Blazefield Buys in East Lancashire
Stagecoach Ribble had acquired the East Lancashire depots with Burnley Queensgate, Blackburn Manor Sutton Street (George Street), Bolton Goodwin Street and a depot in Clitheroe, during expansion of its services in the North West. But during the late 1990’s the relationship between the company and staff was certainly strained, especially in Burnley. The situation was about to change, when out of the blue Stagecoach announced it was selling the East Lancashire depots and services. This brought in Blazefield into the picture, but with the sale complete, Stagecoach cascaded unwanted vehicles from its South and Ribble operational units.
The deal was finialised and completed by the initial stages of 2001, with the mixed bag of vehicles working the services within Burnley. 951 a former Stagecoach South Plaxton bodied Dennis Javalin coach is depicted above working the 21 service to Padiham, typical of the vehicles on offer. Leyland Atlanteans, Lynxes, Olympians, Volvo Citibuses, B6BLEs and B10Ms were all allocated to Burnley. No sooner had the ink dried on the deal, Blazefield had place on order 25 new Volvo B10BLE saloons with Wrightbus Renown bodywork and 16 new Volvo B7TL double decker with Plaxton bodywork all delivered between June and August 2001.
The Mainline fresh look
The new Volvo B10BLE/Wrightbus saloons were amongst the final examples of the low floor chassis purchased by Blazefield, as Volvo were planning to update their saloon chassis for 2003. 1042-1072 Y142-172HRN arrived during June 2001, with a new red and cream livery upswept towards the rear. The roof coving panels also had large route branding for the Mainline services, which also extended to Accrington, Keighley and Skipton with route numbers from 20-29. The investment allowed the Plaxton/Dennis coaches to be cascaded to Harrogate for the new school term in September 2002, all painted into the overall yellow scheme. For neatness, the other Volvo B10BLE/Wrightbus saloons 1073-1078 Y173-178HRN and 1079-1096 PO51MT/MU/MV with 1097-1111 PO02HV/HW were allocated across at Lancashire United. 1042 is illustrated above seen when fresh into service in June 2001.
As the Mainline grew, so did the service frequency from every ten minutes to every seven/eight minutes, as more new vehicles were ordered for early 2009 delivery. These were nineteen Volvo B7RLE with Wrightbus Eclipse with MKII version front end style dash and windows. 1853-1871 arrived in February 2009 with 1867 arriving in March 2009 with an 09 plate. Above 1090 is illustrated entering Red Lion Street in Burnley working the 28 to Barnoldswick. While below is new 1854 pausing in Burnley town centre, picking up passengers for the 21 service to Trawden.
MAINLINE the class of 09
Not only did 1853-1871 feature a brand new fresh livery, but also had multi-coloured destination displays, with a lower scrolling via screens. The new Volvo B7BLEs saw a selection of older B10Bs being displaced across the Transdev/Blazefield fleet. The remaining Volvo B10BLEs were also repainted into the new improved Mainline livery. Below 1867 is seen in central Burnley in April 2015 working the 23 to Accrington, in the 2009 livery.
For the next few years the Mainline service continued to offer the best value for local customers, and those who travelled beyond Burnley. Additional vehicles from cascaded Blackburn based Volvo B7RLE/Wright saloons from the 1834, 1838 & 1839 were pressed into service, even gaining the 09 livery, during 2013. It was in early 2014 that a former Witch Way twin deck 2750 was repainted and placed into service, becoming a regular on the 29 to Skipton section of the Mainline.
Two examples of the 09 Mainline livery on other vehicle types, Above 2750 is seen in Skipton turning into Cargrave Road while working the 29 service back to Burnley on April 11th 2016. With 1074 below working the 28 service along Broughton Road again heading back to Burnley on April 8th 2016.
M for Mainline
From May 1st, 2016, the Mainline underwent a new re-numbering of the services, with M1-M4 and the extension of the X43 through to Skipton, with the service revision. The M1 Padiham, Burnley to Barnoldswick replaced the 28 & 29 which did serve Skipton. The M2 Clitheroe, Burnley and Colne replaces the 22, 24, 26 & 27 numbers, while the M3 Trawden, Nelson, Burnley and Accrington takes over from the 21 & 23. Finally, the M4 which serves Burnley, Nelson, Colne and Keighley replaces the 25.
As 2017 continues, the Mainline is also being updated and the current vehicles are to be withdrawn, as the Volvo B10BLEs no doubt will be used as possible low floor school transport for the whole Transdev fleets. While the 1853-1871 batch of Volvo B7RLEs will be cascaded around the Transdev depots, with a timely ‘Revitialised’ refresh, for a few more years’ service. The Volvo B10BLEs are reaching sixteen years of age, which is good going for a very useful workhorse for both Blazefield and Transdev. Were as the B7RLEs have reach eight years of service, these are due a midlife overhaul/refurbishment or as Transdev/Blazefield CEO Alex Hornby says ‘Revitalised’. This will allow areas like Harrogate, Keighley and Blackburn to gain standard specification vehicles with several modern additions, USB power sockets, free Wi-Fi, next stop announcements, new improved cloth seating and visual stop information.
Make my Mainline the class of 17
Towards the end of 2016 the Mainline was the subject of a possible change of vehicle, leading to a very inspired choice of manufacture to do the deal requested. The initial details were announced in early February 2017. Blackburn acquired a batch of Optare Versa saloons for use on the spot-on services in the town in 2008, six were dispatched across to Yorkshire and the York Fulford depot for a new 844 service to combat First’s X64 route. Harrogate then acquired eight examples of the restyled Versa for delivery in May 2012, to replace the 12-year-old Volvo B6BLE/Wrightbus Crusader midibuses. With two going to Burnley for the local routes. Then Blackburn gained 18 brand spanking new Versa saloons to work the 6&7 Accrington services in 2016.
Optare have been entrusted with the task to build thirty new vehicles for the Mainline services, and the public of Burnley were encouraged to participate in designing the new fleet. The Burnley web pages announced the idea in December 2016, as CEO Alex Hornby and the Transdev team were interested in what people wanted on their bus route. The ideas came in thick and fast, with one unusual request of having coffee making facilities on board, along with better leg room, USB Power sockets, free Wi-Fi, improved seating with more standard features which would be included on the vehicles. Buggy and wheelchair zones, seating in the low floor area, next stop audio/visual information and possibly some extra features added into the new buses. Judging by the high standard finish to the 36 Riding Redefined and Coastliner Country double deckers, along with the recent ‘revitailsed’ saloons on the Knaresborough Road Volvo saloons. We as customers can expected the unexpected, for the new look to the Mainline.
For the distinctive touch Transdev are offering a member of the public to become the voice of the Mainline, by entering a competition (ending 8th May 2017). The entries are to be sent via you tube or twitter and last around 30 seconds, this will give that attention to detail which has become the Transdev standard.
The pioneer is back
The 36 was to undergo a complete change of vehicle design, with new improved timetables, new bus stop flags from Harewood Bridge to Ripon bus station. State of the art interiors, wood effect floors, glazed upper saloon ceiling, super-fast 4G Wi-Fi, USB power and a first for any UK double deck fleet double glazed windows. First the anticipation, with teasing sneak peeks on twitter and other social media, then the VIP invites to the under wraps press launch. But before all that a little sneak peek by your author, a chance to cover the all-important tilt test. With permission sought from the CEO and a few e-mails later. The flight was booked and a visit to see a tilt test, something your author had never seen.
The bus which at the time was known as AM664, later as fleet number 3616 and after Rio 2016 Jack Laughter named bus. It passed with flying colours, as the test was repeated on the off-side. Then a little run into the depot yard of Falls Road for a horn test, then a trip to Wrightbus, Ballymena. What a day, such warmth and a great friendly welcome, it could not be beaten. The pictures were share between your author, Alex Hornby, John and Derek at Wrightbus, until the buses were in service.
The three-day preview event
Before the press launch and preview events, the new buses started to arrive on the mainland, quickly driven to Queensgate Depot, Burnley, and stored until needed back over in Harrogate.
On Thursday January 21st three vehicles were seen in and around the Majestic Hotel grounds, 3618, 3620 and 3625. As darkness fell Alex Hornby began his speech about the 36, which had seen innovation in 2003 with the new ‘twin-deck’ fleet of buses, 3601 the first to be seen. As a treat the VIPs were given a small ride around Harrogate on one of the new buses. The whole team of 36 pilots were in exuberant mood, as they unveiled the new uniforms and name badges, smart red and black cloths to match the buses.
On Friday January 22nd 3625 which stayed in Harrogate, opposite Betty’s tea rooms, 3618 ventured towards Ripon for a few hours posed on the Market Square. While 3620 was used to show local MP and junior minister for transport Andrew Jones around the new bus. True to form the British weather was well appalling as the rain continued non-stop until at least midday. By which time your author was drenched and the camera was shot beyond compare, unable to take pictures. After a brief home visit to change cloths, put one camera into the airing cupboard and bring out the secondary back-up camera. It was back into Harrogate to refresh shots and then forward to Ripon and to see 3618 and its team.
An early start on Saturday January 23rd, then a trip to Starbeck and await the departure of 3618, driven by good friend Stephen Gill, with a cheery wave. You author followed the bus to Leeds.
In Leeds, the bus was carefully driven down Briggate to a suitable place for its display. Your author joined the gathering and quickly found its easier to talk to potential passengers and members of the public about the whole concept of Riding Redefined. Around me the bus enthusiasts mixed with the public and Transdev team. The free items were red and black lollies, which were very nice, a 36-note book, neatly designed and a specially designed booklet by Best Impression, selling the whole new Riding Redefined idea. The team were very busy in Leeds, as coffee runners were dispatched to a local emporium to purchase refreshments. Then with a few farewells, your author returned home and celebrated a good friend their 50th anniversary.
The first day of Riding Redefined
The first morning of the operation of the new 36 buses was, well dark, very dark. But with note book and camera to hand, with Team-leader Tim and Alan both on duty, it was going to be a long day, but fun.
3624 was the 07:10 departure to Ripon, with the first passenger called Barbara on board the bus set-off. 3627 arrived as the 07:20 departure to Leeds, then it fell quiet, time for a quick brew, well a flask of tea. Then it was time to see off 3616 as the 08:20 Ripon bound bus, which was followed by returning 3624 for its trip to Leeds. 3626 arrived to commence the 08:50 to Leeds, as 3627 returned from Leeds, the first vehicle to complete the full route. 3627 was the 09:10 Ripon departure.
3616 returned from Ripon to become the 09:20 Leeds service, while 3615 arrived as the 09:40 departure to Leeds. From here the buses already out and about were joined by 3623, which would run forward to Leeds, having started in Starbeck. Then after a breakfast stop, with a continental flavour, time to sample one of the new 36 vehicles. My driver for the trip was Stephen Gill, who had taken 3518 to Leeds the previous day, on board 3627, which had now completed her first full round trip. Harrogate to Leeds, then Leeds, Harrogate and Ripon, with this Harrogate to Leeds and a return journey.
High specification met with high standards.
With a cheerful warm greeting from Stephen, 3627 was his first drive of the new vehicles in service. Your author sat in the lower saloon, to sample the high specification interior and that smell of a brand-new bus. The quilted e-leather civic V3 was comfy with its ample leg room and USB power socket facing the passenger on the rear of the seat in front. Sitting at the rear of the bus with its innovative tables section, which will reduce the need for shoes on seats. With tablet plugged into the USB and access to the 4G Wi-Fi, the journey began towards Leeds. At some key fare stage’s, the audio announcement would come to life as BBC Look Norths’ Harry Gration would tell you that ‘your next stop with be Oatlands Corner’.
The bus breezed into Leeds and was paused at the bus station, with a little catch up with the driver, the bus was soon on the return leg of the journey. For this the upper saloon Airline style VGA seating was sampled, undeniably the most comfortable seats on any bus.! The regular travellers on the commuter journeys were in for a real treat on the first Monday morning of the service. Your author sat in one of the seven single seats, which not only afforded ample leg room, but the mini airline type pull-out table. Great for using a tablet, mobile or small laptop device, with a USB power socket. While in the upper saloon your author conversed with several passengers, who were evidently very pleased with the high specification and overall attention to detail. Many had especially ventured out to try the new vehicles before the weekday commuter periods.
At Harrogate, Harry Gration announced that we ‘Would be shortly arriving at Harrogate Bus Station, Thank-you for travelling with Transdev and we hope to see you again soon’ As your author alighted from the bus another enthusiast friend was already around taking in the new buses. Together both of us ventured towards Ripon, to see 3627 arrive and leave the city, with a couple of countryside shots taken aswell.
The remainder of the day was spent with some more enthusiast friends as the Harrogate to Ripon section of the 36 was explored, as the light faded into the night. It was time to look back on what was a very successful first day in service.
The Monday morning rush to work.
On Monday January 25th 2016 the buses started to Leeds at 05:15, 05:35, to Ripon 05:50, to Leeds 06:05, to Ripon 06:20, to Leeds 06:25, all these journeys start from Harrogate. With the new fresh look to the 36 came two new neighbourhood departures from Bilton and three neighbourhood departures from Jennyfield. The 06:31 and 07:01 departed from Rawson Street, just off King Edwards Drive, and followed the 2A service through to Harrogate and then to Leeds. The three Jennyfield departures left Harewood Road at 06:25, 06:55 and 07:25 again these followed the 3 service to Harrogate then forward to Leeds. The 06:31 service from Bilton would venture to Leeds on the normal 36 route, however at Moortown Corner the bus would turn into Street Lane and continue down Scott Hall Road. The 06:55 from Jennyfield would also take the fast route down Scott Hall Road as would the 06:55 departure from Ripon.
Some of the early Harrogate departures to Leeds would additionally start their journeys from outside the Starbeck depot, from the Prospect Road stop at 04:58, 05:18. 05:48 and 06:08. All the above-mentioned duties were for the Monday to Friday peak-time journeys which happened in the morning. Return journeys to Starbeck would arrive at 20:20, 20:35, 21:32 and the last bus in at 00:07. Two late extensions of the 36 would happen on a Friday and Saturday late turn, these set off from York street at 00:15, 01:15, 02:15 and finally 03:15. Both the 02:15 and 03:15 would extend to Starbeck arriving at 03:02 and 04:02 respectively.
From 15:45 until 18:05 there would be an additional stop added for the peak-time service, at Infirmary Street, which vehicle wondering around part of the city loop road. The 16:45, 17:05 and the 17:25 would venture along Scott Hall Road, Street Lane and Harrogate Road at Moortown Corner, before returning to Harrogate. The 18:05, 18:11, 18:31, 19:10 and the 19:15 departures from Harrogate would see buses return to either Bilton at 18:28 and 19:21. With the Jennyfield returns arriving at Harewood Road at 18:18, 18:48 and finally 19:28, all the estate/neighbourhood returns would and still run private back to Starbeck depot.
In late August 2016, your author recorded the day’s activity on the Scott Hall Road section of the 36 service. Above is illustrated 3621 working the Bilton 06:31 service into Leeds, with the ‘Non-stop after Moortown’ destination screen. After seeing the bus depart the area, it was time to venture to Street Lane and record the three 36 vehicles on the early morning peak-time run. 3621 was the first bus to be turned into Scott Hall Road working into Leeds, with 3624 arriving next and finally 3617 completed the morning runs. For the afternoon peak-time runs 3615 was the first to arrive along Scott Hall Road, as 3620 working forward to Bilton followed shortly afterwards and the last vehicle of the day was 3616 working its way back to Jennyfield.
