Carousel Buses New Streetlites

Some of you probably followed my own blog on Carousel buses (previewed to the left) but unfortunately I've had to recently take this blog down. A couple of years ago I had the great fortune to be in contact with the various Managing Directors at the company who could keep me up-to-date on any changes to services or fleet that were upcoming. However, following the Go-Ahead takeover, these Managing Directors left the company and I lost my contact. It meant I had no way of knowing what was going to be changed and therefore no way of reporting it, especially as I don't live all that close to High Wycombe.

Anyway, long story short: the few-and-far-between Carousel updates will now be continued on here by yours truly. This one is quite a big one - the first new buses for Carousel since the Go-Ahead takeover have now entered service in the form of 2 Wright Streetlites. I was awfully dismayed at this because my previous experience of Streetlites has not been positive. However, much to my surprise, these Streetlites are actually rather excellent.

They are numbered 401 and 402, registered SM15HWC and SM15HWD respectively. They are the long-bodied Streetlite with the sensible door-forward arrangement and the Daimler engine has been specified. With LINK branding applied, they are destined for routes 730, 740 and A40 running between High Wycombe or Hemel Hempstead and Uxbridge or Heathrow Airport.

Plane Bus
401, route A40, en route to Heathrow at Uxbridge.
© Lewis J.N.
The buses still have their new smell, and are decorated inside with the standard Oxford Bus interior of red-moquette seats and silver handrails. It's very smart and a welcoming place to be. The engine is spritely and quite happy to do 50mph down the A40 as the route requires. Rattling is minimal at this stage thanks to the quality Wrightbus bodywork on which one can always rely.

Turning Wright
402, route A40, leaving High Wycombe en route to Heathrow.
© Lewis J.N.
871 (one of the Citaros) has been repainted into standard two-tone Carousel livery with the maroon at the front; 872 will remain in the LINK livery for the time being. Other news includes 415 and 417 have been taken to Oxford Bus for sale and 418 has returned from Thames branded for the Red One ready to enter service in the coming week.

Streetlite at Speed - Speedlite if you will
401, route A40, on Maxwell Road in Beaconsfield en route to High Wycombe.
© Lewis J.N.
The Optare Tempos have been earmarked for transfer away from Carousel very soon, and more Streetlites are on order to arrive later in the year. Also, if you're going to Showbus in Wooburn Abbey in the coming month, there will be a Carousel Streetlite present, and the WLTM team will be there as well!


Cascade & Swap.

Route 326, on the same day as the 383 moving to Uno, moved to London Sovereign

London Sovereign DE7 on Route 326, Barnet
London Sovereign DE7 on Route 326, Barnet The Spires (© Aubrey)

This also meant that Edgware garage are gaining even more buses than it can handle, thus there were a series of domino effects.

And so it con-Spire-d, the bus wouldn't reach the Spires
London Sovereign DE5 on Route 326, Brent Cross (© Lewis)

These buses were initially on the 285:

London United DE5 on Route 285, Hatton Cross
London United DE5 on Route 285, Hatton Cross (CC Aubrey)

They were replaced by VHs, which in turn allowed this to move to BT for 326.

London United DE2 on Route 326, Barnet Spires
London United DE2 on Route 326, Barnet Spires (© Aubrey)

The buses were refurbished for the new contract. Obviously just an interior do-up and an exterior repaint, but it does make them look smart. If the logos were centred better.

London Sovereign DE70 on Route 326, Barnet Spires
London Sovereign DE70 on Route 326, Barnet Spires (© Aubrey)

Sometimes, the existing DEs do stray onto the 326, such as the ones for the 251.

London Sovereign DE12 on Route 326, Barnet Spires
London Sovereign DE12 on Route 326, Barnet Spires (© Aubrey)

This has caused the 183 to move partly to Harrow Garage (SO) (somehow), and eventually, Route 324 will move to Metroline in response as a somewhat biased swap. Presentation is well, service works so overall a working change.


