Monday, 13 November 2017

Anglianbus RIP

It has been announced on the Anglianbus website that Anglianbus will operate as Konectbus from Monday 20th November. This puts the final nail in the coffin of Anglianbus, who under the stewardship of Go Ahead have suffered one of the longest, tortuous, embarrassing and predictable deaths in the history of public transport.

A full post commemorating Anglianbus will follow in a few days, once I've got some research done regarding the early days. Lord only knows how Andrew Pursey and Dave Marshall are feeling tonight. It is a sad day that everyone has known was coming, but that doesn't make it any easier to take. Business as usual doesn't sound promising.

Monday, 6 November 2017

A Little Taste Of Heaven Part One

I wonder how many of you remember the gentle qame show "Call My Bluff". It involved two teams of 3 well known people giving alternative definitions to obscure words, and the aim was to decipher which was the correct definition. More often than not the definitions would start with the phrase "Imagine, if you will..." before the viewer was transported to a world where the word was relevant.

Well if the word I had to describe was "Heaven", my definition would probably go something like this: Imagine, if you will, a Mecca of all things bus. A huge site, crammed with vehicles. It is a working bus depot, a bus dealership and a bus museum. There are happy, friendly staff, a boss who is clearly extremely popular, a couple of young women busy stripping a bus engine down, a mini open top bus the boss takes his kids to school in, and just to put the icing on the cake a high speed rail line running alongside. My guess is not many would believe that definition, but that is precisely what I experienced when I visited Ensignbus last week.

After reading my reviews of the two BCI buses that were loaned to First and Borderbus I was invited by Ross Newman, one of the owners of Ensignbus, to take a look round. Many notable names in the bus industry had told me it would be an experience I'd never forget, and they were right.

A mix of Ensignbus's working fleet.
The place is huge. Two storage yards for sold and purchased vehicles lie either side of the main complex, which apart from housing all the working fleet has two big workshops including one where body conversions take place, and a truly mouth watering warehouse full of heritage vehicles.

Ross met me in the impressively airy and relaxed office section, all the more surprising as the QE2 bridge had been closed all day and Ensign's services were in utter chaos. yet there was no sense of panic, just quiet competence in getting as much running as possible whilst fielding a barrage of phone calls. Hi-viz vest on it was time for the tour to start. Ross explained the basic organisation of the depot, including a dedicated place for drivers to park vehicles with reported defects, so engineering staff could sort them out asap without having to hunt for them. All the time staff were greeting us and smiling. We entered the main warehouse and the first thing I saw was a freshly converted ex Tower Transit Volvo B7tl Gemini still rather pleasingly showing what I presume to be the last route it operated.

Now an open topper former Tower Transit VNW32410 LK04 HXW
I'm pretty sure Ross told me it was going abroad, but I can't for the life of me remember where! That's possibly because I had spied what is known as MCW corner. My good friend at Stagecoach, Matthew Arnold, had told me what to expect and I'll admit I did rather swoon. A couple of posts ago I said if I could go on just one bus again it would be the Metropolitan Scania. Decades ahead of its time it gave an astonishingly smooth ride, and as Ross accurately said; "two gears - fast and very fast!" Just a shame the bodies corroded as quick as they drove! And there, in front of me was the country's only preserved Metropolitan Scania with a Class 6 licence - ie it can be used for anything anytime. Indeed last year it was in public service during the Tube strikes.

The 1976 Metropolitan Scania.
But that wasn't the only icon in MCW corner. A couple of Metrobuses, and another rare beast I remember well, a former Kentish Bus and Northumbria MCW Metroliner, that at one time was the bastion of National Express. Now an open topper, still in Northumbria livey I got the impression this was one of Ross's favourites - he spoke with pride about it as one would a child who has achieved something special.

