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Metroline CELF Centre - Part 41 [R.I.P Vincent Mckenna]

As confirmed by Leon Daniel's the industry has lost a pioneer in Vincent Mckenna who passed away on Tuesday from a heart attack. Condolences go out to his family. A pioneer in every aspect Vincent and his brother set up up their own bus blind making business in 1978. The company grew from that point on and the introduction of the smartblind in the late 90's, was a second to none, increasing reader visibility especially in conditions of low light as demonstrated in the shots below, increasing the life of the blind and no doubt making the vehicle look more attractive. May you rest in peace.

In all honesty, I didn't come here to picture anything in particular, the weather conditions were really foggy outside and these are some of the best conditions to take photos in. No exposure to sunrays and very mild light. As I came to photograph nothing in particular I got exactly that. But of course there is news on hand!

The vehicle above was DMV44311 in its former life with First, however as of the 22nd of June 2013, it became a part of Metroline's new 'West' subsidy which represented a £57.4 million investment by the company,seeing them take over 5 garages and 494 buses. Here for a routine visit to the centre, it will stay here for two days which is a requirement for each metroline vehicle passing through the centre.

Just looking at the bus, reminds of how odd it looks with the grey panelling coinciding with metroline logos. When you think of metroline, you think blue and yellow, not grey and aqua. Nevertheless the vehicle has survived the axing of the hubcaps as you can see, which is always a good as they do look nice.

Metroline VW1034 LK59 JJU 
VW1034 LK59 JJU was nice to see, can't remember the last time I saw the vehicle and although no different to any other post November 2011 Metroline Gemini, it holds some sort of sentimental value to me. It was actually the vehicle that got me into visiting garages to take pictures of buses when new. Long time viewers will remember my Brentford Garage visit back in April 2010....darn, come to think of it that  was well over three years ago, time waits for no man!

The vehicle was part of a shock order by the company who at the time were strictly ordering the very average Enviro 400. Anyways, the batch consisted of 38 vehicles, with numbers ranging from VW1034 - 1072 with the latter 1056 - 1072 being delivered that November for the E2. The vehicles were actually to be delivered to Willesden for the 260 and 302 however that changed and they were diverted to Brentford (AH) instead for the 237 and E2.

Metroline TP425 LK03 GCF
This very knackered looking vehicle has actually been withdrawn for well over a year now, infact the 26th of October 2012 was the last date it ever saw service, however it still retains its wayfarer ticket machines which is quite odd. Part of a batch of Presidents delivered in March 2003, they were allocated bonnet numbers 403 - 465 and split primarily between Holloway (HT) and Potters Bar (PB). Although a few did escape to Harlesden Garage for the newly introduced route 460.

This particular bus was allocated to Holloway before moving to Brentford in 2009 to fill the void made by the returning of the Trident ALX400s to their leasing company that formerly ran the 237.  It went back to HT in 2010 before returning in 2011. In its latter months of life at the garage it was allocated to school route 635 for which it is still blinded for.

Metroline DE1004 LK09 ENT DE1004
There's a story behind literally every vehicle present at the centre today. Part of a batch of buses allocated numbers between DE1004- 1013 they were delivered in summer of 2009 as part of an upgrade for the route 251. This allowed the former vehicles operating on the route MM770 - 781 to transfer to Perivale East (PV) for dual carriageway route 232. However when the 251 was lost to London Sovereign in September 2011, the vehicles were promptly transferred to AH for the route 209 contract and joined sister vehicles DE993 - 1003. Note: DE999 - 1003 were transfers from West Perivale (PA) in 2011 upon the introduction of DE1171 - 1174 at the garage.

Metroline MM826 LK57 AYX
MM826 LK57 AYX one of a few survivors from the axe stands outside the centre prior to undergoing maintenance. I won't say much as it saddens me to see so many of my favourite single decks in London withdrawn, but the vehicle was delivered in January 2008 as part of the route 90 contract. Allocated bonnet numbers MM810 - 827, it was part of the third and final batch of Evolution bodied MAN 12.240s the company would receive. I'm sure you know the story well, in June 2013, Metroline purchased 5 Metroline garages, with the 24 converting to NB4L operation the same day as the takeover, 22 VWs from Holloway were sent to Alperton for the route 245 conversion, which in turn allowed the redundant E200s to be utilised on the 90 and E6.

