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Special Guest Post: Looking at former London buses in Norfolk

We once again welcome Kieran Smith, author of Norwichbuses Blog, to write us a special guest post. This time he will be exploring the former London buses which have ended up in Norfolk.

Norfolk operators have long been subject to acquiring former London buses. Dominant operator, First (and it's NBC predecessor Eastern Counties), is renowned for being possibly the bottom of the First cascade system. In this post I will be sharing my own pictures of former London buses in their new life here in Norfolk.
Both Sanders and Anglianbus have taken on large batches of former Menzies and Metrobus Scania N94UB Omnicities. Sanders currently have nine of the type whilst Anglianbus operate five of the type. For exact details, fleetlists for all the operators mentioned in this post are available from my blog completely free of charge. These can be found here.
Since the Stagecoach takeover of Norfolk Green at the beginning of 2014 a number of new buses have been transferred into the fleet to meet new requirements for school contracts and to standardise the mechanical aspects of the fleet. Along with Alexander Dennis Enviro300s transferred from Stagecoach South, a batch of 2002 and 2003 registered Alexander ALX400 bodied Dennis Tridents have been drafted in from the London operation after their use at the commonwealth games in Glasgow earlier in the year. These bus operate alongside two similar models, 17605/17606 LV52HHP/R which were acquired from Stagecoach London before the takeover.
Former London Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TLs and Dennis Tridents are also popular. Dominant operator First operate around sixty of the type transferred from London from 2010 onwards. The fleet currently operate on the "Norwich Network" and are all in the process of being repainted into the colours of their respective route. The above photograph depicts Dennis Trident/Plaxton President 33003 in its new Purple Line guise. In previous years Go-Ahead owned Konectbus were transferred Volvo based V301/3/7LGC for use as relief, backup and school buses. These were replaced by former Brighton and Hove East Lancs Lolynes, which were replaced this year by former London Central Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied Volvo B7TLs.
Thetford-based Coach Services have taken on three Volvo B7TL based Plaxton Presidents from London Central, in the shape of X509/47/89EGK respectively.
Currently operating 14 Transbus Trident/President buses on park and ride services is Norfolk County Council owned Norse Commercial Services who took on the type in 2010 with the contract renewal. The batch in concern are former Go-Ahead London Central PDL class motors on PN03UL* registrations. Unfortunately, PN03ULX was burnt to a crisp a few years ago and was unable to be recovered.
That's it from me here on The Circle of London Bus Blog. It's been an absolute pleasure to write for you and I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it. To keep with more of my work I've popped some links at the bottom of this post which you may find interesting:

Kieran Smith on Flickr | See Here
Norwichbuses Blog | See Here
Kieran Smith on Twitter | See Here

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Special Guest Post - Norwich: a parallel universe?

Today we welcome Kieran Smith to the blog who will be writing two special guest features looking at the relations between the London and Norwich bus scene. Kieran already runs his own blog for his local area, Norwichbuses Blog. To head over and check it out, follow this link.

Norwich – A parallel Universe?

I never have been a regular visitor to London, however, this year I found myself the area twice within one month. From this, I realised how different the London bus scene is to the comparably mundane happenings here in Norwich.
Norwich is served by three of the “big groups”, with Stagecoach’s Norfolk Green running in and out of Norwich up to every 30 minutes, First holding the dominance in the city and Go-Ahead’s Anglianbus and Konectbus subsidiaries holding a network of both city and county services. Along with this, independent Sanders Coaches hold a strong network out to North Norfolk with smaller independents running once a week and once a day services in to Norwich.  All in all there are just under 90 different services operating throughout the week. Most services run every twenty to thirty minutes, with a few fifteen minute frequencies. The most high profile route is First’s Blue Line 25 and 26 services, operating with a combined frequency of 8 minutes. To me, this sounds quite hectic; at least I thought that until my visits to London.