MCW corner, with the Metroliner standing out proud
Next to the Metroliner was an absolute beast of an American bus. YYR 832 is an MCI MC9 Greyhound coach, like everything else in the warehouse in full working order. It has the most incredible door mechanism - total overkill - and apparently not a rattle on it! I should think not - it's built like a tank!

Not to be argued with - the MCI MC9 Greyhound coach
Next to that is an ex Southend Transport Astromega, again a familiar sight from my commuter coach days. It's wonderful to see these memories preserved for others to enjoy, and the fact they are all kept in full working order makes it even more special.

The ex Southend Transport Astromega
I will freely admit that I don't have much affection for vehicles I have no memory of. There are, of course, exceptions, one of which will be coming up in the next post, but as a rule not. I do know, though, that some of you will be swooning over these RT's as I was the Metropolitan, so just for you here is a rather handsome trio!

I believe these are pre war, so again very rare.
Of course no bus museum is complete without an Ollie, and this ex Bristol In Sight Olympian did the trick nicely.

Ex Bristol In Sight Olympian P757 SWC
I'm reliably informed the Newmans like to buy each other odd presents, and I'm pretty sure this is one of them - a 6 wheel drive, erm, thing! Not completely sure the orange light is totally necessary! I think you'd notice it coming..

A proper boy's toy!
And of course there were Routemasters. Lots of Routemasters of all shapes and sizes.

Just some of the RM's (and 1 RT) in the museum.
I should point out that I took all these photos on my own after I had finished the tour and Ross had given me total freedom of the depot to photograph what I wanted. "We have no secrets here", he said, which compared to some places I've been to down South knocked me for six a bit. The reason I didn't take any while being shown around was because we were talking. And then some. Ross is one of those instantly likeable blokes, extremely interesting and easy to talk to, and the passion for what he does shines through. Far too much for one post, but coming up in Part Two we'll see a bus once temporarily owned by Hitler, a mini Routemaster and an office view to die for!

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Blog Trip To London Part 3

Welcome to the final part of Tim and I's excellent adventure to London. So far we have ventured from East Suffolk to our parking space in Upminster, from where we have traversed across London, taking in various forms of transport via places such as Charing Cross, Heathrow, Croydon, Three Bridges and St Pancras International. You join us at Waterloo, where I had a treat in store for Tim. No transport enthusiast should go to London and not taste the future. The future in this case being an electric milk float cunningly disguised as a bus, the BYD E200MMC bodied electric bus. Readers will know my views on them so I'll let Tim give his verdict!

T. Well what can I say, as I was a milkman in a previous life this should have been a piece of cake....ummmm no. I can honestly say I did not like this at all. The seating arrangement all up the back over the battery pod I assume felt weird and I likened it to being in a modern artic very high up. I know in cities and larger urban areas this will be the ultimate zero future but needs work and I can't see one of these liking the Beccles Southwold road much. Anyway it was an experience with hopefully no repeat soon......"sorry love did you want a yoghurt today,,,,,?"

Seems like neither of us could bring ourselves to take a full pic of the BYD so here is Tim's best effort!

2 pints or 3/                           pic TM
S. We arrived at Victoria in need of a stiff coke after that, and so one of the most pleasantly located Wetherspoons in the land beckoned. Sited on Victoria Station's Western concourse you can relax while taking in the hustle and bustle of a very busy station without needing to take out a loan to be able to afford a drink.

T. I can't say this is a first well not for about 50 years maybe. Last time I was here was indeed around 1967/68 but it all seemed so different and smaller ,and now it's a big open place that looks modern and functional with of course the addition of various eating places affording us as Steve said the time to people watch which is a great pastime! I am still amazed at the amount of people travelling as if you read the papers(I don't) and listen to the news(sometimes) the Railway is terrible and not to be trusted but I see it as still the best form of mass transportation there is and we invented it !

victoria Western concourse with 'Spoons top left                          pic TM

The view from said 'Spoons                             pic TM
S. It was time to tick another of Tim's boxes, Victoria Coach Station. We strolled down Buckingham Palace Rd as I wanted Tim to see the coach terminus with those famous water jets which serve no purpose whatsoever except to deter pedestrians. The departure terminal was the quietest I've ever seen it, without the usual crush, but enough to show Tim it's really not fit for purpose as a 21st century transport hub. However the highlight was certainly seeing one of National Express' new double deck Levantes. Very nice!

