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.
Here are my personal views on bus activity in my area and beyond