307 to Metroline

Nearly the end of 2015. At the start of the last month of 2015, route 307 ended up in the hands of Metroline from Arriva London North. Yeah...
With the usual assortment of stuff.
Metroline Grab The 307
Metroline VWH2114 on Route 307, New Barnet (© Aubrey)

No, this isn't the allocation. This is:
Metroline TE1098 on Route 307, New Barnet
Metroline TE1098 on Route 307, New Barnet (CC Aubrey)

Buses displaced from the 168 and 16 conversions to LT. More specifically, the Enviro 400s.

Metroline TE923 on Route 307, Barnet Hospital
Metroline TE923 on Route 307, Barnet Hospital (© Aubrey)

However, native PB Enviro 400s are also used on the route. Metroline are expanding into Enfield and Brimsdown.

Metroline TE921 on Route 307, Barnet Hospital
Metroline TE921 on Route 307, Barnet Hospital (CC Aubrey)

Overall, the Metroline takeover shows how good they are at bidding for bus routes, with many retains and gains, even with the loss of the rest of the E-Line network. The buses aren't too bad. The service isn't too bad.


Style Without Impracticality

Here's to a happy Friday!

It's more likely to rain rather than snow this Friday, so get the umbrellas. Big retail companies are laughing at the money received from objects bought for this day. Transport for London stop for this Friday. Not us, or indeed National Express (non-stop through Chiswick, grrr), Oxford Bus Company or First Berkshire (shock!) who are running bus/coach services to Heathrow. Yep, flipping SLOUGH gets a better service than the rest of London.

But back to the point, a new TfL bus came along and made us look at the LT again and realise, what if ADL got the contract to build the LTs instead of Wrightbus.

An Icon. And a bus.
Arriva London HA5 on Route 78, Tower Bridge (CC Aubrey)

Mix an LT, an Enviro 200 MMC and an Enviro 400 MMC and you get that.

Speeding to Shoreditch
Arriva London HA4 on Route 78, Tower Hill (© Aubrey)

It rides just like an Enviro 400H, as it is one with a different body cosmetically. Otherwise, it's just like any other Enviro 400MMC.

Enviro 400HCity
Arriva London HA7 on Route 78, Liverpool Street (© Aubrey)

It has opening windows, something the LT should have but doesn't. The staircase is glassed throughout. The rear of the bus is curved, thus giving an Enviro 200MMC rear style feel to the back, with the double window.

Rear of Arriva London HA7 on Route 78, Liverpool Street
Rear of Arriva London HA7 on Route 78, Liverpool Street (© Aubrey)

That double window at the rear does give the upper deck a more brighter feel, when the weather outside is bright.

Rear Upper Deck Window of an Enviro 400H City
(CC Aubrey)

Otherwise, the LT-esque interior complete with moquette with roundels just shows this is ADL's response to the LT.

Arriva London HA6, LK65BZC in Bermondsey on route 78 to Nunhead
Arriva London HA6 on Route 78, Bermondsey (© Jacek)

No fancy fonts, or seats. The poles and moquette may be LT-esque, as well as the front upper deck window and the staircase windows, but otherwise it's just like a normal bus. It's not as fancy, or as restrictive as the LT.
And it isn't as such as a political weapon, even if it does pass near City Hall!

Happy Friday!
Arriva London HA7 on Route 78, Tower Bridge Road/Druid Street (© Aubrey)

Overall, it seems just like a glorified Enviro 400 MMC, if I'm honest. With the blind box set a tad too high. Great advantage is that it's just like another bus, and the hybrid system actually works!


Routemaster to "New Routemaster"

Route 159 seems to be coincidentally a plaything for the Mayor of London. Under Ken Livingstone, this route was the last route to lose its Routemasters back on the Friday 9th December 2005. This was under a midst of a lot of politics involving disability discrimination, even with protests within the last hours. They were replaced by B7TL/ALX400 buses, which were largely in service throughout that day.
Ten years and three days later, politics enter Route 159 yet again!

Political Trouble
Abellio London LT636 on Route 159, Westminster Bridge (© Aubrey)

Abellio London have won the 159, and at the same time, converted the 159 to LT operation all at once. OPO, of course.