Is out of date an understatement?
With buses running up to every 3 minutes across a network of well over 1,000 services I was baffled at how not one person seemed lost and was struggling to find their bus. In Norwich, you couldn't count on your hands how many people there are wandering along Castle Meadow (One of the main bus boarding points in the city) attempting to find their bus, yet in London everybody seems to know what they are doing. I soon began to realise the reason behind this is how organised the bus infrastructure and information is; timetables in every stand, clear maps available and well organised and labelled stops. A number of stops in the Norwich suburbs have no or very out of date stop information, yet on an incomparably larger network decent information is somehow achieved. At a stop on a popular retail park a few miles east of the city centre, the stop information is now five years out of date, showing two services which now have not operated since the evening of September 2012.
Are revolutionary ideas such as NB4L tempting people
onto buses?
One of the busy stopping points for Norwich buses
The quality of the buses in London is also so much better than here in Norwich. In London, the Borismaster, Wright Gemini range and Optare products constantly being sourced for operators are clearly tempting passengers onto the buses, yet in Norwich, First (Norwich’s dominant operator) other than six new Wright Streetlite 10.8m DF buses new this month, the operator has seen no new vehicles since summer 2011 being delivered to the Norwich depots. So are Londoner’s tempted onto the buses as a result of their revolutionary technology and modern look? This point made me again realise just how different London’s attitude to bus travel is. In Norwich there is a pretty poor look onto the buses, their cleanliness and reliability. People hate them. Yet when speaking to somebody who recently moved to Norwich from East London, they could not have spoken more positively about the buses there. She told me she was shocked at how frequent her local service in Norwich operated and how old the bus operating it was; this particular route runs every 20 minutes and is operated by 2001-2002 registered Plaxton President bodied Dennis Tridents and Volvo B7TLs cascaded from London.
At the beginning of this year, the local authorities launched an Oyster style travel top up card called “Holdall”. The intention was to roll it out across all Norwich operators, yet with no operators wanting to jump on board it is only now used as a pre-pay method on council contracted Park and Ride services. On the subject of park and ride, nine of the buses owned by the council operating from three of the six sites are former London Transbus Presidents. If their attitude was to source newer buses for the services, would more people be willing to use the services – hence reducing congestion and pollution in the city centre streets?
All in all, the point of this article is to show how London’s excellent attitude towards the bus system has lead to such a positive and well organised structure. If we had this same attitude towards public transport in Norwich, would we have higher patronage?
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Route 7: East Acton to Oxford Circus (Timelapse Video)

Route 7 runs between East Acton and Oxford Circus, running parallel to the A404 (Westway), serving Hammersmith Hospital, Ladbroke Grove and Paddington in the process.

The Route is operated by Metroline from Perivale West Bus Garage (PA) using Volvo Wright Gemini 3 Hybrids (VWH's). The route is 7 miles long and has a Peak Vehicle Requirement (PVR) of 19. The Oxford Circus to Russell Square branch has now been removed, leaving 4 free buses from the batch of 23 VWH's. Some of these spare buses are now found mainly on Route 297.

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Metroline Refurbishment Centre Part 1 [Preview]

On a small estate in the Buckinghamshire countryside is a bus refurbishment centre owned by Metroline who opened the facility in 2013. It was adapted from the success of the company's CELF centre which opened 6 years prior in 2007. At present the centre is receiving an influx of buses, namely vehicles from the batch TE1715-1751 which are being prepped for their uptake on the retained 282 and newly won 482 which will operate from G. The ongoing refurbishment of the SELs for the conversion of 79 and 297 is also nonchalantly taking place here too.

The purpose of the centre opening was to significantly reduce the cost and time it takes to refurbish a bus in order to get the bus back in to revenue as soon as possible Typically the company would either send their vehicles to the Hants & Dorset Trim in Eastleigh which would only be after a slot had been booked, a process that can take months to finalise, or the Rowan Telmac trim in Coventry for which a low loader would be required. Another benefit of having a centre as such is that it reduces the risk of mistakes as everything is foreseen by the man who opened the centre, who I upon speaking to said he "anticipated great things for the centre, and other operators as also keen to utilise the base in the near future. Join us as we add another exciting series to the blog.

Metroline TE1735 SN09 CFK & TE1717 SN09 CDX
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The Wrightbus Gemini 3

Arriving at the Expo with about an hour to spare, it was all smiles at the Wright camp, who two weeks prior had unveiled their updated Gemini 3 design, a design I was most impressed with. The face-lifted model sees Wright move away from the rounded 'Nokia' design, to a more sleek and sharper looking vehicle, which simply looks fantastic. Other than the obvious, one of the more noticeable features of the vehicle is the smaller grill, which is said to be designed in a manner as such to allow all operators to be able to fit their logo on their products, without a compromise of size.The wrap around windscreen now ensures that there are no driver blind spots, somewhat increasing the safety of the vehicle. The larger blind box along with the reshaping of the unit makes it's accessibility slightly easier too.

