Sunday, 21 August 2016

Random Observations 21st August 2016

It's that time of the month again, time for random observations! Here I will select 10 random pictures from my photos folder and then write about them. I hope that they're interesting to you and if they're not, you can only hope they'll be better next time.

Becontree Heath Bus Station, now hosting two routes instead of one.
Back in March, the EL2 (part of East London Transit) was re-routed from Barking, to serve Becontree Heath via Longbridge Road instead of going up Ilford Lane and terminating at the rail station up there. The EL1 was given a frequency increase to compensate and the reason why the EL2 was extended is because the 5 needed help very badly on the Longbridge Road, being significantly overcrowded on this section. What this does mean is that the 150 now has to share Becontree Heath Bus Station with the EL2, which has caused some problems recently because both routes have a reasonable amount of stand time here. However, when I visited the area the bus station was doing fine because the EL2 was bunching and there weren't any due in for 10 minutes. There are some benefits to bunching after all...

Tower Transit DH38503 on route 69 to Canning Town
Back in 2015, TFL decided to trail three "Virtual Electric" Enviro 400 MMC buses on route 69, between Walthamstow Central and Canning Town to test the new technology that ADL have produced. So far, it looks like the trial isn't much of a success, seeing as the buses used to appear very infrequently when first introduced and they're only going out every day now because they're not running in electric mode most of the time, pretending they're hybrid's instead. They're nice buses though, apart from the unusual high backed seats, which have a metal bar on the bottom which makes you back ache after a few minutes... No more of these seats please!

London Sovereign VH10 on route 13 at Finchley Road, Aldwych bound.
The 13 has received a lot of attention by enthusiasts lately, because TFL want to withdraw the route and replace it with the 82 and an extension of the 113. The first consultation they published didn't go to plan, with many people rejecting the idea and telling TFL that they are stupid for doing this, which is true. A couple of weeks ago, they published a second consultation, with the same proposals, apart from a new idea to extend the 139 to Golders Green and some mind games, with TFL trying to tell people that the 13 was being re-routed to North Finchley and Victoria and the 82 was being withdrawn instead, as people were moaning about the loss of a number 13 bus being significant. However, if you read between the lines you can figure out that basically the 13 is being withdrawn and the 82 will be re-numbered 13. I am totally against this idea as all bus routes on the Finchley Road Corridor carry healthy loadings in both rush hour's and the already busy 82 and 113 routes will just become even more crowded; the 13 is a good relief route for them. Hopefully this nonsense won't go ahead as it's just going to make travelling between Finchley Road and Central London a lot more unpleasant.

London United DE20131 on route 265 at Putney Bridge.
The 265 had its contract retained recently, with brand new E200 MMCs. If you'd like to know my thoughts in detail, then please click here and scroll down to the 265 section on the Busageddon post.
If you've already seen it, then you should've at least remembered that I think the 265 is a brilliant route that now has brilliant buses, a change for the best!

Metroline DEM1351 on route 234 to Highgate Wood.
The 234 route runs from Highgate Wood to Barnet, The Spires and my first impression when I heard the two terminating points were "yep, that's a country route", but it does go through some urban areas. Never judge a book by its cover. The buses are just your average 9.6m E200, apart from the hard seats that Metroline decided to order for these vehicles. I want my civics back!

Go-Ahead London E179 on route 147 at Canning Town Station.
 The 147 was recently awarded to Go-Ahead London on its new contract, from the brand new Barking (RR) garage, with existing E400's displaced from Camberwell (Q) garage. It's made the route a lot nicer and I do like the places it serves, including the ExCeL London. However, what is interesting about this photo is that it was taken during a blind change, showing Cubitt Town, Manchester Road, which is a curtailment point of route D7, which does a tour of the Isle Of Dogs and then goes up to Mile End after Westferry. These buses don't stray from the 147 very often so it was interesting seeing another destination on E179.

Abellio London 9484 on Piccadilly Line Replacement Service at Northfields Station.

A few months ago my local branch of the Piccadilly Line was shut between Boston Manor and Hammersmith, meaning that Abellio had to provide a replacement service calling at all stations including Ealing Broadway and the District Line ones too between Acton Town and Hammersmith. Unfortunately I missed out on riding this route but I did manage to get a picture of one in Northfields. I've just got to hope that the line is shut again!

Abellio London 9069 on route 188 at Canada Water, bound for North Greenwich

The 188 is a long but interesting route running from North Greenwich to Russell Square through Waterloo, Elephant & Castle, Surrey Quays and  Cutty Sark. Some of the Eclipse Gemini's allocated to the route received a refurbishment a couple of years ago, making them look much smarter, compared to the older 54-reg which still carry the original moquette.

