Wednesday 28 July 2010

The battle continues

Go-Ahead and First continue to lock heads on the core routes of Plymouth. The latest battle is on the Western Corridor with Citybus targeting First's Ugobus 1/A and 3. 

This has been done by implementing route changes making the competing services nearly identical to First's. The 26 now runs to Barne Barton competing with the 3 via Devonport, and the 43A now runs to Saltash competing with the 1/A. Surely though this can't be a good desision by Citybus. If they were offering a quicker service to Barne Barton, effectively taking First's customers for that area, why change it? By extending the 43A to Saltash I doubt this will help that much seeing as the 1/A remains at a 10 minute frequency where as the 43A runs to a 20 min frequency. I would presume though that this will make very little change to volume of passengers on any of the routes in question and may simply cause confusion for Citybus' passengers in the coming weeks.  

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Ilfracombe.. and back

Well maybe I was slightly mad going from Cornwall to Ilfracombe and back in a day. I never really imagined it would take as long as it did! It is directly north of Cawsand. As the crow flies the 2 locations are only 50-60 miles away. Yet it took me near as makes no difference, 6 hours, to reach Ilfracombe after setting off with Jim at 07:47 from Cawsand.

It was then a routine trip on the 8:15 ferry, then onto a 133 to come upto Royal Parade. Down to the bus station my 86 service awaited to whisk us along to Tavistock. This was your usual not very interesting Volvo B6 so nothing really to report there. It was a nice easy trip there after the driver struggled to locate the First Day South West after the ticket coding had been changed. I think I actually delayed the bus by some 3 minutes so sorry to anyone who was waiting!

On arrival our next stead was already at the stand awaiting its 10:30 departure, this being a somewhat rare BMC Falcon run by Beacon Bus. Yesterday it was operating the 118 right the way to Barnstaple so was an ideal opportunity to see what they're like! I was warned about them by Ben Morroll but stepped aboard with an open mind, right up until the driver stated "Cohh this one always breaks down.." while talking to another passenger. My first impressions were of fairly poor ride comfort. This was very much not helped by the fact the seats are simply plastic with a piece of cloth draped over them! Sure this may be ok for a short town hop, but for a 2hr 15min journey on country roads, it was hell! At the end of the trip my back was severely aching with me associate having neck pains. The engine also seemed to struggle somewhat to power along the 11 ton beast. This was a real heavyweight thing not really suited to the narrow twisting roads of Devon. 

So for the first time ever I was actually quite happy to step onto a Dennis Trident for the next and final leg of the trip into Ilfracombe. The X reg Trident felt like luxury after our affair with the BMC and gave a pleasant trip into Ilfracombe bus station which gave me time to have a quick look at the old depot building. This only closed around 4 years ago but the whole complex was looking very untidy, not well looked after at all which is quite a shame. 

After that it was a short walk upto the Landmark Theatre with a stop for a pasty along the way to have a look at the glorious Davi.... Bedford Cinema Bus which was newly restored for this year. The bus looked immaculate and it was obvious that a lot of hard work had gone into bringing it back to this state after it was nearly scrapped along with 6 other similar vehicles. 

There was time to talk to Shep and Jo and take in Ilfracombe for an hour before boarding the 5:15 3 back to Barnstaple with one of the 55 reg ELC bodied Tridents, similar to the Torpoint Tridents. 

On arrival we amazingly ran into K614 LAE about to work a journey to Ilfracombe! Shame we didn't have this. It wasn't long ago that K reg vehicles had been expelled from Barnstaple in the form of the K-ORLs, but K614 has brought back the Northern Counties body to the town. 

Also there was some of the newly arrived North Devon Wave branded Tridents from Oxford. These did look very smart with a well presented clear livery with little intrusion on the windows.

So for the journey back down to Tavistock, 'luckily' we had an Optare Solo. I must admit I don't think I've ever been to happy to ride on one of the dreadful things. This '56' reg example was very nice though, with plenty of nice padding on the seats!

