Wednesday, 16 May 2018

New Logos, New Buses

With a recent surge in new buses entering service within the main RATP fleet, consisting of subsidiaries London United and London Sovereign (Quality Line also got some MMCs for the 470 but I sacrificed covering that for the tube strike), some traditional vehicles which have been the face of the company for many years are disappearing rapidly, whilst some brand new types have been introduced, potentially triggering a change in which manufacturer the company opt for with new contracts. First of all, the main focus will be on one particular older bus type, where daily appearances are reducing to single digits, spread over four or possibly three garages by the time you read this.

London United TLA3 is seen in Kingston on route 71 - this vehicle is now withdrawn.
 The type in question is the Trident ALX400 and all of the longer versions have already been withdrawn, with the biggest blow being the introduction of Wrightbus Gemini 3 B5LH vehicles onto route 94. Since then, a few remained and one managed to work route 220 until the end of April, although sadly that too has been removed from London service. This type, along with Volvo ALX400s and Presidents, dominated the double deck fleet across RATP garages during the 2000s and even though the first type ebbed away a few years ago and the second only exists in hybrid form as a result of modifications, the latter still had a considerable number left not so long ago. This type was one I grew up with throughout childhood and whilst it wasn't initially one of my favourites, as they have started to disappear I've now realised how much they will be missed when they leave ; the quieter hybrid buses which now dominate most of the London United routes won't ever make up for the famous growl of the powerful Trident engine, which was really tested on fast-paced routes like the 65 which I have used regularly throughout life. I could spend ages talking about my memories with the older buses, but there is other important information about them I would like to convey and also where you can find them if you've left chasing the vehicles late, like I normally do.

London United RATP TA40229 is seen on one of its last ever trips on route 65.
Out of all the Trident routes, the 65 was certainly the one I used them most on, for fairly long distances too as the route is the only example travelling a substantial distance South of Ealing. Initially I was looking forward to the prospect of new vehicles, in the form of Scania OmniCity buses, but when they were first introduced I found them to be woefully disappointing in comparison to the Tridents and whilst I've grown to love the SPs now, in a drag race most of them will easily be outpaced by an ALX400. Withdrawals at Fulwell (FW) garage, where the 65 is based, have been noticeably rapid in the past couple of years and it's uncertain whether the two survivors, which remained for considerably longer than the rest, will return given that both of them haven't seen service since Monday and that was on a school duty. Incidentally, TA213 (the new numbering system is too complex and I still don't use it) held the title of the oldest London bus in service for a substantial amount of time, although whether a Go-Ahead Dart Pointer will take on the responsibility is unclear. The other vehicle, TA229, took a greater liking to the 65 than the slightly older ALX400, although in the past couple of months they've mostly worked route 281 and if these buses do resurrect this is probably where you will find them for their final few days in service.

TA230 is seen in Hounslow West sporting the iconic capitalised qualifier.

There are no Tridents at any London Sovereign garages and a limited number of London United ones retain them. No examples can be found at Hounslow Heath (HH) garage anymore, nor at Shepherd's Bush (S) with the final batches for routes H91 and 94 disappearing last year. Stamford Brook (V) haven't had any for as long as I can remember, whilst Twickenham (NC) closed many years ago. With the uncertainty surrounding the remaining two at Fulwell (FW) garage, that leaves three garages with a couple of Tridents still clinging on, although a drastic frequency reduction on route 94 should theoretically release a number of Wrightbus Gemini 3 B5LH vehicles to replace them soon and your chances of catching one on a weekend are very slim now. Even though the 71 is probably the most difficult route to get to, the three Tridents at Tolworth (TV) garage remain dedicated to the route and make daily appearances so it is probably one of the safer examples to try. There are actually seven Tridents still in use at Hounslow (AV) garage, but on a typical weekday you won't see more than three or four, usually on school services or the H32 route between Hounslow and Southall, which is actually the route I took my last Trident ride on, in the form of TA230, one of the more dedicated examples at the garage. When the bus turned up I was delighted to find the traditional, partially capitalised blinds and the older, much rarer moquette which emphasised the lack of any recent refurbishment. Nevertheless, the bus seemed perfectly healthy and provided a delightful final journey, with even some kickdown along the bridge across the M4 in Heston and a generally fast-paced journey, so if you're after specific powerful buses TA230 is quite a good bet. The final garage sporting Tridents is Park Royal (RP), with a couple there acting as refurbishment covers whilst the 220s E400s are at the workshop. Their appearance on such a prolific route is quite surprising at these later stages but also makes catching one very easy given that it goes through zone 2, although they are also the most inconsistent batch around, with some days having zero Tridents present whilst on others there will be three or four. My advice would be to consult the London Vehicle Finder and track down specific buses to avoid waiting around, but please let me know if you have any difficulty using this website. However, if you love Tridents and want to make sure you take a farewell ride on one of the most iconic buses in London before another operator loses all of them, make sure a trip to West London is a top priority, as I bet in a fortnight the last one will have been stood down, marking the end of a quite glorious era.

London United VH45257 is seen at Hounslow West on route H91 to Hammersmith.
Most of the Trident replacements have appeared in the form of Wrightbus Gemini 3 B5LH vehicles, which have been extremely popular recently with Metroline and RATP ordering them for almost every contract requiring new buses, although interestingly both operators seem to have switched to MCV and ADL respectively, raising concerns as to what has diminished the attractiveness of the Wrightbus product. Nevertheless, this type is responsible for withdrawing the last batch of RATP Tridents in Central London (although curiously a short version temporarily allocated itself to the 94 for a period of time in March) and the last few at Hounslow Heath (HH) garage, with a small batch of three buses recently entering service for a contract retention of route 635. Since then, all of them have transferred to either Edgware (BT) or Park Royal (RP) garage, meaning that the presence of the "frog-face" Gemini 3 on Hounslow Heath routes was very brief and now the garage once again only has old-style examples. The buses didn't like spending much time on the 635 and preferred the more mainstream 285 and H91 services, introducing a brand new type to both of them. Even though this batch is certainly not substantial, these 67-reg Gemini 3s are incredibly fast and far superior to the older examples at Hounslow Heath - my only journey aboard one on the H91 consisted of the vehicle being floored to bits down the Great West Road and its a shame these vehicles can't showcase their potential much now that they mostly appear on traffic-filled Central London routes like the 18 and 139. Nevertheless, I'm glad I did manage to have one ride on what is possibly the best batch of Gemini 3s RATP have and could be their last if ADL impress the company with the bigger batch arriving for routes H12/14 in September.