T. Having seen films of coach travel from the very early days and listened to lots of stories. this was the first time I had seen it up close. Felt a bit disappointed as you can't really see much like it used to be and if you like Levante's fine but it still is a busy place with the amount of in and out there is. I can't see how or where they could ever relocate it. But saying that I probably would do a trip into there just to say I had and the chance to get on the decker Levante if I could as yes it did look good!

National Express Levante decker                         pic TM
                                                                                           pic TM
S. It was time to start the journey back to Upminster, but of course we wouldn't do it direct. A trip on the 11, another Borismaster to Aldwych was required for a bit of sightseeing.

T. So a second Boris but not quite as quiet as the first. Ok the ride was as smooth but there were a few rattles a la Gemini ("ducks") plus having seen some sights I was able to get a look at a few others even with the diversions. One day I want to see the Eye but only to do the Dr Who bit lol. And the great thing about being upstairs on a bus is that you can see loads.

One of the iconic views from a bus!                                         pic TM

A colourful Boorismaster at Aldwych                          pic SW
 S. A transfer to a 15 at Aldwych to Tower Hill and we were back on DLR with an extremely friendly Train Captain, a transfer at Poplar to Bow Church, walk to Bow Rd for an entertaining District Line ride back to Upminster due to antics of fellow passengers! A superb day which I feel could be the first of many. I love sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm of London with others, and seeing Tim's "first time" reactions were just as enjoyable for me as I hope they were for him - he's already planning the next one!

T. Walking up Tower Hill did bring back a memory of a school trip a long time ago and friends not seen for a very long time. The blue Boris was cool too.

I am grateful to Steve for agreeing to do this as I reckon I would not have seen and experienced as much. Looking at the list it seems a lot but you don't notice the amount whilst you are taking in everything else. The list of firsts was great, the sights were great and yes I have planned another sort of, all written out until someone said..." did you know......" So I started again. If I had to pick a down point it would only be the blanket fog from Ipswich to casa del Steve (actually bloody scary - SW) after the obligatory kebab of course, but that really didn't phase us...much ("where's the white lines....oh we're in the country now")
So when the warmer weather resumes....Blog on Tour it is!

So to conclude this epic trilogy here is a list of each individual journey. When you look at this, £12.30 doesn't seem bad. in fact outstanding value, but if you're not an insane transport enthusiast I still think it very pricey. Remember we stopped for at least an hour at 4 locations too!

East Suffolk - Upminster   Car
Upminster - Bow Rd    District Line
Bow Rd - Canary Wharf    DLR
Canary Wharf - Lewisham  DLR
Lewisham - Charing Cross  Southeastern Class 465
Charing Cross - Hammersmith   Borismaster
Hammersmith - Hatton Cross  Piccadilly Line
Hatton Cross - Feltham  B9H
Feltham - Clapham Jct  SWR Class 458
Clapham Jct - Wimbledon  SWR Class 455
Wimbledon - East Croydon   Tram
East Croydon - Croydon High St   Tram
Croydon High St - East Croydon   Tram
East Croydon - Three Bridges   Thameslink Class 700
Three Bridges - Blackfriars    Thameslink Class 700
Blackfriars - St Pancras Int   Thameslink Class 700
St Pancras Int - Kentish Town  Thameslink Class 700
Kentish Town - Waterloo   Northern Line
Waterloo - Victoria   BYD electric bus
Victoria Coach Stn - Aldwych  Borismaster
Aldwych - Tower Hill   Borismaster
Tower Hill - Poplar   DLR
Poplar - Bow Church   DLR
Bow Rd  - Upminster  District Line
Upminster - East Suffolk  Car