And so arrival in Tavistock after a very pleasant journey with a lovely Beacon Bus driver met us with a Volvo B6. Though mensioning the driver of the Solo I must thank him for the very enjoyable ride. He was very happy to have a chat while he was at a stop. He also made sure all his customers were happy by opening and closing windows and the skylight for passengers, cheering up a sad baby, checking that we were warm enough when the sun went down, putting the heaters on, helping people getting on and off at every opportunity, and generally being exactly what we'd all love from a bus driver. He was a real credit to the company.

So into Plymouth it was a short wait before my final bus for the day, S764 RNE arrived to whisk me back to Cawsand arriving at 9:04. A slightly shorter return journey than the journey up, by some 20 minutes. 

All in all the journey was quite a tiring one and not really one I'm going to repeat in any hurry!

Monday 26 July 2010

A return to Torpoint..

...for the Mercedes Vario. That's right, here is S515 RWP, 52515, seen here parked up in 'Vario Corner' of Torpoint's Trevol Road Depot. I'd love to be able to tell you why she was there but I can't work it out myself. Two new drivers have just been trained and are now driving at Torpoint (infact one of the newbies can be seen in this photo). I very much doubt they would use S515 on service with its converted seat layout and no destination equipment. Any ideas anyone?

Sunday 25 July 2010

Snap On Sunday - Up on the Hoe!

Firstly I would like to say a big thank you to all who were involved in the rally today. After the late start at around 10:45 the rally was very enjoyable throughout. Plymouth always seems to attract a large variety of vehicles from Gen 1 Transits and Mercedes Varios, right through to Routemasters and Enviros. 

It is a shame that only the Hoe trips were offered this year rather than the usual variety of routes around Plymouth but as we all know money has been tight at WNPG in the last year after First Devon and Cornwall ceased to continue their support of the group. Target Travel did step in to offer some sponsorship for today which I'm sure was greatly appreciated by them. 

A full range of photos will of course make it onto flickr in the coming day. As a sidenote don't forget its the 'Shep and Jo Summer Holiday' this week around Devon. Unfortunately Bristol SU 270 KTA was not available to take the journey up after some unfortunate problems with the brakes when David bought her from WNPG. So instead it will be a different vehicle for each day. Ilfracombe will see the newly restored Bedford cinema bus at the Landmark Theatre. Coming closer to home, Wednesday in Plymouth is due to be Plymouth City Transport's Leyland PD2 Open Topper. 

Friday 23 July 2010

Just around the corner...

25th July 2009 074
Originally uploaded by bristolvrboy this year's annual Plymouth Hoe Bus Rally organised by WNPG. Its a single day event this year celebrating 25 years of WNPG. This year the event is being supported by Target Travel rather than FDC, which the group has been dis-associated with for a couple of years now. From what I can make out, it seems that it is only the Hoe Circular trips that will be on offer this year, rather than the more usual several full length routes operating in and around the city.

The event will be this Sunday, opening from 10 o'clock onwards. If you can though its advisable to get there half an hour early to get some better shots of the vehicles arriving at the rally. It is said that there should be some 60 vehicles on display this year, a very good turnout. Hopefully the weather will hold out this year, unlike the wetter Sunday of last July, after a glorious Saturday. I feared I wouldn't make the rally this year, due to my summer job I've taken on, but luckily the boss has allowed me the day off! See you all on Sunday!

Wednesday 21 July 2010

A long way from home...

Notice something strange? You'd be right. No this photo isn't in Birmingham, this is indeed Penzance with Central Connect Class 150, 150125 seen here before working a service to Par. This was transferred here last week to Exeter, and this was her first trip down into Cornwall. The unit looked very tidy from the outside and left no real operator marks other than the livery of course, but without company branding etc. 

The seats weren't exactly the most comfortable I've ever sat on. Of course these are designed for short hops into Birmingham, not 2-3 hour runs from Penzance to Plymouth/Exeter. The extra capasity may be welcomed at peak times though, but on a fairly quiet service upto Par, it was just uncomfortable. I was very glad when I could transfer to a HST for the rest of the journey to Plymouth, while this went off on the Newquay branch. 

As I mentioned the train does still retain old marks from Birmingham and retains the route maps throughout the unit, which were actually quite interesting to look at. No doubt a few people were quite confused!

