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.