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Ipswich Scanias Start To Arrive

Following on from Borderbus's eyecatching ex London Scania Omni City Decker I mentioned Ipswich Buses were getting some as well. 13 to be precise, and a couple of them have been revealed by Hants & Dorset Trim. There appear to be two different liveries, one looking quite good, and the other, well, judge for yourselves. I'm reliably informed that all wil be converted to 75 seats with Ster seating used. Nope me neither so I'll have to pop into Ipswich and find out once they hit the streets.

YR61 RPV at Hants & Dorset Trim
The alternative livery
No positive ID on the above pic but I will be very interested to see what everyone thinks of it.

All these pics were first published on Ipswich Bus Blog, with others, and you can read the full post here. Thanks, Clive, for letting me use them.

Coming up s the last installment of the blog trip to London, then on Friday I've been invited to Ensignbus for a tour of their Purfleet base, and I'm told to expect something rather special. Staying in Kent that night means another day in London next Saturday, with hopefully an added long distance extra if low fares still available! So plenty to look forward to.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

BorderBus Scania Finally Arrives Home

The word Scania has always lifted my heart a little. If I could go back in time and ride one bus again it would be the Metropolitan Scania. The best bus I ever drove was the Scania K113 with Alexander Body. The best coach I ever drove was a tri axle 10 speed Scania double deck Plaxton Paramount. Then low floor bodies came in and Scanias were never the same again. Yes the Omnicitis still had cracking if thirsty engines, but the new bodies just weren't up to the old standard. Then came the Omni City Decker, with a new low in passenger comfort. Quite simply some of the worst seats imaginable. I have never kept quiet in moaning about them, and berating those who brought them over here.

Andrew Pursey of Borderbus is used to that. He and Dave Marshall were responsible for the buttock numbing seats on the Anglianbus Scania deckers, and I never tire of reminding him that his office chair is considerably more comfortable than those seats he expects his paying customers to sit on.

But no longer. Andrew has redeemed himself. I said a couple of posts ago the most exciting thing to happen in East Anglia was the return of a repainted 8yo ex London Scania. Well it's finally back, gleaming in its new livery and reduction to single door. But more, much more than that - it has padded seats. Well padded seats. Comfortable padded seats. A new concept for the Omni City Decker. So not only do you get a seriously decent ride quality, which the OCD (very apt) has always given, but now you can enjoy it in comfort.
BorderBus 209 LX59 CNE in her new colours
I have to say the Scania looks far better than I was able to envisage. The wider yellow stripe really suits it, and in my view she looks far less than 8 years old. Hants & Dorset Trim have done a really decent job. Of course a bus is only as good as it rides so a road test was needed. My thanks to Eric, who did the honours, and it didn't take long to realise that this is now a very, very nice bus to travel on. The new padding in the seats means a couple of hours on this would be a pleasure, whereas before 10 minutes was too much.

The new interiors with decent seats!
An extra 4 seats have been installed upstairs, but you wouldn't know it as the legroom is still plenty. When we got back Andrew organised a photo shoot with one of the red ones to give a comparison. This resulted in some very pleasing images which we both took, so any similarity between mine and Andrew's pics is genuine!

They both look good but I think the new livery shades it.
BB57 BUS (Fleet no 210) is now getting the treatment, hopefully it will be certified a bit quicker than 209. A BB registration will go on 209 but it's still undecided which one. I made a suggestion which got some thoughtful consideration but I'll wait to see if it happens before saying anything. In the meantime thanks to Andrew and all the BorderBus gang for my usual friendly welcome, and anyone who travels on 209 please let me know what you think.

Ipswich Buses are getting 13 of these Scanias - theirs are ironically ex First ones - and I hope they put better seating in theirs too. If anyone knows if they are or not please let me know.