Abellio win the 159. With LTs.
Abellio London LT629 on Route 159, Marble Arch (© Aubrey)

The bus, apparently "iconic" to London is actually a not so very good attempt to replicate/copy the Routemaster in being distinctive. Really, the Routemaster became distinctive as all the buses around it disappeared and were replaced, so the Routemaster stood out more as it looked different. It wasn't so different to other designs of similar buses back when it was introduced. However, it was deemed as old-fashioned back in the 1960s as new rear engined double decker buses like the Daimler Fleetline and the Leyland Atlantean which were deemed as modern at the time.

Abellio London LT608 on Route 159, Marble Arch
Abellio London LT608 on Route 159, Marble Arch (CC Aubrey)

Therefore, the so-called "New Routemaster" (the LT) is just a very distinctive bodied bus who has no other possible body. Or anything else. It's not even hybrid at times. Does it even make any economic sense?!

Three LTs, and two things.
Abellio London LT629 on Route 159 with two Go-Ahead London Central LTs at Westminster Bridge (© Aubrey)

When in Central London, there are very few places without LTs nearby now! Westminster and the TfL office 'coincidentally' have a high proportion of LTs passing through!

Abellio LT. Finally, unfortunately.
Abellio London LT614 on Route 159, Marble Arch (© Aubrey)

Just conveniently, the next LT conversion Abellio may have is the 3 or the 211, both which pass Westminster. A 211 destination is show on this photo. The 211 is also the last bus route to be run by conventional buses outside the TfL offices! The route is cleared for the buses, practically with the existence of the 507 and the N11 conversion. Yeah... Just keep on coming, they do.


Picture Archive Post 42

Metroline DLD138 on Route 70, Acton Market Place, 08/06/12
Metroline DLD138 on Route 70, Acton Market Place, 08/06/12

DLD138 new to Metroline was ordered for the C2 in 2000. In 2002, this bus moved to Edgware for the 251, 288, 303 and 305, where it stayed until 2008. This bus then had a few spells at Metroline garages at Wembley (NW) and Perivale (PA/PV) with a spell at 2010 at Cricklewood. In January 2012, this bus moved with the closure of PA from PA to PV, where it is seen on Route 70 in this photo. A few days after the photo was taken, this bus was put into store at PV. In October 2012, the bus was sold to Ensignbus, where it was temporarily used as its 809 on Central Line replacement. The bus was bought by Imperial Buses in 2013, before it was sold back to Ensign in 2014 and bought by Flagfinders Coaches where it is today.

Route 70 was made as a part replacement of a short section of Route 7 (Acton Horn Lane-East Acton) running with MA (Mercedes 811D vans with Alexander bodywork) running Monday-Saturday, intially running between Acton Horn Lane and Kensington. It was extended to South Kensington in 1993, where larger Dennis Dart/Wright Handybus buses were introduced. In 2000, Thorpes won the contract for the 70, initially from Wembley with a Sunday service being introduced. In 2003, the route moved to PA (Perivale) where it stayed when Metroline took over Thorpes. Metroline took the actual contract of the 70 in January 2007 along with the other contracts of Armchair and Thorpes. In December 2010, the route moved from PA to PV (Perivale East to West). In June 2012, Route 70 moved to First Centrewest from Westbourne Park (X), back where it used to run under Centrewest with new Enviro 200s (see post). In June 2013, the route moved to Tower Transit under the sale of First Centrewest, where it is today.

The route is supposed to be extended to Chiswick Business Park via Acton Town and Bollo Lane, but this extension seems to be indefinitely on hold. Even with the new bus stop on Bollo Lane in place.

Please. Just for once!
Yep, that (© Aubrey).
Please get the extension running. Please.


The First Transfer

Route 295 was moved from one part of ex-First London to another part of ex-First London, the first route to do so since First left London on the 22nd June 2013. I know it's over a month late, but sod it, most of the post was done already!

First Day, New Bus
Metroline West VWH2130 on Route 295, Clapham Junction (© Aubrey)

Route 295 is an evolved trunk route that runs from Ladbroke Grove Sainsbury's to Clapham Junction. When First split, the 295 was part of what became the Tower Transit section.

Tower Transit TN33198 on Route 295, Hammersmith
Tower Transit TN33198 on Route 295, Hammersmith (© Aubrey)

However, this meant that the two pieces of former First Centrewest can now compete with each other for bus routes. This means that the first route to transfer between the portions of former First Centrewest.

Metroline West Gain Route 295 (N)
Metroline West VW1208 on Route 295N, Hammersmith (© Aubrey)

Initially, B9TLs from other parts of Metroline Travel did the inital night service of the 295.

