Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Random Route: Breezer 50

Sometimes, we all need a break from our hometown. When the number 50 turned up on the random number generator, instead of dismissing it and trying again (I haven't ridden the London route 50 yet), I thought about writing a review of the number 50 bus service I have ridden end to end. Advertised as the Purbeck Breezer, the 50 is managed by MoreBus using convertible EvoSeti's, running from Bournemouth Station-Swanage. It is timetabled to take around 70 minutes, but some serious rescheduling needs to be done before next summer, especially after my experience riding this route. It does provide some brilliant views, but definitely avoid the "tourist rush hour", as your journey could be painful!

A convertible EvoSeti stands at Swanage Bus Station, whilst the driver takes a well-deserved break.
I knew very well that the 50 would be a busy service, especially on a glorious summer day. I made my way up to Bournemouth Station just in time to catch the 11:20 service up to Swanage and there was already a fairly large crowd at the bus stop. As most people still pay cash in Dorset, the loading times are significantly longer than in London and the bus didn't actually depart until 11:25. Most of the seats upstairs were taken by the time I joined the bus, but I managed to find some inside the sheltered part of the bus. The EvoSeti turned out of the Bournemouth Station forecourt and took a right turn down Holdenhurst Road, a small parade of shops including Sprinkles Gelato and a sweet Italian place which is always at capacity.

A few more people joined the bus at Gervis Road, a road full of hotels as there is no room in the city centre to build any, apart from a massive Premier Inn, but large chains always get their own way. The 50 then heads straight down the traffic-filled Bath Road, but instead of serving the beach directly the 50 takes a right turn down Westover Road, a street with a couple of restaurants and nothing much else. Bournemouth is a very unique city, mainly because of its structure. As there are cliffs right by the seaside, there are no actual shops along the seafront, instead you have to climb uphill to reach the city centre, until you're basically on top of the cliffs.

The next major stop for the 50 was Bournemouth Square, although I didn't expect many people to board here, seeing as there were only about three or four spare seats upstairs by this point. However, the crowd of 50 people at the bus stop were all heading to Swanage and the bus sat at the stop for a whole twenty minutes loading up. That's 18 minutes longer than the timetable suggests. Many young children were gutted that there were no seats anywhere and people were standing upstairs and down the staircase too. The bus was definitely over capacity by the time it left Bournemouth Square, with people standing right next to the driver in horrid, cramped conditions, which really aren't ideal for a tourist service.

The sheer amount of people on board meant that the bus was struggling when on the road; anything above 15mph was too much. For some odd reason, the 50 does not take the most direct route to Westbourne, instead serving lots of residential streets and taking much longer than routes like the m1 and m2. Just as I thought the bus was at capacity, the MCV EvoSeti picked up even more people at in Westbourne, home to a number of restaurants and expensive homes.

The journey after Westbourne really wasn't interesting, with nothing to see apart from trees and some residential streets. After about 20 minutes of boredom the 50 finally reached somewhere noteworthy. Sandbanks is well-known for it's extremely high property value and the coastline area has been labelled as "Britain's Palm Beach" by the media. The view is stunning and is a popular holiday destination for families, with the water in the sea being incredibly shallow there.

A few people alighted here, but most of us wanted to continue the journey up to Swanage. Sandbanks is a noteworthy location on the 50, because this is where it crosses Shell Bay. However, there is no bridge here and the 50 uses a ferry to cross the water. It was a very interesting experience, being on a double decker bus being powered by something other than itself. The movement was barely noticeable as this particular ferry is one where a rope is used to pull it across the river, so it came as a surprise when it was already time to disembark, when I wasn't even aware the bus had left!

The next stop on the 50 is Studland, which looks like a failed attempt at an upmarket beach and some bushes, where ramblers go rambling... The bus was sailing along quite nicely, not picking up or dropping off anyone, until a quiet country road, where the bus ground to a halt behind a line of cars. Thirty minutes later, the bus still hadn't moved. I blame the National Trust, as their car park seemed to be full and no one could be bothered to divert the cars wanting to get to it elsewhere, so the bus just sat there while all of the passengers listened to cars honking their horns. There was no footpath and I had absolutely no idea how long was left, but I imagined it would be quite a while as all I could see other than car lights were trees. Eventually a steward showed up and some of the cars in front did a 3-point turn and started to head back to Studland. After 40 minutes of doing nothing, the bus was finally back on the move, through more trees and eventually a small village.

Unfortunately, people do live in these villages and our bus was at capacity, so when the bus did show up after 90 minutes it sailed straight past all of the bus stops there. After staring at some more cottages and a nice view of the horizon, some shops and a beach started to appear. Lots of people alighted at the beach and I later found out that the EvoSeti had finally reached Swanage. Most of the standees who wanted to get out at Swanage Bus Station came upstairs for a whole two minutes, before the bus terminated outside the miniature railway station, 70 minutes late. Two minutes later, an Olympus and another EvoSeti turned up, creating a triple bunching on a route that runs every half an hour. Oh dear.

Swanage is a sweet little town with a beach that isn't as heaving or hectic as Bournemouth or Sandbanks and it seems like a nice place to stay in. It's a shame that my journey there really wasn't as nice as it should've been, but I've learned my lesson now, and it's an important one. Whenever I'm riding a tourist route, I will never ride it at hotel chucking-out time again. The 50 does provide a very unique experience, given that there is only one other bus route in the country that uses a ferry (the number 477 from Berwick Upon-Tweed to Holy Island) and it has some pretty amazing views on offer. I do recommend you ride it if you ever find yourself in Dorset, but avoid the 11:20 Bournemouth-Swanage journey at all costs!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Random Observations: October 2016

Yes, I have returned from my period of absence from the bus scene and I have finally caught up with what has happened over the past three weeks. I've been incredibly busy lately so I can't really document any of the recent service changes at the moment, but what I can put together is a Random Obs post, seeing as it is the most popular series on the blog, so I hope you enjoy it as much as the other ones!