There were also many native posters including this one from Network West Midlands on fare saving ideas! Even these were well out of date though!

Monday 19 July 2010

New timetables commence!

Here we go the new timetables for Rame have now commenced (well A-Line and Ferry so far). Pictured at the top is the first 17:15 departure. Previously this was the 17:25 so may have caused some confusion for passengers expecting the ferry 10 minutes later. The 'later' 34, the 17:10 from Royal Parade now no longer meets with the ferry. Seems that this is now rendered useless seeing as it only goes as far as the Cremyll Ferry before going off to do a 36. 

The next photo is of the very first 17:30, 80 service to Cawsand. Steve was doing this runs this evening and did comment that the new timetables are very tight. They're do-able, as long as you don't have to stop! Many of the services did run to time but the more popular services such as the 16:30 struggled with many stops and starts along the way. True it is providing a much higher quality service, which is great. But some of the time to communicate with passengers may be lost in the rush to get around the route on time! 

Sunday 18 July 2010

Snap On Sunday

Just a quick photo of three Western Greyhound Merecedes Varios seen in Newquay Bus Station. Looks much like a train with all of them linking through I thought. Now the question is how can we combine the names to make it seem ok. Tranio just doesn't seem a good idea....

Saturday 17 July 2010

Metrobus return to Plymouth

Of course the Metrobus was never in Plymouth in anything at all like mass numbers. Believe it of not, KYV 753X is an Ex-London example of the Series 1 Metrobus, now working for Oakley's Party Limos who own the interesting purple DAF coach that is often seen around Plymouth. The metal front is very striking. Of course the bus is hardly recognisable compared to her original London spec looks. But it was great to hear a Gardner thundering down Royal Parade today. You could nearly have mistaken it with the old MTU-Y Leyland Olympians that FDC used to run. That 6LXB coupled with the Voith gearbox sounds nearly identical to the Metrobus. If any of you need reminding of the MTU's glorious noise I have posted a Youtube video below. This bus is also hoped to be attending the Plymouth Hoe Rally next week!

At last!

Finally after a long length of time, I have spotted a Plaxton Elite! And what a beast this one was. A brand new example, this was YN10 FZW of Corporate Coaching. The bus' interior looked very nice from what I could make out. The design is even more stunning in the flesh than in the photos. The livery suited it perfectly. These really are striking coaches. I first saw it while up by the Sun-Dial in Plymouth City Centre while it was going down Royal Parade. Even from this distance it was instantly recognisable and it was a quick dash down to see if I could find it again. Luckily it was on its way back up Royal Parade so I was able to get this quick photo with the phone. It is a shame that these are very expensive coaches. But its very obvious why you would pay the extra money for a real quality coach like this. 

Thursday 15 July 2010

Barbie 2 Solo?

Well an interesting sighting we have here, of Optare Solo YK05 CDO. Just walking along through the town centre it caught my eye simply because it looked like it was in the old Barbie 2 livery! I was somewhat right in this. The bus doesn't have the larger first logo down the side now the swipes of blue and white, along with the pink stripe also disappearing. The bus had not long been in the standard Barbie 3 livery. As you may have guessed this is one of the vehicles which came from the Truronian fleet on takeover. The bus has the 'Discover Dartmouth' website on the side so I presume that this is the vehicle used on the Dartmouth Park and Ride which First recently took over from Tally Ho. 

Wednesday 14 July 2010

New timetables for Rame (Part 3)

Now we're onto the new 81C timetables. This is an interesting one, and has by no means brought good news to the area. 
First say that they have been in contact with the Rame Bus Users Group, and that the new timetables are based on their ideas. True they have re-instated all journeys to go via Millbrook again. This is of course a good thing for people coming across the ferry, therefore not having to walk from Fourlanesend. Err wait. The buses leave 5 minutes before the ferry gets in. This is done throughout the day services not linking with the ferries until the 1403 departure. Did they not notice, or were not told that the Cremyll Ferry would be changing their timetables? Whosoever fault this was in communication, it doesn't seem to have many benefits for the users of this section of the route. This change at that time of the day will again have little benefit seeing as A-Line commence services not long after 2pm. First may only have 1-2 ferries that the passengers can effectively use, without the option of travelling with a far better timetabled 80. 

