Well these little 709s looked like they'd survive forever in the hands of Stagecoach, certainly surpassing many people's expectations for time in service. They're outlived SCD's (or should I be saying SSW's?) Varios, and technically, even some low floor Darts and Volvo B6s. But the time is finally up for these little fighters. With the recent influx of Enviro 200s onto the streets of Exeter, this has freed up the Solos to be moved down to Paignton to finally see off the last of the of the 709s. Their usual haunt is the 5, a small circular service round the housing estates, though in previous years I've been them all over, including the 88 through Totnes and Buckfasleigh. With the PCB 709s also looking set to be seen off anytime soon, we really are into the final weeks (possibly months) of local 709 operation. Though saying that, Devonian are now running 2 Ex PCB examples on their local services in Paignton, as well as Riverlink still operating an example. So the 709 won't be seen off quite yet in the Bay, but the loss of Stagecoach's is certainly an important milestone in their history.
Its always been something to smile at, when a route has to be changed, because the modern day equivalent can't cope! And this instance is no different! From what I have heard, the Solos have indeed been struggling to conquer certain roads due to awkwardly parked cars on the narrow estate lanes, which may cause some diversions on the route to be put in place where the 709s have always breezed through. I'm sure some of the less able people would much rather a bus came down their street, but have to climb a few steps, than have to walk even several hundred extra meters to a new bus stop. I know, I've over simplified this a bit, and I'm sure bringing low floor provision to the route will be a benefit to many people, but it does enable you to laugh 'progress'.
Though the type of bus has certainly been a constant, there have been many different batches at work, and I will therefore pass you on to a local expert who has monitored the fleet much more closely than I have! Kameron's video gives a very detailed account of their recent lives, so please do take the time to watch this short video he has done. The 709 part starts from 50 seconds into the video, enjoy!