Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Go-Ahead, Swap The Allocations

You might remember a post towards the beginning of January documenting some changes to Go-Ahead London (GAL) single deck routes, which included the story of the 170 receiving new Wrightbus Streetlites and its diversion away from Lombard Road in Battersea due to a safety issue. Shortly after the post was published, more details emerged on the problem in question and how a permanent solution was required - this means that routes 170 and 286 now have another post dedicated to them. Additionally, the acquirement of single deck route 153 by GAL seems quite fitting to publish here and hopefully you find entertainment in reading the first post on the blog in almost two months - I cannot apologise enough for the prolonged waiting around ; it's been a rather stressful few weeks recently with personal events clogging up effectively all of my free time. However, a sense of normality can be resumed for now and I now intend to start retrieving information about what I've missed over the past couple of months in the fascinating world of transport and eventually convey it to my viewers.

Go-Ahead London WS114 is seen in Westcombe Park on route 286 to Greenwich.
The embarrassing situation regarding the 170 safety issue is quite a complicated affair, but essentially what happened is that a driver noticed that his brand new Wrightbus Streetlite was legally too tall to travel under a bridge, even though other buses did (just about) make it. However, safety is always a priority and once centre comm were informed TFL decided to simply divert the 170 away from the low bridge, missing out a very dense housing area in which no other bus serves. The diversion, which lasted for weeks, caused an understandable outrage from Battersea residents, who demanded that their bus service was returned. As a result, the new Streetlites were taken off the 170 after only a few weeks in service, with all of them transferring to Morden Wharf (MG) garage in South-East London within a couple of days. Their new home is the busy route 286, running between Greenwich Cutty Sark and Queen Mary's Hospital via Blackheath and Eltham - this route also featured in the January posting due to its partial allocation of the Wrightbus Electrocity vehicles displaced from the 360. The Streetlites have settled into their new home quite well, although for the first week lots of them were running around with slipboards like the example above, as the decision to swap the allocations was a last minute deal and the new blinds took a while to arrive. However, all of them are fully equipped now and these 67-reg buses make up 90% of the 286 allocation, with one older demonstrator of the same model and the solitary remaining ADL E200 making up the numbers.

Go-Ahead London SE209 is seen at Clapham Junction on route 170.
As you might've already guessed, the absence of the Streetlites from the 170 was filled with the 14-plate ADL E200s that previously worked the 286 ; these buses transferred to Stockwell (SW)  swiftly and were fitted with blinds quite quickly, although there were still a few banditised buses at the start of their operation. All bar one of the new SEs make up the new allocation of the 170 and the mysterious disappearance of the 60-plate E200s from December has been resolved, with most of them returning from a refurbishment programme. This means that most of the old Dart Pointer vehicles are now withdrawn, so realistically you only have until the end of this week to catch one. Hopefully, a long-term plan has been sorted for the 170 and 286 so I won't have to trek to South-East London again for the sake of writing an unplanned follow-up post. I also hope that stability can be provided for the poor drivers, some of whom feel violated that their preferred type has been taken away from them at such short notice. However, the most important matter regarding the Battersea residents keeping their bus service has been resolved and hopefully they can start to rely on the 170 once again, albeit with a different bus type.

CT Plus DA4 is seen at Barbican Station on route 153 to Finsbury Park Station.
 Saturday 3rd February 2018 was undoubtedly a sorrowful day for CT Plus, where route 153 passed to Go-Ahead London, resulting in the former company losing the first London bus route they gained back in 2001, initially with some Caetano Nimbus vehicles and later the 62-reg Enviro 200s, which have all left London since. The 153 itself is one of my favourite single deck routes in the city, currently running between Finsbury Park and Moorgate, serving Holloway, Islington and the Clerkenwell area en route. There are essentially three different sections on the 153, with the Finsbury Park-Holloway part being urban, traversing along high streets and main roads.

After this, the 153 becomes residential, travelling through the eye-opening Westbourne Estate as well as the affluent area surrounding Copenhagen Street, which feels quite quaint, especially at 8am on a sunny winter morning. However, my favourite section of the 153 and arguably the most unique part, is between Angel and Moorgate, where the route travels through the office district surrounding Clerkenwell via St John Street, Goswell Road and Beech Street, in addition to serving City University and the Barbican Centre. I love this because no other TFL route dives into this wonderful part of Central London in much detail - the single decker weaves through the streets which are particularly effective at showcasing London's magnificent architecture, especially the towering skyscrapers which are both marvellous yet somewhat daunting to look at.

