Friday, 9 September 2016

Farewell 83

From Saturday 10th September (tomorrow), the 83 will be cut from Ealing Hospital, meaning it will only run from Alperton-Golders Green, thus not calling at Hanger Lane, Ealing Broadway, West Ealing or Ealing Hospital anymore. A new route, numbered the 483, will take its place, running from Ealing Hospital-Wembley Stadium via the current 83 route and then up to Harrow via East Lane, North Wembley and Northwick Park Hospital. I am against these changes but unfortunately they are going ahead, but I'd like to give the 83 a good send off, so that's what I'm going to do here.

Back when First had the 83, LK59 CWF at Leeland Road in my early days of photography.
I started using the 83 when B7TL Plaxton Presidents and Gemini 1 Eclipse buses were the allocation. The Eclipse Gemini's were very nice buses and I enjoyed riding them on short journeys between Ealing Hospital and Ealing Broadway before they were replaced by B9TL Gemini 2's. The 83 was the first route in London that was given B9TL's and they eventually entered service in late 2009. They're not the best Gemini 2's, but they are decent buses and didn't change my views on the 83 at all.
The future.... VW1768 curtailed to Alperton.
 A couple of years after the B9TL's were introduced, I started to use the 83 a lot more, particularly on short trips to Ealing Hospital, but also on journeys up to Wembley and even Golders Green when the traffic wasn't too bad. The 83 also helps out the 207/427 between Hanwell and Ealing Broadway and it's saved me on numerous occasions. It was at this point when I started to really appreciate the 83 as a local route, particularly as it gets me quite far away from my local area. It goes to Golders Green, an area which I like visiting frequently and the routeing itself is very interesting, passing through Ealing Broadway, Alperton, Wembley, Kingsbury Green, Hendon and Golders Green.

Metroline VW1372 on the 83 to Ealing Hospital.
The 83 hadn't seen any odd workings for four years by the summer of 2013, with the 59-reg B9TL's being the only double deckers at Alperton and putting a single decker on the 83 would cause all sorts of problems. However, the conversion of route 24 to New Routemaster operation meant that the almost new 62-reg Gemini 2's transferred to Alperton (ON) garage for the double decking of the 245, running between Alperton Sainsbury's and Golders Green via Cricklewood and North Wembley. However, these buses frequently strayed onto the 83 and when they first arrived I decided to ride the route end to end.

It was a Friday afternoon and the journey took two hours, but I enjoyed my journey very much. The air-conditioning was working and it kept me cool whilst waiting in Hanger Lane traffic for 40 minutes. I hadn't ventured beyond Wembley on the 83 for a long time before I rode it with a 62-reg, so it was a great refresher and I got to know the route really well after. That was definitely my favourite ride on the 83, with some other good ones after that!
Metroline VW1765 on route 83 to Ealing Hospital.
The main reason why I've loved the 83 is because it takes me far away from my local area, unlike most of the buses here, which either go to Greenford or Westfield, with one link to Chiswick and another to Kingston. Ealing doesn't have a bus link to Central London, so nearly all of my journeys start with a train of some sort, unless I'm going to North London and I could treat myself to an 83 ride. However, when the 483 is introduced I won't be able to get any further North than Harrow, which is too far West for my liking and because of the roundabout route the 483 will be taking, I'll probably bail at Wembley and get a 182 instead.

Metroline VW1377 on the 83 to Golders Green.
The main reason why TFL have cut it back is because of reliability problems and the fact that additional driver breaks are required as the route is so long (taking over 2 hours end to end). I do understand that the service hasn't been brilliant ever since the contract was renewed in 2009, but for some reason it's always been there for me when I've needed it. With most of my local bus routes I can name several bad experiences whilst waiting for one, but I'm struggling to think of a time when I've had to wait ages for the 83 and it's turned up packed, because it hasn't. I've stood on packed 83's in rush hour before, but that's because the 207/427 had huge gaps in the service and the 83 came to the rescue. I get the feeling I'm not going to be so lucky with the 483.