Timetable changes & Olympic success
On Monday September 4th 2016 various changes were planned for the 36, which saw the Scott Hall Road ‘fast’ journeys stopped, which would help with service timings. Also, the late Friday night/Saturday morning runs form Leeds were also withdrawn, mainly due low passenger usage. The Saturday night/Sunday morning late runs remain as these were popular with weekend revellers. Contactless payment was fast becoming a real option for passengers in London, with many journeys completed by a contactless card. In June 2016, Alex Hornby and local MP Andrew Jones, brought in the idea of contactless payments on the 36. This service proved popular enough to encourage the fleet wide roll-out of this method of payment.
During 2016 a couple of passenger surveys were carried out, regarding the new look to the 36 route and the buses. Both surveys netted positive results with a 95% and a 97% customer satisfaction level. Many passengers were also tweeting pictures about their journeys on the new high specification buses. There were some passengers who hand migrated from using the rail service to becoming converts to the 36.
3616 seen above was chosen to have the name of local Olympian Jack Laugher applied to the bus. On Thursday September 28th 2016, 3616 took part in the ‘Olympic athletes home coming’ parade in Leeds, where the whole city celebrated Team GB’s most successful overseas Olympic campaign. The following day the bus was used in service and is depicted travelling near Killinghall, just outside Harrogate in glorious summer sunshine.
Passenger surveys & continual growth.
Across 2016 the 36 saw a gradual growth in passengers, which led to a selection of surveys to see what improvements could be made for the service. At the same time passenger satisfaction forms were completed, with the results showing a 95% and a 97% passenger satisfaction. Easy price structure, contactless payments and a mobile pre-paid app all adding to the improvements of the service. The early morning neighbourhood departures were also gaining a loyal gathering of passengers, which has seen these remain unchanged.
On the social media side of the service, many passengers still send in their photographs of their journey aboard the 36. Even to this day there seems to be plenty of people willing to give this Riding Redefined bus travel a go, even staunch train users have been converted to the 36! Special weekend deals, such as the duo ticket and the Dales rider ticket have seen passenger numbers grow, along with newly introduced Day Tripper ticket, which allows passengers to travel as far as Preston or York on the one ticket. The Day Tripper Plus allows the passenger to extend over to the East Coast, for the day.
Since the introduction of the new Riding Redefined 36, the buses have performed well and seen some timetable adjustments, along with major roadworks and accidents which cause extra delays to the service. With first anniversary upon us have these new high specification vehicles done enough to persuade the average car driver to change to bus travel. The daily work commute has seen little growth, as the motorist still prefers to sit in endless queues on the rush hour journeys. However, it’s the leisure time which has seen the best growth, especially during spring and summer months. As events, special shows and general outings see more people using the bus. One successful use of the new buses has been the late/early morning departures from Leeds, after a good Saturday night in the city.
As mentioned the neighbourhood departures, have seen a steady rise over the year, with many departures in the morning starting from Starbeck, then extending to Bilton with two daily returns and Jennyfield with three daily returns.
Whatever the reason for using this now familiar high specification of bus travel, passengers overall do enjoy the Riding Redefined experience. As word of mouth also spreads the gossip all about this much-improved service. One last item of interest which in some way needs a mention are the occasional visits by the ‘Bus-Butlers’, where senior Harrogate staff along with Transdev-Blazefield’s CEO, to hand out a little breakfast treat for the early commuting passengers.
For more information regarding the 36 visit the Transdev Harrogate website or their Twitter feed, giving up to date travel and service changes information across the year.
All pictures are by the author, Scott Poole, visit his Flickr photostream and twitter pages for more photographs.
Your author would also like to thank the drivers and duty staff for their help in allow myself to take the photographs of the new look buses.
Happy anniversary Riding Redefined.
The first day into service December 12th 2016
3632 BT66MVP is seen about to turn into Garnet Lane, Woodlands just outside of Tadcaster, during the first full trip into Scarborough. The bus had set off from Malton at 06:14, arriving into Leeds for 08:25 and was ready to begin the 08:45 journey as the 843.
Transdev Coastliner had successfully showcased both 3631 and 3632 during Thursday December 8th 2016, with plenty of positive feedback from current and potential passengers. After the event the vehicles were taken back to York Fulford Road (3631) or Malton (3632) depots. Friday saw both vehicles undergo the final checks before been placed into service.
On Saturday December 10th, 3632 was used to undergo clearance tests at Kirkby Misperton and a roundabout at Goathland, to ensure the new vehicles could be used on the 840 service to Whitby. The evaluation trial went well with as the vehicle was returned to Malton, for the team to discuss the usage of the new buses on this section of the route.
During Sunday December 11th, the Yorkbus twitter feed announced that the first public journey would take place on Monday, with a trip to Leeds, Scarborough, Leeds and then Thornton-Le-Dale, starting at 06:14.
Monday morning saw early preparations for 3632 to be ready for the maiden voyage at 06:14, at which time it was dark and in some places very dense fog patches. Your author caught up with 3632 at Seacroft, having narrowly missed a chance to photograph it in Tadcaster going to Leeds. The early fog had encapsulated Tadcaster and the surrounding area, making it quite atmospheric for some photographs.
Woodlands Avenue on the outskirts of Tadcaster town, sees 3632 picking up a passenger in some foggy conditions, the bus was keeping to time and look very magnificent during her first morning.
During the devastating floods of December 2015, Tadcaster was cut in half after the Bridge collapsed in dramatic style. Footage of the actual moment being caught on a mobile camera, it was followed by an investigation and result in a £2 million pound plus rebuilding project. With this event Yorkshire Coastliner were unable to serve the towns bus station, instead a shuttle service was introduced. This connected the main Coastliner routes, later the idea was curtailed in favour of buses doing a circuit around the High Street and Chapel Street. Transdev also introduced the new 'Tadfaster' service using a selection of York based single deck buses. This hourly direct service connects Tadcaster with York from 06:55 until 18:09. After the small Tadcaster circuit, 3632 was then taken onto the A162 and returned to the A64 then forward to Copmanthorpe a small village just off the A64. Here at least the weather improved as sunny conditions had broken through the heavy cloud.
Copmanthorpe village offers more photographic opportunities as 3632 turns into main road within the village.
3632 continued into York city centre and the major interchange sections at the Railway Station and at Stonebow, before heading towards a rather misty well foggy Stockton on the Forest. Your author managed to negotiate the cities wonderful traffic light system to venture towards Stockton, were the car was parked, then joined 3632 for its journey to Scarborough. From Stockton on the Forest the 843 takes just around 84 minutes to travel to Scarborough. The bus arrived some seven minutes late into Malton bus station, here a driver change and a few photographs were taken.
Your author had travelled in the lower saloon on the journey to Malton, taking a seat in the last low floor section of Civic V3 seats. Here amble leg room allows for a more comfortable journey, the wood effect floor allowing a warm touch to the interior décor. 3632 was driven well be the female driver, who guided the bus very well upon the hilly sections of the undulating A64. The kick-down was noticeable on a couple of the steeper hills, but the new Volvo D5K engine and ZF six speed gearbox are a great union of power. The ambient temperature within the lower saloon was just right on a cool crisp day, with the passengers speaking highly of the new vehicles.
Scarborough Peasholm Park
From Malton bus station the bus ventured around Norton village before re-joining the A64, as the bus passed through Scagglethorpe, Rillington, West Heslerton, Sherburn, Canton and Saxton. Before heading into Seamer and then taking a winding road into Scarborough town centre. At a packed Railway station stop, in company with East Yorkshire Volvo/Plaxton deckers and ADL E200 saloons, 3632 paused for a short while before continuing towards Peasholm Park.
For this section of the route, your author had travelled on the nearside upper deck table area. The high-backed VGA cloth moquette/e-leather seating providing more comfortable travelling. On the social table, there are two mains plugs with USB charging ports and a Wireless charging port, something your author had not seen. This charges Samsung and market leading I-phones without, yes you have guessed correctly no wires, oh the wonders of the mobile generation. I was joined by three fellow bus enthusiasts Jake, Jordan and Lewis, who had embarked on the bus journey at various points. The journey to Scarborough was seemingly very quick, as everyone had tales and stories to tell. Again, the passengers were in favour of this new styled bus, with its Wi-Fi and at seat charging points.
3632 uses the roundabout at Peasholm Park to begin its journey back to York and Leeds, the mid December sun assisting with some brightness.
At the terminus in Peasholm Park the bus pauses for a driver break, before heading back to Malton, York and Leeds. The bus returned to Malton along the route, setting off at 12:00, with a few minutes stop at the railway station. Having travelled along the route the bus had made it back to Malton, here a refreshment break was taken along with a couple of shots. However, due to an issue, the bus was taken of service which was the right action to ensure passenger safety. Volvo B9TL/Wrightbus Gemini2 425 returned your author to his car, as the clouds formed and the rain began to fall.
3632 pauses at Malton before being taken off service due to a technical issue, in dry condition the vehicle looks impressive and the new livery suits the bodywork shape.
3632 had performed very well in her maiden voyage, the clean smart interior with its tables on both decks, comfortable dual-purpose seating, free 4G Wi-Fi at seat and table USB power with additional mains and wireless charging. These amazingly impressive vehicles deliver on passenger comfort, with scrolling next stop screens, audio next stop announcements for certain stops along the route. Both drivers expertly gave the bus a good drive along straight, hilly and winding sections of the service, with enough power to climb the hills at a steady pace. More of the class are now being prepared at Burnley Queensgate depot and no doubt before the New Year they will be in service, rubbing shoulders with 421-429.
Five more vehicles will be purchased for delivery during 2017, thus allowing Coastliner to become the youngest bus company in the UK.
480 (1858) C480YWY is seen passing through York city centre, heading for Scarborough during the early 1990's. This Olympian was withdrawn during January 1994, passing to Keighley & District.
A new beginning January 1990
In 1984 the Malton depot was being used to supply vehicles for the east coast services via York and Leeds, using existing Plaxton bodied Leyland Leopard coaches and ten coach seated ECW bodied Leyland Olympians. The routes were timed to start at the former Wellington Street Coach station, which was now part of the National Express Yorkshire Pool services. The buses and coaches were painted into the very pleasing two tone blue Venetian blind style livery, used across the National Bus Company (NBC) network of routes.
By 1986 the NBC was being sold off to various Management Buy-out (MBO) plans or into new groups, as part of the new 1985 Transport Act or deregulation. For West Yorkshire Road Car, Alan. J. Stephenson (AJS) Holdings purchased the operation, splitting the WYRCC into smaller operating units in 1987. York City & District working from the Barbican Road in York and Railway Street in Malton, using a blue and cream livery. However, the York Barbican Road depot was sold off to Yorkshire Rider in July 1990, this was preceded by the creation in January 1990 of the new Yorkshire Coastliner operation. Six former WYRCC ECW bodied Leyland Olympians (1853, 1854 1856-9) and five Plaxton bodied Leyland Leopard coaches (2579, 2584, 2589, 2592-3), with four more WYRCC coaches arriving in April 1990 and five new Plaxton bodied Leyland Tigers in May 1990.
New double decker buses during the 1990’s
407 K7YCL arrived into service during October 1992, and is seen here at rest in Malton bus station in full Blazefield branding and Yorkshire Coastliner livery. This bus was withdrawn in 1995 and ventured in service with Keighley. 407 returned to Yorkshire Coastliner for a year from 2001 until 2002, then forward on to Burnley and Pendle for continued service.
During September and October 1992 six new Northern Counties bodied Leyland Olympians would be delivered and entered service, replacing the time expired former WYRCC Olympians. These new buses were painted into the blue and cream livery with the addition of the familiar route branding, which was now on most key routes. Blazefield Holdings had acquired the AJS group of fleets from the former WYRCC group in 1991. 402-407 were to stay with Yorkshire Coastliner until 1995 and 1997, with some vehicles returning to cover for summertime extras. While the new Olympians settled into service, the Leyland Olympian became a Volvo product in 1993, after Volvo purchased Leyland.
In 1994 two new vehicles were to arrive at Yorkshire Coastliner, in the shape of 408 in January and 409 May 1994. Both were bodied by Alexanders of Falkirk, with the new Royale bodywork. Both these vehicles were the first production Royale’s to be purchased within the UK market. 422-425 arrived during February 1995, again like 408-9 with dual-purpose seating. All these vehicles gaining the full route maps on the rear end, and subsequent Royale’ also had route maps too.
New in early 1994, 408 (L8YCL) the first production Alexander Royale bodied Volvo Olympian, pauses in the old Leeds Central Bus. The new style livery for the post 1991 Coastliner livery featuring the route branding and the first vehicle to have rear end maps.
423 (M923UYG) is part of the second batch of now standard Volvo Olympians, notice the small crown on the front grill. The bus is seen about to depart the re-designed Leeds City Bus Station for another trip to Scarborough.
In 1997 four more of the Volvo Olympian with Alexander Royale bodies arrived as numbers 426-429, by 2004 all were withdrawn, three finding continued service with Lancashire United. During June and July 2000 the last batch of Alexander Royale’s arrived in the shape of 431-437, these were 10.3 metres in length. 437 was the last Volvo Olympian to be built in the UK, as the new low floor era was about to enter the UK bus market.
434 (W434CWX) is seen paused at Peasholm Park bus stop, ready for a return to Leeds. 434 was withdrawn early 2006 and was used by First Bus working from Great Yarmonth.
21st Century Coastliner
April 2002 brought in the first and only Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TLs 438-440, these featured the last blue and cream livery with the route branding used from 1992. 438 was repainted into the new dark blue and indigo livery during 2006.
439 (YD02UMZ) is seen departing Malton heading for Scarborough during its first month into service. 439 also has the latest at the time the new route map on the side panels.
In 2004 the first low floor double decker Volvo B7TLs with Wrights Gemini bodywork arrived as numbers 401-4, featuring a new dark blue and indigo livery with sweeping chrome effect waves. Together with a new style of fleetname and a revised rear end map for the whole Yorkshire Coastliner routes.
401 (YJ04LYG) pauses on New Briggate, Leeds working the 843 to Scarborough during April 2004, in the new livery.
In early 2006 six more Volvo B7TL/Wrights Gemini double deckers arrived as numbers 405-10, again in the new look dark blue and indigo livery. These were amongst the last vehicles to be ordered by Blazefield, before Transdev purchased the whole operation during 2006.
407 (YK55ATU) is seen leaving Tadcaster Bus Stration, bound for Thornton Le Dale on the 840 service, during May 2009.
The next batch of ten Volvo/Wrights deckers arrived during April 2008 as numbers 411-420 these were the B9TL chassis, in the new dark blue and indigo livery with rear end route maps. These buses are to be replaced by the new 2016 intake of Volvo B5TL/Wrights Gemini 3 vehicles, when the order is complete.
415 (FJ08BYN) pauses at the Railway Station bus stops, having just being in service for over a year.
During 2010 Transdev began a full fleet repaint programme for the whole Blazefield fleet, this included the Yorkshire Coastliner fleet, with number 401-104 gaining the new mid and light blue livery, which was a brighter improvement on the indigo scheme.
