Ch, ch, ch, changes ... in Reading, Caversham & beyond

The past couple of months have been a busy period for Reading Buses. As well as a number of fleet and service changes to their existing Reading & Caversham town services, their operations have expanded to covering the Greenline 702 Bracknell to London service, and Routes 2 & 5 in Slough under the Thames Valley brand. Reading have taken on the 702, followed by the 2 & 5, with evening buses on Route 4, and Sunday buses on Route 6 after First Berkshire ceased their operation of those routes.

Back in Reading & Caversham, Route 17 has seen a recent makeover with brand new state-of-the-art gas buses which has sent a cascade of slightly older vehicles to other routes which has in turn seen the withdrawal of old buses.
As a result of the Caversham Consultation at the end of 2017, Reading are also modifying their Pink route network with changes affecting the 23, 24, 27 & 29. There are also some changes to the NINEteens which sees the 9 split from the 19, with the latter being combined with the 22 and numbered 22.

Reading have recently announced that they will be taking over the operation of Stagecoach's Route 7 between Fleet and Reading.

Greenline 702

In late 2017 First Berkshire announced that they would cease running their Greenline Express 702, that runs between London Victoria and Bracknell via Slough, Windsor and LEGOLAND. Following this announcement, Reading Buses agreed that they would take over the running of the route, initially following First's timetable and with a mixture of fleet vehicles. That said E400 1208 (GO11LDN) has been specially branded up for the Greenline express launch (see below).
Reading are still trialling a variety of vehicles on the route before placing an order for their preferred bus.

Greenline 1208 in London Victoria
© Tommy Cooling

Grey Greenline 758 in Bracknell
© Tommy Cooling
Scania deomstrator 778 in Slough
© Tommy Cooling

Sky Blue 15 & 16

The 15, 15a and 16 are in the process of receiving the purple E400s displaced off the 17. These E400s are being converted from hybrid to diesel upon refurbishment, a process that is also seeing the E400s turn blue, to match the "Skyblue" livery of the 15/a and 16.
These E400s are replacing the blue Olympus's, as well as the Caversham Pink Scania Omnicities.

At time of publishing, only 208, 225 & 229 have been refurbished.

Skyblue 208 in Central Reading
© Tommy Cooling

Purple 17

Brand new CNG powered Scania E400 City buses have recently appeared on Purple Route 17. These are the first buses in Reading to operate with rear exit doors, a new feature that is well needed on such a busy route, and one that I personally hope will be adopted on any new vehicles the Claret 21 & 21a University routes get, if not across more of the Reading Buses network.
These state-of-the-art purple buses on the 17, of which there are 17 in total, have replaced the 2011 built electric hybrid E400s that were previously allocated. These vehicles are undergoing a refurbishment process and painted in the Sky Blue livery for Routes 15/a & 16, as well as the new Berry livery for Routes 23 & 24.

Purple 715 in Central Reading
© Tommy Cooling

Purple 713 by Forbury Gardens in Reading
© Tommy Cooling

Thames Valley Ventures

In late January 2018, Reading Buses took over the operation of some First Berkshire routes in Slough; Route 2, which runs between Dedworth, Windosr and Slough, and Route 5, Cippenham to Slough. In addition to this, Reading also took over the running of the evening journeys on Route 4, and the Sunday operation of Route 6. This group of routes has fallen under the delightful Thames Valley branding and grouping.

Thames Valley Scania OmniCity 4 on Route 2 in Slough
© Tommy Cooling

Thames Valley Solo SR 198 on Route 5 in Slough
© Tommy Cooling

February 17th Changes

The NINE(teens), [Red] Nineteen and Pink 22

Route 9 has been branded into generic grey and been unlinked from the NINEteens group. The routing for the 9 has also being revised such that it can provide a better link between Whitley Wood and the Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH). The route reverts back to using Shinfield Road from Whiteknights Road.

Route 19 has being combined with the 22 and turned Red! Buses run between Chalfont Way ASDA in Lower Earley to Caversham Heights, as per the old 22 did, providing direct links between Caversham and RBH. This route has also been numbered 22, and will be allocated red streetlites. On Sundays, services only run between Central Reading and Caversham Heights.