Metroline West VWH2114 on Route 295, Clapham Junction
Metroline West VWH2114 on Route 295, Clapham Junction (© Aubrey)

Then hybrids from Potters Bar and Willesden Garages took over most of the route alongside the diesel B9TLs.

Metroline West VWH2048 on Route 295, Hammersmith
Metroline West VWH2048 on Route 295, Hammersmith (© Aubrey)

Eventually, the Gemini 3 (new style) buses intended for the 295 were being gradually added into service:

Metroline West VWH2139 on Route 295, Hammersmith
Metroline West VWH2139 on Route 295, Hammersmith (© Aubrey)

The Gemini 3s aren't too bad, albeit the obvious thing with the upper deck windows being too small overall.
Oh, and not all photos are in the dark!

Metroline West VWH2128 on Route 295, Hammersmith
Metroline West VWH2128 on Route 295, Hammersmith (© Aubrey)

Metroline West have since run the 295 at a level. And it still exists. The night service is slower, which causes the bus to not travel very fast when there is a clear road. Otherwise, the 295 is run sufficiently.

We are very busy people, remember! :P


Tight Night Borismasters

Route N11 somehow became cleared for Borismaster operation, after some minor road work in the Acton area (between Turnham Green Station and Acton Town Station) has somehow made it clear that Borismasters could actually do the N11.

London General LT501 on Route N11, Hammersmith
London General LT501 on Route N11, Hammersmith (© Aubrey)

Buses mainly from the 88 batch are being used on the N11. Therefore, interesting blind fonts are shown here. Compared to an N11 display on the 11 batch vehicles as shown:

London General LT43 on Route 11 (Blinded for N11), Fulham
London General LT43 on Route 11 (Blinded for N11), Fulham (CC Aubrey)

There are more condensed font blind displays on the 88 batch LTs.
Yep, I'm that bored.

London General LT458 on Route N11, Hammersmith
London General LT458 on Route N11, Hammersmith (© Aubrey)

This does mean that most of the 211 is practically cleared for LT operation as well, hence that may turn to LTs. If the 211 converts, all buses via TfL's headquarters are LT operated. Coincidentally(!). This also means that this is the first conversion of a night bus route where the day route was already converted a significant time prior.

London General LT458 on Route N11, Hammersmith
London General LT458 on Route N11, Hammersmith (© Aubrey)

Yep, got a photo of the same bus in consecutive days. Oh how coincidental! The conversion has been the least noteworthy of the lot, as it is just a night bus route. However, that does mean that the LT is now penetrating deeper and deeper into suburban London. Which will only get more intrusive with the new shorter LT. Oh lovely spread for the political machine!


A Forgotten-ish One

Metroline DE875 on Route 324, Queensbury
Metroline DE875 on Route 324, Queensbury (CC Aubrey)

Yeah, the 324 went to Metroline. Quite a few people forgot that. I wonder why?...

Route 324 is a recent route, starting in October 2010 with Transdev London Sovereign with 8.8m Enviro 200s. This route gave a few roads a new bus service, being a local linker between Brent Cross Tesco and Stanmore Station. It initially ran every 20-30 minutes.

London Sovereign Transdev SDE21 on Route 324, Stanmore
London Sovereign SDE21 on Route 324, Stanmore (© Aubrey)

Old Church Lane, Abercorn Road, St Andrews Drive and Culver Grove seemed to be problematic, according to their residents at the time. TfL felt that this was not true, as a test with a 10.2m proved to not have problems on those roads. Hence 8.8m buses were initially used, before London Sovereign started to put DEs on the route. The longer 10.2m Enviro 200 proved also to be the basis for the award to Metroline.

Metroline DE876 on Route 324, Queensbury
Metroline DE876 on Route 324, Queensbury (CC Aubrey)

This however meant buses that are older than the route are now on the route as part of the allocation. Buses older than the prior contract award are now the allocation of the 324.

Metroline DE864 on Route 324, Queensbury
Metroline DE864 on Route 324, Queensbury (CC Aubrey)

The "refurbishment" is just a repaint and new seats. With too much red, again.
Overall, it seems that the service from my short observation wasn't too bad, could be worse, but could be better too.


Trains of Natural Beauty

The Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire are considered an Area of Natural Beauty (AONB) and as such I've titled this post accordingly to fit with Chiltern Railways. The company is one of the best in our privatised rail network and is consistently high in passenger satisfaction (usually second after c2c).
© Lewis J.N.

