Sunday, 12 June 2016

Busageddon: Ealing Edition

 Yes, we are back on the go! After a one and a half year break from the blogging scene, I (LBOTG) have returned to managing the blog. As you can see I have made some changes to the layout of posting/the blog itself. If you want to find out more about that, please click here.

In this edition of Busageddon there is competition in the Ealing area between Metroline West and Abellio. Metroline West have lost the E5, E7 and E9 to Hayes (WS) garage, meaning that Greenford (G) have lost 6 E-routes in the past two years. Obviously, Metroline were very angry after reading the tender result, while the whole of Abellio were feeling smug. I rode all three of the routes on the 28th May and the first was the E9.

Abellio London 9456 on route E9, at Ealing Broadway.

 The batch of E400s allocated to the E9 have been refurbished and it has certainly enhanced comfort on board these vehicles. The route itself is a short one, starting at Ealing Broadway and terminating at the Barnhill Estate in Yeading, following other routes like the E2 and E7 for most of the journey. Looking at the recently published TFL data report concerning how busy bus routes are per year, the E9 is quite far down the table. However, the reason why TFL have allocated these double deckers to the route is because at rush hour the E9 is nearly always packed. There is a lot of demand for the Pitshanger to Ealing corridor and the increasingly unreliable E2 service can't cope with the crowds. The single deckers were leaving people behind quite frequently and I think TFL have actually done the right thing, for once.

On Saturday 28th May, I arrived at Ealing Broadway, very excited about finally riding this local route end to end. A minute later, 9463 pulled up and I managed to bag the front seats, which have had a ton of padding added to them. My driver was clearly in a hurry as we sped through Pitshanger and up Scotch Common, leaving the E2 that was in front very far behind. However, by Gurnell Leisure Centre I had noticed a problem with the bus.

The refurbishment of these vehicles was clearly very rushed, as there was a door issue on the first day of it entering service after returning from the workshop. The doors made odd noises and didn't close very smoothly. The issues were so bad that 9463 decided to break down at Greenford Broadway.  The bus sat there in silence for more than 15 minutes, but it decided to work again just as the E9 behind pulled into the stop.

On the way to Yeading, the driver still decided to floor the bus, now being over 30 minutes late. It had been a very enjoyable ride, but the stop at Greenford meant that it could've been even better. The final section of the route is Hail and Ride, which is very interesting for a DD service, it's a shame that no one used it on my trip. On the whole, the E9 has been significantly improved from the service Metroline West provided and has moved up the hierarchy of E-routes. I particularly like the contrasting areas this bus passes through. The area of Pitshanger is very wealthy and boasts "the best high street in Britain", whereas Yeading is much, much poorer. However, in a perfect world there wouldn't be "rich" or "poor" areas, but society today is very different to what we hoped it would be some years ago.

These buses also have blinds for other Hayes (WS) routes, like the E1 and 350. Here is 9456 during a blindscroll.

9456 displaying a curtailment point used on route E1.

 There was also a banditised MMC out on the route that day and I was lucky enough to see it at Greenford Broadway. The photo quality isn't great, so I apologise for that, but I will upload it anyway seeing as it was a rare working back then.

It didn't even have a piece of paper in the window!

After catching a 120 from Yeading White Hart to Southall Broadway, it was time to do the E5.

The E5 is a long, single decker route starting at Southall, Toplocks Estate and terminating at Perivale Tesco. It links up many estates in and around the Greenford and Southall areas and uses single door buses as a result. Metroline West used to run the route from Greenford (G) garage, but lost it to Abellio with brand new Enviro 200 MMCs, numbered 8142-8154, following on from the 481 batch. The route does get very busy and is very useful in case you find yourself stranded in Perivale and the 297 is being its unreliable self.

The E5 is pretty much the only way into the Toplocks Estate, with nowhere else to walk heading North, South or East. However, there is a branch of the Grand Union Canal near where the E5 stands, where if you walk for miles you will eventually end up in Brentford. However, I shall have to save that for another day, as my bus was ready to leave, with a few other people on board noticing that the bus was very new.