ADH45261 is seen at Brent Cross on route 142
The shift to ADL started rather tentatively, with a batch of four new E40H MMCs expected for the route 258 contract, marking the first batch of this very popular type for RATP. The 258 contract was moved to September instead of February, but the new buses were ordered for the latter starting date, so the first few months of the new 258 contract consisted of existing vehicles only. However, towards the end of February the first of the brand new ADH-class vehicles entered service at Edgware (BT) garage, initially on school services, returning this classification code to the company after five years, with the previous examples of ADL double deckers being on the 27. They certainly look the part in regards to the exterior, with the lower part of the front bodywork being reminiscent of the MMCs in Birmingham, whilst the new sleek "S-stock" RATP moquette looks stylish with the layout of the ADL product upstairs. In general, these buses have had good reviews from enthusiasts and whilst my ride on the 142 wasn't speedy, the buses are comfortable and in my opinion are a great addition to the London Sovereign fleet - I'm looking forward to further examples entering service. At the moment, the buses can turn up on a variety of Edgware (BT) routes, although the 142 and 258 are good candidates. It seems that these buses have added to the wide range of types found at this garage, although with a very limited number of Scania OmniDekkas buses left and the only Volvo Presidents being hybrid now after a Vantage conversion, it won't be long before another post will be published documenting the demise of more classic types under RATP.

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Stagecoach In The South East

A number of routes in the South-East London area have changed operator recently, or have had some different vehicles introduced to coincide with contract renewals or changes. In general, Stagecoach were the most successful operator, gaining an number of routes from Go-Ahead London, who haven't had it easy recently in this particular part of London. Chronologically, the B14 upgrade happened weeks before the rest, among the various other changes on Saturday 3rd February 2018.

Go-Ahead London 149 is seen at Bexleyheath on route B14 to Orpington Station.
Whilst the B14 isn't necessarily the most prolific route in South-East London, it does start and finish at two of the more significant town centres, Bexleyheath and Orpington. Despite the route being the only bus linking the two conurbations, it takes a ridiculously indirect route between them, serving St Mary Cray, Grovelands, Sidcup and Albany Park in the process, which soaks up five buses despite the pitiful 30 minute frequency, which reduces to hourly during the evenings. On Sunday it only runs between 0940 and 1745, making the B14 a rather irrelevant change and it was certainly at the bottom of my priority list. Go-Ahead London formerly ran the route from Bexleyheath (BX) garage, with a dedicated batch of 8.9m E200s and a solitary Scania Esteem which occasionally ran the service. Reliability wasn't too much of an issue, although the frequency means the B14 isn't particularly difficult to operate despite its length.

Stagecoach London 37504 is seen at Queen Mary's Hospital, heading towards Bexleyheath
Predictably, Stagecoach ordered a small batch of ADL Enviro 200 MMCs for the B14 and these buses are based at Bromley (TB) garage, forming a common user pool with vehicles of the same type allocated to the 146 and 336. Even though the allocation was fairly strict to begin with, the two batches now intermix on a daily basis and there isn't much difference between them, having sampled both. Despite a few initial hiccups and curtailments, reliability has been decent despite drivers commenting on the tight schedule used on the service and overall it seems that the B14 is in safe hands for the next few years, with some slightly less worn out buses for the local residents to enjoy.

Go-Ahead London 613 is seen at Lewisham Station, representing the former alloaction of route 181.
Saturday 17th March 2018 marked the loss of three routes from Orpington (MB) garage, with Stagecoach picking up the 161, 181 and 284 from Go-Ahead. The last two are single deck services, both starting at Lewisham and terminating in the vicinity of Grove Park, so it's quite fitting that they stayed together for the new contract. The 181 is more indirect than the 284, running through Hither Green, Catford, Lower Sydenham and Downham before terminating at Grove Park Station, whilst the 284 takes a different route via Ladywell, Catford and Verdant Lane to reach the aforementioned station, before continuing to serve housing near Grove Park Cemetery. Funnily enough, the two routes both run along Sandhurst Road in the middle of their journey, although Lewisham-bound 284s actually share stops with the Grove Park 181s, with the same applying for the other direction. Orpington (MB) garage weren't praised for their reliability when controlling these two single deck services, with both of them running through congested areas and at rush hour the service quality almost always deteriorated on both of these routes - enthusiasts were hopeful that Stagecoach could tackle this more effectively. In regards to the previous allocation, the 181 was much more interesting, having the last batch of Scania OmniTown vehicles in London and whilst a few worked the R9 after the contract change, unfortunately the type is now extinct in the capital. The 284 had much less interesting 13-plate ADL E200s, which you will see redeployed elsewhere later in the post.

Stagecoach London 36676 is seen at Grove Park Cemetery on route 284.
Due to space constraints, in order to house the new buses for routes 181/284, Stagecoach opened a brand new garage in the Lower Sydenham area, with the garage code KB, standing for Kangley Bridge Road. Another single deck service, the 356, is also based here and a couple of mini E200s that are allocated to the route have appeared on the 181/284 since the contract changeover. Some brand new ADL Enviro 200 MMCs were ordered for the two routes, with slightly longer versions for the 181, although both batches are dual door (YY67 are the 284's, SN67 are the 181's). The buses themselves are decent, containing the expected stop-start technology, but also a new mechanism which helps drivers prevent undertaking sharp gear changes upon pullaway, which the driver of 36676 praised when I rode the 284 back in April. However, if you still haven't sampled these routes with the new operator and have the intention of riding one from end-to-end, I would strongly suggest trying the 181 over the 284, as the latter route becomes extremely tedious despite its shorter length, with it being one of the most residential-heavy routes I've ever sampled.

Stagecoach London 36693 is seen at Lewisham on route 181.
Stagecoach certainly didn't have an easy start with the 181 and 284 - in addition to the usual congestion surrounding Catford Town Centre, two sets of roadworks along Sandhurst Road and near Grove Park Cemetery (only affecting the 284) caused some lengthy diversions and horrendous traffic during rush hour, with both routes crumbling in the evening peak. Sometimes I witnessed gaps of over 60 minutes and curtailments being issued for almost every other vehicle ; the service was actually worse than the inadequate provision by Metrobus. However, since the completion of the works, reliability has improved significantly and despite a few natural issues during the peak, both the 181 and 284 have shown some promising improvement and a generally reliable service recently. Hopefully, the dreadful start can be set aside and I wish Stagecoach the best of luck with trying to operate these two challenging single deck routes.

