Saturday, 16 September 2017

Busageddon: Croydon Edition

The London Borough Of Croydon has seen a number of interesting bus changes in the past month, with two contract changes and a new temporary bus service, covering for another mode of transport unique to the area. Chronologically, the contract changes took place first, so that's going to be our first focus, involving a single deck route which just misses the bustling hubbub of the town centre, that recently passed to Abellio London, on Saturday 26th August 2017.

Go-Ahead London LDP259 is seen at New Addington Tram Stop on route 130 to Thornton Heath.
Previously, the 130 ran from Croydon (C) garage, with an eclectic mix of older vehicles in a wide range of conditions, although some of them have been withdrawn following this change. The eldest vehicles that appeared on the route were some Dart Pointers that still carried the traditional Go-Ahead grey skirt, although these were often supplemented by average ADL E200s, and these mainstream vehicles often made up the majority of the allocation. However, some unique buses also worked the 130 on a regular basis, including the only batch of MAN Evolution buses that remain in London (they have been split up and some can be found at Orpington garage), and the 3 MAN E200s also worked the route on a regular basis. Since the contract changeover, some of the Evolution's have been withdrawn, although route 359 is the place to find them at Croydon (C) garage, whilst a solitary MAN E200 still remains at Orpington (MB) garage, usually on routes 126, 181 or 284. Although the variety found on the 130 was interesting, almost guaranteeing a fascinating journey, the service wasn't always brilliant and towards the end of the contract Croydon (C) garage were struggling with the 130.

The route itself is somewhat interesting, starting in the vast estate of New Addington. After taking a convoluted route through the housing, the 130 suddenly becomes quite fast as it speeds through the countryside of Shirley Hills. There's more housing in Woodside before the next major town, Norwood Junction, where the route used to terminate. However, a recent extension to Thornton Heath, Parchmore Road has been very popular with locals, who have always demanded this handy round-the-corner link, which also allows the 130 to pass Crystal Palace Football Stadium, which does result in curtailments on match days! The huge variety found on the 130 would definitely be missed for the new contract, but perhaps a better service was approaching, that would certainly be more convenient for the regular users of the route.

Abellio London 8187 on route 130 to Thornton Heath Parchmore Road.
Abellio London ordered a full allocation of ADL E200 MMCs for the service, which all entered service on time. Some enthusiasts found this surprising as they had only left the factory a few days before, although there weren't any widespread complaints of buses being rushed into service. These buses are based at Beddington Cross (BC) garage, which is literally next door to the previous home at Croydon! The first day, Saturday 26th August 2017, produced a large number of the new buses, and odd workings have been minimal, with only a few appearances of standard E200s that are normally allocated to route 433. In terms of service, the start was questionable with an unusually high amount of bunching, even for the first day. Gaps were common and the customary match-day curtailment at Norwood Junction didn't help, with some drivers surprised at this common manoeuvre. Since the first day, there has been a small amount of bunching and large gaps, although Abellio are starting to settle and some decent operation has been seen over the past couple of weeks. The buses themselves are just average Enviro 200 MMCs, with nothing special to report, negatively or positively. Overall, it seems that the change has been pretty successful, with a promising future ahead for the 130. Although the quirkiness of the previous contract will be missed, at least the route hasn't deteriorated with the new operator; this can happen! The 130 probably isn't one of my favourite single deck routes, although if you're considering riding it then I suggest you go ahead, although the dubious Sunday frequency is one to avoid; an every-30 minute service on a relatively busy route like this is unacceptable!

Arriva London SLS30 on route 410 to Wallington.
You might remember another "Busageddon" post documenting the ADL E200s transferred for route 410 prematurely in May, although this allocation of existing single deckers only made up half of the buses required for the new contract. Arriva London ordered a small batch of new Wrightbus Streetlite vehicles for the 410, and these 9.6m vehicles are based at Thornton Heath (TH) garage. These buses entered service on time for the contract date, Saturday 26th August 2017, allowing the old Dart Pointers to leave London for good. The 410 is an extremely overcrowded route in South London, running between Crystal Palace and Wallington, serving a lot of housing and shopping districts on its lengthy journey. The 410 still struggles with its 9-minute frequency, partly due to the tight turns on the route, which limits longer buses from working it. However, the new Wrightbus Streetlite vehicles are certainly an upgrade from the worn out old Dart Pointers, which must be pretty knackered after so many years of traversing such a difficult route.