Grey 654 in Central Reading
© Tommy Cooling

NINEteens White 131 by Forbury Gardens in Reading
© Tommy Cooling

Pink 431 on Friar Street in Reading
© Tommy Cooling
Red 22 Streetlite 167 in Central Reading
© Tommy Cooling

Streetlite 167 was one of the batch that was delivered orange for the Earley 19s back in 2014. Now it has been painted into Red for the Red22 branding.
With this, the new 22 service is also using the former Scarlet9 E300s.

Red 22 E300 414 in Reading
© Tommy Cooling

Pink 23 & 24

Pink routes 23 & 24 have been combined providing a two-way circular service improving links within Caversham, and between Caversham and Central Reading.
Route 23 runs via Reading Bridge and out through Queensway, returning via Hemdean Road and across Caversham Bridge. Route 24 runs via Caversham Bridge and out along Hemdean Road, returning via Caversham Park and across Reading Bridge.
Both routes serve the north side of Reading Station before continuing on a anti-clockwise loop through Central Reading via Friar Street and Blagrave Street.

The Caversham Pink Omnicities are gradually being replaced in the fleet with refurbished ex. Purple 17 E400s and spare E200 & E300s. A number of the displaced Omnicities are ending up at Midlands-based operator midlandclassic, 1102 is already in service with the operator, still carrying its Caversham Pink livery!

At time of publishing E400s 219 and 220 have been painted into the new Berry livery for the 23 & 24.

Pink 1104 on Friar Street in Reading
© Tommy Cooling
Berry 220 in Reading
© Tommy Cooling

Berry 219 in Reading
© Tommy Cooling

Pink 27 & 29

These routes became circular providing more direct journeys between Reading, Caversham Centre and Lower Caversham - with route 27 operating anti-clockwise and route 29 clockwise.

Pink 163 on Friar Street in Reading
© Tommy Cooling

Route 7

It has been announced that from April 2018, Reading Buses will take over the running of Stagecoach Route 7 from Reading to Fleet. Stagecoach would continue to operate from Fleet to Aldershot. With the takeover, two buses from Stagecoach would transfer to Reading Buses, and at the moment these are believed to be two ALX400 bodies Tridents, like TA18064 below.

Stagecoach TA18064 in Central Reading
© Tommy Cooling

Post by Tommy Cooling
Some of these images and more can be found on my Flickr page:
Please do not reproduce any of my images without permission


Picture Archive Post 68

Stagecoach London 17575 (Route 230), Arriva London DW335 (Route 41), Tottenham Hale
Stagecoach London 17575 on Route 230 & Arriva London DW335 on Route 41, Tottenham Hale, 02/02/2013
(© Aubrey Morandarte)

The area of Tottenham Hale has changed over the past 5 years, and is still undergoing change. The bus station layout has changed most notably so far. The photo was taken with the old layout of the bus station.

Route 230 is one of the very few double decker routes with a hail & ride section, with the section at Upper Walthamstow being hail & ride. Introduced in 1973 between Manor House and Stratford with Routemasters from Leyton Garage (T), the route stayed at Leyton Garage throughout its life at London Transport, London Forest, East London and Stagecoach. In 1981, the route was shortened to Whipps Cross-Manor House, before later extended to Finsbury Park and Leytonstone in 1982. In 1981, the route was also converted to OPO, with Leyland Nationals. 1987 saw the introduction of Titans, and the route diverted to run Wood Green-Leytonstone. Sectorisation saw the route fall to London Forest initially, but as London Forest collapsed, Leyton Garage and the route moved to East London (later Stagecoach). The current route came about in 1996 when Darts (initially Alexander Dash/Dennis Dart, then Alexander ALX200/Dennis Dart SLF) arrived on the route. After trees were chopped by 2004, Dennis Tridents as seen plyed the 230 until 22nd June 2013. Arriva London took the 230 over from Tottenham (AR) with new VDL DB300/Wright Pulsar Gemini 2s, and thus this is the route today.