Metrobus 741 is seen at Crossharbour Asda on route D6.
 Whilst the 181 change saw the withdrawal of its former allocation, the ex-284 buses were only five years old and were deemed acceptable to continue service in London. Despite initial expectations that these buses would work the 225, quite a few turned up at Silvertown (SI) garage and work routes 276 and D6 which operate North of the River Thames. This means that there are now even more buses carrying Metrobus logos in the Docklands area (the D8 Scania OmniCity vehicles are another example), despite this subsidiary of Go-Ahead being based several miles away around Croydon and Orpington. Enthusiasts are still unsure whether this transfer is permanent, or whether they will end up on the 225 after all, although it does at least bring some variety to the Docklands services in the form of a different moquette.

Go-Ahead London SE109 is seen at Hither Green on route 225, which does not actually serve East Greenwich.
In addition to the routes passing to Stagecoach, route 225 was retained by Go-Ahead on Saturday 17th March 2018, with some more modern existing vehicles destined to replace the Dart Pointer buses (illustrated below) which previously worked the service. These are in the form of ADL E200s, which have been displaced from Silvertown (SI) garage since the arrival of the ex-Metrobus kit there. The justification for not simply sending the former 284 buses straight to the 225 is anyone's guess. In addition to the introduction of the 61-plate vehicles, the 225 also transferred from New Cross (NX) garage to Morden Wharf (MG), meaning that the buses can intermix with those allocated to the 286 once again.

Eight 61-reg SE-class E200s have transferred South of the Thames, which is slightly more than necessary to cover the reduced PVR of the 225 - due to its increasingly concerning reliability TFL decided to cut the frequency to every 20 minutes, which I find quite absurd given the number of densely populated areas it serves alone (particularly around Surrey Quays and New Cross) and its subsequent overcrowding prior to the reduction. As a result, almost every bus I saw when I sampled the service was rammed and the speedy nature of the E200s is necessary for drivers to remain on time after tackling congestion. However, whilst the 225 might seem as if its declining rapidly, the future is somewhat hopeful as there has been a recent announcement that the route will be extended to Bellingham Station, which is quite surprising given TFL's current financial status. Instead of running from Canada Water-Hither Green, the route will continue towards Sandhurst Road to serve the area of Whitefoot, which has a number of streets that have no easy access to a bus stop, including the somewhat major Bellingham Road which the 225 will serve in the future. Contrary to the ambiguous notice on twitter stating that the route would terminate at "Catford Bus Station", which doesn't exist and makes it seem like the 225 would terminate at the Stagecoach garage, the route will actually stand next to Bellingham Station, served by Thameslink, which doesn't currently have a bus service outside, so this is another bonus. Personally, I think the extension will be very popular and perhaps TFL will have no choice but to remove the frankly inadequate 3 buses per hour which struggle to cope with the loads on the ever-growing route 225.

Metrobus 976 is seen at North Greenwich on route 161.
The final change that occurred on Saturday 17th March 2018 which we're covering was the loss of route 161 to Stagecoach. Under Go-Ahead operation, the 161 ran with a mixture of vehicles, ranging from the older Wrightbus Gemini B7TLs, to the Scania OmniCity and Olympus buses as well as more modern ADL Enviro 400s. This route was easily the most significant example at Orpington (MB) garage and as a result only two double deck routes remain there, which are the 320 and 353. The 161 runs from North Greenwich to Chislehurst War Memorial and is fairly busy throughout, travelling via Charlton, Woolwich, Eltham and Mottingham with a 10 minute frequency during the day. Although the route is quite challenging to operate at times, Go-Ahead were quite good at maintaining a decent service despite the occasional hiccup and appearance of single deckers on the route, which has thankfully stopped since the new contract. The sheer variety found under the old contract will certainly be missed, although the more convenient location of Plumstead (PD) garage will certainly be advantageous for Stagecoach.

Stagecoach London 12439 is seen at Chislehurst on route 161.
As you might have guessed, Stagecoach ordered some brand new MMCs for the 161, which fits in quite nicely with the existing examples at Plumstead (PD) garage. Some regular E400s and a solitary Gemini 3 B5LH have appeared on the 161 since the contract changeover, although typically when I went out to sample the route only its allocation could be found. Nevertheless, the batch of E40H MMCs are lovely and tackle the steep hills found at the start of the route with ease - a stark contrast from the clapped out Scania vehicles which really struggled at times. For the first few weeks, Stagecoach struggled to operate the 161 reliably, with many curtailments and some concerning gaps, although as the operator is already familiar with where the route travels through it seems like this period of instability is temporary and hopefully with the strong fleet of double deck vehicles the next five or seven years will be successful for Stagecoach, who have gained lots of work recently in this part of South-East London.

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

District Line Strike - 13/04/18

On Friday 13th April 2018, the District Line was faced with severe delays and a reduced train service as staff members based at Acton Town depot were on strike throughout the day. Although trains were running, the timetable was in disarray (I saw an Ealing Broadway train at Edgware Road of all places) and eventually the section between Barking and Upminster was almost abandoned completely. However, as usual with significant industrial action on the transport network, extra buses were provided to bolster some routes which commuters would naturally take as an alternative route to the District Line. Although some additional vehicles ran on routes 93, 156 and 391 in West London, only the former route saw any exotic types, with this being in the form of Volvo/B7TL Presidents and commercial Go-Ahead E400s. Most of the excitement was in East London and this is where most enthusiasts, myself included, decided to spend their time. The additional buses ran between 0530 and 0900 in the morning peak, as well as from 1600-1900 during the evening rush and I decided to head out for the second shift, which was very popular with the enthusiast community - I must've seen well over 50 during my three hours of travelling.

An Ensignbus BCI is seen on route 145X to Ilford.

Routes 62, 145, 248 and 252 had the most amount of additional buses in East London, although some rogue extras include a couple of Scania Olympus vehicles on the 5 and a "Vantage Hybrid" B7TL ALX400 on the 370, which bizarrely ran on a limited stop basis between Upminster and Hornchurch Station, even though the main route doesn't actually serve the latter destination. Although I didn't see any of these oddities on my travels, I managed to observe the four mainstream strike services quite well and chronologically, the 62 is first.