Chiltern Railways have a unique contract with Network Rail which lasts 20 years instead of the usual 7, which began in 2002, and the purpose of this was to carry out a number of rebuilding and restructuring works, which have included:
- Opening brand new platforms 5 and 6 at London Marylebone where previously were carriage sidings, as well as platforms 3 and 4 at Birmingham Moor Street.
- Completely rebuilding Neasden Junction to favour services towards West Ruislip to allow line speeds to be increased, as well as a new 'down' line at Northolt Junction and improvements at Aynho
68008 and 68010 sit at Marylebone ready to depart for
the West Midlands.
© Lewis J.N.
- Realigning track and platforms at stations such as Bicester North to increase line speed
- A brand new TMD at Wembley
- Procuring and refurbishing Mk3 coaches and DVTs for brand new hauled 'Silver Mainline' trains running between London and Birmingham in as little as 90 minutes. These were initially pulled by class 67 units from Wrexham & Shropshire, but have more recently been replaced by brand new class 68 locomotives leased to Chiltern by DRS.

The latest of these works will be the main focus of this post: opening a brand new railway line between London and Oxford by building a brand new spur of track to link the existing Chiltern Main Line with the Bicester Town - Islip - Oxford line. The latter of these two was part of the First Great Western franchise until it was taken over by Chiltern in 2011 in preparation for the new line.
In 2013 this line was closed, in order for it to be doubled up to two tracks, new stations to be built at Bicester Town (from now to be called Bicester Village), Islip and Oxford Parkway, the last of which is handily located beside the Water Eaton Park & Ride site.

The line reopened on October 25th 2015, with the brand new service being advertised all over the place by Chiltern, clearly very proud of their new line. So far, trains only run as far as Oxford Parkway, from which passengers must use the P&R 500 bus to get to Oxford City Centre.

On the first day of service, a special timetable was in operation due to a match at Wembley and a line closure north of Banbury. This unusual amalgamation of events allowed two silver 68 hauled sets out onto the new line - not normal on a Sunday service - but was very fitting to commemorate the arrival of a new service to the people of Oxfordshire.
68014 at Oxford Parkway on the first day of service.
© Tom Cooling
No doubt the addition of this new spur is making the timetabling even more difficult, but the service to Oxford Parkway is frequent and reliable with all trains given either 'M' (mainline) or 'MH' (mainline hybrid) status. A few trains run direct between Bicester and Marylebone, but many call at High Wycombe, Princes Risborough and/or Haddenham & Thame Parkway.
Islip, the intermediary station between Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village is required to receive 7 trains per day in each direction, and passengers are allowed to double back via Oxford Parkway when a direct Islip train is unavailable.

OXFORD PARKWAY - taken from the ground up just like it was built!
© Owen Hurcum
Having now visited Oxford Parkway and Islip stations, I can tell you that whilst there is nothing special, there is definitely a sign of dedication with the stations - they are designed to be simple and effective and yet they are modern.

ISLIP, the station for the village.
© Lewis J.N.
If you've not yet paid a visit to the new Chiltern line I would highly recommend that you take one of the class 68 services (Mon-Fri 0724 1Y12 OXP-MYB, 1818 1T54 MYB-OXP or 1929 1Y75 OXP-MYB). The new silver trains are simply fabulous with excellently refurbished Mark III coaches and brand new Vossloh-built class 68 locomotives which feature a 16-cylinder, 38000 horsepower engine.

68013 arrives at Oxford Parkway with the 1T54 service from Marylebone.
© Lewis J.N.
The line into Oxford mainline station will open in spring 2016; no doubt seeing a silver Chiltern 68 set alongside a green GWR HST will make all enthusiasts feel rather warm inside!

L E W I S  J  N A G L E      2 0 1 5


Picture Archive Post 41

London United DPS719 on Route 33, Hammersmith
London United DPS719 on Route 33, Hammersmith 12/01/13 (© Aubrey)

Route 33 has long been one of the trunk routes to spurt out of Hammersmith over Hammersmith Bridge. It has run between Hammersmith and Hounslow twice. Once as a route in itself made by 1933, and once after it had split from the 73 in 1966. The 1966 incarnation ran to Kensington as well. Routemasters from Mortlake Garage, initially. In September 1982, the route was rerouted away from Hounslow to run to Fulwell instead, replaced by the 281, which had grown to being a trunk route as such. The route later became the preserve of MCW Metrobuses. A short period between 1988 and 1990 saw it extended to Nurserylands. In May 1992, however, the Hammersmith Bridge became weight restricted and the route had a dramatic capacity decrease to single deck midibuses. In November 2000, it was converted to low floor with the X-UAT DPSs. In November 2015, the route passed to NCP Challenger with the Darts shown above.