Route 41 gained its current route back in 1937, when it was extended from Crouch End to Archway. Having been based at Tottenham (AR) for most of its life, it has mainly seen weekday route extensions to Dagenham Dock (1941-1942, daily), Ilford (1942-1960 during peaks), Stratford (1960), Victoria & Albert Docks (1961-1968), Ferry Lane Estate (1981) and Highgate Village (1984-1985). By 1989, the route was OPO, based at Tottenham (AR), Wood Green (WN), and Holloway (HT). Under sectorisation thus, it ran from Leaside Buses and London Northern. In 1994, the route was tendered to MTL London Suburban Bus from Edmonton (ED), using Leyland Titans. 1996 saw the route go back to Cowie Leaside Buses with Metrobuses from Wood Green, before moving to Tottenham in 1998. 2001 saw the low floor conversion, with introduction of the DAF DB250LF/ALX400 on the 41. 2013 saw these buses be replaced by the VDL DB300/Wright Pulsar Gemini 2s.

Stagecoach 17575 started out as TAS574 at Catford (TL), before being renumbered 1575s. It transferred to Macquarie Bank (ELBG) in 2006. In 2009, the bus was loaned to Metrobus for the 75 as their Scania N230UDs were late. July 2009 saw this bus move to Leyton (T), as seen in the photo above. In July 2014, the bus was withdrawn from London service and moved to Stagecoach Scotland West for the Commonwealth Games. After the event was done, it moved to Manchester as reserve, then Merseyside for Merseyrail replacement services. In May 2015, the bus was deroofed for sightseeing purposes, and is now at Stratford-upon-Avon for sightseeing purposes.

Arriva DW335, a significantly newer vehicle, was at Tottenham (AR) from introduction to  9th December 2016, when the bus thereafter moved to Edmonton (E) for the 349 mainly. . March 2017 saw the bus move to Brixton (BN) for mainly the 50 and 319, until September 2017. October and November 2017 saw the bus go to Wood Green (WN) mainly for the 144 and 221. After a few months, it reappeared on the 14th February 2018, at Edmonton (E), where it is now.


Hybrid Metroline

Metroline ordered 167 new Volvo Gemini 3 B5LHs (VWH2266-2432) in 2017 for new routes 120 and 222, plus to upgrade routes at Willesden and Holloway to hybrid following a number of retained contracts.

VWH batch 1 (2266-2284)
These 19 vehicles were ordered for Metroline's take up of the 120 in June 2017.

Metroline VWH2276 arrives at Hounslow Bus Station at the end of its trip on the 120 in September 2017.
© Tommy Cooling

VWH batch 2 (2285-2305)
These 21 vehicles originally ordered for the new contracts on routes 260 & 302. As the new 10.6m Gemini 3s ordered (VWH2322+) failed their route surveys, this batch was diverted away from Willesden into Perivale to release VWHs 2001-2021 (10.5m version) to Holloway for routes 4 & 17.

VWH2296 stands in East Acton before heading into Central London on Route 7 to Oxford Circus in September 2017.
Route 7 is seeing new 2017 hybrids replace the existing 2014 hybrids which are moving to Holloway for the new contracts on routes 4 and 17. The new VWHs failed the route tests so older VWHs which passed grace the routes instead to fulfil the contractual requirements.
© Tommy Cooling

VWH batch 3 (2306-2321)
These 16 vehicles were also ordered for the new contracts on routes 260 and 302. Due to low-emission Euro 6 requirements for Central London routes to take place in the not-to-distant future, it was decided that these vehicles would be diverted on the 52 instead, displacing the older Euro 5 2012 VWHs which should end up on route 460.

VWH2312 pulls off stand and out of Willesden Garage to form a Route 52 service to Victoria, in February 2018.
© Tommy Cooling

VWH2313 leaves Queen's Park whilst working on Route 6 to Aldwych in October 2017.
© Tommy Cooling

VWH batch 4 (2322-2344)
These 23 vehicles were ordered for the new contract on route 17. As the Gemini 3 failed the Holloway route tests, these vehicles have been diverted into Willesden garage displacing VWH2088-2118 to Holloway for routes 4 and 17.

At time of publishing, VWH2336 and 2337 are currently at West Perivale covering for two broken SELs. These two hybrid vehicles will end up at Willesden once the SELs have been fixed.