Stagecoach London 18217 is seen in Becontree on one of the less interesting 62X workings.
A substantial chunk of the 62 was given extra buses, with this being the middle section between Barking and Chadwell Heath, serving Upney and Becontree en route. The 62 was chosen because it serves three District Line stations (it is in fact the only bus service to Upney), but it also provides alternative rail links into Central London at both ends (Barking for c2c, Chadwell Heath for TFL Rail). The extra buses on the 62 provided the most even service out of all the routes, with vehicles generally turning up every 12-15 minutes, quite often behind the normal 62s! Out of all the supplementary services, the 62 was definitely the most popular with enthusiasts, presumably because of the large presence of Routemasters on the route, understandably bringing about lots of nostalgia given that these buses formed the main allocation of the service in the late 1970s. In addition to the two or three red "RMs", an RT complete with greenline livery was also out and about during the morning, but unfortunately it mysteriously vanished and was nowhere to be seen in the evening, therefore I have no photograph. Indeed, the 62 is famous for being the last route in London operated with RTs, so I must congratulate anyone who managed to catch it in the morning. A Wrightbus B7TL Gemini was also found on the service, previously found with Go-Ahead London, although I managed to avoid this one too. In addition to the older kit, some almost new Ensignbus BCI Excellence (dual axle) and Enterprise (tri axle) vehicles worked the route in both peaks, also bringing back some memories as the company did run the 62 service for a while, albeit with a very different vehicle allocation! Stagecoach London, the current operator of the 62, also used some spares in the normal allocation to boost the service, like the Trident ALX400 above on a short working to Chadwell Heath, with an unusual running number "901" confirming that it was an extra.

Ensignbus RML2258 is seen at Fair Cross on route 62 to Chadwell Heath
After a brief spotting session at Fair Cross, I was over the moon when I saw a Routemaster in the distance, heading in my preferred direction too. Before the bus had even started moving, I was already loving the enthusiasm of the driver and conductor, who were obviously having the time of their lives on the extras yesterday. The condition of the vehicle was immaculate and it was surprisingly empty too, perhaps because the evening peak hadn't properly kicked in yet, with the whole upper deck being devoid of passengers for most of the journey. Even though my trip only lasted around 15 minutes, it was easily my favourite element of the day, mainly because of the familiar growl of the Routemaster being put to the test along some of the faster sections of the 62, along with the famous double bell ring and service provided by the crew - at every stop they advertised where the bus was going to waiting passengers and urged them to board, even if some of them were suspicious and waited for a normal 62 instead. Even the people who did get on eventually were baffled when the bus first turned up at the stop, perhaps unsurprisingly so given the stark contrast between the Routemasters and the fairly new E400 MMCs which normally work the service. The 62 route was filled with bus spotters throughout the day and my bus was 'snapped' every couple of minutes or so and when my ride came to an end I was almost tempted to stay on and forget the other extras, although I will always treasure this wonderful ride on a Routemaster, which was easily the most enjoyable ride of the year so far, even on a dull route like the 62!

Ensignbus 145 is seen in Becontree on route 62 to Barking.
My snapping session in the middle of a residential road in Becontree was pretty unsuccessful, given that the only bus which showed up in 20 minutes was one I'd already ridden earlier! Nevertheless, my high spirits returned when I saw an Ensignbus BCI Excellence coming around the corner, a type which no operator in London has opted for so far (although a tri-axle example will visit the X68 soon) and until the strike I hadn't sampled this type at all. There seemed to be a lot of these vehicles out and about today, perhaps because the strike coincided with the school holidays and they very much feel like a coach, especially with the high quality interior and extended length on the tri-axle vehicles. Nevertheless, one thing I instantly noticed was the surprisingly quiet pullaway for a diesel bus - the engine isn't very loud at all, although thankfully it is not completely silent especially when travelling at high speeds, which my driver wasn't afraid of achieving. On Valence Avenue, the acceleration provided by the BCI was truly superb and within seconds the bus was travelling incredibly fast for a residential area, but the vehicle was expertly driven and the ride was incredibly smooth. I felt very satisfied upon arrival at Chadwell Heath, having sampled two absolutely brilliant types on the 62 within the space of an hour, with both the Routemaster and BCI having wonderful features of their own to admire, despite the difference of almost 50 years in age!

Stagecoach London 18498 is seen at Ilford working the first Eastbound extra journey of the day.
Route 145 was just as appealing as the 62 to many enthusiasts, mainly because of the scheduled appearance of Metrobuses and DM-class Leyland Fleetlines, along with some BCIs and other types. The 145 itself is a really long route, so even though the extra buses took up to 40 minutes to complete one trip, they were doing less than half of the complete routeing. In essence, the additional vehicles ran between Ilford (for TFL Rail) and Dagenham East (District Line), serving Fair Cross, Martins Corner, Becontree and Dagenham Heathway on route (the last two are also District Line stations), although there was some confusion in regards to the terminating points at both ends, so in reality vehicles ended in the middle of the Heathway and East stations (shown by the Dagenham Village blinds on the Trident ALX400 above), whilst in Ilford buses only started at Hainault Street and stood in a large variety of places, none of which were particularly helpful for giving passengers a link to the railway station! In terms of service consistency, the 145 was by far the worst route out there, with there sometimes being no buses for over 30 minutes, although at the start of the evening peak four turned up to terminate at Ilford within a minute, three of them being Ensignbus BCIs and none of them having more than two or three people on board! The 145 was the first route I covered and although the extras allegedly started at 1530, the first bus didn't turn up for another 25 minutes and by this point I was considering giving up and getting on a normal 145 to Becontree in an attempt to try another service. However, a Trident ALX400 eventually rocked up and even though this is part of the 145 allocation, it had blinds for Dagenham Village, an unusual running number (902) and it was devoid of passengers at Hainault Street, which pretty much never happens on a busy route like this. Although this was rather boring in the sense that it was the normal allocation, I'm honestly glad it turned up as if it wasn't for this I would've left Ilford altogether and missed out on catching one of the truly brilliant vehicles out there.

Ensignbus M1 is seen at Fair Cross on route 145 to Dagenham East.
Before I continue, I must give credit to "londonbuses72" of the London Connected blog, as if it wasn't for their observations I would have missed this bus as it was heading the other way whilst I was on the aforementioned Trident extra. This bus formed the first extra vehicle in service heading to Ilford and even though I only managed to catch this one for two stops, I still loved my time on board. The vehicle was in pristine condition and it seems like a very powerful bus, with the growling engine being so satisfying to listen to even in the congested outskirts of Ilford Town Centre. Thankfully, this bus makes regular appearances at bus garage "open days" or "vintage bus tours" so hopefully I'll be able to sample this one properly again as it does seem like a wonderful vehicle. The other interesting vehicle out and about, DM2646, unfortunately broke down before entering service in the evening peak and as I wasn't aware that it was standing at Pioneer Point, I wasn't able to photograph this one! However, hopefully it is repaired soon and I can see the bus again soon as it looks like a brilliant motor. Even though I was deprived of riding it on Friday, I was delighted with the replacement vehicle, despite it lacking such a great reputation within the enthusiast community.

