Yes, believe it or not, the Mercedes 709 has returned to Paignton! Only on Saturday did I comment on the loss of them from the town. But here she is, M353 JBO back home in Paignton at 1900 today spotted by Kameron Allan. With thanks to Kameron, we can report she has been back out on her old haunt of the 5s, presumably covering for an ever reliable Optare Solo. Perhaps it was slightly nieve of Stagecoach to get rid of all the 709s at once, without keeping at least one or two 709s in reserve for the time being, but certainly made the return of M353 even more special. Better go and grab it while you can though, as I doubt it'll be around for very long.
Kameron has been telling me that there have been many comments from passengers and drivers alike, shunning the Solo already. Of course as with everything, you don't realise what you've got, until its gone. The 709 is still the ideal vehicle for the job, although with the reduction in frequency, the 709 may have capacity issues in the peak, but we shall have to wait and see how it copes!
Unfortunately, I have indeed spoken too soon! After further research, we have found that she has only returned to the depot for staff shuttle work, and is not down here as a reserve bus to run in service. Who knows, maybe she will escape once or twice, but for now she's firmly out of service.