But its not all bad. Crafthole are having many services re-stated with 'lengthened' 81s now operating out to the surrounding villages. Services were only provided by Western Greyhound, with no available through linking to Plymouth. So this can really only be a positive and seems like a good move. Much better than the 'lengthened' 81Cs that were first proposed. 

So lets see the reaction to these new timetables! 

Monday 12 July 2010

New Enviros for Stagecoach

Well well well what do we have here. Some brand new '10' reg Enviros that Stagecoach have acquired. These - as you may or may not have noticed aren't your standard Enviro 400s. These are built on a Scania chassis, rather than the more common ADL chassis. The easiest way to tell them apart is the extended rear overhang on the Scania version when compared to an ADL. These have been bought to run on the 57 to Brixington and Exmouth. I must say they do look very smart, but actually don't stand out at all. Stupidly when I actually arrived from Plymouth on the X38 I walked right past 3 of them! They totally blend in and if I have trouble identifying them, I doubt the general public will notice any difference whatsoever!  But there we go. As a bus, these Scanias aren't bad at all. As you'd expect with a Scania, they have plenty of power to play with, and the gearbox was also very nice, giving a smooth ride. Well saying that the suspension wasn't anything special. The breaks were quite harsh but this may just have been the driver's driving style. Interior is just your standard Stagecoach, apart from some strange patches of light blue leather at the rear of both decks. Not sure if there's a proper reason for this, but it did seem odd. The layout again was fairly standard. The staircase felt a bit wider to me, but I had just stepped off an '04' reg Trident! Unusually my X38 was operated by a Culm Valley Connect liveried one! But back to the Enviro, its definitely a step up from the ADL, but its nothing that special. I'm sure for a longer distance route the extra power would be very welcome, much was the case when Scanias were used on the X53. Its a shame that they weren't branded to make the new buses stand out, but its not exactly a normal Stagecoach policy to route brand, so we can't blame them! 

Sunday 11 July 2010

Snap On Sunday

I never thought I'd be this happy to finally get a photo of a err...Dennis Dart? 

Saturday 10 July 2010

Rame timetables changes (Part 2)

July 2008 007
Originally uploaded by bristolvrboy
To co-inside with the new changes to the Cremyll Ferry service A-Line Travel will now be adapting their timetable to suit the new workings. The service will start slightly later due to longer running hours and will commence with the 3:50 from Cawsand.

Buses will then run to the current route, which is the circular serving Cawsand, Maker, Cremyll, Anderton, Millbrook and Insworke. The service will loop round every half an hour until the 7:30 ferry. This is a service extension of around an extra hour and will provide 2 additional journeys.

Friday 9 July 2010

Interesting converted camper!

Well for those of you who don't know this is an OBC Omni. Very rare buses nowadays. I've got to admit I didn't know what it was to start with! The closest I got with Cuffy with me at the time was "A funny looking Metrorider". N698 EUG - believe it or not, does offer disabled access using rear doors. This is a fully manual vehicle despite its quite crisp modern design. The driving position is unusually high up as you may have noticed, I guess this was for easier sight over the larger than average front end. I have looked but I can find no history whatsoever for this vehicle. If anyone has any ideas then let us know!

Timetable Changes (Part 1)

Well there's a lot going on in the next month as to timetable changes for particularly my key connections I use regularly as well as the more 'main' Ugobus routes which Plymothian Transit has already covered if you haven't seen it already. 

To kick things off here is one of the most crucial of changes. Tamar Cruising who operate the Cremyll Ferry now have an extended tender on the route for another 7 years. With new funding from Plymouth and Cornwall Councils an improved service and pricing structure is being introduced to provide a much better service for people using Mount Edgcumbe and residents of the surrounding villages. 

The new timetable is seen above and its obviously to see that there are now major improvements to the service. There were often complaints on the old timetable - particularly with problems occurring in the large gaps at lunchtime. Understandable but inconvenient. Now the ferry runs every 30 minutes throughout the day - apart from the usual slight changes in the early morning for the benefit of the early morning commuters. Later running is also being introduced which could bring many new possibilities for travellers from Plymouth and vice versa. 