From the nearside angle is very hard to spot that the windows are still the shallow ones, specified on the previous Gemini 3 which is by no means called the Gemini 2.5 or 2.75 or any other silly name but they more in proportion with the bodywork of the vehicle, something I had to force my self to get use to with the previous model. Following suit with other manufacturers, the traditional sixties gasket style windows option has been dropped in favour of a new type of bonded window which is set to save operators a few pennies if damaged. It was explained to myself that the previous Gemini 3 model was simply a stop gap in preparation for the new wave of Euro 6 buses and that it was never intended to be a long term solution, not that there was ever a problem in the first place..!

Immediately noticeable with the lower saloon is the airy and spacious interior, although I'll reserve my judgement till I see one delivered to TFL's intricate specification. A few things have been adjusted such as the pitching of the seats which all together make it a more comfortable vehicle to travel on, and one does not have to be particularly choosy in where he or she sits in order to have a comfortable journey. The lighting has also been altered, a smaller strip of LED bulb have been supplied, which spells the end of intrusive lighting and dazzled eyes. The engine bay has also been altered, although only slightly, which increases the height by 1mm, making it a tad more difficult to see out of the rear window contrary to previous Gemini models.The isle has also been slightly widened to allow ease of movement not that Britain is not the fattest European country!

The upper deck has a very upmarket appeal to which probably is exaggerated by the lighting and shallow windows, which create a very tranquil environment, instantly noticeable is the lack of opening windows, with just two which are adjacent to one another. The room line appears to be much higher than before despite the vehicle being the same height as the previous model, erasing concerns over whether one would be able to walk comfortably upstairs, I mean I'm 6'3 and I had no problems what so ever. My only point of concern would be the size of the rear upper deck window, it seems to have shrunk in size even in comparison to the previous Gemini 3 but that's no major flaw.

The rear portion has also been altered to accommodate for the larger engine tray which ultimately results in a smaller rear window. In addition to this, the black masking has also had a change in shape, although I suspect that is more to do with aesthetics more than anything.

My Rating: 8/10 - I like the vehicle at lot, I really do, although one thing I would suggest would be to add rear blind box level lights as well as get rid of some of the black masking, its a bit excessive in my opinion but I guess that's why I'm an enthusiast and not the one who designs these things. Join us throughout the week as we review all of the new types presented at the European Bus Expo in Birmingham this year.
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Route H19: Harrow (Anti-clockwise) - Timelapse Video

Route H19 is an anticlockwise route which runs from Harrow, serving Northwick Park, Kenton, Belmont, Harrow Weald & North Harrow in the process. In 2006, Route H18, (then Harrow Weald to Harrow) was extended via the old 350 route (Watford to Harrow) through Headstone Lane and North Harrow. To help passengers distinguish between the new clockwise and anticlockwise routes, the anticlockwise route was re-numbered H19, just like the other circular Harrow Route (H9/H10).

The route is operated by Arriva the Shires from Garston Bus Garage, operated using Enviro200 Darts and Wright Cadets. The route is 9 miles long and the H18/H19 has a Peak Vehicle Requirement (PVR) of 7.

Some Arriva the Shires News:
  • 6122 - LJ05BKV (Arriva Southern Counties) is currently at Garston as a temporary transfer.
  • 3818 - GN08CHG (Arriva Southern Counties [4009]) is a permanent transfer to Garston to help out with the unreliable Enviro200 Darts.

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Route 32: Kilburn Park to Edgware (Timelapse Video)

Route 32 runs between Kilburn Park and Edgware Bus Station via the A5 (Edgware Road), serving Colindale, Hendon and Cricklewood in the process.

The route is operated by Metroline from Cricklewood Bus Garage (W) using the 9.9m ALX400 (TA's) and the Enviro400 (TE's). The route is 7 miles long and has a Peak Vehicle Requirement (PVR) of 17.

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Pictures of the Week [W/E - 21.09.2014]

DEL2062 - LK64ECE is seen here at Metroline's CELF Centre awaiting its' transfer to Cricklewood Bus Garage.