VWH2341 is seen at Charing Cross on Route 6 after arriving at Willesden from its stint at Uxbridge, in November 2017.
© Tommy Cooling

VWH batch 5 (2345-2363)
These 19 vehicles were ordered for Metroline's take up of the 222 in September 2017.
This batch is mixed in terms of allocation with VWH2167-2186 at Uxbridge such that both sets of hybrids can operate on the 114 and 222.

VWH2347 in Uxbridge on Route 222 in October 2017
Note, with these newer vehicles the front blinds have been moved closer to the glass making them easier to see at an angle.
© Tommy Cooling

VWH batch 6 (2364-2381)
These 18 vehicles were ordered for the new contract on route 4. These have also been diverted to Willesden and will convert routes 260 and 302 to Euro 6 hybrid.

Metroline VWH2377 pulls away in Kensal Green on Route 302 to Mill Hill, in February 2018.
© Tommy Cooling

Metroline VWH2365 calls in Kensal Green on Route 6 to Willesden Garage in February 2018.
Some of this batch have been retrofitted with flashing lights for Oxford Street (visible next to the front indicators).
© Tommy Cooling

VWH batch 7 (2382-2432)
The remaining 51 vehicles were ordered for the new contracts on routes 6 & 98.

At time of publishing VWH2384 and 2413 are currently at West Perivale, temporarily replacing two VWs, VW1196 and 1197 which are currently on a Euro 6 trial at Willesden (see below). These four buses will swap back to their home garages later on.

Metroline VWH2384 calls at Greenford Station on Route 105 to Heathrow Airport Central in February 2018.
Some of this batch have been retrofitted with flashing lights for Oxford Street (visible next to the front indicators).
This is one of four Willesden VWHs transferred into the Perivale garages on a temporary measure.
© Tommy Cooling

Metroline VWH2417 in Kensal Green heads towards the Bus Stand on Route 302 in February 2018.
Some of the new VWHs at Willesden have reused the old blinds from the 2015 VWHs. VW1197 displays a new blind set.
© Tommy Cooling

Subsequent Hybrid movements
VWH 2001-2021
These vehicles moved to Holloway to satisfy the contractual agreements for Routes 4 and 17. The new 10.6m Gemini 3s ordered failed their route surveys due to the longer overhang. 2285-2305 replaced these.

VWH2003 pauses at King's Cross station on Pentonville Road on route 17 operates a short working to King's Cross due to various road closures for the Prudential RideLondon cycle event, in July 2017.
© Tommy Cooling

VWH 2088-2118
These vehicles moved to Holloway to satisfy the contractual agreements for Routes 4 and 17. The new 10.6m Gemini 3s ordered failed their route surveys due to the longer overhang. 2306-2344 replaced these.

VWH2094 passes St. Paul's Cathedral during a break in traffic whilst on Route 17 to London Bridge in October 2017.
This bus had moved from Potters Bar to Holloway for hybrid type training prior to new start of the new contract on Route 17, having originally started life at Willesden Junction assisting on Route 295.
© Tommy Cooling

VWH 2167-2186
These buses filled in for the late arrival of 2345-2363 on Route 222 meaning that vehicles had to be drafted in to cover on the 114. 14 hybrids from store bound for Perivale and Willesden satisfied this (see below).

VWH2170 arrives at Hounslow Bus Station on Route 222 on the first morning with Metroline, in September 2017.
© Tommy Cooling

VWH 2289-2341 (14 vehicles, with gaps)
VWHs 2289, 2311, 2318, 2319, 2320, 2322, 2323, 2327, 2328, 2329, 2331, 2334, 2341 all from store covered the 114 along with a few TEs whilst 2167-2185 ran the 222 due to the late arrival of the 222s vehicles. As these buses were not intended to be used before arriving at their due garages, none had the correct blinds during their time at Uxbridge. As a result of this, slipboard designs were drawn up prior to their introduction into service in mid-September.

VWH2328 on stand at Ruislip Station on Route 114 in September 2017.
© Tommy Cooling

Post by Tommy Cooling
Some of these images and more can be found on my Flickr page:
Please do not reproduce any of my images without permission