Hang on a sec though - did I say old war horses? Sorry the 37's on the Short Set are old war horses - they are 55 years old this year. The final bus I went on yesterday, heading for retirement is 18 years old. That's not old. My car is 15 years old and I don't regard that as old, doesn't drive like an old car either. To put it in perspective there has been media coverage about the average age of the UK rail fleet this week. It varies depending how sensationalist the report is, but the general consensus is it's about 24 years old. That's the average remember not the oldest. If the UK bus fleet was the same the average age would be K registration, and there are precisely zero K registration buses in regular public service in the UK now. Some might say that's a good thing, and it would be if the new buses were any better than the old ones. But they are not. OK engines maybe cleaner, Chantelle and Kayleigh can wheel their buggies on board and be able to concentrate on their Facebitch status rather than their kids throughout the journey, meaning everyone else has to struggle past, causing delays, and some now have air conditioning - essential in our tropical climate.
But in other areas they are no better. Fewer seats downstairs so more people forced upstairs - remember when there were 33 seats downstairs - lucky to get that on single deckers now. Ride and built quality isn't a patch on 30 years ago, Brakes that "harness the konetic energy and return it to the batteries" - oh do shut up - just mean jerky brakes. New buses have had to be built at a rush to meet demand and I'm not looking forward to an 18yo E400 - the longevity just won't be there yet new buses cost the earth because builders know the operators have had no choice but to buy.. Operators have been forced to either buy new or make expensive conversions whilst binning perfectly good vehicles in order to cater for a huge minority of passengers.
Why couldn't the legislation have been less black and white and dictated that a certain percentage of the fleet had to be easy access, that all routes had to have a certain proportion of journeys operated by easy access vehicles and those journeys had to be indicated on the timetable, just like they were when easy access vehicles started to appear in the late 90's. Then fleets could be updated naturally, no rush, less expense, and perfectly good buses not needlessly scrapped. But no, common sense did not prevail and as such I found myself at Chatham with very mixed feelings.
I parked up at Rochester Airport - yes there is one - and caught a service bus into Chatham. An Arriva Sapphire 15 reg E400. Leather seats, plastic panels, rattles, horribly uninspiring. But something to compare everything else I travelled on to.
Bus 1 of the Running Day was Nu Venture's Alexander bodied Leyland Olympian F346 WSC, which was new to Lothian buses in 1988. It was driven yesterday by Norman Kemp, owner of Nu Venture and no it didn't feel 28 years old. A better ride and less rattles than the E400 26 years its junior and soon we were at the base for the event, Asda in the old Chatham Dockyard.
|Nu Venture 346 at Chatham|
|Preserved Arriva DAF SB220 T916 KKM|
|Volvo Ailsa LKP 385P|
|Hams Travel Scania N113 X8 HAM|
|Nu Venture Leyland Titan A907 SYE|
|Farleigh Coaches Volvo Citibus FHZ 9600 at Riverside Country Park, Gillingham|
In the meantime a very Happy New Year to you all, thank you for your continued readership and support, and here's to a very interesting 2017. I have a feeling it could be,