This bus is part of 10 E20D's (DEL2062 - 2071) ordered by Metroline for newly retained route 112. Two of these buses (DEL2062 and DEL2063) have been fitted with a start-stop technology system, which cuts out the engine whist stationary.

You may be thinking why these buses aren't numbered DEL2024-2033. This is because an order of VWHs will fill the void, with delivery commencing in November. More information on these buses will come out near the time.

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Pictures of the Week [W/E - 14.09.2014]

VW1245 - LK12AAF is seen in Harrow Weald operating on Route 140 to Heathrow Central on its first day of service

VW1243-1248 have transferred from Brentford Bus Garage (AH) to Harrow Weald (HD) to help aid the PVR increase of the 140 to 28 and for the newly retained school Route 640, which was previously with Arriva the Shires.

The buses were part of a larger batch with numbers running from 1243-1306  which were brought in for newly retained Route 43, 134 & W7 contracts back in 2012 but were displaced after the route was converted to the LT Type. VW1243-1248 headed west to Brentford to help displace the ill reputed OTH class Optare Tempo Hybrids whilst VW1249 & 1251 headed to Alperton to make up newly formed DD allocation of the 245. 

Metroline VW1245 LK12 AAJ stands outside Harrow & Wealdstone Station
on the 140 en route Heathrow Airport

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London United Shepherd's Bush Garage [S]

Today's visit was Shepherd's Bush, home to an array of different things, a famous area it is, probably exaggerated by the fact it is home to the BBC television centre located on the Wood Lane, the area has a long history of affluence, which was given a further boost upon the opening of Westfield shopping centre in 2008. However despite all this excitement, we humbly visited the one bus garage in the area which is operated out of by London United Busways, the garage visit has been on the cards ever since the blog opened, so it is somewhat of a small achievement to finally cover the base.

The garage is one of the busiest, if not the busiest London United operate out of, and is due to be upgraded to a Centre of excellence within the next few years, with a similar protocol to Metroline's CELF Centre facility. The base was opened in 1906, and was part of a number of pre-war bus garages being constructed at the time. However at the time of its construction it was used by storage company vanguard until 1908 when LGOC took over ownership of the facility fully. The operation sadly did not last for long, a mere six years which was mainly due to the fact, the nearby Hammersmith Garage (R) was housing a lot of work in the area, namely the Riverside Network of routes. The base was disused from the years 1914-1920 following the WWI and was finally closed in 1923, before being rebuilt the same year as the base we now know today as Shepherd's Bush Garage.

The Garage located on Wells Road in Shepherd's Bush is adjacent to the Shepherd's Bus Market Railway Station which funnily enough, had to be rebuilt upon its completion in 1940 due to the fact the platforms were built 18 inches too narrow of the regulatory requirement. Strangely the garage is one of only a few that have not been subject to much change in their lifespan, with early photos of the base in 1960s and 70s demonstrating the little change in appearance.

In more recent years, the garage has become renown for its diversity of different bus types, and became significant in being the first base in London to take on delivery of the Scania Omnicity buses back in 2006 for flagship route 148. By 2008, the original batch of Scanias had disappeared from the garage and replaced by a new batch, due to the former being low heigh and not to Tfl's ever changing vehicle specification. By 2010, the base had received its first Hybrid vehicles, taking on delivery of 20 E400 Hybrid buses for route 94. The vehicles were a hit amongst drivers, who were used to driving the more lethargic and lack lustre TLA Class ALX400 Tridents.

Following the retaining of the 220 in 2012, the route was moved from the base to the nearby Park Royal base and got the 272 and C1 in exchange, increasing the cost effectiveness of running all three routes. In May 2014, the 419 was transferred from Stamford Brook Garage using its 7xx series DPS class Pointer Darts which can often be seen on the C1.

However for all the garage's hard work it came as a complete shock when it was announced that they had lost the 49 to Abellio, which duly passed to the company on the 6th of September. It was suggested that the VEs made redundant from the loss of the 49 would be heading to Tolworth (TV) and latterly Fulwell (FW) however it seems as if none of those plans will materialise and the buses are due to head back to their leasing company imminently. More photos are available below and I do hope you have enjoyed this write up.