Stagecoach London 13032 on route 177, at New Cross.
Since the 53 was given another batch of new buses, Gemini 3's on route 177 have become increasingly common over the past couple of weeks, whereas before they were something of a rarity. I managed to bump into one on my way to New Cross, Sainsbury's a few weeks ago and the picture came out surprisingly well, seeing as it was completely rushed.

Metroline London VW1048 overtakes a 117 at West Thames College.
The E8 has recently been extended to Hounslow, Bell Corner and has also gained a full allocation of double deckers, as this route gets very overcrowded in the evening peak from Ealing Broadway. My E8 was still at capacity the other day and I can only imagine what the crowds would be like if the bus was a single decker. After a few weeks of empty running, the Hounslow extension has finally been noticed by members of the public and the E8's are starting to get a little busier on the new stction, which is great as it will provide some relief to the crowded route 235, which has been awarded with single deckers on contract, which was clearly a mistake by TFL as the E9, a route with less than 2m annual ridership was awarded with DDs. Where's the logic in that?

I hope you enjoyed these 10 pictures, look out for the next post in September and thanks for reading!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Busageddon: Kingston Edition

Kingston is a bit of a mess at the moment, in terms of buses anyway. There have been contract changes, diversions, new routes and transfers, all in the space of a month and this post will report them all, as I covered them today (12th August). I'm going to start in chronological order, so first up it's the 57/85 changes.

Great number plate! WVL157 on route 85, before the changeover.

On the 2nd July 2016, route 85 (running from Kingston-Putney Bridge) was lost from Go-Ahead to London United, from Tolworth (TV) garage, with brand new Gemini 3's with the new RATP moquette. The old 85 ran from Putney (AF) garage, with a mixture of WVL-class Gemini buses and the three B9TL Enviro 400's, which can now be found on route 213. The route runs via Kingston Hospital, Roehampton and Putney Heath, meaning it is quite short and I think it should be extended to Hammersmith, to relieve the 72 and create a direct link between there and Kingston. One month and twelve days after the contract change (yes I know this is late) I took a trip down to Kingston to cover the route change, although I didn't ride it because I was 2 hours behind schedule.....

London United VH45175 on Eden Street, Kingston
The buses are similar to the ones in use on route 65 at Fulwell (FW) garage, but the review of the bus type will take place later in the post. Overall, I'm glad that London United have won the 85 to compensate for the loss of major route 57 and so far they're doing a pretty good job.

A Scania OmniCity on route 65 overtakes TA239 on Eden Street, working route 57 to Clapham Park.
The 57 is a long and busy route running from Kingston-Clapham Park (which isn't in Clapham, it's closer to Streatham Hill) through Norbiton, Wimbledon, Tooting and Streatham. It's a very frequent route, running up to every six minutes in the rush hour, meaning 28 buses were required for the new contract, starting on the 2nd July 2016. Instead of buying new buses, Go-Ahead used an existing batch of Enviro 400s displaced from route 345, after it was lost to Abellio. E100-128 went straight to Merton (AL) garage, some without refurbishment, to work route 57 on time. A Gemini 2 has also been transferred as a spare.

Go-Ahead London E115 working route 57 on Eden Street.
Eager to try out the new 57, I travelled to Kingston one evening to get on one, only as far as Wimbledon. E127 came immediately, a bus transferred from Camberwell (Q) garage, without refurbishment. Some of the buses have been refurbished, but they are going one by one, so it will take a long time before completion. E127 was certainly in desperate need of one, having iBus and door issues, a roaring and very slow and sluggish progress, with evidence of the bus struggling along the Coombe Road Flyover. On the section between Kingston and Wimbledon, the routeing itself is pretty boring and slow running meant that I lost hope in having fun on the route and I couldn't wait to get off, feeling disappointed and hoping that the route between Wimbledon and Clapham Park was miles better and the bus wasn't broken. If I'm honest, I wish the 57 had stayed with London United, as the buses used on the route were much more interesting and it means that they won't run any services East of Tooting anymore, which is a shame as they are a West London operator and it was strange seeing them in the heart of South London. Having said that, I wish Go-Ahead luck with the job of running route 57 and I do hope that the service improves too, as it's been pretty bunchy over the past couple of weeks.

As well as the contract changes, new buses arrived for two routes that were retained by London United on a new contract. A full allocation of Enviro 200 MMCs were ordered for route 265, running between Tolworth and Putney Bridge, via the A3, Roehampton and Barnes. The much loved Dart Pointers that used to work the route have been transferred to other garages and have been replaced by vehicles that are far superior, in my opinion. To coincide with the route getting new buses, I decided to ride it end to end. The review will be brief as this post is long enough anyway.