Following up from this many of the MMs were withdrawn and sold with a large number ending up in New Zealand. Most of the survivors are now trainer vehicles, with some being refurbished for further Tfl use.

The News

Following the introduction of New Routemaster modeled buses on the 390, VPL581 - 603 have been now been released from their duties. VPL603 has already taken up duties at Willesden (AC). It has been confirmed that VPL581 - 602 will operate on the Route 4 as it has just been approved for longer vehicles.

It was mentioned a while back that the 217 would be getting some TEs from HT, allowing the phase-out of the TPs. This was supposed to take effect from the 22nd of June 2013, with the VWs taking up duties on the 91 and the TEs from the 91 moving to PB to facilitate this. However this was blocked for a number of reasons, the notable one being the requirement of double decks on the 245.

The plan is now to be fulfilled with the following TEs being withdrawn already
  • TE889 - 903 
  • TE905 - 909 
  • TE911 - 913
More pictures from the day are placed below. 

Metroline DEL1979 at CELF

Metroline MM826 LK57 AYX

Metroline VW1034 LK59 JJU

Metroline DE1004 LK09 ENT

The rear of Metroline DEL1979
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I have writing it.
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Arriva Midlands Thurmaston Depot [THM]

We know, its the Circle of London Blog, so literally everything should be based in and around going ons in London right?. However no one can disagree that the Bus scene in London is becoming increasingly boring, with a thousand and one blogs reporting the same old news albeit using different words. I thought it would be a good idea if we branched out and did something completely different and this post is a product of this thought.

Having said that, the lack of anything to interesting to write about and the repetitiveness of the scene is probably the reason, we've all taken a break. With all that said, we are proud to announce our newest member to the team; Will Swain! Based in the midlands, he will add content from the said area as demonstrated with this post. I've actually been an admirer of his photos for quite some time so it is with great pleasure that he has agreed to contribute. I'm sure you will very much like the content he has to offer

The Garage is is the headquarters of the re-branded 'Midlands' operation, who were previously branded as Fox County. The company as we know it today were founded in 1981 following the split of Midland Red which formed a new company called Midland Red East, similar to the way in which Stagecoach East London and Selkent worked.

In 1984 the company was renamed Red Fox, with the name signifying the county's abundance fox population...those were the days when operators were more a bit creative. In 1987 the company was privatised in a management buy out. For those who do not know what this is. It is when shareholders and managers form an allegiance with one another to buy out a company they either work for have shares in. Oldies will remember the London Central buyout.

In 1989 several other smaller companies within the area were purchased, however all the facts show that this was probably the wrong move as three years later in 1992, the operations were sold to British Bus, who in turn parted with the operation four years later in 1996, selling to the Cowie Group.

In 1997, Cowie Group rebranded themselves as Arriva with Midland Fox being re-named 'Fox County'. However in 2003, it was decided that Fox county would merge with nearby Derby, thus creating the Arriva Midland we now know today.

On the 3rd of October 2011, Thurmaston Depot was opened. The 3.3 acre site, located in Norman Road, Leicester houses 98 vehicles from which 311 members of staff are based. The depot costed a royal £5.5 million to construct and is part of a bigger investment by the company which has seen many new and some refurbished vehicles from London being drafted in.

The state of the art facility operates in a similar manner Abellio's Battersea garage does, with a rainwater harvesting system being installed, which ensures that 90% of the water used in the bus washes are re-usable by being stored in an 8,000 litre underground tank.

In addition to this the garage has been  fitted double glazed solar glass to external windows to reduce the amount of heat entering the building – absorbing light and reducing glare helping to reduce the need for air-conditioning and blinds. To cap things off, a six metre high acoustic barrier fencing helps to lessen and reflect any noise which may otherwise travel to neighbouring properties.

The rest of the pictures from the visit are placed below along with a major fact file this time, outlining the ex London vehicles currently in operation at this depot. 