DPS719 is part of the batch for the 33 and 419 as part of the shock win by NCP Challenger of the two routes in November 2005. Since that unexpected win by the then new operator, that operator was renamed NSL Services and in 2010, was bought by, ironically, Transdev. However, it did not undergo an immediate transfer to London United, initially going to London Sovereign in September 2010 before passing to London United. The bus was renumbered from NCP19 to DPS719 in October 2010. In November 2010, the bus was moved from NC (Twickenham) to AV (Hounslow). In July 2012, the bus returned back to NC, as seen at this time here. Later on, the bus moved with the 419 initially to Stamford Brook in March 2013 before moving to its current location with Shepherd's Bush after the win of the E3.

Route 33 later was moved back to Fulwell in 2013, however, the route still terminates at Stanley Road. New buses had arrived for the route in March 2011 (Enviro 200s), and still does so as of today.


Four Circle Stickers

Recently, Diamond-Rotala pulled out of Route 56, which meant that National Express West Midlands stepped in.

Diamond Bus 30822 on Route 56, Moor Street
Diamond Bus 30822 on Route 56, Moor Street (© Aubrey)

This has meant that Plaxton Primos, like this example, have been replaced by nearly new Enviro 400MMCs, which led to one of the shortest ever lived route branding I've seen in some time.

The Short-Lived Route Branding
NX West Midlands 6743 on Route 936, Moor Street (© Aubrey)

The 936 has been partially replaced by the 937, which is a new route replacing the 56 directly. However, that does mean the 936 has been severely reduced to peak hours only.

NX West Midlands 6721 on Route 937, Moor Street Queensway
NX West Midlands 6721 on Route 937, Moor Street Queensway (© Aubrey)

The 937 is the first bus route to be a Platinum route from the start, as the other routes were pre-existing routes that were run by NXWM.

934/935/936/937 Brand on the X51
NX West Midlands 6750 on Route X51, Moor Street Queensway (© Aubrey)

This has led to large 4 circle sticker branding with a slightly more complicated line diagram of about 50 Shades of Green (slight exaggeration). And yes, that's a 934-7 branded bus on the X51, which may be more frequently occurring than you think?

Crowded Rears

This rear shot shows that it is not only National Express that have Enviro 400MMCs. However, the rear of NXWM 6747 on Route 935 (© Aubrey) shows the rear route branding arrangement, which is vastly cramped. Hundred Acre Road is in a very tiny font, hard to read in this photo. The words "peak hours" is nigh on impossible to read under 936. And no, it's not the quality of the photo.

Four Circles
NX West Midlands 6744 on Route 937, Moor Street Queensway (© Aubrey)

Here is the intended look, and it still does look smart. Except for the route branding, which starts to make it a tad messy. Otherwise, it's the usual Platinum buses on the now usual Platinum route. Every 30 minutes with the rest of the routes.


More Single MMCs

Route 71/72 are now the second bus routes to gain the Enviro 200MMC in the West Midlands, being based also at Acocks Green Garage.
NX West Midlands 2234 on Route 71, Solihull
NX West Midlands 2234 on Route 71, Solihull (© Aubrey)

Route 71/72 are a Chelmsley Wood-Solihull corridor, before the 71 goes to Sutton Coldfield and the 72 goes into Birmingham City Centre.

Wrong Route MMC
NX West Midlands 2215 on Route 72, Solihull (© Aubrey)

The MMCs are the same as the ones on the 37, including with the slightly faulty brakes that has been noted to be needing recall, thus will pose some problems for National Express West Midlands.

NX West Midlands 2244 on Route 72, Solihull
NX West Midlands 2244 on Route 72, Solihull (© Aubrey)

The buses are inter-mixed with the 37 batch usually, some are generic.

NX West Midlands 2232 on Route 72, Marston Green Station
NX West Midlands 2232 on Route 72, Marston Green Station (© Aubrey)

Overall, on the short rides I've had on these buses, they seem to be similar to the 37 batch, and aren't too bad at modernising the National Express West Midlands fleet. They should fare well for years to come. Once the brakes are fixed.