Ensignbus 116 is seen at Fair Cross on route 145 to Dagenham East.
Even though many enthusiasts despise these buses and they are certainly not vintage (despite their fairly sparse presence in and around London), the Olympus is still my favourite model still in regular service and I don't think any modern double decker will be able to beat it. The massive front windows are just perfect for appreciating the surroundings a route has to offer and the interior feels so spacious and inviting - they also look so sleek for a 10 year old vehicle. Indeed, they are notoriously unreliable and once a bus breaks down it's unlikely you'll see it again for another year, but every single Olympus has character and that's something no brand new double decker will be able to provide. Even though the 145 isn't the most exciting of routes and my ride was brief, it was so nice to be able to have an empty bus and appreciate the genius behind the design of the windows in particular (the side ones at the front even slant downwards for optimal views) and the surprisingly powerful engine - they are slow off the mark but eventually I had some nice speed down South Park Drive. Although all of you are probably questioning my praise of this vehicle when there are other beautiful heritage vehicles out there, I really don't get to ride my favourite type often and especially not from the front seats - the route I use them on regularly, the 297, is really busy and often the bus is too full to have a good seat so I was thrilled when this turned up at Ilford and hopefully I'll be able to catch that lovely DM another day. This concludes the 145 extras - it was definitely the most varied and unreliable extra service, although it also provided two thoroughly enjoyable rides.

Ensignbus 114, another Olympus, is seen in Hornchurch on route 248X to Upminster.
We now move on from the Becontree area, to Romford and Hornchurch where the other two extra services predominantly ran. The first one of these is the 248X, which ran between Upminster Station and Romford Station, only missing out the last couple of stops to Romford Market and the final 10 minutes or so to Cranham, where the stand is coincidentally directly opposite a District Line depot. The 248 was given extras because it serves Upminster Bridge and Upminster stations, although the former is one of the least used on the network and I did question giving this route extras in the first place, as people from Upminster already have an alternative route into Central London courtesy of c2c rail, when they're running properly. Nevertheless, I really like the 248 as a route so I was looking forward to having some exotic types on it during the strike day. The service was pretty consistent, although it was very infrequent, with some 30 minute gaps at times and the vehicles themselves were really empty - I didn't see one with more than three or four people on board. Ironically, this service was selected for a predominant allocation of high capacity tri-axle BCIs, although one of these was missing in the evening. As well as the aforementioned Enterprise vehicles, an Ensignbus Olympus along with a blue Metrobus ran the service.

Ensignbus 192 is seen upon arrival into Romford Station.
 I almost missed this vehicle as I was engrossed in conversation across the road, although thankfully the traffic lights worked in my favour and I still managed to bag the front seats despite boarding last. Ensignbus have also kept this vehicle in an impeccable condition, with a stylish blue moquette which is mimetic of the exterior livery. This bus was just as enjoyable as M1 on the 145, having a similar growl and surprisingly powerful engine, which was opened up along the faster section of the 248 between Roneo Corner and Hornchurch. I've come to realise that Metrobuses really are some of my favourite vintage buses out there and I'm now going to make a conscious effort to get them more often if I ever bother with a garage open day or vintage bus tour - I'm not really in the loop for those events and never remember to check until it's too late. Along with the interesting surroundings on this part of the 248, this was another superb bus ride on a brilliant bus, with a surprisingly clear run despite it being the height of the evening peak. Funnily enough, the poor frequency of the 248X was proven by this bus travelling to Upminster and back before anything else turned up on the route at Hornchurch, in either direction.

Ensignbus 401 is seen at Hornchurch Town Centre on route 248 to Romford.
This illustration should demonstrate the use of tri-axle vehicles on the 248 service, such as 401 above. Although I had already sampled a BCI on route 62 earlier, my bus had been a dual axle version and a last minute decision ensured that I caught one of these vehicles on the 248X, which was in fact the penultimate journey of the evening and it seemed that this service was completely finished by 1901. This bus was just as powerful as the last one on the 62 and sitting at the rear upstairs made the extra length noticeable - I was the only person upstairs for the entire journey although I'm sure on busy routes like the 25, 207 and 18 these longer buses would be incredibly useful. Cruising through the quiet streets of Upminster Bridge on this was incredibly relaxing, with the coach-like interior making sure I was comfortable throughout. Alighting at the rail station marked the end of my strike day riding, although I absolutely loved every second of it and it's been really eye-opening in terms of discovering new types and being re-united with lovely old ones. Watching this long vehicle tackle Upminster Station Forecourt was certainly amusing, but after a couple of attempts it managed to get out and head back to Ensignbus in Purfleet, presumably to work some awful school service when term time begins next week. This company also used to run the 248 service, bringing about some nostalgia especially with the Metrobus that worked the route on Friday. Even though the 248X wasn't frequent, it was nice to see lots of blue vehicles on it again and my two rides were just as pleasurable as all the others.

 WVL19 is seen at Hornchurch before working the last inbound 252X journey.

Like the 248, the supplementary 252X service ran along most of the main route, with the missing section being the short stretch from Romford to Collier Row, which probably wouldn't have had any increase in passenger numbers during the strike. Extra buses started at Romford Station like the 248 and terminated at Hornchurch Town Centre, although the difference between these two routes is that the 252 serves much more housing and takes a longer route between the two suburbs, also passing Elm Park and Hornchurch District Line stations and linking their catchment area to the TFL Rail service at Romford. In general, the 252 seemed like one of the more popular extra services, with all the buses carrying decent loads during the evening peak, although it was certainly not the most reliable - in the space of a minute I saw three Volvo B7TL Geminis in a convoy, along with a Routemaster not far in front. No buses appeared for a significant amount of time afterwards. This extra service also finished very early, with no more vehicles leaving Hornchurch after 18:30 and typically during my two snapping sessions along the route it was the exact same vehicles which showed up and some of the more interesting ones avoided me completely! Generally speaking, the selection of buses on the 252X wasn't as interesting as on the other routes, with almost all of them being in the form of ex-Go Ahead London WVLs, which does bring a new type to the 252 although it's not like these aren't still commonplace within the capital.