403 (YJ04LYK) stops on Vicar Lane looking fresh in the brighter mid and light blue scheme, which the bus received in January 2010. By December 2010 403 along with 401, 2 and 404 were transferred to Harrogate, to cover for the refurbishment/overhaul of the 3601-12 twin decks for the 36 service. 403 is now repainted into the new Keighley Bus Company two tone green livery with new Yorkshire phrase branding.
In April 2011 the first Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TL vehicles as numbers 421-424 arrived, these were painted in the mid and light blue 2010 livery with new slogans on the rear ends plus smaller route map.
421 (BD11CEA) is seen travelling along the A64 York Road in Leeds heading for Bridlington during June 2014.
Both 401-404 and 421-424 batches now in the new livery which also lost Yorkshire from the fleetname, as they were now known as Coastliner.
21 months later in 2013 the last five VolvoB9TL/Wrights had arrived as numbers 425-429, with the mid and light blue livery and rear end slogans. The sixth example was diverted to Harrogate as their new 3613.
429 (BF62UYL) the last of the five Volvo B9TL/Wrights delivered in early 2013, is seen travelling towards Leeds city centre on the A64 in April 2013.
As 2016 draws to a close the next generation of Yorkshire Coastliner double deckers are currently on delivery or being completed, before being sent into service. These new vehicles are being numbered directly after the new 2016 batch of 36 Volvo B5TL/Wrights Gemini 3s, which arrived with such importance for Harrogate. The three day press and public showcase events showed just how much the new buses, were at the heart of the 36 service. Longer vehicles better upper saloon seating, quilted lower saloon seats, at seat USB power, Folding tables on all the upper saloon seats, 4G Wi-Fi, wood effect flooring and our own Harry Gration doing the next stop announcements!
So what’s next for the ten new Yorkshire Coastliner double deck Volvo B5TL/Wrights Gemini 3’s, they have a new livery!
Keep your eyes peeled for the new look Yorkshire Coastliner’s coming soon to the Yorkshire coast, brought to you by Transdev and Creative Desire AKA Best Impressions.
All together now…Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, oh I do like to be beside the sea……
York, famous for chocolate and Vikings with sprinkle of Roman history. Was the setting for yet another eye catching display of Transdev's latest innovation. Cityzap.
Branding has been key for promotion and passenger growth, with so many new ideas, spreading around the Transdev fleet. The company has seen plenty of activity across 2015 and it looks like 2016 is going to be a bumper year for the group.
With the incredibly successful press launch and preview events for the #RidingRedefined 36. it seemed logical that the former 36 Volvo B7TL's were given yet another lease of life, with two new innovations for services in Blackburn #RedExpress and the new #Cityzap York to Leeds. 3601-7 are currently undergoing a livery change and spring clean for the new advertised #RedExpress X41 service in a red and blue livery, which will express its self when launched on April 3rd 2016.
The remaining former 36 vehicles are to be based at York, with 3608-12 all gaining new Wi-Fi, USB power sockets and the stunning Champaign silver and red livery shown above. The subtle branding blends in well with the new livery style, one assumes this is going to be the Transdev in house style for the new freshing-up of the Yorkshire and Lancashire fleets.
For your author it was a reasonable start for a trip across to York on Saturday March 19th, with a Park & Ride into the city from the A59, which is good value. From the railway a short brisk walk towards Piccadilly, where 3608 was turning into the area, again as seen above. It was here that 3609 was already parked on the initial area of Piccadilly, but with some skillful maneuvering the buses were set into a V formation, and #teamTransdev set about building the tables, flag poles and large Cityzap gun all for the first preview event.
Above two of the Transdev team are ensuring the buses are placed into position, before the 10am start off, for this preview event. Personally your author likes the sliver/white electronic destination blinds, no doubt engineered by Mckenna brothers. By the time the event was set up and ready special table covers with the CityZap name, timetables, mini zaptables, zaprings and zappistols. The children were able to win lollies for hitting the cityzap target with a spring activated toy gun, which was more than a hit during the day. Two zapgirls were on hand to give out all the above mentioned freebees and the information regarding the new express service.
During the morning Alex Hornby the CEO of Transdev joined the team at Piccadilly, York for another really top notch day. There was buzz of interest from the general public who stopped to chat and wonder around 3609, checking out the leather seats with additional USB power sockets. The interiors look smart and the positioning of the USB sockets on some of the seats is interesting. There are tubes along the lounge seats with USB sockets on the ends, with small plastic domes for the front upper deck windscreen. Instead of the various 36 inspired vinals, bright & bold Cityzap posters are the order of the day.
Two York drivers were on hand to answer questions about the new zapnav equipment power Garmin, which gives the driver up to date information on the local traffic situation, which will be helpful at peak times. The Cityzap route and timings takes around 20 minutes of the current Yorkshire Coastliner times, which is basically a 50 minute trip into Leeds, after the York collage stop. This allows the buses to run non-stop, along the A64 and continue on the A1M then the M621 into the centre of Leeds and the City bus station. Additional late night services are also provided on Friday and Saturday evenings until 3am each morning! Good for those who wish to go clubbing at the weekend, with a few beers.
Yorkshire Coastliner still continue into Leeds, with stopping in Copmanthorpe and Tadcaster, which still split with the collapse of the bridge after the 2015 boxing day floods. Yorkshire Coastliner still provide a service into Tadcaster with the 'Tadfaster' service, as the 840, 843, 845, X40 and X43 use the A64 then return into Tadcaster after the main high street and continue onto Garrnet Lane.
During the first week, which starts on Easter Sunday March 27th until April 2nd, passengers can enjoy the Cityzap service for £1, with Students and Rail users able to ride for a £1 until the end of April. After that its an £8 flat return fare, which is reasonable considering the car parks are getting more expensive in Leeds & York. Transdev also advertise the very reasonable priced Day Tripper ticket at £9 adult and £19 group (£3.80 each). with Day Tripper Plus ticket which takes the passenger from Whitby or Scarborough through to Preston at £15 adult or £31 as a group ( £6.20 each).
Team Cityzap are assembled for a photo around the Cityzap logo gun, with the team in full promotion mode for the service, with the buzz growing as the day progressed. Behind the team are the two tables full of passengers, gathering information and the freebees. In essence Alex and his team made me feel very welcome and it was a pleasure to catch up with Alex and his dedicated team.
Leeds had the pleasure of 3608 and the whole #teamCityzap for a day promotion of the new express service, with the main shopping area in Briggate the location for the bus. This was held on Sunday March 20th, with the Leeds Bid team also joining in the day's activities.
Your author hopes to sample this new service during the first week, with its eye catching Ray Stenning colour scheme and branding.
Get ready to get Zappy from Sunday march 27th 2016.
From humble beginnings through to the fast paced modern world, with No-Fi to Wi-Fi, wooden seats to high specification coach seats. The Ripon-Harrogate-Leeds 36 has evolved into an impressive route, with many changes along way culminating in the new #Riding Redefined fleet roll-out on Sunday January 24th 2016.
To start this particular story, one must first return to late December 1924, when the Harrogate Road Car Company commenced journeys thorugh to Leeds. Using the single deck Tilling-Stevens TS6 saloon type vehicles, which are a far cry from todays vehicles. In May 1925 Harrogate began running a service through to Ripon, which led to objections from United Automobile services, who had a bus depot in the city. With negotiations commencing regarding the future of buses running from Leeds to Ripon via Harrogate, it was concluded that both United and Harrogate (later West Yorkshire Road Car) would co-operated and co-ordinate the service. This arrangement lasted until October 1996, when United sold the Ripon depot, with the bus services transferring to Harrogate and District part of the Blazefield group.
A Leeds based independent bus operator Warburtons also ran into Harrogate along the same route as Harrogate & District during the mid 1920's, which is the same route the 36 continues today, via Harewood House. However by 1927 the Warburtons fleet and service was acquired by Harrogate in July of that year. 1928 saw the expansion of Harrogate, along with Premier Travel and Blyth & Berwick to form the West Yorkshire Road Car Company.
West Yorkshire RCC began giving routes numbers during 1936, with the Leeds-Ripon service becoming the 36. By 1969 after much change in ownership, West Yorkshire RCC became part of the National Bus Company (NBC). As the Tilling group brought in the Bristol K/ECW (Eastern Coach Works) bodywork and chassis combination, so the NBC brought in the Bristol VRT double decker, with the Bristol RE saloon and from 1972 the ubiquitous Leyland National. The 36 continued with many fine vehicles, which included the revolutionary Bristol Lodekka from 1954-68. However in the late 1980's things were about to enter a new competitive era within public transport. This period of public transport saw many changes implemented by the 1984 'white paper' composed by the late Nicolas Ridley, who was the time the minister of transport for the conservative government. From October 26th 1986, West Yorkshire RCC, was along with many a former NBC subsidiary sold to an independent company, in this case to Alan. J. Stephenson Holdings (AJS). During 1987 WYRCC was split into smaller operating units, with Bradford, Leeds and Otley as WYRCC, Harrogate and District, Keighley and District and York City and District, with Yorkshire Coastliner arriving in early 1990. During 1990 AJS had sold his remaining shares to fellow company managers Giles Fearnley and Stuart Wilde, who formed Blazefield, a new forward thinking independent company.
Blazefield wanted to brand its key routes within the fleet, with a simple but effective scheme, which would lead to an increase in passenger numbers. For the 36 service, these changes saw the departure of the dual-purposed seated Leyland Olympians, with the introduction of dedicated vehicles. 1989 brought four high backed dual-purpose seats inside new Leyland Lynx saloons, which were the final Leyland products purchased new by Harrogate and District. 382 G382MWU above illustrates the livery and diamond route branding applied to the 36, as it heads for Ripon. Over the next few years the 36 was to improve the vehicles by updating the fleet at regular intervals with newer buses. During 1993 the first Volvo chassis arrived at Harrogate for the 36, with striking Alexander Strider bodywork, 361-365 each bus entered into traffic in numerical order. These vehicles were set out to a very high standard, with dual-purpose seating, neat interiors and smartly turned out drivers. By 1996 the next Volvo chassis arrived with the now standard Wrights bodywork, 366-368 had the Endurance style, while 369-372 and 301-304 had the low floor Renown style of bodywork, these arrived in 1996, 1998 and 2000.
Illustrated above are the new Volvo buses which were to grace the 36 for a good few hard working years, the top picture shows Alexander bodied 383 in New Briggate, Leeds loading passengers for a trip to Ripon. While the picture below shows the Wrights bodied Volvo 368 pausing at Spacey Houses in Pannal just outside of Harrogate, heading for Leeds.
It was during 1998/1999 the additional cover for the 36 arrived in the shape of the five Northern Counties bodied Leyland Olympians from Keighley & District, with the two Yorkshire Coastliner Alexander Royale bodied Volvo Olympians, as peak time ridership had increased during this period. Passenger growth had rapidly increased, that the service was given a ten minute headway in Leeds. With the buses serving the now popular Infirmary street stops, only at peak times inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon/early evening slots. By 2002 Harrogate had gained the much sort after award of bus operator of the year, with its route branding, services and public information all leading up to the award. The 36 was about to enter another new era, as in the 'Customer News' bulletin a survey was carried out with passengers for the introduction of the new buses to be purchased by Blazefield, these were going to be double deck vehicles. Customers returned the forms with many interesting and some amusing ideas, but the leading suggestions were improved leg room, comfortable seats, wheelchair access, buggy access and improved journeys with better timings.
All these ideas and solutions were gathered, while the Blazefield management pondered the results, Wrights Bus of Ballymena were introducing their new double deck body, the Eclipse Gemini. Together with Volvo and Wrights Bus the new level of passenger comfort arrived with the introduction of the 'Twin decks'. The buses were given smart lower saloon cloth seats, with thicker bases, improved legroom and a dedicated wheelchair space. In the upper saloon, passengers were given individual high back coach seats with arm rests and again improved legroom. Designer Samantha Beeley produced the eye-catching livery, overall black with stunning chrome flashes and new 36 logo. Giles Fearnley was on hand during the 2003 Bus & Coach Show at the NEC in Birmingham, to explain the details of the new 'Twin decks', the bus was a hit with the industry and the press. Naturally during the show it was announced that the fleet would total 12 vehicles, with the first to enter service in late October 2003.
October 27th 2003 the first of the new 'Twin decks' had entered service, it arrived in Harrogate to form the 07:30 departure to Leeds. David Alexander and the local press had gathered at the bus station as 3601 arrived. There was an excited buzz around the bus stop as passengers were to experience the next level of bus travel. 3601 departed on time and left for Leeds, again Giles Fearnley was around to talk to Leeds press and BBC 'look North' about the bus. A short piece about the new bus was transmitted on the same day as 3601 entered service, on the 18:30 bulletin, the effect was impressive, this bus did turn heads. 3601 is depicted pausing at Pannal, Spacey Houses during her first week in service in October 2003, the livery was not only stunning, eye catching it really stood out, which is what separates the 36 from any other bus service. Yes there are pretenders to the crown as Arriva have launched their Sapphire and Max, First with Platinum, Stagecoach went Gold and West Midland also ventured down the Platinum path. Blazefield had certainly thrown a gauntlet out to other operators, setting the standard for something quite unique, but enjoyed by passengers.
During 2006/2007 Blazefield was approached by French based Transdev, to consider purchase of the whole Blazefield operation, a deal was struck and by early 2007 the Transdev logo was being applied to all buses. 2010 brought in two demonstrator vehicles into service on the 36 route, both these buses would run on the same diagram/car. 06:50 Pannal-Ripon, Ripon-Leeds and Leeds Harrogate then a 14:00 Harrogate-Leeds and Leeds-Harrogate. The first vehicle to arrive was the London TfL specification Alexander Dennis (ADL) Enviro 400H, it featured a Union Jack flag on a green and white based livery. The second vehicle was the much travelled Volvo B5LH with Wrights Gemini2 bodywork, in a cream, blue and green livery, possiblily due to the cost of each vehicle around £300,000 no orders were forthcoming. Instead Transdev opted to implement an impressive overhaul and refurbishment programme from late 2010 until early 2012.
Both the Hybrid buses are illustrated above with the ADL seen at Ripley, with the Volvo seen travelling along Ripon Road.
From December 2010, Harrogate had gained four former Yorkshire Coastliner double deckers, which were recently (in 2010) repainted onto the stunning two-tone blue livery, which still looks smart today. 401-404 were to stay until late 2011, by which time the new look 36 buses in service with other approaching the end of the refurbishment programme. 3601 and three others were dispatched across to Blackburn based Bus & Coach World, where they were to undergo a rebuild/overhaul/refurbishment scheme. This led to new Gemini2 front ends, new high spec seats in the upper saloon, which included seven single seats on the off-side, with five rows of increased size double seats. Leather seats were continued in the lower saloon too. Mention should also be made of the 2010 livery refresh of the 36 fleet, which basically continued along the same lines as the Samantha Beeley scheme, but without the chrome finishes. 2706 the Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TL was also taken out off service during 2010, it was given a new livery, overhaul, new leather seats, better legroom, a lower saloon rear lounge seating arrangement and the single seats in the upper saloon. Things were really moving forward with the development of the 36 service.