I really cannot fault the new timetable - its what the service always needed and now we have it! And coming onto prices - bucking the trend they are actually decreasing! Adult fares are going from £1.50 to £1.20. And child from £1 to 60p. Concession tickets will also decrease in price proportionally. 

Wednesday 7 July 2010

BBC Bus Tour

(Photo thanks to David of him working on the brakes)

Announced on Monday - the 'Shep and Jo show' will be going on a tour of the county in the coming month. The bus - as you may guess is Shep's (David Sheppard) and is Western National 420 - 270 KTA. Many of you will know it was previously owned by WNPG but was sold onto David in the closing months of last year. Since then he has worked tirelessly to get her into good working order and has done a sterling job with little outside help as it seems! He even went to the length of taking his own annual leave to try and get 420 on the road by July 26th when the tour will hopefully start. Of course this is the day after the annual Plymouth Hoe rally which again hopefully she will attend. 

If you're interested the bus will be visiting Ilfracombe, Great Torrington, Paignton, Plymouth and Sidmouth. I would presume in that order but don't take my word for it! 

The MOT for 270 will be on Friday so best of luck to Shep for the test! It can't be the easiest of things getting a 48 year old bus through an examination for a far newer vehicle!

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Another Swan Update

I'm afraid today's update has a sad tinge to it. The swan couple of Admiral's Hard now only have one young swan still with them. Whether it has already gone on to develop is doubtful and this leaves one from the original four still left. Though this particular one does seem to be growing well. Its quite amazing seeing how they develop over the months you see them around the area, and strangely never fails to fascinate me, even though I'm not a twitcher! 

Monday 5 July 2010

More on PCB...

13th March 2010 138
Originally uploaded by bristolvrboy
Well thank you all for your continued contributions about the effects of Go-Ahead to PCB. This has really made the blog feel that bit more active so thank you!

I was also considering what one of the contributors commented on about the differences Stagecoach may have made. Its now pretty obvious that so far PCB will receive little direct investment from Go-Ahead. This has already been seen with further 'reject' buses entering PCB and the possible move of the newer buses to the 'better' parts of the business. Could the story have been different with Stagecoach at the helm?

Well lets consider this. Though Exeter has been under Stagecoach ownership for some time now it has seen continued investment in the fleet throughout. Lets take Trident to Enviro for example. Tridents were very much the mainstay of the fleet and gave much of the area low floor access fairly early on. Fair enough some older Volvo Olympians are still used but compare this to FDC, step entrance vehicles are still widely used on a variety of tasks with little investment. I suppose Plymouth is a slightly different story thanks to Mark Reddy, but the rest of Cornwall has never really seen many benefits to the fleet. Back to the point though, even many of the Tridents are starting to be replaced with Enviro 400s. This aren't just some old reject from another part of Stagecoach though. Many are either new or only a couple of years old. They are always smartly turned out and kept to a uniformed high standard across the range. Continued investment in the Park and Ride has seen Enviro 300s replace Solos and Darts on these routes and seem to have made a positive impact. It is rumoured that First may have lost out for the renewal of the Park and Ride tender if Plymouth, but we'll have to wait and see on this one.

So in summary could Stagecoach have not only given more investment in terms of the fleet, but also brought with it better timetabling, something that is still complained about. Of course route changes are inevitable under any new company so I wouldn't have though Stagecoach would have left it all how it was. But neither do I think it would be a First situation, where everything is cut back and your left with the core high profit services.

Another issue that came up is the economy of running Citaros compared to Darts. Citaros generally do 4-5mpg when in service in Plymouth specifically. The Dart returns 10-11mpg on Plymouth routes, and with a higher capacity, true this makes a lot of operational sense to change to Darts. Of course this isn't as good for the customer, the Citaros, as I have mentioned are by far my favourite modern single decker. The real question is what will they do with the Citaros. Oxford runs many, so I would guess they'll be sent up there. But why do they need them is the question? Oxford is now running some joint services with Stagecoach on the core routes offering a better frequency but with less work for each company, and a better result for the customer with interchangeable ticketing. This should mean they need less buses, but in practise this doesn't seem to be the case.

