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 Some have been withdrawn while others have been re-numbered and given more double deckers.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 Five former Stagecoach Dennis Javelin Plaxton Interurban coaches have been withdrawn from service.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 I would not be surprised if the Olympians and the remaining non low floor buses were withdrawn during 2015, just to keep ahead of the game.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
Optare which grew from the remains of the former Charles Roe factory in Leeds. Continues to Lead the way with electric powered vehicles with ADL and Wrightsbus close on Optares' heals. Transdev have purchased two Solo SR-EV minibuses for routes in York, UB1 and Harrogate. During the week leading up to Easter 2014 a generic liveried 14 plate Solo SR-EV was seen, on test along the Knaresborough road.
Harrogate tested the Optare Solo SR-EV demonstrator vehicle during 1013, from Starbeck into Harrogate and Knaresborough, this led to Transdev's order for the SR-EV's. YJ14BCK could take up duties o the peak time X6 service, which serves the Beckwith Knowle industrial estate in the Harlow area of the town. This would allow the vehicle to return to Starbeck depot for re-charging during the day, the power comes from two packs of 26 L-ion 12.8Volt batteries. Linked to a Magtec P144 motor delivering 150Kw rated at 2650rpm, thus giving a top speed of 59mph, with a range of 70-95 miles (110-150Km). This in turn delivers 100% free emissions, which helps the environment, reducing Co2 levels on the roads. This bus has 2x7.5kw on board charging units, which are linked to a 3 phase power cord and plugged into the power grid, which takes 6 hours. With an additional off-board 50kw charging pack which gives a quick recharge of 2 hours.
On February 14th 2014 the 17 new gas buses were unveiled to the public at the Sunderland Wheatsheaf depot. A few days later the fleet were out in service on the 16 and 20 routes, all in a new livery.
The chassis are Scania K270UB with Alexander Dennis E300NG bodies, powered by CNG fuel the buses are on all day service. Naturally they reduce the Co2 emissions for the city, with another 23 on order for delivery in 2014. Which makes Sunderland one of the largest operations of gas powered Vehicles, in close competition with Reading Transport in Berkshire, who use the same K270UB/ADL style vehicle.
On the 13th I visited Sunderland to photograph these new vehicles in what was a glorious day weather wise, and as it turned out, I managed to capture all 17 Gas buses. The Stagecoach drivers were very pleasant and happy for me to photograph their working vehicles. The livery stands out, and all the 28001-17 had reasonable good passenger loadings! The environmental credentials are made with a significant reduction of harmful Co2 gases, which allow for cleaner air, thus improving the quality for city folks. Stagecoach have also invested in new cleaner fleet of conventional ADL/E200s delivered during the latter part of 2013. Giving Sunderland a 60% fleet of one year old buses, which gives a high level of service and commitment to the area.
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