The Enviro200 MMC

When Alexander Dennis unveiled the new Enviro400MMC it was designed to hit everyone like a comet coming down from the sky, and this didn't fail (if you've got half an hour spare watch the launch video). The new design was striking and arguably marvellous with supposedly groundbreaking new features including the useful (but perhaps slightly sad) 3-minute window release feature. This window design is so groundbreaking that ADL have patented it, so don't expect it on a Wrightbus anytime soon!
The E400MMC promised a world-first rattle-free bus due to new superior build quality and a finer attention to detail than previously, so the bus had a rather large standard to live up to.

The first production models of the E400MMC went to City of Oxford Motor Services for their Brookes University services, and many enthusiasts jumped on the coach to Oxford to try them out. Although I (Lewis) didn't go, I heard lots of positive comments from those who did. The buses were indeed very nearly rattle-free and they were nice and fast too, albeit with some minor teething issues which were to be expected with the primary batch of vehicles.
Oxford Bus Company 612 on Route U1, Oxford Station
City of Oxford Motor Services 612, GA64OXF, Oxford Rail Station (CC Aubrey)

It struck many odd because the first batch of a new type of vehicles did not go to London, as is usually the case. In fact, the second batch didn't go to London either, as they ended up with Reading Buses:
Reading Buses 754 (YX64 VRO) on Route 21, Reading Station
Reading Buses 754, YX64VRO, Reading Station (CC Aubrey)
The first route in London to convert to Enviro400MMCs was route 109, which had just been won by Abellio from Arriva London. The batch was numbered 2487-2413 and they were the first batch of MMCs on hybrid drive as all the previous commercial batches had been simply diesel.

Enviro400 MMC at Croydon
Abellio 2488, YY64TYF, Croydon Park Street (© Lewis)
Following the 109 many other routes have converted to MMC including the 415, 350, 177, 135, and a number of these vehicles have entered service at various places around the country.

But that's enough of the Enviro400MMC; let's look at its younger sibling.

The Enviro200 was born in 2006 as a replacement to the Plaxton Pointer midibus and has been Britain's best-selling single decker bus ever since. The original prototypes were somewhat experimental with doors at both ends of the vehicle instead of one in the middle and all of these are now owned by Buses Etcetera.

The original Enviro200 design to which we're all accustomed survived Euro IV, Euro V and Euro VI with a minor rehaul in 2011 to comply with the latest European WTA regulations. It lasted 9 years of manufacture in 2 different factories but very soon the last batches of these buses will hit the road; they are to be replaced by the Enviro200MMC.

The new design was unveiled at the NEC in Birmingham late last year, and very quickly many were unkeen on the new looks which are asymmetrical and not very similar to the double decker E400MMC. The first new batch of these buses - like the E400MMC - will not come to London but will see service in Birmingham instead.

The batch of vehicles for Network West Midlands were scheduled to arrive in May but after the first two were sent back following build problems they finally arrived in July. The batch are numbered in a new 22xx series and will enter service firstly on route 37 and then on route 72 - both routes run between Solihull Station and Birmingham Moor St. but via different routes.

Aubrey and I (Lewis) went to Birmingham to try them out.

Off to Solihull
National Express West Midlands 2210, YX15OYZ, Birmingham Moor Street (© Lewis)

National Express West Midlands 2213 on Route 37, Moor Street/Bullring
National Express West Midlands 2213, YX15OZC, Birmingham Moor Street (© Aubrey)
Unbranded MMC
National Express West Midlands 2202, YX15OYP, Birmingham Moor Street (© Lewis)
Rear of an MMC
Rear of National Express West Midlands 2213, YX15OZC, Birmingham Moor Street (© Aubrey)
At least this end looks like an E400MMC.

Rather quickly succeeding the (admittedly late) arrival of these buses in Birmingham, the Stagecoach London batch for route 499 began to arrive at West Ham Garage for commissioning. This batch, unlike its NXWM counterparts, had black front light surrounds which set the enthusiast community alight over whether the surrounds should be black or red. Personally, I think the black looks smarter, but what do you think?