This shot shows the forecourt, complete with
some ex-London bendies.
The contrast between single deck types at the garage is shown here
Unfit Optare Versa
Arriva Midlands Optare Solo 2523 YJ09 MJE
Arriva Midlands Volvo B7RLE Eclipse 3902 FJ58 HYL
Some ex-London DLAs or DAF ALX400s stand inside the depot
Arriva Midlands 3723 FJ06 ZTK
Arriva Midlands Citaro 3008 BJ12 YPT
Fuel area
Shrew'd looking maybe?
Arriva Midlands Pointer 2375 FJ55 BWE
Another yard view
Arriva Midlands Pular 4750 FJ06 ZSV
Arriva Midlands Citaro BX04 MXH
Two London outcasts stand side by side
The trainer vehicle
Former DLA55 S255 JUA
Yet another yard shot
A line up of ex-London vehicles
From another angle

Vehicle fact file

The garage is home to many London buses these being the following:

ALX400 DB250s [Arrived in 2012]
  • 4783 - S255 JUA - Former DLA55
  • 4784 - S232 JUA - Former DLA32
  • 4785 - S211 JUA - Former DLA11
  • 4786 - S212 JUA - Former DLA12
  • 4789 - S215 JUA - Former DLA15
  • 4790 - S216 JUA - Former DLA16
  • 4791 - S217 JUA - Former DLA17
  • 4792 - S218 JUA - Former DLA18
  • 4793 - S219 JUA - Former DLA19
  • 4794 - S220 JUA - Former DLA20
Plaxton Pointers [Arrived in 2009]
  • 2132 - V425 DGT - Former PDL5
  • 2134 - V427 DGT - Former PDL7
  • 2136 - V429 DGT - Former PDL9
Citaros [Arrived 2011] - Used for Uni-Link services for Leicester University
  • 5000 - BX04 MYG - Former MA40
  • 5001 - BX04 MXG - Former MA9
  • 5002 - BX04 MXK - Former MA43
  • 5003 - BX04 MYA - Former MA25
  • 5004 - BX04 MXH - Former MA10
Garage fact file
  • Opened on October 3rd 2011
  • Headquarters for Arriva Midlands
  • Manages vehicles from all fourteen garages within the Midlands division
  • Currently houses 98 buses
  • Sits on 3.3 acres of Land
  • Very economically friendly garage
  • Cost £5.5million to build
We hope you have enjoyed reading this post and look out for more outer London garage visits. 

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Vehicle Focus: MBK1 [BU13 ZVE]

While we enthusiasts scream out for more variation within the bus scene, along came MBK1, Mercedes answer to a conventional midibus. Based on their highly successful Citaro, MBK1 is a combination of the old Citaro body frame, albeit with fancy trimmings and curves all fitted to a 10.5m Chassis. The vehicle's true length is 10.6m. Quite big for a midibus right? Yeah that's what I thought.

There is one thing that begs a question however. What does that seemingly odd fleet code stand for? It actually stands for Mercedes Benz Klein. Klein is the german word for short or miniscule and Mercedes being a german company, it doesn't seem so odd after all. Many might actually remember London United's 8.9m Plaxton Pointer Darts which had a similar code, theirs being DPK, but then again London United are a French owned company.

For years, Dennis have dominated the single deck market, with their Dart chassis, which comes in a range of sizes and specifications to suit operator needs. Vehicles such as the fairly successful Volvo B6LE have been introduced to match the Dart, but have never quite enjoyed it's success. Wrightbus launched the Streetlite in 2010 to rival the dart in a project called called 'streets ahead' which includes the new Gemini body, but while the streetlite is enjoying some success, the Dart is still the frontrunner.

It has been recently revealed that several operators have been reporting gearbox issues with the E200 and one London operator has actually started ordering streetlites as opposed to E200s for the time being. It is now quite evident that there is a gap in the market for single decks.

Fuelled by talk of a new single decker from Mercedes, I was excited but nonetheless ecstatic when I saw the finished product when it was unveiled at the Euro Bus Expo in 2012 as it is just a citaro with a few curves and ridiculously large wheel arches, nevertheless still an attractive vehicle to look at.