Illustrated above are former Yorkshire Coastliner 402 pausing at Wormald Green, while on loan during the 2011 refurbishment programme for the 36 fleet. The centre picture shows the upper saloon interior of 2706, which had been rebuild and overhauled before returning to Harrogate, for trials on the 36 route. The bus itself is depicted pausing at Ripley in late July 2010, during a wet spell of weather, the 36 route was colourful affair during this time.
As mentioned all ready the new fresh look for the 36, arrived in May 2011 as the '36 City Connect' with new black livery with additional red and orange sweeping lines near the front of the bus and chrome vinyl strips across the lower panels. The effect was again stunning and quite eye catching, as the buses returned to they were reregistered with private cherished plates, X1-14VTD. Later during 2012 the whole fleet was fitted with Wi-Fi for passengers wishing to surf the net, while heading for work, rest or play. In 2000, while the 36 celebrated it's 75th anniversary, buses ventured into Knaresborough on Sundays, however this only lasted a few months, it was curtailed due a lack of passengers. Again in April 2012 the 36 was tried from Knaresborough, from Nidderdale drive at 06:45 and 07:30 in the morning, with a peak time return. It was a bold idea but due to a lack of passengers the buses were quickly curtailed to stop in Harrogate, the simple reason being that the Knaresborough road services were running every seven minutes, so there was no real need for this part of the service.
Two views of the new 2011 '36 City Connect' buses, with former Burnley based 2765, now 3614 depicted exiting Victoria Avenue just fresh into service. 3614 will stay in Harrogate as a Riding Redefined spare vehicle in a new two tone red livery. While the rear view of 3605 displays one of fourteen rear end slogans for the newly refreshed service, with the benefits of free Wi-Fi. The buses settled into service and were well received by passengers, with the new seating layout proving to be a hit.
As 2015 arrived the new year brought in new challenges for the 36 fleet of buses 3601-12 were now getting towards 12 years of service under their belts, they have really earned their keep, since introduction in 2003/4. Then each bus cost around £180,000 they have served Harrogate well and been joined by 3613 new in 2006, a leased vehicle which was returned in late 2011 and replaced in 2013 by another 3613, this time a 62 plate Volvo B9TL. Former Burnley 2765 arrived in Harrogate in 2009, as additional cover for the route, and as mentioned it became 3614 not long after refurbishment. Now a change is as good as a rest, as they say but before the 3601-12 class could enjoy more relaxed end to life, three demonstrator vehicles were try on the 36 route. I have mentioned these three buses in more detail elsewhere on this blog, but just for neatness they are recalled here. The first vehicle was the former demonstrator which had spent six months at Dublin Bus, (BX14SYT) a Volvo B5TL with interim Gemini3 bodywork with a glazed staircase, since then the bus has been on other demonstration duties, but has since been purchased by East Yorkshire Motor Services. The next bus to arrived was the new Wrights Streetdeck (SN64CTU) with interim Gemini3 bodywork, but it had a layout for Go-Ahead specification and the Mercedes Benz 5.1 litre engine, it has since the trial also been used around the UK, now it s finally arrived at G0-Ahead North East. The third and final bus to be tried was the high specification, former NEC exhibit, ADL Enviro 400MMC (YY64GWX), this bus was indeed an impressive vehicle. It had wood effect flooring and four tables in the upper saloon, all the seats were high backed coach style. Like the first vehicle in the 36 trials, this bus has also since been purchased by East Yorkshire Motor Services.
After the demonstrator buses had left the 36 retuned back to normal, as the spring turned to summer and the autumn arrived, with Transdev now placing an order for the new buses, but what was coming. By the time 2015 was drawing to a close the new class of 36 2016 style were built or being finished off ready for delivery. The new Transdev CEO Mr. Alex Hornby had worked together with creative livery and bus designer Mr. Ray Stenning, along with other members of the Transdev team to bring us humble passengers the next generation of bus travel. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls Transdev proudly presents you:-
36 Riding Redefined
This story will continue with two preview shows and naturally the first day in service of these new buses, with the Euro IV Volvo B5TL chassis with new Wrights Bus Gemini3 bodywork, to be continued.
On a very sunny January day, your author took advantage with the new value journey ticket, the day tripper.
Transdev have advertised the day tripper ticket, for some time, November 22nd, enticing the idea of a full day's bus travel, on the buses. For today January 15th 2016, a trip on the newly extended 762 from Keighley via Ilkley and Otley, was my first journey on the new ticket. Keighley based 453, formerly of Yorkshire Coastliner, then to Harrogate for the short lived but popular X54, then the batch of saloons (450-454) were finally given shelter in Keighley. The bus is depicted above entering Harrogate bus station for the 11:35 journey back to Keighley, on a gloriously sunny day. 453 performed well as she glided along the A658 towards Pool in Wharfedale and then into the market town of Otley, were more passengers joined the service. Most of the passengers boarding at Otley really liked the 'warm bus, and 'the comfy seats', as they all settled down for the continuing journey.
Leaving Otley on a busy market day was easy, as 453 was put through a couple of tight situations, but the driver dealt with these easily. From Otley surrounded by the beautiful countryside, 453 was driven to Burley in Wharfedale and more passengers joined the service, with one comment of 'is this a new service, its a better bus then the other ones', this gent then wondered off into the village of Burley. Not long after rejoining the A65 towards the next area, the bus hit queuing traffic, which was slow but moving. Then a left turn into the small village of Ben Rhydding, along the road which led the bus towards the rear of the Bus/Rail Station in the town of Ilkley, just a few minutes of the pace, again the bus emptied at the stop but was quickly refilled with passengers. Soon back onto the A65, with a little traffic then a right turn into a small area called Low Mill, a neat countryside village, just off the main A65. Addingham was the next port of call, with a neat high street with plenty of shops and a few public houses, well worth a visit during the spring of this year. It was a tight squeeze along the high street, with parked cars and vans in all kinds of positions, without delay the driver pulled 453 through the lot, then a left turn into Silsden Road. 453 continued through Silsden, Steeton, Utley and finally into Keighley via a very packed North Street.
After a spot of lunch, it was time to board the next stage of the journey, the 662 'The Shuttle'. This particular service was given a long 'Blast-off' or 'Launch' as Transdev tied in the service with the grand opening of the Broadway the shopping centre in Bradford in early November 2015. I have tried the Shuttle vehicles before and found them pleasant to sit in and enjoy the Journey. Today your author took a trip aboard Endeavour or 1804 a Volvo B7RLE with Wrights Eclipse2 front end and bodywork, the batch of buses 1801-14 were given an extensive overhaul during 2015, in time for the new rebranded launch programme. Again like 453, 1804 was a very warn and pleasant vehicle to travel in, as the bus passed through Riddlesden, Crosshills and Bingley, before arriving at the historic village of Saltaire. A couple of photographs later and my next vehicle was arriving into Shipley Bus Station, for a trip on the 760 to Leeds. The bus in question was 2703, one of the sixteen new Plaxton president bodied Volvo B7TLs brought in 2001 for the complete refresh of the X43/44 services between Burnley and Manchester. Even though the bus was some fifteen years of age, 2703 still gave an excellent performance, even in heavy school time traffic and a couple of roadworks. As 2703 passed through Kirkstall in Leeds, the recent Boxing day floods were still very evident, even if the water was now back at a reasonable level. The clean up effort has worked very well, as the area looked clean with the roads showing little sign of damage.
In Leeds there was time to wonder around to look at the progress of the new look Victoria Gate shopping center, also the home of the largest John Lewis outside of London. The building looks impressive, with some interesting styles across the whole build. Leeds was busy, as can be expected on a Friday night, shoppers, workers and social/leisure parties were in full swing. My penultimate trip was taken on 3611 one of the out going 'City Connect' 36 buses, which was delivered in march 2004 to join 3601, which had debuted in October 2003. In fact the class 3601-12 have service both Blazefield and Transdev very well, with a highlight of the complete refurbishment/Overhaul programme of 2010-12 to become the new 'City Connect' fleet, with an addition of a new 3613 and former Burnley 2765 (3614) into the mix. Again 3611 like the other buses used today was a very pleasant trip back into Harrogate, it was an easy departure from Leeds and the bus was soon back into Harrogate for a continuing trip to Ripon.
For my final trip it was aboard a 2B to Bilton on one of the eight Optare Versa saloons, new in 2012 replacing the Volvo B6BLE/Wrights saloons. The Versa's have settled into the new look 'Harrogate Connect' local journey group of routes, the 2A, 2B, 3 and 6s.
Just for £9 I had a very good day, managed a few photographs, enjoyed my bus journeys, which has seen a huge saving. As the days grow longer and the light improves, your author will venture to East Lancashire and Manchester to sample their services. Even as a group, just for £19 for five people you can not find a better deal on any transport network. Yes the buses might take longer, but if your out with friends its the best way to enjoy your day.
Transdev In Keighley launched the refurbished Volvo B7RLEs with Wrights Eclipse bodywork, with three successful events, to place the SHUTTLE 662 into the public arena.
Working with renowned transport designer Ray Stenning's Best Impressions, Keighley brought out the new look livery, while all the promotional leaflets, timetables and free journey ticket were designed by Best Impressions. For Transdev the use of route branding has paid off, as ridership on various routes has increased, which in turn allows for such new ventures and ideas. The SHUTTLE is one way of giving an identity to one route with livery, dedicated drivers, timetables and promotions. For the first launch event the service was officially given a blast-off day on October 31st in Keighley, now with a reasonable number of refurbished saloons returned from Intack depot in Blackburn. Members of the Keighley team were on hand to hand out timetables, promotional leaflets and some space themed sweets! The new refreshed timetable has the hallmarks of the creative design of Best Impressions, with route map, detailed insert maps of Bradford & Keighley and the times. SHUTTLE 1811 was used to promote the event, with that fresh just delivered smell of the new paint work and smart new interior with cloth moquette seating and the USB charging points for mobiles and tablets. One other touch is the naming of each vehicle, with a space theme, some are named after the Shuttles, planets and people who shaped the way we think about the stars and space.
From Sunday November 1st 2015, the new look SHUTTLEs took to the streets in style, offering passengers, new bright interiors, 4G Wi-Fi and the continued 10 minute frequency. On Saturday November 7th the 'Blast to the past' event took place, where with the co-operation of the Keighley Bus Museum, Transdev In Keighley and Metro. Vintage and veteran vehicles were run every 20 minutes alongside the exciting new SHUTTLE vehicles, which saw the general public sample both modern low floor buses against the traditional buses from yesteryear. It was also a great way for a London style heritage bus day, instead of AEC Routemaster's former Leeds City Transport and West Yorkshire Road Car vehicles were used along side a Halifax and Huddersfield bus. This day was well received by the public and Transdev, bringing positive comments from everyone who travelled on the buses that day. Transdev's CEO Alex Hornby also took advantage of the first heritage run on the 662 with a few trips on the vintage buses.
The next and final push for the new look SHUTTLE service was organised for November 21st, which turned out to be a very cold day with the welcome return of the sun.! 1805 was chosen for this launch, again with members of the Transdev In Keighley team on hand with free gifts, sweets, some space themed music and the promotional use of a couple of astronauts!
The Transdev team were in the specially designed SHUTTLE hooded fleece's and gave out advice, sweets and pens all with the SHUTTLE logo. Transdev's CEO was on hand to assist, with days activities, handing out leaflets, talking to the public and taking part in a promotional photoshoot, with the Keighley Mayor and one of two astronauts, with a rocket also. With the opening of the long overdue Broadway shopping mall in the centre of Bradford, which Transdev used in promoting the new look SHUTTLE service. The 662 stops within walking distance of this new shopping mall, on Bridge Street in Bradford. By 3pm on the 21st the promotional work was now completed by Transdev, which left the new look SHUTTLE to run as normal.
The SHUTTLE has been heavily promoted by Keighley since the introduction of the Volvo saloons in 2005, with a dedicated livery and leather seating, this service took-off very well. So much so that the frequency was increased to every 10 minutes, to assist with increased passenger loadings. By 2011 the butterscotch and blue livery was introduced with another new logo for the 662 service, along with the free Wi-Fi. The 662 has seen many buses operating the service, from former West Yorkshire Road Car Leyland Nationals, to new Leyland Lynxes, then using Alexander and Wright bodied Volvo B10Bs.
Since 1986 West Midlands bus services have seen plenty of changes, with a blue, silver and red livery as Travel West Midlands from 1987 until the advent of National Express. Who changed to white with blue and red, then white and red with National Express grey lines, finishing off with equal amounts of red and white with route branding.
Then in late 2014 came the announcement that a new two tone red livery would became the standard scheme, along with a new two tone grey livery for new Platinum services. This also saw the additional announcement that NXWM would purchase some 177 brand new ADL E400MMC and E200MMC vehicles for delivery throughout 2015.
Thus started the ball rolling for the next stage of the National Express West Midlands fleet, as older buses were being withdrawn in favour of new Euro6 emission vehicles. It all started in March 2015 when the first handful of new ADL E400MMC double deckers arrived at the NXWM Pensnett depot. Numbered in the 6100 series, to easily identify the new fleet of vehicles, with the first service up for MMC deployment was the 9 Birmingham to Stourbridge service. The first seven vehicles numbered 6101 Alana, 6102 Aman, 6103 Anisha, 6104 Bella-Lilly, 6105 Bethany, 6106 Bronwyn and 6107 Dakota, were given extensive route branding for the 9 with full rear end adverts.
Your author visited Birmingham on March 11th 2015 to have a look at these new vehicles and photograph them in service. With tickets booked on the 10:00am National Express service to Birmingham, the trip took only 2 hours and 30 minutes that's with the 50mph limit between Sheffield & Nottingham (24 miles!). With a quick lunch taken, it was of the Colmore Row to see what was what with the new look 9 service, the MMCs were mixing in with the various Alexander ALX400, Volvo Gemini/Eclipse vehicles around the area.
Seen above working the 9 service on March 11th is 6107 Dakota in the new NXWM red livery with lime green and yellow route branding for the route, entering Edmund street from Newhall Street. As ever the NXWM drivers were very polite as your author took pictures of the vehicle they were driving, which makes it an enjoyable experience to venture into the West Midlands. At this stage the side adverts were to be sorted out and placed into the boxes, as can be seen on the shot of 6107. Judging by the reviews on Twitter and other social media its seems that the new buses were going down a storm. The interior trim is very smart and neat with decent cloth covered seats and ample leg room for passengers, plus the now familiar use of Wi-Fi for those in need of a catch up on the web. The NXWM Wi-Fi is accessed by simply giving your E-Mail address and the number of the bus service in use and its play time.
The next route to gain the new two tone red E400MMCs was the now 24 hour 50 Birmingham to Druids Heath service, from Yardley Wood depot which happened in May 2015. This time the vehicles were given blue route branding with several rear end adverts, like the other MMCs these buses also have a girls name added. The 50 is a popular service taking around 29 minutes to reach either end of the route, with a 4 minute headway Monday to Friday, a five minute headway on Saturday and an eight minute headway on Sunday all during the daytime shopping/working hours.
Above 6127 shows off the full 50 service branding and side advert, looking very smart as it rounds Moor Street Queensway before returning to Druids Heath. Yet again the positive feed back on Twitter and other social media shows that NXWM have got this mix right, even with some timing issues, but lets face Birmingham is one busy city its bound to happen.