An 83 heads through Northfields whilst on diversion due to the Ealing Half Marathon.
 I've always rated the 83. It's constantly been my second favourite local since I was introduced to the route. The only route that beats it is the 65 to Kingston and that's only because I find the routeing of the 65 more interesting, so it came as a shock when TFL released the consultation about cutting the 83 to Alperton and introducing the new route 483. After reading it I was absolutely gutted that I would be losing out on the 83 if the proposals went ahead and I desperately tried to object to the consultation as much as I could, but the tender result for the 483 was announced and I figured out I had less than a year of the 83 left. Nothing will ever make up for the 83 and no matter how good the 483 is, it will never make up for the memories I've had of it.

On Saturday 6th August, Perivale East (PV) garage reopened and the 245 transferred there with the 62-reg buses, meaning the 83 was fully 59-reg once more, for the last month of it going as far as Ealing, a bit like how it was in 2009. The news was disappointing, but it did mean I lost the 62-reg and the 83 separately, meaning it was more gradual than sudden. It would mean my last journey on the 83 would be on one of the original buses, not one of the B7TL's but one that I may have ridden back in 2009.

VW1767 stands at Golders Green, with a very large Metroline logo.
VW1767 won't be my last 83 ride ever, but it was my last Ealing Hospital-Golders Green journey on the route. Even if I ride the N83 (a new route running along the 483 from Ealing Hospital-Alperton and then via the 83 to Golders Green, replacing the current 24 hour service the 83 provides), it still won't be the same. I arrived at 9am on a Bank Holiday Monday, aiming for a traffic-free Hanger Lane. I managed to get a front row seat, which was perfect for the occasion and the bus was speeding along the Uxbridge Road to Ealing Broadway, possibly the fastest journey I'd had along that section. There was only one other person upstairs and seeing Ealing Broadway closed in the daytime was a nice experience.

VW1767 then turned left onto Hanger Lane, which was clear for once and I got to fully appreciate the section between Ealing Broadway and Alperton for the first time and I enjoyed it very much. It crosses several railway lines and the stops are quite far apart, offering some thrash early on a Monday morning. Something odd about the 83 is that there are two stops called "Audley Road", one in North Ealing and the other in Hendon. How confusing!

After navigating Hanger Lane Gyratory with success, I went through Alperton and Ealing Road, which was already buzzing despite it being 9:30 am and not a working weekday! At this point the bus got very busy and it stayed this way until Wembley Stadium. The view of Wembley Arena was lovely and the section from Alperton-Blackbird Cross is probably my favourite part of the route. The 483 turns off at Wembley Hill Road, meaning that I can't even take one bus to Wembley Park anymore....

The road from Wembley Park-Kingsbury Green is mostly residential, but the houses did not bore me and I was soon in Hendon, which was full of Northern Line replacements that day. My 83 got stuck behind a Sullivan Buses Vyking with it's rear blind stuck on 699! The section from Hendon-Golders Green is definitely the most interesting one, with a whole string of Kosher shops on the parade to Golders Green. My bus then arrived at the final stop, with only a wasp and I on board and I got off an 83, having ridden it from Ealing, for the last time. It is quite fitting that my last journey on the 83 was an end to end ride, but it's a shame that I'll never be able to ride the route from my local area ever again.

New blinds for the 83.
 Over the past couple of days (Thursday and Friday) all of the Gemini 2's at Alperton (ON) have received new style blinds in preparation for the introduction of the 483 and some of the 12-reg buses from Harrow Weald (HD) and Holloway (HT) have made appearances on the 83 in advance of the changeover tomorrow. The bus stops between Ealing Hospital and Alperton have already been changed to have 483 and N83 on them and the number 83 has vanished from them completely, which is a bit confusing for people still using the service.

Tomorrow will be an interesting and sad day, with many enthusiasts visiting the area of Ealing and trying out London's first brand new route since 2008 (the 433 is just a new number). I will be taking a ride on Sunday and I'm not exactly looking forward to it, but riding a route from Ealing to Harrow will certainly be an interesting experience.

I'm really going to miss the 83, but I guess you can't have everything and the changes are for the best in terms of reliability.

Farewell 83!