Wednesday, 5 September 2012
A remarkable survivor within the First Group empire appears to be this J registered Dennis Javelin, J732 KBC, currently in use with First Somerset and Avon at their Taunton depot. The coach had been new to Martins of Kettering, but has spent a majority of its life working for First Southern National, and later of course FSA, ideally suited to some of the longer express routes in the area, and indeed she was primarily brought in at first to run on the X53 between Exeter and Poole, while based in Weymouth. She has since had spells working within Weymouth since her withdrawal from frontline service. Weirdly though, J732 has carried Barbie 3 within her past, including during her time as a driver trainer, but looking through photos, it seems she has relatively recently undergone a repaint into what appears to be an older First Group livery as pictured above, very similar to the original Barbie livery, without the pink fades, which many buses did carry. My first thought was that this was to distinguish her from her more modern counterparts in Taunton, but other First Group trainers are painted in a much more up to date style than this. But back to the point, while many younger driver training vehicles have been withdrawn around her, J732 pounds on thanks to her being fitted with a manual gearbox. Taunton and Yeovil are some of the few places within the First empire where you can still find Mercedes 709Ds and 711Ds operating, and hence where a majority of subsidiaries now only train their drivers to automatic licences, FSA have had to continue training their drivers to full manual licences, so that they are able to driver the Mercedes in service. Somewhat strange considering that FDC withdrew many automatic Mercedes Varios for scrapping, or onward sale to Poland. I shouldn't complain of course, its always nice to have a bit of variety, despite First Group's questionable logic at times. My thanks go to David Jory for providing the photos of J732, seen here resting in Taunton Bus Station.