A post has already been written on the MMC changes in the Romford area, including the 499, which can be read here. That was Aubrey's take on the new buses, so here's mine:

In Its Rightful Place
Stagecoach London 36601, YY15OWU, Romford Rail Station (© Lewis)

A batch of the new buses has finally come to London and they can be found in the far east end. They are genetically identical to the variants in Birmingham as they have the same 4-cylinder Cummins engine and the same Voith gearbox. Previously a Cummins / Voith combination has not been a very good recipe - the gear ratios always seem to be wrong making for a jolty journey as found on older Stagecoach E200s and Streetlites. However, Voith have upped their game for Euro VI as the engine and gearbox do seem to get along much better. The bus is not underpowered: in fact it has more horsepower than the Euro IV or V E200s - and it's lighter too - making it very nippy. The engine also makes a great fluttering sound when you lift off the accelerator or when changing gears, which I think is lovely!
Similar to the E400MMC, the interior is bright and welcoming, and there has been an obvious attempt to reduce rattling as everything feels much more solid than on a previous Enviro200. Non-enthusiasts were boarding and noticing a difference, a couple of teen girls described the bus as "soooo pretty" to which I couldn't help but giggle a little. As for the asymmetry, I don't think it's all bad. It has a certain quirkiness which you wouldn't find anywhere else; it shows that Alexander Dennis have found their stronghold and they're confident that they can pull off a radical design like this without it affecting their sales or reputability.
So with the knowledge that this will become the next bus to be found in swades all over London, if you don't like it then you're just going to have to get used to it, but I think it will become the next striking bus to go over the hills and far away.


Hats Off to Uno!

Route 383, a small residential route to the north side of London has had a big milestone. A university now runs the bus route. More specifically, the arm-length company of the University of Hertfordshire, Uno Buses.

TfL 383, by the University of Hertfordshire
Uno 602 on Route 383, High Barnet Station (© Aubrey)

University Bus, based near the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield (hence title) is the second largest bus company operating in Hertfordshire, only behind Arriva the Shires who, of course, are the current heir to most of what was formerly London Country and indeed, London Transport Country division.

Bloody UNO, coming over here, taking our routes!
Uno 602 on Route 383, Woodside Park (© Josh)

Bus 602 seemed to be pretty well photographed for some odd reason. Anyhow, it is one of the last pre-MMC Enviro 200 batches for any operator, being delivered parallel to the ones in Birmingham for the 37 there.

Over the Kerb
Uno 604 on Route 383, Woodside Park (© Lewis)

The entry of a new bus operator from outer London shows ambition from Uno's side, and the fact that logos are getting smaller in London! The Uno logo is tiny compared to where it is placed.

Uno 601 on Route 383, Barnet Spires
Uno 601 on Route 383, Barnet The Spires (© Aubrey)

Overall, Uno have done a decent job. The buses are presentable (as it is most of the time with Uno anyway). The bus drivers are the highest paid drivers in the company as the TfL driver rate is higher than the highest rate at Uno not doing TfL work. The drivers have University of Hertfordshire staff cards (obviously). The service is getting better, and the pink? Well, the pink is in the folders some of the drivers carry. And yes, unlike the buses, this post is kinda late.


Picture Archive Post 38

London United/Transdev DPS516 on Route H91, 2009
London United/Transdev DPS516 on Route H91, 25/07/2009 (© Aubrey)

Initially ordered for the 33, these buses were initially allocated to Fulwell for most of its life, shuttling over Hammersmith Bridge. Obviously, the 33 was single deck due to the Hammersmith Bridge being severely weak after an overloaded lorry nearly killed the structure off. This left busy routes like the 33 and the 72 to convert to single deck and be eternally cursed with heavy loads. The 9 had to be split into the 9A and 9 as well. Then when the low-floor revolution happened, the 33 was converted using these Darts. They were similar to the ones ordered for the 72, hence for quite some time, they had Darts. They were initially DP5xx instead of DPS5xx, from 2000 to 2001. This specific bus then went to Hounslow Heath in 2005 (when NCP Challenger took over the 33) for the H22 and 411 (when refurbished under the 81 contract). In 2009, it went to London Sovereign (under Transdev), but stayed with them when Transdev London split later on in 2011. In September 2011, it was withdrawn from London use, and has since found a new life in Scotland with JMB Travel.