The list of possible cast offs coming our way was very interesting though. The list follows:

Dennis Trident Alexander ALX400
T101 DBW - T120 DBW

Volvo B10BLE Wright Renown

R218 HCD - R220 HCD/ R322 HCD/ R223 HCD - R227 HCD/ R229 HCD/ T811 CBW - T815 CBW/ W816 FBW - W819 FBW/ W20 FWL/ W821 FBW

Dennis Trident Plaxton President

R2 OXF - R3 OXF/ R8 OXF - R9 OXF

Tridents seem a bit of a strange choice if this is going to happen. Though PCB widely use Dennis, the Trident has never made it into the PCB fleet. Of course recently they bought the Volvo B7Ls from London General (another Go-Ahead branch). Why not just sent a few more down and standardise on them.

The same can be said for the Volvos. Of course there are the 3 older B6s with PCB - but again they have never been standard vehicles. Is this just some interesting variety for us, or will it prove to be more costly for the PCB user?

Many questions to ask, just months into the sale of PCB!

Sunday 4 July 2010

Snap On Sunday

Snap On Sunday this week is from another fairly recent takeover, but this time FDC of Truronian. First inherited many vehicles from the Truronian fleet from crew buses to full size touring coaches. 

One of the vehicles was this coach spec Mercedes Vario - W4 TRU. This is one of the few buses that actually does suit the First coaching livery and the Vario looked very smart when it passed through Fowey today. Though it did cause some worry when this turned up at the same time as a service 25 was due. I heard several passengers say things along the lines of 'Ohh bloody hell we're not getting that are we!'. Luckily a Volvo Olympian followed shortly after!

Friday 2 July 2010

What we all feared?

14.2.08 050
Originally uploaded by bristolvrboy
Well again thanks to an anonymous contributor I can tell you that he/she has heard confirmation that some Mercedes Citaros will be departing the city to be replaced by some more Ex-Oxford rejects. This really is what we all feared as the transfer to one of the 'Big Five' happened. Service cuts. The possibility of lower class vehicles with what may turn out to be a higher average age profile across the fleet. Fare increases have also occurred generally. True we have yet to see the real benefits they may be able to bring in for the long term but so far the South West is being demoted yet again.

Though we could say from a totally different perspective that this could be quite interesting. First of course still run against PCB on the two main routes that use Citaros, the 21 and the 43. If these were to go then would the type of bus really influence change from PCB to First? You could also say for the spotter it will bring more variety, with increased fleet movement and changes. Of course PCB have the increased power to fight back with First but we haven't really seen any of this in practise yet. Plympton was already pretty much tied up by PCB it was simply a streamlining exercise. Another thing that I'm sure we will see increasingly in Plymouth under Go-Ahead management.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Volvo B6s **Dennis Darts** for PCB

Here we go then, some more 'investment' in the Plymouth Citybus - Go Ahead fleet. Though as you may suspect they aren't exactly 'new' like they would have been under council ownership. Go Ahead have just brought down two Volvo B6s from Oxford - of course another branch of the Go Ahead empire. Unfortunately and quite obviously I can't tell you the registration from the pictures - I know they're shocking but its the best I could do at speed with a phone! No doubt these are here to start to decrease the number of Step Darts in operation. K107 SFJ though still seems to be going strong, though I have seen less and less of the current 'Step' Volvo B6s that Citybus currently run. Of course I non standard type at the moment to PCB but plenty of parts can surely be sourced from other parts of the network.

As a footnote this is also PTOTPA's 500th post since I first started on March 16th 2007. I would love to delve into the archives to find a more fitting story for today but with the computer still out of action this hasn't been possible. 

So I shall leave you with the thought of step Darts finally being phased from PCB after so many successful years. Plymouth just won't be the same without them. Though I'm sure the same was said with the Atlantean years ago!

Thanks to an anonymous contributor it has been found that these are actually two Wright bodied Dennis Darts. They are from a batch of 10 that Oxford currently run. The three that have been disposed of for further use at PCB are R401/2/8 FFC. This is due to an influx of new vehicles in Oxford! I think all of us saw this sort of investment coming!