01/01/2018

First's last hurrah on the Greenline

Ever so slightly late but here it is!

First Berkshire 37985/BJ11XGY | Route 702 | London Victoria Coach Station -
First Berkshire 37985/BJ11XGY, London Victoria. 02/01/2017.
© Mohammad-Omar Diab El-Arab

A major change on the Greenline network, Reading Buses taking over the 702 from First, is just around the corner, and will see a timetable and fleet change on the route, probably the most major change to the Greenline network since Uno withdrew the 797 in September of last year. What this also means is that a little more than 2 years after the last day of First operating out of Bracknell depot, their last route serving Bracknell is also pulled.

The birthplace of the Greenline brand can be traced back to the 9th July 1930, where the London General Omnibus Company registered the brand to cover its interurban bus and coach services between London and surrounding towns within roughly a 30 mile radius. The network initially began with only 8 routes, yet this quickly expanded to 27 the following year. In 1933, the new London Passenger Transport Board absorbed Greenline as well as services that competed with the network. Most services by that point were linked to form cross-London services, as the laying over of coaches in the city centre inevitably caused congestion.

Greenline services were suspended during the Second World War, and were then resumed in February 1946. More services were introduced, and the 700-series route numbering was introduced, a feature of the Greenline network that still remains today. Ridership increased, and coach-spec Routemasters(RMCs) were introduced to meet the rapidly growing figures.

In 1970, Greenline was transferred to National Bus Company-owned London Country Bus Services. By this point, patronage was declining, mainly due to the increased utility and speed of parallel rail routes and also due to the increasing number of people using cars as a method of commuting, with the last cross-London services ceasing in 1979.
 More buses and coaches were ordered around the same era too, such as Leyland Nationals, Leyland Tigers and Leyland Leopards, posing Greenline as one of the most modern methods of movement between London and towns in the Home Counties. A major turning point was the deregulation of bus services, and in 1986 London Country was divided into 4 areas, ready to be sold off. The sell-off fragmented the Greenline network and only a few routes survived. Arriva purchased the rights to the brand around the mid-1990s, as they had most of the old LCBS successor companies under their control.

The brand was licensed to various operators, one of them being First Berkshire & the Thames Valley for their 700/701/702 services. The service was introduced in 1994/5, with Berkhof Excellence 1000-bodied Scania K113CRBs. It ran as two routes: the 702, which ran as it currently does, and the X7, which ran via Bagshot and Camberley to reach Bracknell. In 2001/2, this changed, with Plaxton Premiere-bodied Volvo B10Ms arriving from Glasgow to replace them, which lasted until about 2005 when First Cymru transferred over Plaxton Profile/Volvo B7Rs to operate the route. New vehicles were being introduced on the Reading RailAir service, which displaced 3 of the Scania K114IB/Irizar Century coaches, which were repainted into Greenline livery to operate the route.

First Beeline SC23008 on Route 702, Kensington High Street
First Berkshire SC23008 on Route 702, Kensington, August 2013
© Aubrey Morandarte

By 2011, the network comprised of 3 routes:
The 700, which ran between Bracknell and London, avoiding Slough, but instead going via Datchet
The 701, which ran between Bracknell and London in the peaks only, serving Great Hollands, Birch Hill, Harman's Water and Bullbrook, albeit avoiding Windsor Town Centre
The 702: which was the basic route between Bracknell and London and provided an hourly frequency

First Beeline 37987 on Route 701, Victoria
First Berkshire 37987 on Route 701, Victoria, April 2014
© Aubrey Morandarte

By that point, 3 new Volvo B9TL/Wright Gemini 2s(37985-7) were bought for the route, displacing some of the coaches. In 2013, 3 more(37997-9) arrived, displacing the remaining coaches off the route. By then, it was fully operated by B9TLs.

London via Datchet
First Berkshire 37985 on Route 700, Bracknell, on the last day of Bracknell operated Greenline.
© Aubrey Morandarte

2015 saw a rather large change to First operations in Berkshire, with the closure of Bracknell depot after the loss of the "bus war" with local independent Courtney Buses. With this came two things: the movement of the Greenline allocation from Bracknell to Slough, and the complete withdrawal of the 700 and 701.

First Berkshire 37275 on Route 700, Legoland
First Berkshire 37275 on Route 700, Legoland, on the last day of Bracknell operated Greenline.
© Aubrey Morandarte

Fast forward to now, with First pulling out of the 702 altogether, having provided a useful and practical service, and many misallocations that were loved by enthusiasts(see TN on the last Bracknell-run 702!). The current B9s will have a short spell on rail replacements around Southampton, yet their future is uncertain.

The Last Bracknell-Based Green Line
The last 702 run from Bracknell Garage, operated by 33179, seen at Hammersmith.
© Aubrey Morandarte

I've decided to document the last day of First operation on the 702 with a bash/photo session, running into both Lewis and Tommy on multiple occasions, the first instance of which was on my first 702 of the day, 37987, which took me from Hammersmith to Bracknell, and then back to Kensington.

Last day of First on the 702 - First Berkshire 37987/BJ11ECX | Route 702 | Bracknell Bus Station
First Berkshire 37987/BJ11ECX, Bracknell Bus Station
© Mohammad-Omar Diab El-Arab

Tommy and Lewis went away at this point, and got a few interesting shots at the WhiteBus yard...

Never to be repeated
First Berkshire 37276/LK58EDL and WhiteBus YX67VGK, Winkfield
© Tommy Cooling

After a quick run into Boots, a friend and I come out only to miss a 702, which was running 5 minutes early, so we diverted via Heathrow and the 7 to Langley. Once we hopped off, we walked to the 702 stop on London Road, only to hop on my favourite Greenline B9TL to Kensington!

Last day of First on the 702 - First Berkshire 37276/LK58EDL | Route 702 | Kensington High Street
First Berkshire 37276/LK58EDL, Kensington High Street
© Mohammad-Omar Diab El-Arab

My penultimate move was 37999, the highest-numbered Greenline B9TL, which took me to the village of Winkfield, just beyond Legoland.

Last day of First on the 702 - First Berkshire 37999/BF63HDY | Route 702 | Winkfield, The Squirrels PH
First Berkshire 37999/BF63HDY, Winkfield, The Squirrels PH
© Mohammad-Omar Diab El-Arab

My last move was on 37998 working the last timetabled run from Bracknell, the 18:50, which only continued beyond Slough if Legoland was open after 7. Now, Lewis checked that Legoland was open at that time, which it was, so we were pretty sure that it would continue to London. However, nobody got on at Legoland, so the bus officially terminated at Slough. The driver was kind enough to offer myself, Lewis and Tommy a lift to Hammmersmith, where we would continue our journeys home. What a way to end the last day of First operation!

Last under First
First Berkshire 37998/BF63HDX, Bracknell Bus Station
© Tommy Cooling

Happy New Year from the WLTM Transport Blog.

Text by Omar
Photos by Omar, Aubrey and Tommy

All rights reserved © WLTMTB 2018

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