Harrogate Connect arrived in 2012 with the eight Optare Versa saloons which are use on several local routes. The brand was then extended during 2013 with the use of the Knaresborough road, Wetherby and Pateley Bridge routes. To help with the 36 vehicle rotation rota, others buses have been used. This has often led to various saloons being used at peak times on the 36 from Leeds to Harrogate. However with the Burnley Witch Way X43 service gaining new deckers in October 2013. The original WW vehicles were sent away for overhaul and repaint, with most heading for Blackburn and use on the Bolton-Preston service 152, with one remaining at Burnley. 2763 & 2764 were dispatched for overhaul, refurbishment and repaint into the Harrogate Connect livery, which saw the buses out of action until arrival in Harrogate in February 2014. Both buses were awaiting the final finishing touches, such as additional decals and CoF certificates, all of which saw 2763 enter service on February 20th 2014. The bus is pictured here in Harrogate town centre working the Ripon bound 36, looking very fresh and new in the Harrogate Livery.
My local operator is Harrogate Connect, which was once part of the Blazefield group. As Harrogate & District which in 1987 formed from the splitting up of the West Yorkshire Road Car Company, as part of the AJS Holdings group. In 1991 AJS passed to Blazefield, who then built up a reputation of high quality bus services and image. Using a simple livery and route branding, this began to show signs of great improvement of ridership. This lead to investment within the group, from former National Bus Company Leyland Nationals and Olympians to newer Volvo B6 and B10 saloons. The 36 is the main trunk route serving Ripon and Leeds, via Harrogate and Harewood House, in 1996 the route became all under H&D's operational control. Services into Knaresborough, Wetherby and local areas were run from a new depot in Starback, just outside of Harrogate. In 2007 Transdev made a second successful bid for the profit making Blazefield operation, which it still runs today. However the services have seen reduction due to several factors, but buses still run on the Leeds-Ripon, Wetherby-Leeds and Knaresborough routes. After several years of a red and cream based livery Harrogate buses were given a new livery of butterscotch and burgundy, during 2010. By the end of 2013 the new 'Harrogate Connect' black and red scheme was carried on to the normal service buses. The 36 double deckers gaining a mid life overhaul and refurbishment, with newer front ends with a still distinctive black livery.
2014 marks a special year in London Transport history, with three milestones reached. The 1914-1918 world war saw several London buses used on the home front. These became known as battle buses, one example is currently undergoing restoration. In 1934 the first production RT's arrived in the city, these were AEC chassis with Park Royal bodies. However the 1939-45 WWII put a halt to production of the RT class, with all the manufacturing effort used for the advancing designs of war. In 1947 the RT re-started production with AEC and Leyland building chassis and Park Royal, Stracans, Cravens and Leyland building bodies. Some 5000 plus RT's were built from 1947 until 1956, making the RT the largest single design for any British bus fleet. But as the London Transport Trolleybuses were beginning to show signs of age, London Transport had designed and with AEC and Park Royal, built RM1 the 1954 Commercial show exhibit. RM 2, 3 and RMC followed suit and for four years extensive trials followed. RM 8 arrived in 1958, as the first production Routemaster followed by over 2700 RMs. The RML, RMA, RMF and FRM were variations of the theme, RML a 30 foot version, RMA an airport luxury model, RMF a front entrance style and FRM the rear engine one off.
The WWI 'Battle buses' mark 100 years since they were used for the war effort. The RT celebrates 75 years in production and preservation, while the classic RM celebrates 60 years with a gathering on Finsbury Park for 'RM 60'. See the Routemaster Association website for more details of this event. Above is the 'New Routemaster' LT150 sporting the special 2014 'Year of the Bus' livery, while working the 9 Aldwych to Hammersmith service.
Here are my personal views on bus activity in my area and beyond