Thursday 28 August 2014

Kent Trip Part Two

In Part One I reported how I got from Whitehall to Rochester by service bus. After a pleasant evening with my parents the following morning I set off on the ambitious task of getting home to East Suffolk by service bus.

After another decent journey to Bluewater on one of Arriva's Volvo B7tl's I had a few mins to snap a few buses in what is quite a busy bus station.

Arriva Thameside 3822 Fastrack liveried Vo;vo B7rle GN07 AYK. I believe some of this batch can be found on the 133 between Colchester and Stanstead
All too soon I saw the X80 came in to whisk me under the Thames to Lakeside. Well that was the plan anyway until I discovered one of the tunnels was down to one lane and the usual long tailbacks ensued. Anyway not to worry as Ensignbus's old Trident gave a decent ride for its age and before long we were in Lakeside/

Ensignbus 105 Demmod Trident ALX400 V115 MEV. Ipswich Buses have two of this batch painted blue
At Lakeside I had time to snap one of Ensignbuses Olympus bodied buses - I've always liked that body.

One of Ensignbus's Olympus bodied Volvos. No fleet number visible
And then it was onto the journey I had been looking forward to. A journey on one of First Essex's Volvo 7900 Hybrids on the 100 to Chelmsford. I think at this point I should mention that in the past I have driven Volvo Ailsas, Volvo Citibuses, B10M coaches, both manual and auto and loved the lot. You all know what I think of Volvo Olympians, I am a fan of the B7tl, the B7rle's, the B9's are great and I simply adore the B11R coaches. My last car was a Volvo estate and it broke my heart to sell her. In fact there has only ever been one Volvo I have disliked - the B6. Until now.

The 7900 is truly hideous, Not from the outside mind you as they look great, but once it starts moving it's a reincarnation of the B6. It is loud and vibrates, and rattles as much as an E200. Most of the seats are hard, and here is a note to all operators with the current obsession with leather - it doesn't matter if it is covered in leather or fabric - a hard seat is a hard seat is a hard seat. The electric motor is a gimmick and nothing more. It gets you to around 8 mph then you lose most of the momentum you gained waiting for the diesel engine to judder into life. Someone once told me it's more economical to keep something running than it is to keep switching it on and off.  I don't know how true that is or if it applies to today's engines but if it does then it's all one giant misleading con. It was a very long two hours but at least we arrived in Chelmsford on time.

First Essex 69011 Volvo 7900 Hybrid at Lakeside
En route at Basildon we pulled up next to E400 33424, It is interesting to compare her with her much loved numerical neighbour, 33423. The adverts and lack of tinted windows mean 33424 has a fraction of the visual impact of 33423. Apologies for the pic quality - it was taken from quite a distance.

First Essex 33424 E400 VT59 JPT at Basildon Bus Station on the 25A to Southend
10 mins after arriving at Chelmsford I was on the 71A to Colchester on a much nicer bus, a former 133 branded Scania Omnicity with really comfortable leather seats this time. No complaints about this bus!

First Essex Scania Omnicity 65029 on the 71A at Chelmsford Bus Station

At this point I thought I was going to have to train it between Colcheser and Ipswich due to a big gap in the 93's from Colchester. But I then wondered if I could go via Maningtree instead, and thanks to advice from Geoff Toon on Essex Buses Yahoo group.I did indeed make the connection to Maningtree. My reward for such brain power? First Essex Scania 65666 of the same batch as Ipswich 65675 etc. Just what my backside didn't need at that point, but a picturesque journey on a new route for me out to Maningtree, where after a 20 min wait one of Carters' Tridents turned up to take me to Ipswich to connect with my last bus - the 1715 118 to Framlingham where I was met by Suffolk Links. -Trust me I have never been so happy to see an Optare Solo!

Galloway Optare Solo MX08 DHC - yes the one that doesn't like hills - at OCM
So there you go - Rochester to East Suffolk in 7 buses, one booked minibus and 8 and a half hours. Not for the faint hearted but I challenge you to find that journey on Traveline!


  1. excellent read as usual, even the comment about the solo lol

  2. Thanks Trevor - can't quite remember where I got the idea for that comment!!

  3. hahaha. its been on my route all wk :(

  4. Just waited for your opinion because I thought we got the better deal locally with the second-hand (ex-London, I think) Scania Omnicities rather than the (heralded-but-I-can't-understand-why) grant-supported new Volvo 7900 Hybrids! I trust TfL more than the DTp too.

  5. I don't know but I suspect FEx, as is their habit, went for the cheapest interior options, as they're more interested in the numbers game than quality, and seem to love to flood their principal routes with buses. Either because they don't trust their own reliability either, or to scare off the competition, or probably both.