Route H91, yeah... One half of the 91. Split off from the other half in 1991, it is the western half of the route. Noting that the route did garage journeys to Hounslow until August 1996, then started to have LLWs from 2000 (yes, those Dennis Lance SLFs!). Eventually, it has turned into a double deck route and even ended up with the odd hybrid today.


More Metal Comfort

Four routes in Birmingham has started a large batch of Enviro 400MMCs for National Express West Midlands:
Routes 9 and 50 (normal) and Routes 900 and 957 (Platinum branded)

Route 9: Birmingham City Centre-Stourbridge Town

National Express West Midlands 6104 on Route 9, Birmingham Queensway
National Express West Midlands 6104 on Route 9, Birmingham Queensway (© Aubrey)

Route 9 is the main route out of Birmingham City Centre to Stourbridge, which is west of Birmingham. Stourbridge is, well known, for having the line that the Class 139 PPM runs on.
The route goes through Halesowen, Quinton and Bearwood enroute to Birmingham Snow Hill.

National Express West Midlands 6106 on Route 9, Queensway
National Express West Midlands 6106 on Route 9, Queensway (© Aubrey)

The route is based at Pensnett Garage, the batch for the 9 is 6101-6122 (including generic spares).

Route 50: Birmingham City Centre-Druids Heath

National Express West Midlands 6127 on Route 50, Bullring/Moor Street
National Express West Midlands 6127 on Route 50, Bullring/Moor Street (© Aubrey)

It is termed as the Birmingham equivalent to the 25 in London. Runs with a night service, very frequent (the most frequent bus route in Birmingham, without even including the competing services by Diamond Bus/Rotala.

Bullring Bunching
And yes, it does bunch a tad.
National Express West Midlands 6125 on Route 50 leading three MMCs on Route 50 (the rear one is technically on short 50E), Bullring/Moor Street (© Aubrey)

National Express West Midlands 6143 on Route 50(E), Bullring/Moor Street (© Aubrey)

The 'E' suffix means "exception", which is used for short workings on routes. This could get confusing on the circular routes (11/8) at times, but otherwise a notable way of showing short workings.

Druid Reflection
National Express West Midlands 6146 on Route 50, Druids Heath (© Aubrey)

The Druid Heath terminus of the 50 is less busy than the rest of the route. Druids Heath is a housing estate with large swathes of green areas. This bus adorning a more generic branding, with a group day ticket being advertised.
The 50 is based at Yardley Wood Garage, with 6123-6148 (including generic spares) being the batch for the 50.

Route 957: Birmingham City Centre-Solihull Station

NXWM 6714 on Route 957, Bullring
National Express West Midlands 6714 on Route 957, Bullring/Moor Street (© Aubrey)

Route 957 is the limited stop route to Solihull (albeit not the most direct route). Although Route 37 is the most direct bus route to Solihull, Route 957 uses the busy Coventry Road corridor to get to Solihull. Along with Route 900, it provides a limited stop route along the corridor. It is every 15 minutes (Mon-Sat), and combined with Route 900, it runs every 7-8mins to Sheldon.

Generic Platinum
National Express West Midlands 6718 on Route 957, Solihull Station (© Aubrey)

The Platinum brand was introduced earlier in 2015 with these buses. They have wifi, e-leather seats and next stop information, typical of "premier branded buses". More metal themes here, as Stagecoach brought out Gold, Arriva bringing out Sapphire, and now to follow the metal themes, this is Platinum.

National Express West Midlands 6718 on Route 957, Moor Street
National Express West Midlands 6718 on Route 957, Moor Street (© Aubrey)

Generic Platinum buses also appear on the route, as part of the spares. This route and the 900 share the spare buses, but have their own separate branded buses too. The route is based in Birmingham Central garage (Digbeth). 6711-6715 are buses branded for the 957.
Route 900: Birmingham City Centre-Coventry Pool Meadow

National Express West Midlands 6709 on Route 900, Moor Street
National Express West Midlands 6709 on Route 900, Moor Street (© Aubrey)

Route 900 is the express bus route to Coventry. This is a route that I (Aubrey) will be seeing a lot more of in the next few years, as I will go to Coventry University in September 2015. This will mean that the blog will expand its frontiers to include the West Midlands more (hopefully) during this period.