Despite this, a few minutes away lie some more tower blocks, but of the inner-city council estates and I always find it hard to imagine that the two very different settlements lie so close to each other. This area is often deserted and usually the buses are empty too, although I suspect in rush hour this is an entirely different story. The 153 is also the only route to serve the Beech Street tunnel which is always fun to travel through and hopefully once the Crossrail works are complete the 153 can return to Liverpool Street, its official terminus which is much more accessible than Finsbury Square.

Hopefully you can understand why the 153 feels so different to many other monotonous single deck routes - despite its short length you're provided with three generous insights into completely contrasting environments, with the section through the workplaces being like no other route, offering a perspective you simply can't endeavour from the mainstream 4/56 or 55/243 corridors along the main roads. However, if the residential parts of Clerkenwell appeal to you (and I also recommend exploring them, it's very interesting to travel through given its proximity to the city centre) the non-TFL 812 is brilliant for this, serving a huge number of side roads that even the 153 can't hack. Using a cute yellow minibus, you can pay £1.00 by cash to enjoy this masterpiece of a route and if you need any more assistance with finding the 812 please drop a comment below.

This proof read has revealed that I have made a slight deviation from the intentional short summary of the 153 routeing, although this arguably only emphasises the extent to which I encourage you to go out and try it yourself, in addition to my relief when I found out the route was receiving a decent (in my opinion) batch of single deckers in terms of their interior layout and the ability of being able to admire the external surroundings through the windows, based on previous examples.

Go-Ahead London SEe70 is a brand new E200 MMC EV, seen on Hemingford Road on route 153 to Moorgate, Finsbury Square
Being a 6 mile route with a 12 minute frequency at most times, 11 buses satisfy the peak vehicle requirement and a dozen electric ADL E200 MMC vehicles were ordered for the new contract. In addition to this main allocation, a BYD integral demonstrator, dubbed "EB3", occasionally works the service. The introduction of electric vehicles on the 153, due to Central London emission standards, has resulted in the installation of new charging facilities at Northumberland Park (NP) garage, where the 153 is based - in 2019 it is expected that route 214 will also run from here. So far, the buses themselves haven't received any notable complaints, offering a smoother journey than the previous E200s and a contrasting interior, which was noticed by local residents on my particular journey who didn't seem to like the darker shades of blue used in Go-Ahead seating, although personally I seem to think this makes the bus more pleasant to travel on than being emblazoned with bright yellow and red surrounding the entire interior of the vehicle. These buses are much more similar to the 360 examples than the ones on the red arrow routes, with not much sound at all from the engine and an expected lack of acceleration or power, although the extremely noisy air conditioning units along with some other vibrations mean the journey isn't completely silent, which is a relief in my opinion as I would find complete silence a tad demoralising and I find that it detracts from the overall passenger experience, although I suspect the opinion from a non-enthusiast differs greatly. Apart from the obvious differences in the technicalities of the vehicles, the interior is pretty similar to a bog standard E200 MMC and in my opinion they are a satisfactory replacement for the DA-class Enviro 200s that were the mainstay of the 153 for many years.

Go-Ahead London SEe74 is seen near Copenhagen Street on the 153 to Finsbury Park.
No odd workings have appeared on the 153 since the takeover and therefore the route has been 100% electric with Go-Ahead so far, which means that the buses are proving to be reliable. The operation has been decent since the start of the new contract too, with a generally reliable service apart from few hitches in the first week and in particular on the day one where the whole service just collapsed by the evening, although nothing on that scale has occurred afterwards, with only the occasional gap or bunching which is to be expected as Go-Ahead develop their knowledge of the 153. A rather random feature of the new blinds ordered by Go-Ahead is the separation of the word station from Finsbury Park, so the destination display is no longer linear and instead the interchange is treated as a suffix, which seems a bit pointless but if it does improve clarity then that's surely a good thing.

I wish Go-Ahead the best for the next few years in running the 153 and hopefully they can maintain what seems to be a positive start for this fascinating inner London route.

Thanks for reading and stay safe!


  1. Hi there, the 153 wasn’t the first tender CT Plus ever lost, the 212 was to Tower Transit. The 153 is their second:)

    1. Oh that's not what I meant - I thought the 153 was the first route CT Plus *started* running? I realise after reading over that passage my intent isn't very clear so I will make an edit - cheers for spotting!

  2. Ct plus started running the 153 in 2001 it was ct plus first London route ever. Also there is no alesvlbury easte in islington between finsbury park and angel its main roads and residential streets

    1. Indeed. Damn, I confused Aylesbury Street in Clerkenwell for the Westbourne Estate near Holloway. Will edit, cheers for that.

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