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 Meanwhile over in Burnley the Optare Versa saloons were gradually being withdrawn, with the new 64 plate Streetlites being placed into service.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.
Here are my personal views on bus activity in my area and beyond