Abellio London 8143 on stand at Toplocks Estate/Glade Lane

The route didn't look that appealing from studying it on maps, so this journey was really a test of the bus. I had high hopes, considering that these buses had hit 50mph on the U9 on Harvil Road a couple of days before the changeover. However, my driver clearly wasn't interested in speed and by the time the bus had left Southall Broadway we had barely touched 10mph the whole way. The pace did not quicken at all as the bus entered the Hail and Ride section off Lady Margaret Road and Golf Links Estate. What made it worse is that the E5 does not offer amazing views, just house after house after house. On Greenford Road another E5 overtook my bus, meaning that 8143 was running very late. The only positive thing about my experience was seeing Greenford Depot on the way, the E5's former home, with a few Metroline buses parked up. By the time I had reached Greenford Broadway I was bored and couldn't wait to get off, so I left the bus early, very disappointed with my journey.

Overall, I can learn that the E5 really is a terrible route. It had great potential, being run by my favourite company and having E200 MMCs, a type of single decker that I have a passion for. However, it was so boring that even those two positive factors went straight out of the window.

Abellio London 8149 at Greenford Broadway.
My advice for you is, if you haven't covered the E-route changes yet, don't bother with the E5. It may even ruin your day.

The E7 is a long route running from Ealing Broadway-Ruislip, passing through West Ealing, Greenford, Yeading and Ruislip Gardens along the way. With Metroline West, the service was terrible and I completely avoided it, despite the routeing being very promising. However,  I was thrilled after reading the tender result that Abellio were gaining more routes in my area, and a batch of long MMCs (8865-8875) were ordered. I saw a few of them on training duties at Ealing Broadway in the weeks leading up to the changeover and this only increased my excitement and desperation for the 28th May to arrive.

Abellio London 8873 at Greenford Broadway.

After the awful journey on 8143, I was feeling quite miserable at Greenford Broadway. I just wanted to get the E7 over and done with, I'm doing it end to end this summer anyway. I waited a few minutes for my bus to arrive and managed to snap the MMC E9 and a Ruislip-bound bus heading in the other direction.

Abellio London 8872 at Greenford Lidl, heading towards Ruislip.
Eventually, my bus showed up and it was surprisingly empty. My favourite seats were available and the bright Abellio interior managed to lift my spirits considerably. The bus was speeding along Ruislip Road East and it was at this moment when I suddenly realised how lucky I was. I now had the third best type of single decker around a 10 minute walk away and on one of the best single deck routes left in Ealing. I sat back and got comfortable in the Lazzerini seats and loved every minute of the journey, despite the view out of window being very familiar. I arrived at Ealing Broadway feeling astonished that the journey was over and if you still haven't covered the E-route changes, I highly recommend this route as you will almost definitely leave the bus feeling happy, just like I did. Abellio have improved the service so much that I even hop on the E7 for a few stops on the way every now and then and I cannot wait to ride this route all the way to Ruislip.

Abellio London 8870 at Ealing Broadway.

 The E5's former buses have been stood down for now, their future is uncertain. The former E7 vehicles have been used to upgrade the E6 to E200 operation, thus getting rid of the ageing Dart Pointers that have spent years running between Bull's Bridge and Greenford. The E6 and 195 have also transferred to Greenford (G) to fill up some empty space. These are also very positive things!

In conclusion, I am very impressed with Abellio and the changes to the E-line services. The E9 has been improved considerably, the E5 has got slightly better by using a half-decent bus type and the E7 has become a route I have fallen in love with and I now use it every week. My local area now has a lot more variety and I do hope some more operators will venture into the Ealing area and decrease the amount of Metroline routes that are run so, so badly.

I hope you have enjoyed this post, the first one of 2016. There will be many more to come, hopefully...