Saturday 20 September 2014

New Solo? Not Bad!

On Thursday I decided to go the quick way into Ipswich which means booking a minibus to take me into Framlingham, then catching either the 118 or 119 into Ipswich, operated by Galloways. This used to be operated by Solos or Beavers, but due to passenger increase an MCV Evolution has had to be brought in, of which more in a bit. A few weeks ago I posted on Galloway's new Optare Solo, and was a bit critical of it - hard seats, bad reflection from the destination screen and uncomfortable driver's seat. Well I have actually ridden on it now and so here is my ride report - a feature seemingly unique to this blog.

Galloway's new Optare Solo waiting at Framlingham
First of all yes the seats are hard, and I'm not sure anything more than the 45 mins I spent on them would have been very welcome but I wasn't suffering too badly by time we got to Ipswich. That, however is the only negative point I can find about this new Solo. It is noticeably quieter than older models, smooth and everything about it feels solid. And best of all not a single rattle. Not one. Which proves that is IS possible to build a new bus in 2014 that doesn't rattle, which justifies every single gripe I've had about new buses rattling since this blog started. The roads on that route aren't exactly brilliant either. I'm not a fan of little buses - never have been as I like going on the top deck and getting decent views, and minibuses did rather spell the end for buses as I grew up with them. But you will hear no complaints from me if I have to get on this Solo again - just wish there was that bit more padding on the seats.

 I was lucky enough to have a coffee with one of this blog's biggest supporters. It's quite pleasing to know that part of someone's daily routine is to make themselves comfortable and spend time reading what I am posting. My ego was well and truly massaged so thank you, Paulo, and best of luck with the course you are taking.

I had a couple of hours to kill before my bus back to Framlingham, and was just wondering what to do when I saw an Ipswich Buses Trident pull into old Cattle Market showing 98 Shotley Marina. The 98 is normally Solo operated, occasionally a little Dart, and I've never been on the route, so checking I could get back in time I got on it and sat back, in comparitive luxury as the vehicle was IB14, which has tables, WiFi, and even a radio (not used) as it formally operated the 196 BT contract. The reason this journey is operated by a decker is it serves Holbrook College and picks up a large number of noisy but otherwise well behaved school students. It was after we left the school that the reason the route is normally little bus operated became clear.

The top deck of IB 14

I have been on some tight routes for big buses before - the 62 between Halesworth and Beccles is tight enough but this route between Holbrook and Harkstead is INSANE!!! I'd think twice about taking a large car down there and there were times the hedgerows were brushing both sides of the bus simultaneously. Vision from the top deck was spectacular but from the driver's seat must have been terrifying. I must mention the driver who was not only an extremely capable driver, but also a really nice young guy who is a regular on this run and a real credit to Ipswich Buses. We got to a very sunny Shotley Marina with just enough time for me to grab a quick pic with Felixstowe Docks in the background,and then glory be go back the same way. I will definitely do that trip again and can't recommend it highly enough.

Ipswich Buses 14 Dennis Trident LG02 FDJ with Felixstowe Docks in background
So back to Ipswich and a return to Framlingham on the aforementioned Galloway's MAN MCV Evolution. Again I have no complaints about this bus at all. Being a MAN you know it's going to be quiet, but comfortable seats and a smooth journey made it a perfectly acceptable ride back. All in all a very pleasant day.

Galloway 331 MAN MCV Evolution YJ60 GFA seen last week at Old Cattle Market


  1. Hi Steve,i don't think Galloways YJ60GFA is a MAN it's like Carters a VDL SB180 with as you say an MCV body with is Eygptian.
    Re 98 to Shotley, yes it can be a hair raiser,done it many many times,but not with a decker though,only Mini or Midi,have you tried the 202 which ends up at Shotley point as well.

  2. Thanks, Jim - as there were no identifying marks on it, including the steering wheel which didn't look obviously Volvo I assumed it was like the Coach Services one I was on a few weeks ago and was a MAN as it was so quiet. I had a feeling though if i guessed it would prove to be wrong!

    Not done the 202 yet, but have a feeling after the 98 on a decker might seem a bit tame now!

  3. Galloway. Has sold all the beavers to a company near. Stansted. 262 the setra will. Depart. Soon

  4. Thanks, David - useful to know.

  5. Hi steve l drive. For galloway and will try and keep you. Up to date with. The fleet at moment two mulleys vehicles. Are on hire for a few days. One off them a solo

  6. David that's brilliant. If you can supply registrations that will be even brillianter! Then i can find pics and stick them up. Take care mate.

  7. Galloway. Up date the mulleys solo on hire is cn06bxj the other is volvo vanhool one time Simons coach f reg Ex ipswich solo 333 is now 1440pp the old 188 Dennis dart has its old reg and should. Be withdrawn when mot run out the white plaxton dart is withdrawn from service and awaiting sail or scrap the mcv. Service buses are replacements