until I alighted at Chapel Market, where the bus reached full capacity with shoppers returning to Hoxton. Overall, I loved this bus route, mostly because of its quirkiness. The route has to get through extremely tight turns, and the type is really nippy. The drivers are really friendly, and will always answer your questions, whether you're an enthusiast (like me), or not. I would highly recommend using this service, and I'm sure it will keep going in the years to come....

BT1, at Chapel Market.

Outside the hotspot venue, here is BT1, at Angel Sainsbury's.
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Random Observations- 06/08/14

    Hello readers, sorry it's been such a long time since the last edition. There have been so many contract renewals/changes recently that have been prioritized, but I finally have time to do one of these posts. Hopefully, there will be some photos from East London in this edition, so look forward to it!

Interior of ADH40, on route 27. Despite the buses being 2 years old, they still have that new, rubbery smell to them and are still in a pristine condition.

 On May Day (5th May), there was a running day on routes 15H and 9H, which I didn't know about until on the day. I was covering route 10, and then I saw lots of extra Routemasters on the 9H, and then a First Berkshire Volvo Hybrid Single Decker appeared working route 15H! 

Many Scania OmniCity's working route 205 have been fitted with white on black blinds, so route 277 destinations can be fitted. The 205 is supposed to use new E40H's, but the Scania's continue to appear.

PVL151, an ageing Volvo President works route 68 run from Camberwell (Q) garage. This bus probably won't be on the road for much longer, considering it is thirteen years old!

A working now possible, thanks to London United for re-blinding most of the Scania's at Fulwell (FW) garage. Here, SP38 works the normally single deck route 110....

.....Some have not been fitted with new blinds, and SP163 is still waiting for the treatment. Here it is working route 267 on Chiswick High Road.

This bus looks rather old, doesn't it? Here is 9001, the first ever B7TL/Gemini delivered to Abellio London.

Am unusual order placed by Go-Ahead London has seen three 11.7m Enviro 400s being used for its Commercial Services Fleet. Here is one on Rail Replacement duty in New Cross.

Another protest march on Whitehall meant the 12 was curtailed to Westminster Bridge Road for the day. Here is a Gemini 2 B5LH demonstrating the short journey.

A trio of buses arrive at High Street Kensington. Inevitably, there is a cycle rack.

The 23 is meant to be 100% Enviro, but here a DB300/Integral Gemini 2 has managed to escape onto the route. These buses are allocated to route 328, and they don't stray that often.

A Trident/ALX400 works route 175 in Romford.

An 11-reg Enviro works route 174 outside the station, on a very warm day in June.

10163 is one of nine Enviro 400s ordered for the contract renewal for route 175, but they managed to escape onto every other Romford (NS) double-deck bus route.

The rear of an Enviro 200 working route 499.

The 5 is a high frequency route that runs from Canning Town-Romford. It does have a dedicated batch of ALX400s for the route, but Enviro's are extremely common too.

A refurbished Scania OmniCity works route 365, from Orchard Village-Havering Park. This vehicle used to work route 106 until the route was lost to Arriva, with new DB300 Gemini 2s.

Here is a new Enviro 400 ordered for the contract renewal of route 252. Scania's also appear on the route.

Here is another 365, gleaming in the morning sun.

 Here is one of the  ALX400s that are allocated to the route. 

The 86 runs from Stratford-Romford, and is meant to help out the 25 between Stratford and Ilford. However, the 86 gets extremely overcrowded itself, suggesting another route needs to be put along this corridor. An Express route from Oxford Circus-Romford might work.

An ALX400 finishes a route 247 journey at Romford Station.

Here is a Scania/Olympus transferred from Metrobus when the contract of routes 54 and 75 was lost to Stagecoach. The buses work routes 498, 474 and every other school route at Rainham (BE). The buses still retain the Metrobus interior.

Here is the exterior of one working a route 498 journey to Brentwood, which is in Essex, not London...

An E200 works the eclectic route 62, which can see Optare Versas, Enviro 200s, Trident/ALX400s, Dart Pointers, and Enviro 400s! Here is an E200, stopping to pick up passengers with shopping bags.

Here, an Evolution single decker works route 167, in Ilford.

Here is one of the Olympuses on the 474, a brilliant route which goes from Manor Park-Canning Town. The view around London City Airport is amazing.

The 474 also uses Wrightbus Gemini 2 buses, and here is one in East Ham.

