A 258 change for the better??

Brief history of Route 258
The 258 began life in 1971 as a replacement for the 182 which was withdrawn between Harrow Weald and Watford Junction. The route ran from Harrow-on-the-Hill station to Watford Junction on a PVR of 5MBs from Harrow Weald garage.

In 1978 the route was extended southwards from Harrow to South Harrow, and then rerouted to run via Harrow-on-the-Hill from 1981 replacing the withdrawn route 136.

In 1991 the 258 route contract was awarded to Luton & District and ran from Garston garage. In January 1996 the route was awarded to London Bus Lines from Southall and ran with Plaxton Pointer Darts. A Sunday service was introduced from April 96.

January 1999 the route was won by First CentreWest running from Alperton. Low-floor Trident President (TN) buses were introduced in 2001.

In February 2006, Arriva the Shires won the route and ran it from Garston using eleven new Wrightbus Pulsar Gemini buses.

During the early part of summer 2017 it was announced that RATP London Sovereign had won the new 258 contract and would use E400 ADEs displaced by Metroline's takings of the 120 and 222. By mid-summer it became apparent that Sovereign would be capable of taking over the route much earlier than the original contract date. Following agreements between Sovereign, Arriva and TfL is was agreed that the route would change operators on 30-Sept 2017 instead of February 2018.

First's operation of the route was hampered by long garage runs to/from Alperton and reliability suffered badly. When Arriva took over it was hoped that the reliability would improve and for a time it did. Overtime however the reliability fell, hampered by unpredictable traffic flows in and around Watford. Whenever Watford FC played at home, the entire route seemed to disappear! The long garage journeys to and from Garston have also since played a part in Arriva's poor reliability. The allocation has often gone walkabout too in recent years with as many as five single deck buses on the route at one time! At the very end the fleet of DWs at Garston have been all but replaced by older VLWs displaced by LTs from Ash Grove, with only DWs 145, 190 & 191 still in the fleet.

As a very regular user of the 258, the service under First was not very good, and had only gone down hill since. London Sovereign can hardly do a worse job, or can they?! The only thing I'm going to miss is the complete randomness of the 258s allocation.

Arriva's 258

[Now withdrawn] DWL94, then 3725, climbs Roxeth Hill in December 2015
© Tommy Cooling

VLA175 is a typical example of daily allocation of the 258 and is seen in Harrow in August 2016
© Tommy Cooling

The official 258 allocation comprised eleven Pulsar Gemini DWs as shown by DW141 in Harrow in August 2016
Of the original batch, only DW145 has survived but it remains to be seen if it'll survive the 258s departure.
© Tommy Cooling

A fine example of the 258 at the end with a broken down PDL119 being overtaken by VLW156 in Harrow during July 2017
VLW156 is one of 15 that have moved from Ash Grove to Garston since January 2016.
© Tommy Cooling

London Sovereign Preparation

ADE40415 beds in at its new home in Edgware with a run out on the 619 in Harrow in early September 2017
E400 ADEs made spare from the 120 and 222 will take up the new allocation of the 258 when it passes over to Sovereign.
© Tommy Cooling

 London Sovereign's 258
ADE40411 pulls out of South Harrow Bus Station on the first morning of RATP operation  30/09/17
© Tommy Cooling

ADE40418 arrives in South Harrow Station on the first morning of RATP operation  30/09/17
© Tommy Cooling
ADE40418 in Harrow Town Centre heads towards South Harrow  03/10/17
© Tommy Cooling

ADE40413 in Harrow Town Centre heads towards Watford Junction  03/10/17
© Tommy Cooling
ADE40434 picks up outside Watford Junction Station ready to form a service to South Harrow
© Tommy Cooling

ADE40409 waits on stand for its correct departure time in Watford
© Tommy Cooling
Post by Tommy Cooling
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Picture Archive Post 63

Metroline TA642 on Route 266, Hammersmith, 19/06/2010
Metroline TA642 on Route 266, Hammersmith, 19/06/2010 (© Aubrey)