The next services to under go transformation is the very busy combined 900 Birmingham to Coventry and 957 Birmingham to Solihull, which was one of the first high spec Platinum services run from Birmingham Central depot. The 900 service the city Airport, National Exhibition Centre and then Coventry, taking around an hour and ten minutes for the whole one way trip. While the 957 takes in the pleasant surroundings of the Solihull town, which went your author visited on June 15th was still having the main High street redesigned.
The new Platinum vehicles are smartly turned out, as your author found out when boarding 6712 (babs) on the 957 to Solihull, with ticket purchased, I ventured upstairs getting a front seat which was lucky. The seats are smartly turned out with leather sides mixed with a grey and red cloth moquette, with a good thick base to sit on and a reasonable back and headrest. The trip to Solihull was pleasant enough, with plenty going on in the vehicle, stop announcements featuring a 'Jamie Theakston' sound alike. Next stop scrolling bar with a monitor showing all the CCTV cameras working in the bus. The ride quality was good, with smooth acceleration from stop/start and gradual braking. The Cummins 6.7litre ISBe Euro6 engine coupled to the 6 speed ZF Ecolife gearbox worked well as the bus delivered its credentials as the purpose built modern day driver/passenger bus. Production MMCs retain the top deck air blowers for the front windscreens and a full air cooling system, with plenty of opening windows too.
Above is illustrated the upper saloon forward of the long staircase, are the nicely spaced seats and the wood effect floor along the main central walkway, with a grey patterned floor underneath the seats. Coach style hand grips are mixed in with the bell push poles along the saloon, with roof coving adverts for both the 900 & 957 services giving various pieces of info about the services. The lower saloon has dedicated buggy and wheelchair zones with a reasonable amount of seats, including flip-up seats in the zones, which lead up to the staircase which for various reasons is rear assending and quite long. 6712's driver was polite and happy to give an opinion about the vehicle with favourable tones, which is nice to know that drivers are liking the new E400MMCs.
Then off into Solihull for a spot of lunch before making a return journey on 6711 (betty) back into Birmingham, which again was a smooth trip, as other Platinum buses ventured from Birmingham on the both the 900 and 957 services. For the record the ADL E400MMC is a modern day Olympian, with all the basic needs for the driver and refinements for the passenger, such as good seating, ample leg room, Wi-Fi and power sockets.
NXWM have got the mix right for the new look livery and using the MMC vehicles to fast track the new two tone red livery, which is now being repainted on several older ADL E400 buses, which looks very smart. But the new look doesn't stop there, as in July 2015 the next selection of vehicles station at Acocks Green depot are given massive push. Yes the new look ADL E200MMCs are being placed into service on the 37 Birmingham to Solihull service, via Acocks Green, which was the last depot to run the MCW Metrobuses in July 2010.
The 500 service operated for a number of years by Transdev in Keighley has to be the ultimate rural bus service in Yorkshire, with visits to the Bronte town of Haworth and the ramble over the Oxenhope moors, down to Hebden Bridge.
With the route finding many twisty and winding roads along the tops, with tight turns in Oxenhope, Transdev used to operate the route with Volvo B10BLEs and B7RLEs until 2014, when with the arrival of two new Wrights integral Streetlites, it was all change at the 500.
The Streetlite itself is a new vehicle, competing with the likes of the Optare Versa and Metrocity mid range saloons, but it is an integral vehicle, using as standard the 4.5 litre Cummins ISBe engine with a small 4 speed Voith gearbox, with engine option of the Daimler OM934, a 4 cylinder engine and since 2014 the micro hybrid version has became available. The Streetlite is made of two versions the Solo style Wheel Forward (WF) or the Door Forward (DF), the WF has as the name suggests the wheels forward of the door. This version has various lengths from 8.9metres to 9.5metres, with Euro5 and Euro6 diesel engines, the micro hybrid units and a selection currently with Arriva using inducted electric power boost. The DF version has 9.5 to 11.5metres lengths with the 11.5metre version marketed as the Streetlite MAX.
Transdev continue to look at the ever changing market with new vehicles now arriving into production, Harrogate have the latest Euro5 Mercedes powered Optare Versa saloons, working on the Harrogate Connect local services. Meanwhile over in Burnley the Optare Versa saloons were gradually being withdrawn, with the new 64 plate Streetlites being placed into service. Burnley also tried the Streetlite demonstrator vehicle before purchasing the new buses. Which were used in a smart two tone red livery, by March 2015 the buses (601-9) were branded for Burnley Connect and some even ventured to the Boundry Mill shopping hall near Colne, on the number 4.
Around the same time as the new Streetlites were settling into their roles over in Burnley, the Keighley Streetlites were getting to grips with the 500 Hebden bridge service, which as mentioned in the introduction is quiet a testing route. Your author photographed the Streetlites in early March 2015, as they were being placed into service. Both 610 and 611 were finding there feet, as I joined one Keighley driver on a trip in 610 from outside of Hebden Bridge, for a trip into Keighley, then returned to the moors for some late March evening photographs.
On June 30th 2015, your author had a longer turn on the new Streetlites. joining 611 at Haworth as it started from Keighley at 15:05. The trip to Hebden Bridge was pleasant and the Streetlite coped well with the twists in Haworth very well, it was on the Oxenhope loop that the drivers skills were put to test, with some extremely tight corners and parked cars all added to the journey. Thankfully after more twists and turns the Oxenhope moors were in view, passing 610 in the process, the moors section was long and with the sunshine out. It afforded passengers some fantastic views of the surroundings with Oxenhope behind and the barren but beautiful moorland stretched out in front. The small Cummins ISBe engine worked hard in this section of the route, but without the constant braking which was an unfortunate result of some tight corners in Oxenhope. As the journey continued 611 passed through the nice little village of Peckett Hall, which was surrounded by again some magnificent views. The Streetlites gearbox was again given some lower range testing, even when the bus also arrived in Hebden Bridge 611 was carefully and skillfully taken through some very tight conditions, due to yet more roadworks. With all this action going on before arriving in Hebden, the rounding off to the train station was mellow to say the least. With a few minutes pause in the station forecourt, it was time to grab a couple of shots and interior view (above) and rejoin 611 back for a return trip, which was less taxing for the driver, much to his relief possibly.
With more of the fantastic moorland views, your author swapped Streetlites for another trip out to Peckett Hall, which allowed time for a shot above of 610 passing the local pub. With the bus vanishing down the hill to Hebden Bridge, there was time for well deserved pint in the beer garden, another shot of 610 passing through Peckett Hall, then a nice late afternoon walk along the fine moors to catch-up with 611 on its final run to Keighley. The bus was the 18:10 departure from the Hebden railway station and it was a pleasant trip back to Oxenhope, just me and the driver enjoying the vistas of the moors. The Streetlites were worked hard on the very twisty turning parts of the route, with drivers making the job look easy, but one wonders how the Streetlite would perform with the 6 speed ZF ecolife gearbox instead of the Voith unit, especially on the hilly sections of the route.
In 2005 a new batch of Volvo B7RLE/Wrights Eclipse saloons were purchased to promote the 662 The Shuttle service serving Bradford and Keighley via Bingley and Saltaire. The livery used was a white base with flashes of red, blue and chrome this looked fresh and allowed the 662 service to standout, which worked. By 2010 the 662 was again given a new livery using the butterscotch and blue Transdev layout livery, with branding plus successful promotion. The leather seats and bright interiors were retained, along with the addition of Wi-Fi for customers to use while on the bus.
During 2012-2015 Transdev was promoting the 'connect' brand in Harrogate and later Burnley, using red and black for Harrogate and two tone red for Burnley. The connect brand took over from a need for using a local identity, such as the 'Nidderdale Branch' which for your author thought was a pleasant way to promote the Yorkshire Dales and Pateley Bridge.
During the very early stages of 2015 the new MD for Transdev, teased us all with some very interesting shots of 1801 undergoing a overhaul/refurbishment. This naturally got the social media of the bus enthusiasts all taking about what was going on, even your author was looking at the pictures with interest. By late April 2015 1801 had returned to Transdev in Keighley and was hidden away for a big reveal at the open day on Sunday April 26th, which went down very well. The Lord Mayor of Keighley Councilor Mitchell assisted Alex Hornby in an official announcement for the new look to the 662 'The Shuttle' fleet.
On the last day in June 2015, which was for the record glorious, your author decided to have a trip across to Keighley to photograph and try the newly refurbished 'The Shuttle' saloons. After an hour or so of waiting in the centre of Keighley, 1803 arrived and was parked up in the bus station ready for its turn on the 662. Above the saloon is illustrated and as can be its very smart, clean and fresh, with new cloth moquette seats with deep bases. The floor is a grey with red swirls and looks very smart inside the vehicle, grey hand rails and a light grey décor finish off 1803 very well. The seating area is neatly separated from the low floor wheelchair and buggy zones, which both have three flip up seats and a back rest for the wheelchair owner. One of the biggest improvements is the inclusion of 4G Wi-Fi by using cleverly positioned USB ports between each seat, two in each. This again allows customers to be able to connect with work, family and friends while on the bus.
As for the ride quality the bus handled well around the enviros of Keighley, with good swift acceleration and keen brakes, which helps with the constant stop start in Keighley. With the straight sections of the journey 1803 took them in her stride, with no fuss, as the Volvo engine made all the right noises, along with the gearbox. The vehicle was rattle free apart from when the wheels hit some of the less well maintained roads in Keighley. The seats afforded a very pleasant trip and were very comfortable, only lately have Arriva, First and Stagecoach listened to customers about good thicker padding on the seats. Blazefield/Transdev have always offered dual-purpose seats in most of their vehicles over the years. Five CCTV cameras were inside the bus, with two skylights and the similar skyline ceiling to 2706 the ideas in action vehicle. What made the trip very enjoyable was the driver who was friendly and helpful to all customers. Even the drivers on the other vehicles on 662 duty during Tuesday June 30th were friendly and one even gave cheerful wave.
1803 was the 11:40 departure from Keighley and 26 minutes later had reached Nab Wood, via Bingley, Crossflats and Cottingley. Its here your author alighted and then ventured around the route for some photos of both 1802 and 1803 which were the only refurbished vehicle en-route. Above 1802 shows off its new identity with new Eclispe 2 front end and new Irish style plate, yet to receive the external rear and internal branding and info posters for the 662 service. When complete the whole batch 1801-14 should give at least five more years service, unless the West Yorkshire transport authority decide to down what TfL intend to do in 2020, and introduce an Ultra Low Emission Zones in all of West Yorkshire. Even if this happens the batch could be retro-fitted a Euro6 powerpack.
For me (your author) the new fresh look to the 662 is pleasing, as the two tone blue is similar to the new 2010 fresh Yorkshire Coastliner livery. As a complete package it works, no doubt with new suitable timetables and promotional posters this new 662 will continue the good work already started and continuing form 2005.
On Friday May 15th 2015 the donated Volvo Olympian Alexander Royale was officially handed over to the Keighley Bus Museum Trust, on a very bright and sunny day at Bramley bus depot.
The morning started with 30790 (5610) R610JUB getting a final spring clean and wash down, with Wingnut spending fours hours cleaning the interior of the bus. While Scott and Iain gave the bus a good soaping and wash down, while the sun shone in the Riverside depot. However while doing this the Royale was showing signs of being a little off, with a warning light and buzzer. With a few phone calls the problem was located and sorted, luckily the bus would perform well for the trip to Bramley depot. While all this was going on the recently restored Leyland Atlantean/Roe 9339 GUG547N was being given a wash down then a short trip to the petrol station. Then it was a return to the Riverside depot were the open topper, joined the Volvo and then it was off to Bramley depot.
Both buses were driven to Bramley via Saltaire, Shipley, Bradford, Thornbury and finally Stanningley, arriving at Bramley around 11:30ish. The KBMT Chairman Iain Bonner, Iain Simpson the Secretary, Neil Halliday Treasurer with Kiran Tolson Events and members Scott Poole and David Stapleford (Wingnut).
At Bramley depot the Royale was joined by one of the new Alexander/Dennis Enviro 400 double deckers fresh from the Commonwealth Games at Glasgow, 33877 SN14TVE. With the arrival of Brandon Jones First Marketing Manager, Bob Dorr First Leeds manager and several First Bramley depot employees, all joined by Victoria from UK Bus Users. This lead to the various bus photo, with Iain Simpson joining selected First and Victoria for the shoot. Iain Simpson was also chosen to do a small sound bite sections for the newly launched Made in Leeds TV station, which will be shown at a later date. Everyone were chatting about the visiting Atlantean and Royale vehicles, with many regaling tales of the buses in service, which was interesting to hear. Kiran was able to place the Atlantean near the depot doors for a few shots, revisiting the 2005 depot departure when the vehicle was purchased for preservation. With the thanks and farewells complete, the KBMT group departed Bramley, with the Olympian visiting Calverley near Leeds then into Shipley. While the Atlantean was driven on the reverse of the route going to Bramley, then stopping at Thornbury, Bolton Bridge and in Wrose, then forward to Keighley.
Then its was time to put the buses back into the KBMT Riverside depot, and then a well earned pint and some food. The day was very enjoyable for all who went to Bramley with a pleasant catch-up with the First personal.
April 14th 2015 saw all 17 new Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 double deckers assemble at the 'Tetley' in Leeds for yet another grand Arriva service launch. With some neat pyrotechnics, a talented female violinist and the firework display, with Sapphire logo beamed onto the Tetley building. It made for an entertaining evenings display, with Arriva showing First West Yorkshire how to launch a bus service in style.
Sapphire is a new service standard launched by Arriva in February 2013, which some very neat additions to the refurbished ADL E400s used in Oxford and Chester, free Wifi, improved legroom, smart leather seating, new brighter livery, on board power sockets and a money back guarantee! Four routes were chosen in England, buses were refresh/refurbished and the Sapphire was launched during 2013, with swift results showing the need for such quality. This led to more Sapphire brand routes to pop-up around the North East, North West, Kent, Derby and Leicester, again most using refurbished vehicles apart from the Durham-Darlington service which had new saloons.
In early 2012 Arriva Yorkshire launched 41 integral 2DL double deckers at Temple Newsam in Leeds, 17 of which were used for the 110 service, replacing the 2008 East Lancashire bodied Volvo B9TLs. These 2DLs joined the eight similar vehicles at Selby, which are still on the 415 Selby-York service recently upgrade to MAX standard. Arriva had standardized on the 2DL decker for all its operations, which included Hybrid Volvo B5LHs, with the same Wright low height bodywork, again on buses mainly in the North East/West and Yorkshire, with some in the South. But later during 2014 Arriva then started purchasing the complete ADL E40D double deckers for services in Merseyside, naturally orders were made for Yorkshire, with possible upgrading of key Kirklees routes, namely the 202/3, 268A with extension to Wakefield and the 126/7 services, also the 110 was going to be upgraded.