The vehicle is specifically aimed at the UK market and fully meets the EuroVI emissions criteria which owes to the BlueEfficiency engines Mercedes use in their buses. Mercedes claim that vehicle can provide between 3 and 5% savings on fuel per year in comparison to other midibuses.
Two models were built, with one provincial spec'd model being exhibited back in 2012 and the other heading the other way to London. The London model arrived at Quality Line's Epsom Garage (EB) back in July 2013 for evaluation, albeit with LED destination blinds...unusual! 

Quality Line MBK1 BU13 ZVE on the X26 © Dave Mckay
The vehicle arrived at their garage on the 28th of July 2013, and prompted an immediate reply from the managing director of the company who expressed his awe of the vehicle on the company website. It entered service the following week for fuel evaluation trials on the X26 and 465. Although the trial did seem to be a success, it did stay garage bound for a week. However it was later confirmed that there were only two qualified drivers for this vehicle which gives an insight as to why it was off the roads.

Go Ahead London MBK1 BU13 ZVE  on the 355 in Brixton © Luke Vjaska
The photo below which is kindly provided by Luke Vjaska shows how well, LEDs react with digital cameras. After some lengthy time off the road when its trial ended with Quality Line,the vehicle was seen driving around the Waterloo area, igniting talk of it possibly entering service on the 507 or 521 which are already due some trial vehicles. So it came as a shock when it entered service on the Route 355 on the 11th of September 2013 from Go Ahead's Camberwell Garage. This attracted many enthusiasts to the otherwise non appealing area of Brixton, where the bus was photographed and one female driver in particular became akin to her somewhat 'celebrity' status amongst photographers.

The trial with Go Ahead lasted just over two weeks, with the final day of service being the 27th of September 2013. It left Camberwell and was parked up at Waterloo Garage for just over a week before appearing at....

Abellio London XMS1 BU13 ZVE at Hatton Cross Station © Lee Thatcher
Abellio London XMS1 BU13 ZVE at Hatton Cross Station © Lee Thatcher
Fulwell with Abellio London and entering service on the 9th of October 2013, taking duties up on the 235, albeit however with a new fleet number, which one can only assume stood for Xtra Mercedes Short. Although the trial was said to be for the 235, cameo appearances on the 490 turnt into the norm. It ended service with Abellio almost as sudden as it began with the last day of service being the 24th of October.

It was said that Abellio liked the vehicle, however they were concerned at the size of the LED Blinds on the vehicle which I'm pretty sure can be rectified. The Bus was sent back to Evobus for evaluation of the feedback received. During this time the blind box display was altered slightly to make the appearance easier on the eye.

It seemed to disappear for a while, before randomly appearing at Arriva's Enfield Garage blinded for the 313.
Arriva London MBK1 BU13 ZVE on the 313 in Enfield © Dave Mckay
Although the route choice did not seem odd, as the 313 has the perfect mixture of 40 and 50mph limit roads, which would make fuel consumption calculations all the more accurate. It nonchalantly entered service on the 313 on the 2nd of December 2013. It came as a surprise to me as Arriva seem very content with their choice of vehicles and judging by their order patterns, are not interested in trialing new vehicles. However that may be about to change as Wrightbus have announced the DB300 will be replaced by a new Integral Mercedes engined Chassis.

All in all, I think from the offset the vehicle very good, however this is only from an enthusiasts point of view who is tired of the humdrum fleet of buses currently operating in London, whether or not operators agree or disagree remains to be seen.

Many thanks to the photo contributors!

Having written many business reports, I find it easier on the eye to use bullet points to ensure key information is taken in, so below is a bullet point list of what the Citaro K consists of.

Key Facts
  • 10.5 Meters 
  • 6.3 Litre Engine
  • 283 Horsepower
  • Euro VI
  • 6 Speed ZF Ecolife Gearbox
  • Uses Mercedes new BlueEfficiency engine
  • Seats 28 and has standing space for near 40 persons
  • MBK = Mercedes Benz Klein 
Look out for more 'vehicle focus' posts coming soon, for those who liked the post on the Metroline TAs, you should really like the next one...No clues as to what it is however! 
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