LJ09CCF was chilling in Elephant & Castle yesterday, but a collision made sure it had to work for the day.
The 188 around Elephant & Castle was something of a joke yesterday, with buses leaving and entering service very quickly. It all started when 9440, a recently refurbished Enviro 400, collided with a Toyota Prius at Elephant & Castle roundabout. I happened to be on this vehicle and was forced off at the next stop, whilst another 188 kindly decided to overtake and leave the premises without picking up anyone who was on the E400. The next 188 wasn't due for 9 minutes, so I stood at the bus stop watching the bus driver talk to his friend about what had happened. Eventually, one of them noticed the spare bus, LJ09 CCF, that was lying around doing nothing for no apparent reason. One of the drivers decided to take it and decided that everyone for the 188 should get on. However, it took a good few minutes to get the iBus going on this worn out E400 and in this time another 188 overtook, heading straight for North Greenwich. A minute later, my bus left and didn't stop anywhere until I pressed the stop button to alight at Druid Street. What a mess...

Waterloo Bus Garage, at capacity.
This picture should give you an idea of what's happening at Waterloo Garage to the two Red Arrow routes that are run from there. The seven year old high capacity Mercedes Citaro buses are being replaced in favour of cleaner electric vehicles on an Enviro 200 MMC body, with BYD dealing with all of the electrical stuff. At the moment, the garage is full to bursting with buses coming in and going out every couple of days. There was also a random PVL there for some reason.

Stagecoach London 15118 working route 277 to Crossharbour.
The Isle Of Dogs has received a makeover in terms of changing the bus network, with the 108 and D8 swapping routeing between Poplar and Stratford and the D8 going double deck, the 135 being re-routed around Cubitt Town, the 277 being sent to Crossharbour via Westferry Road and the D3 going to Leamouth instead of Crossharbour. Showing off the new look of the 277 is a Scania OmniCity, which will soon be replaced by newer vehicles when the contract expires in 2017.

Abellio London 2536 working the 344 to Liverpool Street, contrary to what the blind states.
Battersea clearly felt left out when every other Abellio garage had introduced brand new E400 MMCs (the only exception being Fulwell, which doesn't run any DD routes at present), so they  decided to order some to upgrade the 344. They are nice buses and I've heard that they are speedy, although my journey wasn't particularly fast, partly due to the fact the bus left the stand 4 minutes early. Here is 2536 showing the destination of Wimbledon, the terminus of route 156, the other route that serves Battersea Power Station.

Metroline TEH1238 on route 32 to Kilburn Park.
The 189 has finally converted to New Routemaster operation and the Enviro 400 Hybrid buses that used to work the route have found a new home, in Edgware. The 32 used to run with ALX400 buses but now the route has been upgraded to Hybrid standard. TEH1238 demonstrates this at Edgware Bus Station on what could be a nice route. It's a shame that it has to go through Cricklewood to get to Kilburn though...

Little Park Gardens, Enfield.
Enfield didn't sound very promising when I planned to visit there in August, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the town centre was much more civilised than I thought, with a fairly large shopping centre, high street and an interesting Art Cafe, as well as lots of bus services which take you to places like Turnpike Lane, Waltham Cross and Crews Hill. The bus station is very small, but it's a nice place for taking pictures. Overall, a positive experience, see you again Enfield!

Great Western Railway 387 133 at Paddington Station.
I understand that this is not a bus, but my method of selecting photos at random means that anything transport related can show up. GWR can now make a guest appearance on my blog, showing off one of their new Electrostars they've introduced on the Thames Valley local services between London Paddington and Hayes & Harlington. They are 8 carriages long and are far more comfortable than the hot and cramped Turbo trains that still work the route. At present, they only run in the rush hour as connecting services to the Greenford branch line trains that only go as far as West Ealing, but this connection doesn't seem to be working very well as the trains don't wait for each other, meaning that Greenford-bound trains often leave West Ealing completely empty in the evening. Still, they are a nice addition to my local mainline and I can't wait for these trains to start running all day in January 2017.

Arriva London T73 on route 368 to Barking, Harts Lane.
The 368 was won by Arriva earlier this year, with an upgrade to double deckers instead of Enviro 200s. It looks like the route has been given a significant boost in capacity which will help in school run and peak hours, although the buses seem to be carrying air for most of the day. On my journey, no one else dared to climb the stairs to the upper deck for the entire journey to Chadwell Heath and it looks like the new timetable has given the route far too much running time, with my bus regulating for two minutes at what felt like every other stop. However, I'm glad that this route has double deckers now, as it made a fairly boring journey slightly more interesting.

Go-Ahead London WVL98 on route 185 to Victoria.
These buses won't be working the 185 for much longer, as brand new MCV EvoSeti vehicles are replacing them. If you like comfortable seats and front windows without huge side panels blocking the view, then ride this route as soon as possible, as riding a 90 minute long route on a EvoSeti really isn't good for you. I learned this after riding the 35 on an EvoSeti, but I do not have the time to ride the 185 at the moment, so I'm praying for odd workings to happen in the future. Seeing as Camberwell (Q) run it, the chances of other buses straying are very high, but I really shouldn't jinx it!

That's all for now, thanks for reading!