Route 266 was introduced as the bus replacement of former trolleybus route 666. Running between Edgware and Hammersmith, the route ran as current 266 to Cricklewood, then as current 32 to Edgware. Introduced as part of Stage 13 of trolleybus replacement on 3rd January 1962, new Routemasters were introduced from Stonebridge Garage (SE) and Cricklewood Garage (W). A Willesden Garage (AC) allocation was added in September 1968, after Route 260A was withdrawn. In June 1970, the route was withdrawn between Edgware and Colindale (peak hours), West Hendon (weekdays) and Cricklewood Garage (weekends). June 1972 saw Hammersmith Riverside (R) gain an allocation to cover for the 255 withdrawal. 255 itself was a former trolleybus route of 655. In January 1976, Brent Cross Shopping Centre opened and Route 266 was diverted to the shopping centre on Monday-Saturday except late evenings. From October 1978, some journeys were extended in Monday-Friday peak hours via Graheme Park to Mill Hill Broadway on Monday-Friday peak hours. April 1979 saw the allocation of crewed Daimler Fleetlines (DM) on Sundays from SE. In 1980, the DMs were replaced by MCW Metrobuses (M), still crewed. 1981 saw the peak hour extensions to Mill Hill be withdrawn, and SE be closed. The SE allocation was replaced by a split Willesden and Cricklewood allocation. 1982-1985 saw the allocation solely be dealt with by W. 1985 saw the conversion of the route to OPO, with Ms initially introduced crewed before November. 

Under sectorisation, the route came under Metroline. 1995 saw the whole shopping hours service extended to Brent Cross. June 1998 saw the service partly, then completely in December 1998 go to Cricklewood Garage. September 2000 saw the route move to Harlesden (HR), and convert to Volvo Olympians ex-16/52. 26th July 2003 saw the route be fully extended (day and later night) to Brent Cross Shopping Centre, as the bus station later became known as an interchange. 17th April 2004 saw the N266 become renumbered into 266, based at W. The day route moved to W on 21st May 2005, as the route was converted to low-floor with Tridents. On 22nd May 2012, the 266 was won by First Centrewest using Volvo B9TL/Wright Eclipse Gemini 2s, from their new garage at Atlas Road (AS), a base to replace the temporarily closed part of Westbourne Park (X) due to Crossrail work. 22nd June 2013 saw the contract novate to Tower Transit, as they bought out that part of First Centrewest. As AS closed on 1st July 2017, the route moved to X for 28 days, as then the route returned to Metroline on 29th July 2017 (for 2.5 years).

Alexander-Dennis Trident/ALX400 TA642 started out in 2005 as a bus for Cricklewood, as part of the low-floor conversion of Route 266. Initially based at Cricklewood, it moved to Brentford (AH) to replace Tridents which were on lease for the 237. Once those buses were replaced by TPs (Trident/Presidents), the bus moved back to Cricklewood. Ironically, on the first day of 266 back with Metroline, TA642 was back on the route!

Return of the Trident
It was like nothing had changed, as on 29th July 2017, TA642 is seen back on its old haunts.
(© Aubrey)


Temporary New Trains

First Class 707 Service
South West Trains 707005+707003 arrives at Brentford to take its first passengers, ever.
(© Aubrey)

After many months of problematic testing (brake and software issues, mainly), delayed dates and standing at Clapham Yard for what seemed like a permanent fixture, the Class 707 finally entered service just a few days before the end of South West Trains altogether. On the 17th August 2017, 707005 and 707003 formed a consist which ran some test runs, but now in service...albeit for one day. Just as a token service in order for SWT to say they entered the Class 707 into service.

The service diagrams that the consist ran were as follows (actual times used):
2Z31 0928 Brentford-Reading
2Z32 1051 Reading-Staines
2Z33 1200 Staines-Reading
2Z34 1252 Reading-Staines
2Z35 1427 Staines-Reading
2Z37 1523 Reading-Staines
1Z38 1631 Staines-Weybridge

Reading Suburban Stock
This service ran from Brentford to Reading, non-stop between Hounslow and Ascot.
(© Aubrey)

The Class 707s are designed to replace the Class 458/5s in suburban moves between Waterloo and Windsor/Hounslow Loop. As they are suburban trains, Stagecoach South West Trains ordered these trains with no toilets. As they were also a small order to replace just the Class 458/5s on certain routes, they would've only managed to alleviate some capacity issues in the short term.

Interior of South West Trains 707005, Brentford
The interior of 707005, showing the walk-through carriages
(© Aubrey)

The trains have a more airy feel as the carriages are walk-through. These are basically Class 700s, in red, with plug sockets and no toilets. However, toilets can be retrofitted on the trains.