With the planned grand launch done and dusted the new ADL E40Ds were going to go into service on April 15th 2015, for the first full day of operation. The 110 has changed little during its operation from its West Riding days to the Arriva operation, apart from the removal of buses on North Street leading straight on into Westmorland Street. Buses now entered the redeveloped bus station on Union Street, then continued with a right turn into Westmorland Street. Like most West Riding routes the 110 does call at various places along the way to Wakefield, Lofthouse, Outwood, Kettlethorpe and Hall Green, via an Asda superstore before venturing onto Hall Green. The whole route takes just around an hour and eight minutes to complete, with a ten minute headway, which needs a minimum of 12 vehicles on the route. With 17 buses at Belle Isle depot's disposal, it can allow for the usual rush hour/peak time traffic problems to be sorted out, such as a short turn, with another bus complete one half of the service.
Sapphire has also brought out a strap line for the 110 with 'The Grandest Yorkshire Connection' which follows on from the MAX standard strap line 'Grand Yorkshire Connections'. Now most of my readers will know that the Sapphire brand was also designed by Best Impressions, who have Ray Stenning at the helm. Such bright and stunning livery designs by Best Impressions can be seen all around the UK on buses, trains and all timetables and route information posters. So if your in Leeds or Wakefield and fancy a trip on a very posh bus then try the new look Sapphire 110, yes its got WiFi, better legroom, power sockets but it has nice clean seats and bright interior décor.
Well by now Transdev in Harrogate have had some time with the Test Buses, taking them straight into service on the 36 service. Test Bus A arrived in January 2015 fresh from its six month stay in the Republic of Ireland city of Dublin. The Volvo B5TL with the classic Gemini3 front end, was very swift and agile around the more hilly enviros of the route. But the 5.1 litre engine was getting the power from the turbo charger units fitted to the engine, which was ok. But what would happen if these units failed mid service, leaving passengers frustrated on a very slow bus, a few complaints would surely follow.
The Volvo B5TL/Gemini3 combination is also considered to be some 1000kgs lighter, mainly because of shallower upper saloon windows with thin plastic seats provided in this particular vehicle. The engine is also now Euro6 standard, which means its wholly better for the environment with the fitting of both SCR and ERG emission reduction elements. This increases the engine weight, which again is lowered by installing smaller capacity engines, such as the Volvo D5K unit. Using the popular ZF Ecolife 6 speed gearbox provide some very good acceleration and hill climbing power for the B5TL, which came in useful at Harewood bank, Wormold Green and Wikefield bank. The Volvo was overall a swift bus, but the Wrights Gemini3 body is now getting dated, but the square shaped new front end has not proved popular so far. Plus recently Stagecoach have currently in build/on delivery a batch of eighteen Volvo B5TLs with ADL E400MMC bodies, which are heading for Scottish service. So if Transdev favour the Volvo at least it can have the stylish ADL bodywork.
Next to arrive was the fully Go-Ahead spec integral Wrights StreetDeck double deck chassis and bodywork which replaces the VDL SB250LC/Wrights low height combination 2DL vehicle. For this new vehicle Wrights teamed up with Daimler/Mercedes Benz for the engine while Wrights built the chassis and other parts for this new bus. A brand new Gemini3 fronted StreetDeck which was on display at the 2014 Euro Bus Expo in the NEC, Birmingham. Entered service in mid January 2014 for Arriva East Midlands along side new ADL E400s, making a striking difference to the ADL buses.
The example at Harrogate was already prepped for service with Go-Ahead features including cloth covered seats, which were very comfortable, better then the ones on the B5TL. The Mercedes Benz OM934 5.1 litre engine performed well, but the Voith 4 speed DWIA gearbox let the side down, with quick gear changes up and down. Another feature which was unusual is the delay start function on the StreetDeck, where the driver had to wait for the gearbox to select a low gear, so the bus could move off from a stop or after pausing in traffic. Again overall the StreetDeck coped well with the undulating twists & turns of the A61 along the 36 route, along with the hilly sections of the route.
Both the Volvo B5TL and the StreetDeck are well suited to the city/town parts of the 36, they were limited along the interurban/countryside elements of the 36. The B5TL could get up to 50mph, while the StreetDeck managed slightly above 40mph, which is not good on a major service. The only difference to the Gemini front ends are that version 3 has a squat upperdeck windscreen and Day Running Lights under the main set of lights.
Then the third vehicle in the trial/evaluation of the 36 arrived in the shape of the redesigned Enviro 400 built by ADL. Which seemed to draw in more feed back from the drivers and passengers during its stay at Harrogate. Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) took over from the ill-fated Trans-Bus group set up during the early part of the 21st century. Soon ADL began re-building its reputation and the Enviro range of vehicles were quickly embraced by various operators, including Stagecoach. It was during 2011 that ADL took on a brief set out by operators, to refresh and if possible improve elements of the trend setting E400 double decker bodywork. By 2014 prototypes for the new E400MMC were starting to make there way around selected operators around the country. Go-Ahead Oxford, Reading Transport and Stagecoach Manchester have already placed production examples into service.
Transdev in Harrogate were given YY64GWX, fresh from its stint at Trent-Barton, arriving on February 10th and into service on February 11th 2015. Transdev published the times for the ADL from the off, with an early start for the bus. Compared to the StreetDeck and Volvo, the twitter and other social media was alive with comments about the ADL.
Your author managed to talk to a few of the Transdev drivers, with some interesting views put across for all three vehicles, generally the ADL was better for the drivers regarding the spacious cab area in the E400MMC, the others were smaller but did the job. Passengers were talking about the ADL, with its 36 style seating and four tables, which would have worked with the addition of power sockets for Laptops, phones and tablets. The glazed staircase on the Volvo worked well in daylight, providing extra light without using interior lighting, this did get mixed reviews. I must admit that not many of the drivers favoured the StreetDeck, I hazard a guess that the start delay functions did not win many over.
On the subject of the engines the ADL used the Cummins 6.7 litre ISBe with 250ph@2100rpm, while the StreetDeck using the Mercedes OM934 5.1 litre with 231hp@2200rpm and the Volvo B5TL using the D5K engine with 240ph@1900rpm. Which gives the Volvo B5TL a slight edge over the ADL with power ratio, but the Cummins engine is bigger with more horse-power compared to either the Volvo D5K or the Mercedes OM934. The Cummins and Volvo engines were coupled to the ZF 6 speed Ecolife gearbox, I think the Mercedes engine was coupled to the 4 speed Voith gearbox.
Above all three of the upper saloon seating arrangements are shown with the B5Tl, StreetDeck and the ADL. There is not much to separate the first two styles as they are virtually the same, apart from the better Go-Ahead standard seating in the StreetDeck. Its the e-leather seats inside the ADL, which drew more comments and as can be seen the tables. Bare in mind that the ADL YY64GWX was exhibited at the NEC in 2014, hence the tables and additional blue lighting setting. Personally I did like the seating arrangement in the E400MMC, as before the addition of 4G WiFi, power sockets and Transdev Harrogate could be on to a winner. Its worked on the high specification Arriva Sapphire services around the UK, so why not the 36.
Consider this even though I'm just an interested party/bus enthusiast and photographer, I have seen the 36 grow from using former National Bus Company vehicles with dual-purpose seating. To branded saloons with dual-purpose seating updated every two to three years, with Blazefield and then the 'Twin Decks' in 2003/4 for the ultimate 36 experience. With better legroom upperdeck leather seats and fine cloth seats in the lower saloon. To the Best Impressions livery revamp and then the extensive refurbishment/overhaul programme of 2010-12.
So fellow 36 passengers, the time has come to enter another new era for the 36 service, so if you have any views/opinions pass them on to Transdev in Harrogate so they know what you want on the bus.
Here for what its worth are my views as seen in the above blog, but here in the order are the top three buses for the 36
1:- ADL E400MMC
2:- Volvo B5TL
3:- Wrights StreetDeck.
I have to thank everyone at Transdev in Harrogate for releasing the details of each car/diagram of the Test Buses while they were in service. Also all the drivers, which have allowed me to photograph their offices, had time to chat and always friendly.
And as always time will tell as to what vehicles Transdev have or will order for the 36.
No doubt I will follow each new vehicle for the 36 when they arrive, plus write up a blog about which ever new Euro6 chassis/bodywork combination gets the nod form Transdev.
With the slight inevitability of a setting sun or a ticking clock, Test Bus C had arrived in Harrogate on Tuesday February 10th 2015. The bus was quickly turned around and placed into service on Wedensday February 11th 2015, after a day of driver training.
YY64GWX is a ADL E400MMC with a Cummis ISBe 6.7L rated at 250hp at 2100rpm Euro6 engine coupled to a ZF Ecolife 6 speed gearbox, with a metallic blue livery. This particular vehicle was fresh from doing a stint at Trent/Barton for use on the i4 Derby-Nottingham service, in January 2015. During late 2014 the bus was plying her trade at Cardiff, after being part of the Euro Bus Expo 2014 held at the NEC Birmingham. YY64GWX had 41 seats in the upper saloon along with four tables and 27 seats in the lower saloon, all are Estaban Civic V2-E leather covers. Giving a plush feel to the saloons, with blue/grey interior and full saloon lights, which could be blue aswell as white. The bus has full height windows, with hopper scoops in both saloons, the heaters were connected to vents which blows out air around the saloons, even the front upper deck window had air blowers.
Above are shots of the saloons, the lower saloon shows off the underlit seats, wheelchair zone and the wood effect floor. The upper saloon had the same seats as the lower saloon, but with some additional features like four tables, and a air-climate unit over the stairs. On the subject of the tables, WiFi and power sockets would help with such a feature.
For YY64GWX her first day started at....early, the bus was given diagram 4 with a 06:20 start for a run out to Ripon, your author joined this journey with driver Neil at the helm. The ride was smooth and comfortable as the ADL glided towards Killinghall and then the sleepy village of Ripley. Then YY64GWX had the open A61 road to deal with and surprisingly the bus coped very well with the undulating twists and turns of the A61. At Wormold Green the hill would be one of many challenges faced by the Cummis 6.7/ZF 6 speed gearbox, but with only one change down, this bus swiftly delt with that hill and accelerated along the A61. With no passengers on board, until we reached Ripon for the return trip back to Harrogate. It was interesting to hear the drivers' views about the ADL E400MMC, which he seemed very impressed with the bus and happy with the spacious cab. The journey back to Harrogate, YY64GWX began to fill up with a hearty load of passengers, which gave the Cummis/ZF powerpack plenty to think about. With a pause in Harrogate, the bus then did the 07:35 trip over to Leeds. Traffic was light until Harewood Bridge, where the cue was long, but it was soon back on to the A61 and a swift smooth trip towards Moortown/Chapletown, with heavy traffic towards Leeds. Eventually the bus arrived at Vicar Lane and then forward to Park Row, it was all to soon back on the 09:00 to Harrogate only return trip.
YY64GWX is seen turning onto Headrow bound for Park Row, looking impressive in the metallic blue livery. Unlike the journey into Leeds, the return to Harrogate was swift and smooth with not much in the way of rattles or bangs from loose window hoopers. The bell sound rang twice when pressed and was repeated around the vehicle, which had three CCTV cameras on each deck, linked to two monitors. There was a large mirror just by the stairs, which acts as a safety feature for the driver. Speaking on safety features the hand brake had to be released after the doors were closed, and the brake pedal depressed so the bus would set-off. In all the ADL E400MMC is a well built vehicle not only for passengers but the drivers aswell, a bigger engine, wheelchair zone, safety staircase and less moulded seats, which were on the original E400 model. Its fair to say that YY64GWX would easily fit into the 36 fleet, as it had the high backed E-leather seats, and without the tables, the bus is there.
For me as a passenger the Volvo B5TL was swift and smooth with great acceleration, with plenty of Volvo bleeps and tones, however the twin turbo chargers could cause a problem if they break.
The StreetDeck was an interesting choice for Transdev, with a Mercedes engine and Voith gearbox, with cloth covered seats. It was fine on the straight parks of the route, but the change downs on the hills were to quick for the engine to allow time to gather pace.
The ADL E400MMC seems to me the complete drivers bus, with the updated style and design, at least the moulded design seats are less, which gives more scope for proper seats. It was swift with smooth acceleration on all parts of the route. I do like the blue livery.
One final note, I wish to thank all the drivers of the test vehicles and Transdev in Harrogate for there help and assistance during the trials. Without which would have led to many hours of guessing and waiting, thankfully avoided.
I also would like to thank everyone who has taken time to read these blogs on the all the test buses, which are my own personal views from an enthusiast/photographer.
Long before the start of the 2014 Euro Bus Expo held in Hall 5 at the NEC in Birmingham, Wrights has hinted at a new Gemini3 bodywork style. A few days before the event computer drawn images were offered to preview papers for publication at the show, which gave clues to the new shape of Gemini3 body. It was quite the surprise to see the new integral StreetDeck vehicle on display at the NEC in full Arriva Sapphire livery. Arriva were to acquire the Streetdeck, for use on the high profile 38 Derby-Sinfin, which was one of many Sapphire standard bus routes launched by Arriva during 2014. However after the show the bus returned to Wrights and prepped for service with Arriva, which duly arrived during December 2014 as the bus arrived at the Derby bus depot.
It was here that the Arriva team then took the bus into a brief training routine for drivers and engineers until early January 2015, when on the 14th day 4600 entered revenue earning service on the 38. This new vehicle is powered by the Mercedes/Daimler OM934 5.1 litre 4 cylinder diesel engine rated at 231hp/1400rpm. I assume that 4600 has got the Voith Diwa.6 four speed gearbox for transmission, which has a integral retarder. The bodywork is also built to European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA), with class leading weight and capacity plus fuel economy savings. Naturally Wrights have taken onboard customer feedback regarding the new style of bodywork and the internal fixtures and fittings.
On Monday February 2015, your author decided to pay Derby a visit to sample the new StreetDeck and the square shaped bodywork. Arriva purchased a batch of ADL E400 double deckers for the new 38 and 110 midlands bus services, 6 vehicles for the 38 and the remainder for the 110 Birmingham-Tamworth service. The Derby 38 service serves on of the main estates around Derby city, this route also passes three local areas outside the city then finally Sinfin. At the Asda superstore the 38 takes a circular route around the main road around Stenson fields and Sinfin, which allows the bus to pass the superstore before returning to Derby.
Having sampled the StreetDeck at Birmingham in early November 2014, your author took a chance to hop on to 4600 (FJ64ETZ) at stop A6 Osmaston Road, then forward until a right turn into Walbrook Road. First impressions were how bright and airy the interior is on the bus, with various shades of blues and greys all formed from plastic moulded parts. The Esteban Civic2 e-leather seating is a vast improvement on the standard Arriva cloth patterned seats. One interesting point of note was the windows, with opening hoppers, which indicated that the air-cool system used on the NRM vehicles in London is not in use on this bus, it could be a forced air system. The upper deck windows are still shallow for reduced sun glare, which will help passengers enjoy summer time journeys. While travelling on the upper saloon towards Sinfin, there were plenty of rattles, which were also apparent when 4600 was idle at traffic lights and junctions.
The picture above shows off the different style of vents which are blown air vents, which are controlled by internal temperature controls. Each head rest has the Sapphire brand sewn into the e-leather making the seats look the part in the bus. You can also see the opening hopper windows towards the rear of the bus, the roof line is smooth and clean with saloon length lights, giving passenger good interior illumination. The lower saloon also has the full saloon lights, with wheelchair and buggy zones which comply with DDA requirements for a PCV. In order to gain some shots at Sinfin, your author alighted at the Asda superstore and waited for 4600 to return back to Derby. This time travelling in the lower saloon, your author noticed that the air blow system was on the off-side. The glazed staircase allowed more light into the saloon near the wheelchair bay and the stairs. Overall the StreetDeck performed well along the route, even the start delay seems to have been master by the Arriva driver at the wheel for this mid afternoon duty on the 38. The return journey saw more passengers heading into Derby, with 4600 collecting a good load of passengers from the bus station, back to Sinfin.
