Today I had the pleasure of attending the open day at Go Coach in Otford, near Sevenoaks in Kent, which coincided wth the Sevenoaks Vintage Bus Running Day. Shuttle bus services were in operation from both Sevenoaks Bus Station, and Go Coaches' depot, ferrying enthusiasts from one site to the other and providing a truly varied mix of vehicles catering for all tastes and memories. I was lucky enough to be an invted guest of Go Coach, and so based myself there for the day, and I traveled on no fewer than 2 completely unique buses in this country, one extremely rare (an old friend of ours) and a jumbo 100 seater Volvo B9 Olympus tri axle decker. Not to mention a Routemaster and an E200.
A bit about Go Coach though. Based in Otford in West Kent they operate a fleet of 25 vehicles, mainly on school contract work, but do run a number of passenger services, most notably the 401 from Westerham to Sevenoaks, which extends to Tonbridge on Sundays. One of their school contracts serves schools in Orpington, and this is what the B9tl is used for. Completely spoiled kids down there!
|Go Coaches' Volvo B9tl Optare Olympus 100 seater|
The obvious comparison is with the East Lancs Mylenium bodied B9's belonging to Sanders, and to be fair in comfort and ride quality they both score well. However the Olympus wins on leg room. It simply didn't feel cramped in there, and it really is wasted on kids!
Part of the circuit via Sevenoaks the buses took included a stop in Otford Village at a place called The Pond (there is a roundabout with a pond in the mddle), which proved an extremely picturesque location for photos - a really nice touch and certainly appreciated by all those who scrambled on and off buses for their photo opportunities.
|At "The Pond" in Otford|
At this point I would like to remind you of a pic I took in Colchester back in Feburary, of an E200 demonstrator on loan to Stephenson's operating on the 247.
|E200 demonstrator YX14 RXB at Colchester Feb 2015|
It appears that this little bus has had quite an eventful few months since I took that pic - in fact she has attended an event in Saudi Arabia, before coming back and going to Go Coach, who I believe are in the process of buying her for their 401 service. Certainly she has extremely comfortable leather seats, but all in all it's an E200, so the usual grumbles and moans apply!
|The E200 at "The Pond" in Otford|
My next journey was on a Routemaster, but I'll save that till part two and move on to one of the more unique buses there today, and one most of you will be familiar with. In Janurary when I last came to Kent I was lucky enough to visit Nu-Venture's depot in Aylesford and catch up with the 4 Irisbus Agoraline's bought from Norfolk Green. I was really pleased to see 898 at the open day today, and to catch up with Chris, her regular drver and caretaker!
|Nu-Venture Irisbus Agoraline at "The Pond" Otford|
A brief update on two of the other three of the batch Nu-Venture bought - 891 has been off the road for the last six weeks awaiting a part which has had to be specially made. That part has arrived and 891 will be used as back up to 898. Only Chris drives them so at least one or the other will be on the road. Sadly though it's the end of the line for 895, which is currently being broken up prior to scrapping.
|I really like that shot of the Agoraline in full profile|
It is the little touches that make you really appreciate that a vehicle is really cared for and dare I say it loved. The destination Chris put up for when the bus was resting says it all - a pleasure to see you again, Chris, and hope I'm riding on one of your babies again soon! There will be more of 898 in Part Two or Three! It was also a pleasure to meet Norman Kemp, Managing Director of Nu-Venture. Norman has had a varied career in the Kent bus industry, working at Boro'line and I believe Kentish Bus at Dartford before founding Nu-Venture.
|That's love for you!|
Finally for Part One a couple of other buses on show. First of all this Abelio E400 MMC was a static display, so sadly no journey on her, although I'm hoping to stop off in Croydon tomorrow to sample one in service, and to see if they are any better than the demonstrator I went on the other week.
|Abelio 2519, E400 MMC YX15 OWH|
Lastly a bus that holds more memories for me than I can shake a stick at. I can clearly remember a specific journey on this Maidstone & District dual purpose Leyland Leopard in August 1983, where I was intending to go, who was driving it, and where I leapt off it early as I'd seen my (new) girlfriend polishing the knocker on her front door! So to see 2816, OKO 816G looking so good today brought all those memories flooding back. I didn't manage to get a ride on her but certainly hope to in the neae future.
|Maidstone & District Leyland Leopard 2816 in Sevenoaks.|
I'll try and post Part Two tomorrow, when we will go all Maltese and Chinese!