Class 707 Information Screen
Interior passenger information screens display the level of loading in each carriage. This is a different visual design to the Class 700s, and only shows the loadings of the specific unit the screen is in.
(© Aubrey)

The restriction of the screen showing only the specific unit means that passengers are unsure whether the other half of the train is loaded worse or better than the part they are in. This may mean people moving to the other units only to find out they can't get back if they are not shown or told that the other half of the train still has some space. However, it could be deemed unnecessary to show how the other unit is doing for loadings, as it is not directly connected by a corridor.

Class 707 Information Screen
The Class 707s also have Transport for London network service updates...which at the time only partly worked at the time as some lines had delays throughout the day! It also orders everything alphabetically, whilst on the 700s, they are ordered firstly by tube lines, then other services
(© Aubrey)

Class 707 Information Screen
They also have a network update for the wider South West Trains network. Unfortunately on the first day of service, none of the information was working at all. Under subsequent introduction by South Western Railway, the trains have had the screens black for network service updates.
(© Aubrey)

Class 707 Information Screen
As some stations on the network have short platforms for 8 cars, instead of 10 cars, notably different orange displays are shown at stations where the train doors do not open. Announcements also are linked to this. However, on the first day of SWR service, the announcements were being played throughout the train for short platforms, where the doors for the specific coach will not open, even though they will at a certain station.
(© Aubrey)

@ Winnersh on Class 707 displays under South West Trains
For one, sole August day, the trains were operating for South West Trains, this was displayed, at most stations.
(© Aubrey)

@ Feltham on Class 707 displays under South Western Railway
For all subsequent days, from first service under SWR, the 5th September, the Class 707s had different logos and different colour scheme for the displays.
(© Aubrey)

Class 707 Information Display under SWR
The displays also show the time, and as with the old announcements, show where to change for certain destinations. However, the announcements are not as "polite", telling people to "get off for" instead of "alight" or "change" at stations. Also shown is the new colour scheme used by South Western Railway.
(© Aubrey)

The announcements are a text-to-speech programme by Acapela Group, instead of announcements by a voice actor/actress. This has created a more flexible range of announcements possible.

South West Trains 707003, Reading
South West Trains 707003 at Reading, with 458535 already on a Reading service.
(© Aubrey)

The Class 707s are being introduced in order to replace Class 458/5s on London Waterloo to Hounslow Loop, Weybridge via Hounslow and Windsor & Eton Riverside services. These Class 458/5s (except 458531-458536) will replace Class 450s on Reading services, thus allowing the service to run an (eventually) 4 trains per hour service to Reading with these units.

South West Trains 707005, Staines
Most of the first day services involved a reverse at Staines, and a stable in the sidings there. Coming out of the sidings for another service is 707005 leading 707003, seen at Staines.
(© Aubrey)

After 165 miles and 43 chains of riding these trains that were the future of South West Trains, I (Aubrey) can say that these trains just feel like red 700s. The train was very clean (of course), with a "new" smell. The interior was airy and very bright with lights. This would, of course, may be an issue at night if the lights were too bright and heavily contrasts with the night (as seen on 700s already). Comfort may be an issue when compared to Class 458/5s, however, the Class 707 shows that the nature of modern suburban units is more about capacity and less about comfort. Thus, "ironing board" seats are specified, as they are lighter than some other types of seats.

South West Trains 707005+707003, Weybridge
At the end of the first successful day of passenger service, 707003 is at the rear of the ECS move back to Wimbledon Traincare Depot.
(© Aubrey)

The ONLY day of service with South West Trains with these trains was a success, with only minor delays caused by traffic. The train service ran smoothly over the first day of service, and thus was fault free. Staff were pessimistic over when Class 701s are to replace the Class 707s. It is seemingly odd that SWR are to actually replace these Class 707s only in 2019. It however makes economic sense, as a common fleet of Class 701s for suburban services creates easier maintenance and has lower lease costs.
Notably, South West Trains were actually going to do that nearly 15 years ago with yet another problematic set of trains as well....the Class 458.

South Western Railway 707006, Clapham Junction
On 5th September 2017, the sets of 707006 and 707004 entered service with South Western Railway. And promptly broke down within the evening peak, after this journey ran to London Waterloo!
(© Aubrey)

These units may still be problematic, but it was never as bad as the Class 458s. These rolling stock may be good short-term relief for services on the Windsor lines. These units will also run in peak hours on the other suburban services. For the future of these units once they are replaced by Class 701s, this is uncertain. However, as 707001 and 707002 are fitted with dual-voltage capabilities and have pantographs, these trains can have a future whether it be in the Southern Region or not.