London United VE10 PG04 WHB
& VE9 PG04 WHA 
London United VE7 PG04 WGY 
At present most of the batch from VE1-10 are at the facility in a decommissioned state awaiting their returns to their leasing company. VE1/4/5 & 6 are at sister company, London Sovereign's Edgware Garage covering for some of their vehicles which remain long term VORs.

London Sovereign SLE3 YN54 OAC at Shepherd's Bush Garage
London United DE37 & LT136 in the maintenance area
London United DE92 YX58 DXA
London United ADH16 receives some attention in the workshop
London United LT126 about to enter the bus wash
London United TLA19 SN53 KHU
London United LT139 LTZ1139
The maintenance area
The leftside wall at Shepherd's Bus Garage
London United TA240 LG02 FBE
Shepherd's Bus Bus Garage facing the front
The maintenance bays
Two of a kind maybe?
London United ADH60 SN60 BYM & LT109 LTZ1109
London United DPS719 SN55 HSE
I must send out a huge credit to the staff on duty who ensured that I was safe whilst on site and ensured that my visit was a fun and pleasuring experience. Kudos! 
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Metroline CELF Centre Part 46

Another visit to the CELF Centre facility presented us with another opportunity to take some shots which otherwise would not be widely available to the general public. The facility for those who don't know was opened in 2007 after lying dormant for many moons storing Sir Alan Sugars Amstrad computers. 7 years later, it is now the central maintenance hub for Comfort Delgro subsidiary, Metroline Travel who are arguably one of London's most successful companies.

Metroline SEL747 LK07 BBF
The above picture is pretty much self-explanatory, it illustrates SEL747 having returned from a nicely done refurbishment at Metroline's own in house refurbishment centre, which we will be covering very soon, the vehicle was part of a one off batch of Scania's delivered for the route 7 in July 2007. Allocated fleet numbers SEL739-764 & 803 - 809 they were strictly allocated to zone 1 routes, 7 and 205 when new, they very much looked the part with their gold add frames and civic esteban seats. Nowadays, their duties have been reduced to routes 79 and 297 following the retention of the 7 with new Volvo hybrids, in the form of the new VWHs.  As part of the switch, VW1193-1216 are/have headed to Holloway to help aid the conversion of the 43 to that type whilst at the same time displacing the TP class Presidents increasing the age profile at the garage.

Metroline MM819 LK57 AYG
Seen undergoing maintenance is MM819 which was once part of a numerous fleet of MCV bodied MANs that were also delivered in 2007, but numerous problems has resulted in these vehicles to have their life cut short forcing many of them into early retirement in 2012/13. However recent tender gains with existing single deck vehicles has forced the company into reluctantly pushing these vehicles back into service, with MM813 & 819 expected to re-enter passenger service again after a refurbishment.

Metroline MM819 AYO blinded for the 395
Metroline MM819 AYO blinded for the 79
Metroline MM819 AYO blinded for the 611
Evident I amused myself quite a bit doing the blind changes, quite a tiring practise if done repetitively actually, no wonder most drivers prefer motorised blinds.Is it me or does "79" on the blinds quite suit these vehicles although I wouldn't actually like to see any branch out onto the route.

Metroline VP605 LK04 UWL
Not exactly, one of Harrow Weald's finest, but it works and that's the most important thing when it comes to the world of Transport & Logistics. The vehicle, VP605 despite being 10 years old, was actually one the last new vehicles for the garage. Something that is referenced in about 90% of conversations between enthusiasts about the garage. It seems as if prayers have been answered as VW1243-1248 were delivered to the garage following the tender win 640 and frequency increase on flagship route 140.

Metroline TE926 LK58 KGU
Seen during a visit to CELF for an MOT Test is TE932, a vehicle native to Holloway which is currently one of 10 on loan to Cricklewood garage whilst the recently taken over 112 receives its new vehicles which come in the shape of ten 10.8m Alexander Dennis E200s.

On the mend DP1016 RL51 DNU & VP623 LK04 UXF
Metroline VWH2010 LK14 FBD undergoes some
treatment prior to re-entering service again
The far left corner at CELF shows
long term buses off the road 
Uxbridge Buses MA1 F601 XMS
Uxbridge Buses MA1 F601 XMS
CELF Centre 
Metroline DEL2065 LK64 ECN
This visit concludes our 46th documented visit to this facility

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