A Go-Coach Plaxton President circles Addington Village en route to East Croydon on Tram Replacement duties.
 Due to track resurfacing works at Gravel Hill, the Croydon Tramlink network was closed between Lloyd Park and New Addington for six days, between Saturday 26th August and Friday 1st September, meaning that the expansive residential estate of New Addington was left without a direct link to Croydon, as the 64 bus takes ages and goes through Selsdon to get there, which effectively involves travelling in the wrong direction first. As a result, a temporary Tram Replacement Service was set up, running between East Croydon and New Addington, serving all stops between the two places apart from Sandilands and Lebanon Road, where trams were running regardless. Although interchange between tram and bus was convenient at Lloyd Park, the bus service ran to East Croydon, allowing the majority of passengers to take one mode of transport to reach their ultimate destination instead of two, but I suspect this move wasn't entirely altruistic in nature, as East Croydon is probably the first sensible place to turn around this service. As the replacement service ran during the week, there were essentially no TFL vehicles available, so the route was contracted to commercial operators Go-Coach and Bus2, who often have a large number of double deck vehicles spare during school holidays. Normally, I don't pay attention to these rail replacement services, but this particular one ran through parts of London which TFL buses don't normally serve, so I decided to investigate and ride the important part of this service.

"Bus 2" 9739, a Trident ALX400, pauses at Addington Village Interchange before heading to West Croydon.
Normally, London Bus services don't serve the areas of Coombe Lane and Lloyd Park, as the Tramlink covers the minimal attractions there at a relatively low cost. However, as the Tram wasn't running at the end of the Summer holiday, buses were permitted to revisit these forgotten parts of London. The routeing itself is very interesting, tackling some steep hills and narrow roads in the depths of the quiet, peaceful countryside, just minutes away from the bustling hubbub of Croydon Town Centre. Apart from the tram stop and a Premier Inn, there wasn't anything noteworthy in these areas apart from trees and empty grassland, although the experience of travelling through a new part of London was wonderful, especially as this might not happen again for several years. Although no passengers warranted the forgotten stops at Coombe Lane and Lloyd Park, I'm sure the inhabitants there were grateful for their alternative to the Tram service, even if the buses themselves weren't exactly in pristine condition. 

My Go-Coach Plaxton President towards New Addington was extremely sluggish, with worn out seats and no power whatsoever, and the bus was struggling to keep up with the fast nature of the route. After feeling disappointed with that example, I was hoping that the Trident ALX400 vehicles would be better, especially after hearing reports on other bus websites that thrashy trips were possible with these buses. However, my particular bus was even worse than the previous vehicle, achieving a whopping 2mph on the fairly steep incline at Gravel Hill. Even though a sufficient service was provided, the vehicles themselves were in a poorly condition, emphasising the negative connotations associated with rail replacement bus services. Additionally, the frequency was inadequate, with buses only running every 10-15 minutes, resulting in some packed trips and uncomfortable buses, a stark contrast to the high capacity Trams. Although the routeing was lovely and this rail replacement service provided a unique insight into the rural parts of Croydon, some aspects could be improved, and hopefully Go-Coach and "Bus 2" can modernise their fleet before their next big rail replacement contract!

I must apologise for rushing this post, especially as the one scheduled for last week was cancelled at short notice. Unfortunately, my workload has increased massively this month and the previous weekly posts will be something of a rarity from now on, with 3-4 week intervals being a common occurence. However, I do plan to publish one more post next week, where I'll give more details on the future of the posting pattern for London Buses On The Go. 

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment + share your views, but please do so in a responsible manner, or it will simply be deleted!