What the E?
National Express West Midlands 6710 on Route 900E, Moor Street (© Lewis)

Yep, it's one of those exceptions. The 900E in this instance runs between Birmingham City Centre and Birmingham Airport/NEC as extras every 30 minutes in addition to the half hourly 900 service to Coventry. 6703-6710 are the branded buses for the 900, based alongside the 957 at Birmingham Central garage.

These routes have been since joined by the 997 and X51 (Birmingham City Centre-Walsall) which gained their Platinum E400MMCs in August.

National Express West Midlands 4902 on Route 900, Coventry Pool Meadow.
National Express West Midlands 4902 on Route 900, Coventry Pool Meadow (CC Aubrey)

And I'll leave it with one of the old guard at Coventry, a surrounding that it will take getting used to as a new chapter will begin. Don't worry, London & Home Counties stuff will still continue.



Oxford Bus Company ordered Streetdecks, obviously low-height (due to the Oxford Station bridge, obviously) for Route 5.

Oxford Bus Company 651 on Route 5, Blackbird Leys (© Aubrey)

This bus has the new pink branding for Route 5, which is very similar to the Stagecoach counterpart Route 1. It is treated as the same route practically in the Oxford bus partnership, with just the 5 going to the Rail Station and the 1 being run by Stagecoach only to the City Centre.

Rear of Oxford Bus Company 751 on Route 5, Blackbird Leys
Rear of Oxford Bus Company 751 on Route 5, Blackbird Leys (CC Aubrey)

As seen here, this bus has full rear displays with destination as seen by most Oxford Bus Company double deckers.

Oxford Bus Company 652 on Route 5, Blackbird Leys
Rear of Oxford Bus Company 652 on Route 5, Blackbird Leys (CC Aubrey)

However, this one and quite a few of the buses have the same standard number only rear display, which is odd for Oxford.

Oxford Bus Company 652 on Route 5, Blackbird Leys
Oxford Bus Company 652 on Route 5, Blackbird Leys (© Aubrey)

Another oddity for Oxford is the lack of personalised registration plates for these buses, with having registrations from Scotland (Edinburgh?) DVLA office.

Oxford Bus Company 654 on Route 5, Oxford Carfax
Oxford Bus Company 654 on Route 5, Oxford Carfax (CC Aubrey)

There are 11 to in this batch, presumably with all of them in this pink livery for city5. These have wi-fi, have a smooth ride and do feel extra short on the upper deck due to them being low-height, obviously. Along with the short windows, it just emphasises the overall fact that they are low-height.

Oxford Bus Company 653 on Route 5, Oxford Carfax
Oxford Bus Company 653 on Route 5, Oxford Carfax (© Aubrey)

These buses overall aren't too bad, although they aren't exactly going to turn heads for good looks! They have provision for next-stop information displays and they will be used in due course (on the day I covered them, they weren't working).

This obviously isn't the first Streetdecks for Go-Ahead Group, indeed the first ones with the new body front as well as the Streetdeck chassis were the Brighton & Hove ones:

Brighton & Hove 935 (Route 12A) & 937 (Route 12X), Bishopstone
Brighton & Hove 935 (Route 12A) & 937 (Route 12X), Bishopstone (© Aubrey)

And they aren't too bad either.


Berkshire Bus War: Courtney Has Won.

In Bracknell, at least.

From 29th August 2015, First Berkshire withdraw from Bracknell. The B-prefixed routes and, unfortunately Route 191 will be withdrawn. Route 90 has moved to Reading Buses on the 26th July 2015 (yes, it's to be renumbered 4/X4 and be branded Lion), and Route 94 will move to Stagecoach South on the 29th August 2015.