Ensignbus RML2405 is seen arriving into Romford, closely pursued by the equally iconic Spirit Of London E400
Additional buses which weren't initially advertised as being rostered for the service include an Ensignbus Routemaster and a Metrobus (the company this time) Scania OmniDekka, although the latter vehicle avoided me during my time in Hornchurch. Similarly, the quirky Scania Metropolitan MD60 vehicle, which I would've loved to ride, was nowhere to be seen in the evening, although whether it came out at all is another question as the only photographs of it are during the am peak. However, the B7TL Geminis did dominate after all and due to the lack of vintage buses compared to other routes with a similarly large PVR, I decided not to ride the 252X service given my lack of time during the evening. In addition, most of the route is isolated from other supplementary services and the bit the extras were covering isn't particularly interesting either, with most of it being residential. However, it was still a pleasure to see the extra vehicles around, especially the Routemaster where it seemed like the crew were really enjoying themselves, just like almost everyone who attended this strike day.

"Hire your transport" WVL44 is seen approaching Romford at the rear of a triple bunching on the 252X service.
In conclusion, I'm really glad I decided to attend the District Line strike day - sometimes I find these events quite underwhelming but the relaxed atmosphere and sheer variety of buses meant I was always busy and some of the vehicles I experienced were absolutely brilliant. This event has also encouraged me to attend more events with vintage buses - they can be held at inconvenient locations and it's not always easy to obtain decent photographs when everyone else with their flashy cameras are snapping at the same time as you, but it will give me a chance to discover some more excellent types which I feel I've overlooked recently.  I'd also recommend strike days for everyone here - it might be an absolute pain for regular commuters but the strong presence of fellow enthusiasts and quite iconic vehicles on otherwise mundane routes is really satisfying to be a part of. Unfortunately many recent ones have been during term time so I could not attend, although if there is ever anything else during the holidays I'm definitely going to try and come back, perhaps for both shifts next time as even though I set aside 3 hours and got a considerable amount done it was nowhere near enough time for sampling everything I wanted to. Another bonus with the District Line strike was that a 60% service was still in operation, so even though the extra buses were still running they weren't too busy and the roads were clear too - it was easily one of my most enjoyable bus trips in ages.

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Monday, 9 April 2018

Stickers & Stripes

This title pretty much sums up the latest pointless TFL scheme, which has been implemented in an attempt to increase bus usage. You might recall the introduction of route branding in the Barkingside area back in May 2017 and a subsequent outcry from enthusiasts and the public alike, claiming that it looked tacky and quite pathetic. Given that I was pretty disgusted at the earlier attempt at a route branding exercise, I did wonder how the next proposal in Hayes could be any worse. But it is. There's even less money supporting it, almost no consistency and a display which looks like it was designed by the local primary school - there's definitely an absence of a branding professional here.

A colourful flag in Hayes Town Centre, whilst a branded vehicle on the 350 pokes out from underneath.
Initially, this trial was expected to commence in the summer of 2017, but everything went rather quiet and people started to speculate that it wasn't going ahead at all, which is hardly surprising given the current TFL buses budget. However, a rather surprising entry of a yellow Enviro 200 on route U7 confirmed that the branding exercise had started and in the following few weeks more and more vehicles gradually appeared on routes in the Hayes area. There are many overlapping themes with the Barkingside example, such as advertising the frequency and points of interest, as well as colour-coding individual routes to give them a unique identity. However, the stripes on buses have disappeared and have been replaced with a bunch of stickers, along with a coloured ring around the blind display on single deckers. There is nothing on the offside of the double deck vehicles at all, so advertisements are still displayed, which pretty much defeats the point of making you more aware of the offerings of the bus rather than an expensive piece of jewellery hardly anyone can afford.

Maps are included inside the vehicles showing every bus stop en route and further connections from them, along with a generic map of the entire branded network. Bus stop flags have been given a colour-coded stripe for every route, which looks quite pretty with an almost full selection, but becomes very confusing at the outer ends of routes. If a route is the only example serving Hayes along a busy high street, all the other buses will have plain tiles whilst the said service has a coloured sticker on it, which looks very odd and makes the bus service seem unnecessarily different - people may assume it's a non-TFL service and will be put off from boarding.

A map of route 607, inside VW1570.

All in all, one can infer that the scheme isn't looking promising so far - it's nothing more than a load of laughable publicity which isn't even effective because of how little effort has gone into the design or overall package. Additionally, instead of having three-quarters of the allocation branded like in Barkingside, TFL have decided to cut some costs and only brand 25% of the vehicles per route, although there is naturally some variation given that not every route has a PVR which is divisible by four. There are also grammatical errors and inconsistencies with the places advertised, along with incomplete branding in lots of cases and many examples of buses straying off their allocated route. Lots of the colours clash and the stickers on double deckers obstruct the view outside. Nevertheless, TFL chose the Hayes area because of its declining bus usage and the arrival of Crossrail next year, although it seems that nobody is making much effort with the branding process much at all.

The routes that have received branding are the 90, 140, 195, 350, 427, 607, A10, E6, H98, U4, U5 & U7 and now we will look at the flaws of each one individually, in numerical order.

Metroline Travel VW1175 is seen in Hayes on route 90 to Northolt.
The 90 is a fairly busy service between Feltham and Northolt, running every 10 minutes with Scania Olympus and Wrightbus Gemini 2 vehicles, with the latter type being chosen for the branding. There are deviations with the frequency on Sunday which are displayed on the branding underneath the sticker, but you can't read it even with the pictures on "X-large" setting, something I don't normally use. Grammatically, there aren't any issues with the destinations on the 90, but I question advertising Northolt and Northala Fields when they are five minutes away from each other. However, there is nothing at all to promote the large housing area in Yeading this route serves, nor the busy interchange at Harlington Corner - it seems to the travelling public that it takes the most direct route between Hayes and Northolt, although the 140 is considerably quicker and doesn't advertise this at all! So far, only two buses have been branded for the 90, which is less than 25%, although due to the branding scheme coinciding with a refurbishment programme for the VW-class buses, it makes sense to wait before applying branding and removing it again (which did happen to one bus). Consistency is on point and my main problems with the 90 are the stickers which obscure the front window and the awful pink colour which very much clashes with the red London livery, as well as the aforementioned discrepancy with via points. Overall though, the 90 is one of the better examples of branding out there.