Route 541 is a temporary route from Canning Town-Kier Hardie Estate. This route has been re-introduced twice, and Go-Ahead are having a go at the moment. Here is SO2, with no valid destination blind.

Here is the interior of OS27 on route 309, which is a very overcrowded route that runs through estates in Poplar.

Here is one of the two door Optare Solo's that works the route.

The D3 is like the 309, except it doesn't run through estates, and it uses longer buses. Here is 36367 at Crossharbour.

An Arriva London double decker sets out on a 135 journey to Old Street Station. The blind needs to be changed to read Old Street Station.

The 78 is meant to use Enviros, but Gemini's from route 106 appear regularly on Sundays.

Here is a Go-Ahead Gemini 2 on route D7, which goes around the whole of the Isle Of Dogs. It takes about 30 minutes to do so, which isn't surprising, and then there's also the bit to Mile End.

Interior of an Enviro 400 on route 135.

Since the 341 transferred from Lea Valley garage to Tottenham, Gemini 2 Integral's have appeared on the route. Here is one on Essex Road.

On Sundays, the 4 also seems to receive Gemini 2's, but from the common user batch allocated to routes 43/134/W7.
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Wright Bus For The Wrong Route

Hello readers, this post is about route 7 converting to Wrightbus Gemini 3/B5LH operation in June 2014. If you are a regular viewer of this blog, you probably know that I loved the old kit on route 7, and I'm extremely sad that they are departing from areas like Russell Square and East Acton. I adore them and there are 63 in London at present. By the end of summer, they will no longer be in Central London, and will mostly be on routes 297, 79, 498 and 474. They are unique, especially because of the large windows, quick acceleration and their stylish exterior. Here is the history of the old kit:
        Back in 2006, TFL announced that Metroline had won the contract for routes 7/N7. The bus type was revealed later, and because these vehicles were new to the UK it came as quite a shock to everyone. In July 2007, the buses arrived slowly by slowly and by the end of the summer, SEL739-SEL764 were all in service. They were strictly allocated to routes 7/N7 although they made occasional appearances on route 90, which normally uses MAN single deckers. The Scania's were allocated to Perivale East garage, when it was still open a few years ago.  Here is a picture of SEL741 on route 7 on 19/05/14:

Here is SEL741 on Du Cane Road.


      In the Autumn of 2007, Metroline announced a further order of SEL's for a top up of route 205, when they still ran the route.  They were numbered SEL803-808 and entered service in March 2008. However, just one year later, Stagecoach won the contract for route 205 and the SELs were kept at the garage for a couple of weeks. The 205 got Scania OmniCity DD and they are 10.8m long, like the SEL's. Here is an interior of an SEL demonstrating the length.

After having a two-week break from service, SEL803-809 transferred to route 460 to allow the TPL's allocated to the route to transfer to Cricklewood. In late 2010, Metroline announced the 460 would move to Willesden Bus Garage, meaning the SEL's had another break, this time for over a month. Eventually, SEL803-809 transferred to the 297 meaning 6 TE's that were allocated to the route could move to Edgware (EW) and Cricklewood (W). The SEL's entered service on the 297 in January 2011, although SEL(s)739-764 often appear on the route as well as SEL(s) 803-808. This still happens today and it is actually more common to get a bus from the 7 batch on the 297 than 803-808. Here is SEL757 from the older batch of SEL's  on the 297:

When Metroline won the contracts for routes 79 and 105, only a few of these buses have made it onto these routes, due to the SEL's unusual blind layout. There is a manual front roller driver blind and a rear power blind.

  In 2012, Metroline closed Perivale East garage which meant 33 SELs were transferred to Perivale West. The CELF Centre is just around the corner from Perivale West, which is good as some of the SELs were faulty and still are now. SEL763, my favourite vehicle in London, was off the road for seven months. After a very long period in the CELF, it finally ventured out on route 90 in May. This bus, like a few others in the same batch, is refurbished.

The refurbished bus at the Russell Square stand.

    A sole Darwen Olympus can be seen at Perivale too, ordered for route 611 in 2008. Inevitably, it makes daily appearances on route 297, 7 and N7. Sadly, I don't have a picture of this bus. You can find out more about the future of these Scania buses later in the post....
    The route 7 conversion was delayed from Saturday 21st June by one week, because not all the drivers were type trained in time. VWH2001 made continuous trips on route 611 before the 7 conversion, but the rest didn't sneak out on any other routes beforehand. The Gemini's have also made trips on routes N7, 79 and 297.The Scania/Olympus buses can still be found on the route today, because one or two of the Gemini 3's aren't ready for service yet, despite them being in the CELF months before conversion. In May, I went down there to get pictures of the buses, and here is what I got:

Two Gemini's, one showing blinds for route 643, which runs from Cricklewood Garage using Enviro 400s, not from Perivale West.

