Tuesday 22 March 2016

40 Minutes In Tunbridge Wells

Hospital day today, and I decided to bus it as I'm down in Kent already for a couple of days. The day didn't start well with an accident delaying my first bus to such an extent it cost me an hour and a late arrival at hospital. However, a terrible ride and seriously unprofessional driving on a Dart operated by the Company Which Must Not Be Named, then a much better journey on an Arriva Optare Versa I arrived in what 30 years ago was my second home.

Now you would expect that the posh areas get the posh new buses, and in Kent you don't get much posher than the spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. However this has never been the case. 30 years ago Tunbridge Wells had the oldest Bristols, the most old Fleetlines, Leopard buses, Leyland Nationals and today Arriva, the main operator in the town has a fleet of old Tridents and Darts, with only the odd B7tl, Versa, and a handful of new short Streetlites reminding us we are halfway through the second decade of the 21st century.

However one thing has changed. There are now more operators serving Tunbridge Wells than you can keep count of, and obviously I started comparing with Norwich, although obviously Norwich isn't nearly as posh not having Royal in its name! Norwich has 3 of the big operators, First, Stagecoach and two Go-Ahead companies, with Simonds, Sanders, Ambassador/Semance, some outfit called Borderbus and OurBus operating into the City on a daily basis. I'm not including coach services or one a week services. Tunbridge Wells also has three of the big ones, Arriva, Stagecoach and two Go-Ahead companies so let's start with them.

Arriva's Tunbridge Wells depot has some ex Arriva London B7tl Geminis, and one of them was just completing its journey from Tonbridge

Arriva 6133 Volvo B7tl Gemini LJ03 MJE
Stagecoach South East have taken over routes formally operated by Eastbourne Buses. Here is Dennis Trident ALX400 18176 GX54 GVV setting of for Heathfield continuing to Eastbourne

Stagecoach South East Trident 18176
Go-Ahead is represented by Brighton & Hove and Metrobus. Brighton & Hove operate the 29 to Brighton, which in my youth was the 729 and shared by 3 different companies, Maidstone & District, Southdown and Brighton & Hove. Today Scania Omni City decker 685 YN57 FYP was on duty.

Brighton & Hove Scania 685 on the 29 to Brighton
I had to catch Metrobus' 291 to East Grinstead. When Anglian got their 3 ex Metrobus Scanias last year I said I was prepared for the state they were in as I had traveled on similar buses down South. Well those same Scania deckers are still very much in use and the first one I went on was truly awful. The second one, though, was a little better and came with a surprise. Any hopes I had of new deckers for Metrobus in that area appear to have been dashed with 6475 YN53 RYF turning up in a new livery! Mind you what's the point of a yellow flash if most of it is covered by adverts!

Metrobus Scania 6475 in new Livery
So to the numerous independents serving the area. First up is Go Coach. You might remember I went to their open day last year - might be this year too - and they appear to be ever expanding. They now operate a town service in Tunbridge Wells and here is ex Eastbourne Buses Daf Cadet GX02 WXU on the route today. I happen to know the chap who designed that livery and what a fine livery it is!

Go Coach Wright bodied Daf Cadet
Southdown PSV are a small company operating out of Copthorne in West Sussex, near Gatwick, and should not be confused with the former Southdown National Company of the past. They don't operate into Tunbridge Wells but when I got to East Grinstead this was the first thing I saw, an East Lancs Mylennium bodied Volvo B7tl which was new to the company looking rather smart in the sunshine.

Southdown PSV B7tl GX06 AOE
The vehicle that had me dashing for Google was this one. Still in Glasgow Airport livery this Daf MCV Evolution now belongs to Autocar Bus & Coach Services of Tonbridge who operate a few local services as well as being closely linked to Wealden bus sales.. The Evolution had just arrived on the 222 from Borough Green, a route that has seen some truly weird and wonderful vehicles over the years.

Autocar CV Evolution AE56 LWM
And finally if anyone knows of anywhere else that still has a Leyland Titan running round it then let me know. T907, formerly of London Central's New Cross Garage A907 SYE is still to be seen mornings and aftenoons in Tunbridge Wells. Unfortunately the operator doesn't like publicity so I'll show the pic and that's all, but what a fine relic of the past! Btw she was on her lunch break when I took this pic hence the "not in service" blind!

T907 still going
On this sad day I feel I should mention that I have only been to Brussels once. That was in 1984 when I was on tour with a youth orchestra. I loved Brussels, a really relaxed and friendly place - the way everyone got round town was believe it of not by hitch hiking. 32 years on I would doubt that is still the case. Public transport is always going to be the target of nutters - it is an easy target that is impossible to keep 100% safe. However if we stop using it the nutters win. That's why I went through that tunnel between Liverpool Street and Aldgate on 7th July last year, and why I'll come back through London the usual way on Thursday. The best way to show those who want to paralyse the transport system and those using it with fear is to carry on using it as usual. My prayers and tears go to those who suffered today doing what I and millions of others do everyday. We will not be stopped. We will not be intimidated. We will not give terrorism one glimmer of satisfaction. I will be on the Tube on Thursday.

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