Metroline Travel VWH2237 is seen on route 140 to Heathrow Central.
My word, that green colour looks awful. Thankfully the via points have been displayed in black so they're actually legible. The 140 is the most substantial route involved in the branding process, being the sixth busiest in London and having seven buses branded for this service, which is roughly 25% of its PVR. Colours aside, the frequency advertised is incorrect - buses run up to every 6-7 minutes during rush hour. There is also a grammatical error with the via points, in regards to "Heathrow Central Bus station", where the last word should have a capital letter and there is also a lack of a tube or rail logo despite the possible interchange to both modes of transport there. Another concerning factor is that only four places have been advertised for what is possibly the longest route in the scheme. These four destinations are all valuable via points, but can be shortened to "Wealdstone - Harrow - Hayes & Harlington - Heathrow Central" and then the noteworthy town centres of Northolt and South Harrow can be recorded, where the 140 is very popular already. Indeed, there is a gap of over 8 miles without a single point of interest. Metroline have also put these buses out onto the partially overlapping 182 on several occasions, undoubtedly causing confusion in the Harrow area. In conclusion, the 140 is probably one of the worst liveries yet, with a horrible colour, discrepancies with the places advertised, interchange points and basic grammar, as well as an incorrect frequency and the infuriating stickers. Thumbs down.

Abellio London 8879 is seen along Uxbridge Road on route 195. Unfortunately conditions weren't ideal for taking photos so I've provided an additional snapshot of the place locations below. You can also attempt to read the Sunday frequency.

The 195 is probably the most overcrowded route in the branding scheme, using single deckers despite it being busier than most of the DD routes involved. It runs at a 12 minute frequency and also has a green ring around the blinds, along with a tiny sticker advertising the frequency which you need an electron microscope for if you want to read everything on it. In terms of the places advertised, almost everywhere is documented, although I would replace "Botwell Green Sports & Leisure Centre" with Charville Lane Estate and Bulls Bridge Tesco respectively, two much more well-used destinations en route. All four buses are fully branded for the service, which is a good start and generally their appearances on the 195 are regular, not venturing onto any other route. Therefore, even though the mint green colour might not be aesthetically pleasing, it is one of the more successful examples out there, with relatively few things to moan about.

A rear view shot this time, because this is the only spot with complete branding and I'm sure you know what an orange ring looks like.

In terms of progression, the 350 isn't doing particularly well, with its low PVR of 5 not contributing to the situation at all. A 20 minute frequency means that it isn't the most prominent route in Hayes Town Centre and there is only one bus branded for the service (Abellio chose to round down), which is also incomplete. Initially, the vehicle had a full livery, but the advertised frequency was completely wrong - the stickers claimed that it was still a high frequency route at every twelve minutes, but following cutbacks it now only has three buses per hour. This resulted in another makeover with the addition of the correct frequency, although mysteriously the via points were removed on both sides. Nevertheless, the destinations are still displayed at the rear and there are no interchange symbols for Heathrow Terminal 5. I'd also question advertising Lake Farm Country Park as the bus goes nowhere near, whilst the intermediate destination of Stockley Park (where the 350 picks up a lot of people) seems blindingly obvious but isn't included. I'd also get rid of the "Moor" after Harmondsworth - there are houses there! Aside from the lack of complete branding and place names, I think the orange colour is pretty ugly, clashing with the red London livery, but I guess TFL ran out of colours to use. Altogether, the 350 isn't the worst example of branding out there, but it's certainly not commendable either, especially with the false advertising at the beginning and the lack of completeness.

Abellio London 2556 is seen on Uxbridge Road with incomplete 427 branding.
Even though there are six branded 427 buses, one is off-road after an accident whilst the other five all have incomplete branding. Interestingly, the first bus to receive the treatment did actually have place names on the side, but since then they have been replaced with TFL inspired adverts. I wonder why. Nevertheless, there are still the awful burgundy stickers to look at - as a regular user of the 427 I find it so irritating whenever I sit upstairs on one of these vehicles. This bus route doesn't actually serve Hayes Town Centre, along with four others that are part of the scheme, but instead goes to the retail parks towards the Northern part of Hayes, in the middle of the Uxbridge Road corridor which the 427 follows for its entirety. After the 140, the 427 is the second busiest route that's part of the scheme and the branded buses are definitely apparent from my observations - they also stick out like a sore thumb in Ealing where there is only one other route involved in the scheme. There are discrepancies with the destinations displayed at the rear - although factually everything is correct is there really a need to include "Uxbridge" and "Intu Uxbridge", but miss out the important urban realms of Southall and Hayes North, with the latter point of interest being the only reason why this route is part of the exercise in the first place! Even though the via points bring up so many errors, the buses do look even more daft without them - it's literally just two stickers from a frontal view.

Metroline West VW1567 is seen on route 607, again devoid of side destination points.
The 607 is an express variant of the 427 which extends to White City and four buses are branded for this service, in the form of the older element of the allocation - Wrightbus Gemini 1 B7TL vehicles. Like the 350 bus, these ones had to be re-branded as roadworks have resulted in a temporary frequency decrease to every 11 minutes. The place names disappeared on all but one of the vehicles, although like the 427 Hayes and Southall weren't acknowledged at all and the final destination was just described as "Westfield", emphasising how the shopping centre has led to a neglect of the
surrounding area of Shepherd's Bush. Additionally, there is a grammatical error in regards to "Uxbridge station" missing a capital letter and there is also a discrepancy here - why has the latter noun been included here but not at Ealing Broadway or Ealing Common?There isn't much else to say in regards to the livery, but thankfully I have a personal example of the general public being baffled by the horrid stickers to make up for the lack of moaning. I was waiting at Ealing Broadway Station and a branded 607 rocked up, but the bunch of teenagers next to me were hesitant to board - "is that a 607 - or no, 11? - wait, what?" was the resultant conversation after the bus emerged. They decided to take the slower 207 bus instead and this just shows that the attempt at promoting the bus service really hasn't worked - it's actually taking people away from the routes in question!

