22/11/2017

Go-Abellio

Operator changes on Saturday 11th November saw routes 45 and 188 swap between Abellio London and Go-Ahead.

Route 45 Go-Ahead, London Central -> Abellio London

The up-until-recently PVL and WVL dominated route passed across to Abellio London from Go-Ahead and was given brand new E400-H MMCs which are based at Abellio's Walworth garage.
This was the first time that route 45 had seen a change of operator having run from Camberwell since 1985 (LT times). In the closing days of Go-Ahead operation, the 2002 Presidents were withdrawn and allowed Go-Ahead's new EHs and WHVs for the 176 and 188 to be bedded in. On top of existing MHVs and EHs that were common in the route, this mean that the 45 had gone 100% hybrid. This was also due to new low-emission zones that came into affect along the route. It was a slight surprise to see Go-Ahead's latest fleet of vehicles containing blinds for a route that they were just about to lose!

WVL260 outside St. Pancras on stand, exhibiting the more normal allocation prior to the hybrid conversion.
The route passes to Abellio London's Walworth garage.
© Tommy Cooling
One Week Allocation
MHV54 and an EH stand outside St Pancras Station waiting for their next trips on the 45, on the last day of Go-Ahead operation.
(© Aubrey)

E400-H MMC 2580 shows off the 45s operator change at Elephant & Castle.
© Tommy Cooling

Mimicking the scenes of the 45 under Go-Ahead, Abellio 2599 outside St. Pancras International Station.
© Tommy Cooling


Route 188  Abellio London -> Go-Ahead, London Central
Route 188 was notable for featuring the few remaining Volvo chassised vehicles in the Abellio London fleet. With the loss of the route, these will soon be withdrawn from the London fleet.

Abellio London Volvo B7TL Eclipse Gemini 9058 approaches Aldwych on a Route 188 service.
The route passes close to Go-Ahead's Morden Wharf garage.
© Tommy Cooling
The E40Hs, 2401-2413, are also gone off lease, but some of the Volvos are staying at WL until the 343 goes in February and 172 in March. The route saw a mixture of Geminis and E400s.

Abellio London 2406, SN61DFX at Surrey Quays on route 188 to North Greenwich
Abellio London's 2406 stops at Surrey Quays Leisure Park on the 188.
(© Jacek)

As Walworth did have many double deckers, it was not uncommon to see buses from different batches, or other double decker types appearing on the 188.

Abellio 2442 circles St. George's Circus in January 2017.
© Tommy Cooling
Go-Ahead London now use WHV-class Volvo B5LH/Wright Eclipse Gemini 3 buses (WHV168-196) from a fairly new garage near to the line of route. Morden Wharf (MG) replaced Mandela Way (MW), and is located near to North Greenwich.

WHV173 is one of the new Gemini 3s bought for the take up of the 188 by Go-Ahead, based at Morden Wharf.
© Tommy Cooling
The move of the 188 to London Central returns the route back to Go-Ahead London after 12 years. The last time the 188 was with Go-Ahead, it was with London General from Stockwell back in 2005. It was last with London Central in 2004, when Camberwell had half the allocation of the route.

London Central WHV170 on Route 188N, Waterloo
The second night 188 operated by Go-Ahead London was WHV170, seen at Waterloo.
(© Aubrey)

The Volvo/Wright combination seems to have been passed on somewhat through two contract changes, as Volvo B7TL/Wright Eclipse Geminis were present both at Stockwell, and Walworth. Now with the hybrid B5LH/Wright Eclipse Gemini 3, the 188 will continue to have this combination for at least the next 5 years.

WHV168 on stand at Russell Square.
© Tommy Cooling
We now join Jacek:
As a local to the route, I have mixed feelings about the 188 takeover, but we'll get to that in a bit. The 188's old Geminis weren't known for their quality, to say the least. Some of them were good, but some were in very bad shape. Their time has passed so I'm not too sad about them going. I liked the E40Hs, but a few of these were pretty clapped out by the end of the contract as well.

Abellio London 9019, BX54DJY at North Greenwich on route 188
9019 was one of the more worn out buses, seen here at North Greenwich
(© Jacek)

The new WHVs go well, have comfy enough seats, working air cooling, rather importantly for this time of year working heating, and are pretty boring buses overall. Don't get excited for stray workings - the only other type of double decker MG have is B9TLs for the 129, which aren't blinded for the 188 yet. Indeed, the only possibility for rares other than that is the Camberwell Night Spare.

London Central WHV193 on Route 188, Elephant & Castle
WHV193 passes the Elephant & Castle former gyrotary system on the first day of the 188 back at London Central.
(© Aubrey)

Now, the thorny subject of service. There have been plenty of internet arguments over how well Abellio ran the 188. In my personal experience, I never had to wait for it too long, and I never had issues with getting curtailed at short notice, although others have complained about this. And most importantly, when traffic caused other routes to collapse it could still run a reliable enough service. My only complaint was the 10 minute long driver changes at Elephant & Castle. These are done at Canada Water under GAL. Of course, as with most bus routes the service went downhill in the last month before Go-Ahead took over.

WHV168 at Canada Water, presumably after a driver change.
(© Jacek)
On GAL's first day most routes around central London were a mess due to the Lord Mayor's show, with buses unable to cross Waterloo Bridge. This meant a lot of traffic sought alternate routes and gridlocked the roads leading to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, in turn causing half the buses on the 188 to get stuck in traffic in Bermondsey. Typical of any operator's first day.

London Central WHV178 on Route 188, Waterloo
The first day saw this bus curtailed at Waterloo, which was very crowded due to the closure of the bridge. WHV178 is seen standing at Tenison Way.
(© Aubrey)

The new timetable includes a small frequency reduction from 8bph to 7.5bph (or every 8 minutes in human-speak) and an increase in running time to comply with 20mph limits, as is the norm for TfL nowadays. Unfortunately, as with any route this happens to, buses are running at a snail's pace now. As an example, I've missed a 188 at Bricklayer's Arms, got on a 47 5 minutes later, and caught it up after a journey less than 15 minutes long at Canada Water. This section is prone to gridlock at the drop of a hat but at the time I rode it, it was 9pm and there was barely any traffic.

One could argue that loose timetables help the service be more reliable. However, in the early days of running a bus service this goes out the window and it inevitably collapses. It's had plenty of curtailments and has bunched really badly, including one night where the eastbound service was all bunched within 15min of Canada Water. Some of the buses have had teething issues as well - looking on LVF I noticed one bus due to leave North Greenwich, which disappeared off of LVF 20 minutes later having not moved, and was replaced by one that was taken off an hour before, curtailed to Canada Water. One of the buses (I won't say which) also pulls away really slowly, revving a lot but not producing much power.

WVH188 on the 188 circling St. George's Circus.
© Tommy Cooling
WVH188 again on the 188, just over an hour after the shot above, in the shadow of the Dome.
© Tommy Cooling
As with most takeovers, this should hopefully settle down in a few months once GAL get used to running it. It's a big win for them, and a difficult route to handle due to all the traffic hotspots it passes through. Go-Ahead have run this route before, from Stockwell until 2005 when Travel London won it. They did fine back then, but traffic conditions have changed drastically in the past 12 years so good luck to them.

Post by Tommy, Jacek and Aubrey
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