The second of three demonstrating vehicles currently on loan to Harrogate is the new Wrights StreetDeck double deck chassis, which is built at the En Drive plant in Co Antrim Northern Ireland. With the Gemini3 body built nearby at the Ballymena plant, currently both the original and angled Gemini3 bodywork is available on the StreetDeck and the Volvo B5 chassis. The driveline for the StreetDeck features the Daimler OM934 Euro6 (Mercedes Benz) 5.1 litre 4 cyl engine rated at 231ph/1400rpm, with three gearbox options. The Voith Diwa.6 four speed, ZF Ecolife six speed box and the Daimler G90AMT gearbox.
Transdev are now taking SN64CTU (9119 Go-Ahead North East) on another fuel economy and savings test as well as asking for passengers thoughts on the vehicles. This particular vehicle arrived during Thursday January 22nd, 2015 for driver training and testing, which sees plenty of Harrogate drivers taking part in the tests. Again a Guinea pig (got it right this time) is pictured with some friends on one poster within the bus, with a couple of posters asking for passengers views. SN64CTU began her week doing an early doors 36 duty followed by 'Car 13' departure 14:45 to Leeds, 15:45 via Infirmary street to Ripon for 17:45, then the 17:55 to Leeds which arrived at 19:20 and finishing with the 19:30 to Harrogate.
For Today 28-01-15, your author started out early to catch the 07:35 departure to Leeds, starting in Harrogate on the 06:20 to Ripon.
First impressions for the interior of SN64CTU was of a fresh and neat vehicle, with full Go-North East seating, blue cloth covers on Esteban Civic C2 seats which were a dual-purpose thicker base for added comfort, blue and grey overall interior colour. As SN64CTU began her journey to Leeds, it was still dark and the wind and rain also started to fall, which led to the windows steaming up. One way around this would be to have air blowers pointing at the front window, or a demister/heated window. Your author sat on the front nearside seat, with a full front view to watch the cars and street lights wiz by. As the bus meandered through Harrogate's busy streets, plenty of custom was taken for the journey, which allowed the stop/start of a usual bus trip. By Pannel the bus had all the passengers on board for a trip into Leeds, with a good acceleration the Daimler/Mercedes engine and Voith gearbox work well on the straight stretches of the A61. At Harewood Bridge the bus slowed down and then the quick turn of speed saw the Streetdeck climb Harewood bank without much fuss, but the quicker gear change downs slowed progress towards the summit. No-one wanted the Harewood stop and so it was along the 'mad mile' stretch of the A61 and the Leeds Grammar School. The Alwoodly and Moortown sections of the route were nicely negotiated with quite roads until Chapel Allerton, as the traffic increased as the bus approached Leeds city centre. Your author alighted at Vicar Lane in Leeds for a shot of the bus entering the Headrow and then forward to Park Row.
For test bus B the final part of this early morning trip was a return to Harrogate for a break, before taking on the 10:50 Harrogate to Leeds journey. The bus was taken round to the Leeds Bus Station and your author joined the bus at Briggate for the trip back into Harrogate, it was good to hear the drivers views on the Streekdeck. For the CCTV fans out there this bus has 3 cameras in the upper saloon with 6 dotted around the lower saloon. The lower saloon has space for a dedicated wheel chair passenger and a buggy zone, both with flip-up seats. 16 seats were in the low floor section of the bus while 13 seats were sat upon a raised area, which housed the rear axle and the powerpack.
The delayed start for setting of gives some extra 10 seconds for the bus to move off a stop, this feature could add extra time to the diagram car journey, especially at peak times. There was no audible noise when the doors close, unlike the Volvo B5TL, the bell sound was not intrusive either. Having taken residence upon the rear seats near the engine, your author enjoyed the ride home. Again the bus swiftly passed through Chapel Allerton, Moortown and Alwoodly, before the A61 was open for some good acceleration and a smooth trip back to Harrogate, even the lights at Harewood were on green. Quickly the bus passed through Pannel and glided up Humpery Bank and onto towards town. At the bus station myself and the driver chatted some more about the trail, with his views too.
Between the two vehicles tried I have been surprised at how rattle free both vehicles are, windows and grab poles not bothered by the roads, unless there was a large pot hole around. The 5.1 litre engines coped well with the undulating hills of the Leeds-Harrogate-Ripon 36 service, although the Volvo B5TL did have turbo chargers. BX14SYT (the white bus) and SN64CTU (the silver one) have equally good and swift acceleration, but for my money I liked the StreetDeck with its Mercedes engine doing very well. Harrogate have eight buses with Mercedes engines 277-282 the Optare Versa Harrogate Connect saloons, so have experience of this Merc engine. But the Volvo B5TL still gives me reservations with it's smaller engine, although it has a good power rating, it would be interesting how the bus feels after ten years on the service. However I think Transdev can do plenty with either these buses, as they have a good relationship with both Wrights and Volvo.
Up next the ADL E400MMC with its Cummis 6.7 ISBe Euro 6 engine with Voith gearbox.........................
The interior of SN64CTU is neat and airy, with proper nice cloth Esteban Civic V2 seats, with good leg room and space for the buggies and wheelchairs. Top picture shows the bus returning to Harrogate on Tues 27-01-15, the next shot sees SN64CTU entering Headrow, Leeds heading for Park Row the peak-time stopping point. The next shot shows the lower saloon seating arrangement, while above the neat and tidy upper saloon, with straight nine rise staircase.
I extend my thanks to Transdev Harrogate for the information on the trial bus working diagrams and a Big thanks to the drivers who have to put with my photographing their offices, thank you Ladies and Gentlemen.
Remember in 2010 when two demonstrator Hybrid double deckers visited Harrogate for a week or so just to evaluate the type, on the 36 service. In the end Transdev decided to invest in an expensive overhaul programme of the 3601-12 & 3614 Volvo B7TLs based in Harrogate, along with X1-12 & 14VTD cherished plates. While on Halloween in 2013 fifteen new Volvo B9TLs/Wrights Gemini2 deckers were placed into service on the Burnley & Pendle Witch Way X43 service.
It now looks like Transdev Harrogate are getting an opportunity to evaluate three current models on the market, starting with the Euro6 standard Volvo B5TL with Wrights Gemini3 interim bodywork. The B5TL replaces the B9TL, with the claims of a loss of 1000kgs in overall weight. Volvo use their own D5K, 4cyl 5.1 litre engine rated at 240hp@1900rpm, with both SCR and EGR emission control technology. The ZF gearbox is six speed automatic, with neutral bus stopping. This is coupled with a ZF drop centre rear axle. The steering is ZF hydraulic power assisted, with an electronic powered pump, the steering wheel and also be adjusted aswell.
On Tuesday January 13th 2015, your author ventured out into the cold and crisp day for a photograph of the bus. But as all best laid plans had to wait until after dark and an evening trip on the new bus on the flagship/trunk route 36. First impressions of the vehicle in all over white livery is of a shallow low height bus with odd glazed staircase and round rear end profile, no doubt copying the New Routemaster bus currently passing the 300 mark in London. This vehicle still has its bilingual signs from its six months stay in Dublin, with Dublin Bus. It was DM1 (141D19194) in that fleet, arriving in March 2014 but entering service on 12th June 2014, it was being evaluated on all aspects of fleet operation especially for fuel economy. Upon arriving at Harrogate's Starbeck depot the bus gained a Birmingham registration BX14SYT. The bus was prepped for service before Monday January 12th 2015, no doubt the Transdev engineers were gathering essential information about the vehicle. Upon entering the bus passengers are greeted with a small poster with "Welcome Aboard Transdev Harrogate 36 this is Test Bus A" accompanied by a picture of a guinne pig?, answers on a postcard please. The two tone grey interior leads you to an eight rise staircase with the interesting glazed area, which is not much use on a dark evening. For the journey to Ripon, your author travelled on the upper saloon just behind the staircase. The seats were very basic thin plastic Esteban Civic backs with thin upholstered backs and bases, in a blue colour with multi coloured flashes/stripes. The upper saloon windows are shallower, to reduce sun glare and accommodate the air-cool system, which was blowing warm for the time of year. Engine noise was not intrusive as the bus travelled along, through Harrogate, into Killinghall and on towards Ripley and the open countryside of the A61 Ripon Road. Front vision looks good, but again with darkness, there was not much to see apart from the city lights of Ripon. The upper saloon front windows have opening hoppers and four CCTV cameras, the information screen incorporated the "Bus Stopping" sign. The bell also was not intrusive, as we journeyed along the A61, fairly well along the straight parts of the road, even well on the twisty bends which are a major feature on this part of the road. As the bus entered Wormold Green there was a definite change down of the gears as the Volvo B5TL climbed the hill towards Ripon, even another change for the hill summit. But as the bus turned the corner the gear changes were quick and the acceleration swift and effective. While travelling along I noticed that the familiar rattles of windows and grab rails was very quite, considering the bus has worked for six months in Dublin, all most on a par with the ADL E400MMC. Strip lights were used in the upper saloon which gave plenty of light for the journey to Ripon, seat spacing gave good leg room, with general ride of reasonable standard, comfortable and smooth. A few minutes break at Ripon Bus Station allowed time for a few shots and a chat with the driver, who was driving the Volvo B5TL for the first time. Then the bus headed back to Harrogate without much fuss.
At Harrogate there was a driver change, which allowed your author to take a few interior shots of the bus as seen above. The lower saloon and upper saloon looking towards the rear of the bus. 45 seats are in the upper saloon, with 27 seats in the lower saloon and the wheelchair bay, with three CCTV cameras. The trip out to Leeds saw the bus venture towards Pannal and a hill start at the lights at Spacey Houses, with smooth acceleration heading out towards Buttersyke Roundabout and again the open road of the A61 towards Leeds. As the turbo kicked in given a good turn of speed along the straight parts before the change down and reduced speed for Harewood Bridge, which has been 20mph for several years following a serious accident. Then Harewood bank beckoned, the gearbox changed down towards the summit of this long rise up, but the Volvo D5K engine took this in its stride. Before long the bus was again at reasonable speed as we entered "mad mile" a straight piece of road were some drivers take risks, but that's another story. Leeds Grammar School soon came into view all lit up, must have been a football match or some other game being played that evening. Alwoodley, Moortown and Chapletown simply glided by as the Volvo bus made good time and headway into Leeds city centre. At Vicar Lane the driver slowly turn the bus down Lady Lane so I could take a couple of shots. Also at the entrance of Briggate the driver allowed for a shot as he turned towards the bus stop. A couple more shots were taken on Briggate, as the bus headed back to Harrogate only for the 20:10 arrival at Harrogate. Passengers could only alight at the "Queens Arms" at Chapel Allerton, thus keeping the limited stop arrangements in Leeds. Passengers alighted along A61 before Alwoodley Gates, thus leaving your author and the driver on the remaining sections of the route. As the bus entered the country road section of the A61 towards Harrogate, the Volvo D5K engine was more than happy to go at 50-55mph without much fuss, giving a nippy and smooth ride. The hills posed little problems to the vehicle as the bus arrived into Harrogate, even Humphrey Bank posed little threat to the B5TL. At Leeds Road junction stop another Transdev driver joined the little trip into Harrogate, which saw the bus cope well with the one way system of the lights and roundabouts before heading towards the bus station. In conclusion the Volvo B5TL with its tweaked engine to power ratio and ZF gearbox proved it could cope with the enviros of the 36 service. I wonder if the weight saving would be continued when the deep coach e-leather seating used by the 36 is installed, mind you there are only seven single seats on the offside. If Transdev purchased the Volvo B5TL it will have the new angled front end with curved front and rear end profiles, in the black 36 City Connect livery.
Having unveiled the new generation E400MMC during 2014, it was only a matter of time before the demonstrator vehicles would be doing the rounds. Then by the time the Euro Bus Expo 2014 arrived at the NEC in Birmingham. The Oxford Bus Company (OBC) and Reading Transport were placing their first examples of the new E400MMC's into service. The Brookes University had 605-614 with selected registration numbers, later OBC had staff members names to these vehicles. All are in an overall grey livery with Brookes branding. Meanwhile Reading had delivered eight vehicles as their 751-8, all but 758 introduced a new variation of the claret livery for route 21. 758 has been painted into the generic grey livery, so it can be deployed around the whole Reading bus network. 16 more E400MMC's are due fro delivery in March 2015 for Reading.
Then during late November/early December the first of 29 new E400MMC deckers arrived at Stagecoach Manchester Sharston depot, were 10401-10429 (SL62HZG/ J/K/M-N/P/R-Z, JAO/U, JBE/O/U/V/X-Z, JCJ/O/U/V). 10401-9 were sat inside the bus garage and being prepared for service. By Christmas 2014 the initial few 10401-9 were placed into service on the 85/86 Chorlton service and the 109 service to a hospital in the Manchester area. On December 30th 2014, a visit to Manchester was quickly decided upon, just to catch up with the latest deliveries and the new look MMC double deckers. Adbellio, Metroline and Stagecoach in London are also having E400MMC's delivered, but these have not entered service (at the time of writing).
Arriving by Trans-Pennine Express 185 class train into Manchester Piccadilly, then meeting up with a fellow enthusiast, it was time to wait for the new MMC's to arrive. The first one was 10402, which completed its first trip out on the 86 service, with nearside advert for an E4 TV show, offside blank. This bus was quickly followed by 10408, again on 86 service, all these vehicles entered the Piccadilly Gardens Bus station near the Metrolink tram stop. Pausing to drop off passengers, to run around the bus station to pick up passengers on the other side. The new E400MMC buses are easy to identify as there is now no orange sweep across the upper deck front windows, behind the blue. After 10408 departed Piccadilly, the next to arrive was 10404, followed by 10401 and 10406 all on the 85/86 route. Then after a breakfast stop, three more new stagecoach E400MMC's were out and about, 10405, 10409 and 10403 were also out.
With the new MMC type vehicles now arriving at Manchester, it has allowed Stagecoach to update the Magic Bus off-shoot of the operation. The Magic bus started way back ( in 1997) when Stagecoach had acquired Duple Mestec bodied Dennis Dragon chassis from its overseas operations. These buses were re-registered and placed into service on the 142, 143 & 145 services in direct competition with Bullocks of Manchester, since purchased by Stagecoach. Along with East Yorkshire owned Finglands services, which has since passed to First Group during 2014. The Magic Bus brand is now only running in Manchester, after operations in Glasgow and Sheffield were stopped. It still runs along the Winslow Road corridor. The Dennis Dragon buses from Kenya were replaced by Volvo Olympians, which have been replaced by Dennis Tridents with Alexander ALX400 bodies or a mixture of East Lancashire bodied Tridents as well. Older ADL E400 vehicles are currently undergoing an overhaul scheme and they will be turned out into a new bolder/simplified Magic Bus livery. 19223 (MX08GJZ) entered the paint shop in early December 2014 and was out in service on the 30th of December, working on the 142 service.