This makes more logical sense, route 105 does run out of Perivale West. The B5TL demonstrator is on the left, which has recently entered service on route 297, more of which later. Note the B5LH (the bus on the right) has a slightly lighter tone of red.

The rear of VWH2012.

A line up of buses.

Here's the front of VWH2012, which didn't have its number plate fitted at the time.
   Thanks to the kind Perivale staff for allowing me to do this:
Lower deck interior facing the rear.

Interior facing the front.

Upper deck interior.

Upper deck interior facing the front.

The narrow flight of stairs.

A photo of VWH2014 taken in 2014.
   Now, here are the buses in service:

VWH2007 arrives on Eastbourne Terrace, which is now shut again, forcing a long diversion via Bishops Bridge.

The rear of VWH2007.

VWH2015 arrives at Paddington Station.
   I was dreading the conversion of this route, mostly because of my terrible experience on route 53. When I got to Telford Way, there was still one SEL in, but I boarded VWH2014 instead, to try out the new intake. I got decent seats, three from the front on the left, and the interior was quite bright inside, which wasn't surprising as the bus was empty. What's annoyed me is the temporary curtailment of the route to Oxford Circus, as I think the Bloomsbury area is one of the highlights of the route. It was weird having the iBus announcement "7 to Oxford Circus." The bus sped through East Acton and barely picked up anyone. The air cooling was working, but I still thought the engine noise was too quiet. The bus slowed down through the Ladbroke Grove area, where it has to navigate through tight turns and narrow roads.
   VWH2014 picked up a few more passengers at Ladbroke Grove, choosing to take the 7 rather than the rival route 23 Enviro Hybrid behind. To be honest, I really dislike these buses, and I would've opted for the Enviro. Our bus slowed down even more through Westbourne Park, and the 23 behind was long gone by the time our bus got to Westbourne Grove, where the 7 meets with it again. What was unexpected was a diversion because of the closure of Eastbourne Terrace, meaning a double run over Bishops Bridge. I got ready to alight, and overall, I had a good experience, but it wasn't good enough to retain the top spot. I got off the bus, and instead boarded my new favourite route in London, the 205.
Here is a shot of VWH2006 at Paddington.

   So, what happened with the buses the Gemini 3 replaced? Well, they went to routes 297 and 79, to make up the full allocation! Having said that, only one or two Scania's have made it onto the 79, probably because about 7 of the SELs are faulty (boo hoo).

As you've already seen an SEL on the 297, here is one blinded for the 79. This photo is a bit of a cheat, because SEL751 was actually working route 7 that day, but the rear of the bus stated it was working route 79.......strange.
     Once the Scania/Olympus buses had settled down on routes 79, 297 and the 90, which seems to steal (well, borrow) about 5 SELs every day. VW1205-1216 have departed Perivale West (PA) garage to be lumped in with the other 50+ Gemini 2's at Holloway (HT). The plan is to convert route 43 to full Gemini operation, which means waving goodbye to the Plaxton Presidents that still work the route. I did try to get VW1211 on route 43, but that failed due to horrendous traffic on the Strand. Five days later, I tried again, and was flushed with success:

VW1211 works route 134 at Warren Street.

  Inevitably, the buses were released onto other HT routes, like the 134, W7 and the normally NB4L route 390. Now, 9 Enviro 400s have temporarily transferred to Cricklewood (W) garage, to cover for route 32, which has recently lost 8 of its Trident/ALX 400s, as they were needed on route 112. Route 112 will receive its own batch of buses in August. After August, some of the Enviro 400s will transfer to Uxbridge (UX) to convert route 607 to full Enviro operation, and some will go to Brentford (AH), to work routes E2 and E8, to replace five Gemini 2s that will transfer to Harrow Weald (HD) for routes 140/640. It's a bit shambolic, isn't it! Anyway, one more thing.
     Not strictly related to the 7 conversion, but delivered with the 7's batch, is a B5TL demonstrator delivered to Perivale West (PA) for use on route 297. It is similar to Go-Ahead's V6, and Arriva's VGD1, and here is VW1469 on its second day in traffic at Ealing Broadway:

VW1469 waits at Ealing Broadway Station.
Thanks for reading!