The start of the end was on the 13th July 2015, when the 53, 108, 151, 151A, 153 (150) all move from First Berkshire to Courtney Buses.

Courtney YD63 VBO on Route 53, Bracknell Bus Station
Courtney YD63 VBO on Route 53, Bracknell (© Aubrey)

Route 53 had initially been the preserve of First Berkshire/Beeline but had passed to Thames Travel before they withdrew from Bracknell, giving it back to First before Courtney won the tenders of Bracknell Forest Council. All of them.

Courtney YJ57 XXE on Route 108, Bracknell Bus Station
Courtney YJ57 XXE on Route 108, Bracknell (© Aubrey)

Route 108 used to be with Thames Travel also, passing to First for a tad before going to Courtney with their usual offering of Solos that struggle to get out of Bracknell Bus Station!

Courtney KX11 EER on Route 150, Bracknell Bus Station
Courtney KX11 EER on Route 150, Bracknell (© Aubrey)

Route 153 has been replaced by three new routes, thus also curtailing 53 to Bracknell Bus Station. One of which is the 150 (with the least helpful destination of Bracknell Bus Station on the LEDs) covering Priestfield and Binfield.

Courtney YJ08 PJV on Route 157, Bracknell Bus Station
Courtney YJ08 PJV on Route 157, Bracknell (© Aubrey)

Route 53/153 has been replaced within Whitegrove (the 53 has been rerouted) by Routes 157/158 in a circular fashion. Notice behind the ex-7series branding on the 94, which we won't see when First leave. At least the destinations are a tad better there (and indeed on that 157 as well)!

First Berkshire have lost.
Courtney YJ08 PJO on Route 158 next to First Berkshire 64018 on Route 90 via John Nike, Bracknell (© Aubrey)

That side-by-side is impossible now, as the 90 has moved to Reading Buses since then. Talking of which:

First Berkshire 33180 on Route 90 via Southern Estates, Birch Hill
First Berkshire 33180 on Route 90 via Southern Estates, Birch Hill (© Aubrey)

But note, the 90 via Southern Estates is technically a win for First Berkshire as Courtney's 189 has been massively scaled back to 2 return journeys only going to Wokingham.
The 90 has gone from a load of Tridents and Citaros, with some Enviro 200s here and there to:

Second Day of 90 via John Nike Leisure Centre
Reading Buses 1110 on Route 90 via John Nike, Reading Station (© Aubrey)

This. A load of temporary Scanias, until it gets it own Enviro 400s (some are ex-Claret, the rest are ex-University of Portsmouth) and it will be branded Lion. The 90 will be finally split too, being called the 4 (90 via Southern Estates) and X4 (90 via John Nike). A driver on the 90 told me on the third day of it, but waited until Martjin Gilbert (CEO of Reading Buses) said so on Twitter before saying it out loud. Notice the "on loan to First Beeline" notice. Not all buses on the 90 have this, and some of these buses have strayed onto local Reading routes. But the largest stray was this:

90 + 400
Reading Buses 860 on Route 490, Feltham Station (CC Aubrey)
Yep, a bus apparently "on loan to First Beeline" is on a Tube Strike extra just a few weeks after. Post is WIP.

90 on the 191
First Berkshire 33144 on Route 191, Bracknell (© Aubrey)

And the forgotten one. By everyone. In the midst of this lot, there are no known plans by Courtney to increase their 192, nor for First to provide services when the 191 is withdrawn, completely (the 700/1/2 is limited stop). Which to be honest is a massive gap in terms of bus links being broken. The 191 is actually well used, and even a Solo might prove to be too small for the route! There is a petition, hopefully this soon to be broken link will be fixed.

And you ask what will happen to the 700/701/702? Well, it will stay to Bracknell as it is until the end of the summer season, 702 will run only from Victoria to Slough or Windsor. The 700/701 could feasibly be withdrawn if the curtailment goes ahead. Routes 700/701 will be withdrawn for the winter (at least) and the 702 will be re-routed to replace the 191. The route will run from Slough Garage and will still run to Bracknell. So First will still be in Bracknell come the winter season!