London United DE20131 on route 265.
My bus came straight from the garage and got off to flying start on the A3, reaching high speeds despite a healthy loading right from the start of the route. A quick diversion to New Malden revealed that this is a hotspot in terms of passenger loadings and the whole bus emptied out, meaning it was just me and the driver for a few more stops of fast running, until the 265 dips into one of the side roads running alongside the A3, to serve the housing along that side of the road. The long MMC frequently got stuck and had to wait for  cars to pass in the other direction before continuing, which meant we went even faster around Roehampton and around the Asda. At this point the bus was running early again and the people who boarded the 265 there immediately got off again to switch to the 85 behind. The 265 still beat it to Putney Bridge... After the break at Asda, the 265 continued heading North, through a dirt track which lead to the Alton Estate, the terminus of the busiest single deck route in London, the 72. Past Roehampton University and Queen Mary's Hospital, the 265 headed up to Barnes, where the E200 MMC suddenly got busy, until a surprisingly large amount of people got off at Commondale, the start point of route 22.

A mini parade of shops and eateries run alongside the river at this point, making the part of the route very interesting. However, an anomaly was that when the 265 approached Putney Pier, instead of announcing "Putney Pier" Emma said "The next pier is Putney", like the riverboat service which goes there....Any explanations? After crossing the Thames itself, the 265 had officially arrived in North London, even if it only stays there for two stops. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience on the 265, it has lots of variety in terms of routeing and the buses are lovely, even though the stop-start feature is a bit annoying!

The final change that took place on the 2nd July was the upgrade of route 65, with four new Gemini 3 Hybrids to make up for a PVR and frequency increase to every 6 minutes, which is a good thing as it is a trunk route and it gets extremely busy pretty much all day.

VH45186 on route 65, curtailed to Ham at the Watermans Centre.
The new buses are a nice addition to the Ealing area, they have working air conditioning and comfortable seats, which partially make up for the window size. I'm so glad that London United managed to retain the route, even with the flaky service they provide, as the buses are decent and suit the route. That completes the contract changes, now it's on to the diversions and new routes!

London United HDE4 on route 572 at Richmond, Manor Circus.
Due to works on Petersham Road, the 371 has been withdrawn for the whole of August and the 65 is on diversion via Twickenham, Teddington and Hampton Wick. To make up for this, three new temporary routes have been set up to replace the two routes, running around the Richmond and Kingston area. As I was running ridiculously late, I only had time to ride one of the temporary routes and that was the 572.

I managed to catch one for three stops from Richmond Station to Manor Circus, where I had the whole bus to myself (not including the driver). The Hybrid E200 was nice and airy, with a good engine sound and a broken iBus, which is always interesting. After a few minutes on stand and a chat with another driver at the bus shelter, I got back on the same bus and sat in the same seats, as you do. The bus filled up at Richmond Station, with people travelling to Richmond Park. The iBus temporarily kicked in at this point, announcing "572 to Petersham, Fox and Duck", which was obviously stolen from the stop announcement even though the 572 doesn't go there, as TFL are lazy and couldn't even be bothered to update countdown in time for the changes. The route itself was interesting, although it was all familiar as I have completed route 371 end to end, the route that this is partially replacing. After a quick pause at the hesitation point, it was up the 65 road to Richmond Station, where the 572 completes its interesting little loop around Petersham.

London United DE124 at Cromwell Road Bus Station, on route 565.
The 565 is the replacement of the 65 between Ham and Kingston, running along Richmond Road until Ham Estate, where it goes round in a loop to return. I was hoping that this particular service would be operated by double deckers, seeing as it's replacing a DD route and it's running 24/7, for five weeks. The benefits of having route 565 are that Ham Estate now gains a night service, whether that is well used or not is another matter, but it's convenient for the residents over there, in case they miss the last 571.

London United DE31 at Cromwell Road Bus Station, working route 571 towards Ham.
The 571 is the direct replacement of the 371 between Kingston and Ham, running via Norbiton and Church Road before completing a loop of Ham Estate to turn around. It seems to be fairly well used and I think the three temporary routes are a success, being very popular with Petersham/Ham residents as they are literally the only way out of there apart from by car.

The final interesting thing in Kingston only arrived a couple of days ago and I was very lucky to snap it, seeing as there were only three in service today.

Go-Ahead London 878, on route 213 at Kingston.
The DOE-class Olympus buses are off for refurbishment at the moment, so Scania Olympus' have been sent from Barking (RR) garage to cover for them this summer, seeing as they would otherwise have nothing to do, being allocated to school routes.

So, Kingston has seen a lot of changes recently, I wonder if the scene will die down, or will it continue to be interesting and ongoing, a bit like the Bentalls Centre, home to the longest escalator in the world, or the "expresscalator", as I like to call it as it misses out a whole floor. You learn something new every day.