For several years the Huddersfield depot has seen its fair share of First Group UK fleet cascades into service around the town. The last real investment into bus for Huddersfield happened in 1994/5 when Dennis Dart/Plaxton Pointers and Dennis Lance/Plaxton Verde saloons arrived. These were followed some years later by a batch of Wright bodied Scania saloons, however these lasted a few months as they were reused as rail replacement buses.
Eventually Lowfloor buses arrived during the later part of the first decade of the 21st century, these were Volvo B7TLs with Alexander ALX400 and Wrights Gemini double deckers. However during 2013 the first real brand new Volvo B7RLE/Wrights saloons were earmarked for Huddersfield operation, these arrived and have settled into service. The B7RLE replaced the Pan-European offset engine chassis B7 range of saloons, the engine mounted on the off-side of the bus at the rear. First ordered a large batch of the B7 saloon, during 2002/3 year order for buses, with vehicles shared between Leeds and York.
In 2013 First announced a large order from 270 plus Wrights Streetlite Max saloons, with a mix of diesel and Mirco Hybrid models. First in South Yorkshire, First Essex and First Manchester acquired the Streetlites, after months of trials in each area. Using a solitary Streetlite for evaluation, as it turnout all these trial buses were passed onto South Yorkshire.
In 2014 as most of the Streetlites were now in service in key areas, ten standard Streelites arrived at Old Fieldhouse Lane in Huddersfield, during the closing days of October 2014. These buses were used around town for driver training, by October 30th two Streetlites were in service in Huddersfield. It is hoped that all ten would be in service during the first week in November, to combat the introduction of 'Tiger Blue' services. That is another tale for another blog.
October 17th 2014 saw the NBfWY splitting its day into two, with visits to Brighouse and Hebden Bridge in the Calderdale region of West Yorkshire. Between 09:00-13:00 the bus stood outside Brighouse Barclays Bank, where the public climbed aboard and shared views and opinions. This was also for myself another chance to talk to the First team about the bus. It was a pleasure to met Driver Andy again, who remembered me form a recent visit to the KBMT. In fact the whole team were happy to wax lyrical about this vehicle.
It was soon time for a quick, well quick-ish departure for Hebden Bridge and a spot of lunch, before 14:00. As the next stage of the day was spent in a quite corner of Hebden Bridge, but the general public were still eager to see LT2. As Mr. Haworth (Halifax/Hudds MD) arrived before the bus so did a team from First tech, which were doing articles for the groups internal website. LT2 arrived on Carlton Street, just off Crown Street in Hebden, balloons and leaflets ready, its was all go.
It was here that I first met another of the First team, a gent from First's PR team, we talked about the bus and its function in today's transport environment. This later led me to be asked for my views by one of the First Tech team for spot to camera. Soon just like all good things the visit came to and end, with LT2 reversing out of Carlton Street and heading for Halifax. I managed to grab a few more shots as LT2 sped towards the M62, which was flowing on a Friday afternoon around home-time!. Yes folks. Finally I arrived just near Hunslet Park for a couple more shots as LT2 was parked up for a well earned rest.
Half term week was looming and again the NBfWY was going out and about, this time in Huddersfield, with a visit to the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary on the 21st October. Local Newspaper the Hudds Examiner was also there to record the moment. Then on Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th the bus visited Huddersfield Library and St. Georges Square. Both locations proving a hit with the public and transport enthusiasts, as the Library location was very busy from 10:00-16:00. Driver Dean, whom I met at Eureka was on duty on the Monday. While on Tuesday driver Andy was doing the honors, I missed this one due to being at work.
First still have there dedicated NBfWY page up on their main website, so you can place your views online. It is here that the latest information regarding places to see the bus will be posted, also on the NBfWY twitter feed.
Update:- The NBfWY tour continues in Leeds, Shipley & Bradford during the first week of November 2014. Tues 4th Seacroft Tesco's car park from 13:00-16:00, a busy Weds 5th sees the bus at Hunslet Morrison's from 09:00-12:00. Then it's up to the White Rose Centre, near Morley from 13:00-16:00 for a little retail therapy. On Thurs Nov 6th the NBfWY has a little trip out to Shipley Market Place from 10:00-14:00. The on Fri Nov 7th the tour continues at Bradford Five Lane Ends Morrisons.
It seems that the proposed New Generation Trolleybus scheme in Leeds has caused a stir in the First Group, in West Yorkshire. To the extent of drafting a competitive proposal of purchasing around 200 New RouteMasters (NRM) vehicles, for the Headingley corridor. The New Bus for West Yorkshire (NBfWY) could be in full service within eighteen months, in 2016 some three years before the Trolleybus scheme is completed.
LT2 LT61BHT had finished a section of the world tour of the NRM type, arriving in the UK in late April 2014. The vehicle was dispatched to Bus & Coach World, Blackburn for a re-paint into an overall green livery base. During August 2014 LT2 had ventured across to First West Yorkshire's (FWY) Hunslet Park depot in Leeds, posed for photos. A new twitter domain appeared dedicated to the NBfWY, about depot tours, public viewings and eventually introduction into service. During LT2's initial week of being in Yorkshire, Bradford, Halifax and Huddersfield depot teams were invited to view the bus. Along with Hunslet Park depot team, all staff were asked for opinions, views and ideas, all about the London spec LT bus. Local Councilors, Ministers for Parliament and other invited guests were shown around the NBfWY, views were welcomed. These were positive as the bus was driven around West Yorkshire, these visits saw an official press release giving full details of the intention of First's use of the six month trial of LT2. Three dedicated drivers were chosen to drive LT2, with a good working record.
Then it all went, well very quiet for some time, with only a few tweets on the NBfWY feed, the project was still on going. Vinals were applied to LT2, with adverts all around the vehicle. Feed back survey's were placed on-line on the First West Yorkshire website, a direct link on the NBfWY page.
Then on Friday September 26th 2014, LT2 was placed on display in Halifax town centre. This proved to be a very busy and successful day. The following day (27-09-14) LT2 ventured down to Eureka a discovery park for the whole family. With Halifax manager Mr. Haworth in attendance and First staff also milling around eager to answer questions. I managed to have a very pleasant conversation with Dean, the driver for the day with LT2. The bus itself was very impressive the whole NBfWY idea bright and to the point. With a couple of information leaflets and pens acquired the bus then left early for Halifax's Skircoat Road depot. Lucky for myself the bus could only go around the back of Eureka, thus allowing for some once only photographs (as seen above).
On Sunday September 28th 2014 the Keighley Bus Museum, on Riverside Keighley just off Dalton Lane, was holding its autumn depot open day. Yes you've guessed it folks! LT2 was going to attend the Regent Running day, held at the Museum. LT2 arrived at around 9am, then after a few minutes of photographs, the bus was skillfully manoeuvred around the KBMT entrance to get the bus turned round! Then the bus was parked up and stood for most of the day as visitors were welcomed aboard. The driver Andy was happy for people to climb on board and look around the bus. If you are a fan of the LT class of NRM then this was the moment for you, a look at the whole bus. Like Dean the day before, Andy was very happy to answer questions about the bus, but was not sure when LT2 might out in service. Having said that LT2 proved to be quite a draw for the KBMT.
In the afternoon, LT2 followed Leeds 139 out to Bingley for a duplicate run, then a wonder around the Haworth and Keighley enviros on the regent cavalcade. By which time its was, well time to go. LT2 was driven back to Hunslet Park and no-doubt driver Andy would give his run down of the day.
Lets hope that LT2 gets it chance to run along the Headingley corridor soon, so the Leeds and the rest of West Yorkshire can get a chance to sample the delights of LT2 in service.
For more information head to the First West Yorkshire website and click on the NBfWY links, also keep an eye on the dedicated NBfWY twitter feed, for regular updates and other information.
FirstBus back in 1997 ordered a batch of Volvo Olympian double deck chassis with Alexander Royale bodywork, with new First interiors and in Leeds City Link livery. 5606-5621 arrived during late October to November 1997 and brought in a new style of vehicle to the FirstBus operation, the first batch were the only new buses to be painted into the Leeds City Link livery. 5622-5629 soon followed and were placed into service in Bradford, these vehicles arrived in the First Corporate 'Willow leaf' livery. Upon arrival of 5622-29 First started the gold service and sovereign branding for the X6 Leeds-Bradford-Huddersfield interurban express route. This offered passengers with cleaner buses, customer service trained drivers and a promise of punctual service.
Six more Volvo Olympian/Royales arrived in Leeds as numbers 5630-5635, again in the 'Willow leaf' livery. Halifax then got a batch of these fine machines delivered as numbers 5636-5645, these one like Bradford's 5622-9 were used on a gold service for the 508 and later other routes. By this time the Leeds City Link liveried 5606-21 were undergoing a re-paint into the 'Willow leaf' livery. Bradford were going to get the next batch of Royale's, but these were quickly exchanged for new Volvo B10BLE saloons. Bradford did get some as 5644-5653, as the others were transferred across to Manchester, with booked S-NUG plates. However two more batch's of six Royals arrived in Leeds 5654-5659 and Halifax 5660-5665 in 1988, almost 60 Olympian/Royale's in service.
The picture stayed the same until around 2008, when buses were cascaded around the First group, with Huddersfield gaining its first Royale's. Some of the Manchester Royals found their way over to Leeds including 30224 S660NUG, which had the East Lancashire roof after the original was damaged in an accident. As 2014 arrived the last few examples in Huddersfield were still being used on frontline service, but examples in Bradford and Halifax soon found there way onto the schools only diagrams.
As you read this in September 2014 or later the Royale's would been replaced by the new 'Mirco-Hybrid' Streetlite saloons arriving in Huddersfield. No doubt the Royales may stay on as schools transport, but they will become a part of the West Yorkshire Transport history. All is not lost as Bramley depot in Leeds still have 30970 (R610JUB) running around in Leeds, in the new First Livery. This bus had a new gearbox fitted pending future use, since the re-paint 30970 has been a regular on the 4, 16, 50, 50A and 86 services in Leeds.
Pennine Motor Services started way back in 1925, as two brothers set up the company. Across the years Pennine has kept within the family, with the third generation continuing on. Originally working from Gargrave in about six or so miles from Skipton, North Yorkshire. The fleet used a distinctive livery of orange and black, using various chassis and bodywork combinations. Eventually settling on the Leyland marque, with again a selection of bodywork. By the 1960's and 1970's the fleet had changed to Plaxton bodied coach chassis, visiting the dales and Lancashire. With routes to Ingelton, Barnoldswick, Settle and Burnley with a quick link to Giggleswick and even visiting Malham. Pennine had been a well respected operator and lasted beyond the deregulation initial few years, changing the fleet to Leyland Nationals during the 1990's. However the Nationals soon found themselves being replaced by step entrance and low floor Dennis Darts, most if not all with Plaxton/Revee Burgess bodywork.
But during April 2014 the family run business announced to the press and locals that after May 2014 Pennine would no longer provide their vehicles for service. Increased competition from Transdev Burnley & Pendle along the 215 Skipton to Burnely diagram, North Yorkshire County Council reduced repayments of the free bus pass journeys to around 20% and the impending expense of the DDA compliance ruling for PCV services. Are amongst the reasons for this hard decision, which was taken after a long time of consideration. So as Pennine sort after a positive outcome for its loyal passengers, Transdev announced they would provide an increased timetable for the Burnley service on the Mainline. But no-one company actually approached Pennine with any interest of its services, NYCC stepped in with a replacement minibus service to Settle as the three times a day service 58. Other routes have been taken by NYCC with a much reduced service, some have a three times a day operation. With this in mind, Pennine continued until their last operating day May 16th 2014. Buses started as normal as the 210, 212, 214, 215, 216 and 580 routes were used during the day, many local enthusiasts had gathered at Skipton bus station as preserved Leyland National LN19 and the Plaxton bodied Leyland Leopard were displayed in the afternoon. Then the final journeys began with the 16:35 Malham departure with D15 a step entrance Dart running, locals and enthusiasts gathered to capture the final Malham journey, a fitting tribute. By 18:00 the final 214 Embsay trip had arrived in Skipton, I along with another enthusiast caught D15 working this one. Then the final Pennine trip to Carleton on the 212 service started at 18:35, with D11 (seen above on Skipton return) working the service. With four journeys left, two to Settle without a return trip and one to Burnley and a trip to Barnoldswick, and history saw another fine company depart the scene. I found the Pennine drivers a credit to the bus industry and very pleasant and happy for there 'offices' being photographed. I had started on Thursday May 15th with visits to Carleton, Settle and Embsay with a stop in Hellifield, finishing at Malham and Gargrave. On the final day I revisited Carleton, Embsay and took in the Horse Close service, with a visit to the depot and Gargrave. The last Malham service again was duly given some time to visit, as locals chatted about the final day, as D15 arrived with a mixtures of scholars and bus enthusiasts who took their shots. Pennine Motor Services 1925-2014 88 years of service.
Transdev in Harrogate have recently made changes to their schools network of routes. Some have been withdrawn while others have been re-numbered and given more double deckers. As a result the post Easter term has seen some very interesting movements in Harrogate. Five former Stagecoach Dennis Javelin Plaxton Interurban coaches have been withdrawn from service. With two former London County Leyland Olympians numbers 11 & 12 ( 12 arriving in Harrogate in 2013). Three former Armchair Leyland Olympians numbers 13-15, all five Olympians via Blackburn Transport ( 2004 ) to Transdev in 2007. The next Olympian is a ECW bodied NBC standard Leyland Olympian number 125, which started with United, then to Arriva before passing to Transdev in 2006, with Northern Blue. Number 163 started life with Merseyside MTL in 1989 as 263, later becoming Arriva 3263 by 2000. In 2006 the bus moved to Northern Blue, which became part of the Transdev fold, it stayed in Burnley gaining the former Hyndburn livery. 163 was repainted into yellow before transfer across to Harrogate for the new half term. The next Olympian has had a colourful life, starting with popular north midlands operator Stevenson's as number 96, passing to Midland Red North during 1994. The bus then passed to Arriva Midland red and later Arriva North West, then passing from Northern Blue, Lancashire United & Burnley. 196 was transfer over to Harrogate for use as additional coverage for the new look school term. Mention should also be made of the former Preston Olympian 2005, which made its way to Harrogate during 2013 via Stagecoach Preston, York Pullman and Transdev York. These buses operate on selected routes, with 125 working the 778H, while 11-13, 15 & 163 work the 781 & 783 services, 196 & 2005 work two separate routes within the new school services. For myself its a treat to see such vintage buses doing the rounds in Harrogate, but no doubt the low buses will be making more headway into the schools fleet across the next two years. The reason is because of the DDA compliance ruling issued by the Government in 2005, which called for all operated services to be low floor by 2015, but with an extension to 2017. There are still 10 Dennis Javalins and two Alexander Strider bodied Volvo B10B-58s with one Volvo B10M coach to be disposed off before the deadline of 2017. I would not be surprised if the Olympians and the remaining non low floor buses were withdrawn during 2015, just to keep ahead of the game. Harrogate has been low floor since 2004, on its commercial and subsidized services, using Volvo B10BLEs, B7TL, B9TL, B7RLEs and Optare Versa saloons. former
Here are my personal views on bus activity in my area and beyond