Metroline West DE1585 is seen at Heathrow Central on route A10.
Oh my! Complete branding! When the livery first emerged on route A10, I questioned why this route is involved in the process at all, given that it barely serves Hayes and doesn't connect to any Crossrail station bar Heathrow Central, which is hardly a direct way to get to London from where the A10 serves. Nevertheless, the two vehicles possess the full livery and have a classier dark blue colour, which is much more satisfying to view than the buses on the 140. The A10 is actually an express service, running non-stop between Stockley Park and Heathrow Central, using the M4 spur, so why the former destination has been omitted in the route description completely baffles me, given that the route was created to give the business park a direct link to Uxbridge and the airport. Besides, the substitute point of interest, Lake Farm Country Park, is hardly attractive even for people who enjoy nature and is barely accessible by bus. However, the modest frequency of every 15 minutes is correct and despite a couple of appearances on the U1 and U3, the buses are dedicated to the A10 and generally this is one of the best examples of branding out there, even if it isn't strictly based around Hayes.

Metroline West DE1911 is seen on route E6 to Bull's Bridge
Inevitably, TFL ran out of suitable colours and the shade of blue shown on this E6 is almost indistinguishable from the example on the A10 buses. There are also no stickers advertising the frequency of the E6, because once again TFL applied them incorrectly - the E6 runs every 12 minutes, not every 10. However, this time the "via points" remained after the removal of the stickers, contrary to the incidents with the 350, 607 and U4 (see later). Clearly they couldn't be bothered with the 140, as every 8 minutes and every 7 minutes are undoubtedly the same frequency, plus seven whole buses would have to receive an overhaul. Again, I question the use of "Botwell Green Sports & Leisure Centre", given that most routes which serve the facility don't mention it and it's not exactly significant compared to Greenford Broadway, Yeading Tesco or Grand Union Village, which have all been omitted from the destination advertisement. The only positive thing about the E6 branding is that the blue colour isn't too ugly, but other than that there isn't really much to praise. At least they remembered that Greenford (just about) has a national rail service.

London United DLE30003 is seen near Hayes Asda on route H98 to Hounslow Bus Station
In terms of aesthetics, the H98 branding is definitely one of the better examples, with the orange colour blending surprisingly well with the coating of red beneath. As usual, the original frequency applied was incorrect, with the H98 running every 10 minutes rather than every 8, although like the E6 the via points returned. However, consistency doesn't really exist with this branding and some of the buses returned without an orange ring or frequency sticker around the front blindbox. I also question the places of interest displayed - I'm sceptical Hayes Town Medical Centre generates more usage than the massive Asda down the road, and what's so special about the H98 over the other eight branded routes which stop nearby? The terminus of Hayes End has been completely ignored despite it being the only place the H98 serves alone, whilst the grammatical error of "Bus station" appears again. There is also no mention of Harlington Corner, despite it being an important interchange. Interestingly, the H98 is the only branded route operated by London United and there are no other routes involved in the exercise that serve Hounslow Town Centre, so the orange single deckers certainly stand out over there. Whilst they look reasonable, technical accuracy is once again lacking with the H98 branding.

Metroline West TE1574 is seen in Hayes on route U4 to Hayes Prologis Park

This is the third shade of blue we've seen recently, although it is much lighter than the examples used on the single deckers. The U4 runs from Hayes Prologis Park-Uxbridge and the vehicles used to display the points of interest en route, but these were removed since the buses had to have new stickers applied, since the route runs every 10 minutes, not every 8. When the via points were around, the terminus at Prologis Park and the surrounding residential area were completely ignored, whilst Lake Farm Country Park was used again, although the U4 is probably the closest route to the somewhat glorified attraction. There is no mention of Brunel University either, which I'm sure generates significant patronage for the U4 service and would make the service attractive for students. The picture above also shows that the offside of double deckers just carry regular adverts rather than ones catered towards promoting the service. Occasionally, the U4 buses strayed onto other routes, although generally they've remained dedicated to the service and like the H98, the colour isn't that bad to look at. It's just a shame that the branding is incomplete, the original frequency was wrong and the points of interest which were displayed didn't show off the usefulness of the route much at all.

Abellio London 2578 is seen in Hayes working route U5.
Here we have another example of incomplete branding, with just the stickers adding any splashes of colour from the front view. However, what's strange is that the original frequency applied of every 12 minutes was correct, but the via points are missing on this bus. Only two vehicles have had the livery applied, despite the peak vehicle requirement being for 12 buses, so that's one less than 25% this time. Personally, I think that the purple colour shown on the U5 buses is easily the best looking, although this is subjective. The other vehicle did carry via points for a bit and there were the usual problems with the Lake Farm Country Park and the omission of Brunel University, but the shopping centre on the U5 bus was advertised as "intu Uxbridge", whilst on the U4 a capital letter was placed - "Intu Uxbridge", which adds another discrepancy to the spectrum. However, despite the problems with a lack of via points, I still argue that the U5 is the most aesthetically pleasing and when the bus turned up for photography I wasn't too horrified by the livery, which is a start.

Abellio London 8570 is seen on the U7 along Uxbridge Road.
Whilst the U7 is last numerically, the first branded vehicle appeared on this route and amazingly both buses carry complete branding, something which seven out of the twelve routes failed to produce. The yellow colour shown isn't exactly attractive, but I still think anything is better than the 140 branding. Even though the dismal frequency of every 30 minutes isn't exactly attractive for potential bus users, at least TFL were honest this time and applied it correctly from the start. Along with the blindbox ring and stickers, there are place names too - can you bear the excitement? Like the 427, 607 and A10, the U7 doesn't serve Hayes Town Centre, choosing to terminate at the retail park towards the Northern extremities of the district. I'm not too familiar with the U7 route itself, but I know that it serves Brunel University (which has been omitted) and provides the only bus service for some parts of Charville Lane Estate, so why Colham Green Recreation Ground has been chosen instead despite it being served by half a dozen other routes is anyone's guess. Despite the absence of points of interest, TFL decided that it was necessary to add the words "Shopping Centre" after "intu Uxbridge", without a capital letter this time. Two buses are branded for the U7 service, which is 50% of the allocation, but having a solitary vehicle with the livery just makes the scheme look even more half-hearted than it already is. Overall though, the U7 is definitely one of the best examples out there for consistency and the route will remain famous for starting this diabolical exercise. 

In conclusion, the Hayes Branding was a promising concept ruined by the lack of a branding professional and the pathetic, avoidable errors and countless discrepancies which could've been resolved by simply researching the frequency or looking at where the route serves in the first place - it really isn't that hard. I'm also quite concerned about the lack of capital letters at times. The livery looks naff and makes the buses look tacky, which is hardly going to improve bus usage. Hopefully, if TFL choose to adopt branding to all services, they either choose the style of the Barkingside scheme or get their act together as quite honestly what's happened in Hayes is an embarrassment to the bus network.

Thanks for reading and stay safe!