I hope you enjoyed the post and thanks for reading!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Under Hills And Over Woods

The 389 and 399 are two strange routes running to and from Barnet, The Spires to the Underhill Estate and Hadley Wood Station respectively. They run from Monday-Saturday and in shopping hours only, as they source the bus from another route. Some sort of E200 spends the morning peak on route 299 (running between Cockfosters and Muswell Hill) and then it flips it blind to become a 399, starting from Hadley Wood and running round to Barnet. It then changes it blind to become a 389, which also happens to be the shortest route in London at 0.9m and goes to the Underhill Estate and back. It then flips it blind to become a 399 again and it repeats this process five times until 15:03, where the last 399 of the day terminates at Hadley Wood Station and then becomes a 299 again for the evening peak. The two routes both run every hour and they run to ensure the communities around Hadley Wood and Underhill have a link to Barnet High Street. The two routes sounded very interesting and on Saturday 6th August I decided to give them both a ride.

The first bus that leaves The Spires is the 389, at 10:17.
After a few minutes of waiting, the 399 pulled into the bus stop, with Hadley Wood residents eagerly alighting the bus and walking straight into the shopping centre. After a change of destination and blind, the 389 set off from The Spires with no one else on board. Eventually, one person got on at Barnet High Street, giving me a puzzled look, as she probably normally has this bus to herself. The 389 follows many regular routes down to High Barnet Station, such as the busy 263, 34, 307, 326 and 234. However, the 389 doesn't stay mainstream and it takes a sharp right turn onto Underhill, a road shared with the 326, which serves Dollis Valley Estate. However, the 389 takes another left turn onto Barnet Lane, a road shared with school route 606, which serves Totteridge Academy. However, travelling to the school means going straight ahead and the 389 doesn't go that way, so it takes another left turn before finally turning right to reach Underhill.

 The whole of the estate is hail and ride and lots of Barnet-goers boarded every 10 seconds or so. Underhill is quite a deprived area and I do think it's disappointing that a dense estate like it has such poor connections, with only five trips a day to the town centre. However, it is also a very friendly and closed community, with almost everyone on the bus knowing each other and a couple of people greeting me as they got on the bus! After just 10 minutes, the bus was back on its way to The Spires with an average load and after the Hail and Ride section finished SEN23 ran non-stop to Barnet High Street, where most of the bus got off. I enjoyed my ride on the shortest route in London and I was looking forward to riding the 399, to check out the differences between these two routes. After alighting SEN23 through the rear doors, I got straight back on again and sat in the exact same seat, to make a good comparison.

The process of changing the blind in action, SEN23 on the 399.
The bus stood for a few minutes, where lots of Hadley Wood residents got on again after their shopping trip. As they boarded they greeted the driver nicely, even knowing his name. One person said "someone told me we had the nice driver," which shows that sadly not all Northumberland Park drivers were as brilliant as Kofi. All of the people on the bus were very well-spoken and I was intrigued to see what Hadley Wood was going to be like. Unlike any other London bus, the 399 heads north from The Spires and quickly takes a right turn onto Dury Road, by Hadley Green where the hail and ride section starts. The 399 then passes through a huge white gate, which was probably used many years ago to stop intruders entering the village that is Hadley Wood. I bet some of the residents wish they could close it on the bus... 

Before Hadley Wood, the 399 passes through a small area called Monken Hadley, which consists of a playing field and the longest iBus announcement I've ever heard; "Hail and Ride Monken Hadley Church Of England Primary School". No one got off until after Camlet Way, where the 399 starts a one way loop. It was at this point where the houses started to become mansions and my theory of the whole bus being middle class was correct. One of the fellow passengers was talking about putting a sun dial in their front garden! The 399 then turns right onto a very steep hill, to serve Newman's Way and Greenbrook Avenue, which is a popular destination as half of the bus got off there. Another amazing factor was that the driver actually knew where people lived and pulled up right in front of their house even though they sometimes didn't even ring the bell!

Eventually the 399 goes back onto Camlet Way and continues running in a straight line until the end of the road, where it briefly turns left onto Cockfosters Road, providing an interchange with Sullivan Buses route 298, running between Potters Bar and Arnos Grove, although they don't share a stop for whatever stupid reason. However, the 399 only spends a few seconds on the main road and it turns left onto Lancaster Avenue, where the final passengers got off and it was just me and the driver again....For a few seconds, as two people hailed the bus 10 yards down the road! After a couple of minutes SEN23 arrived at Hadley Wood Station, which is served by Great Northern's service from Welwyn Garden City to Moorgate. Strangely, no one boarded here and the bus remained empty until passing through the white gate again, where a couple of people got on for the short trip down to The Spires, where my adventures on the two routes ended.

Overall, I loved my experience on the 389/399. They are both strange in completely different ways and the contrast in the places they serve is brilliant, considering they share a vehicle! I highly recommend that you try out these two routes as you'll definitely have fun on them! Thanks for reading!