The first thing that struck me was just how many buses were operating in Reading on a Sunday. You could be forgiven for thinking it was a normal weekday. The 17, for example, which the gas deckers are operating on, operates to a 10 minute frequency - on a Sunday! This meant despite the extreme wetness and gloom photo opportunities were numerous, and it must be said that Reading does have a very attractive fleet and livery scheme, of which I think a lot has to do with Ray Stenning and his Creative Desire team, who are responsible for most of the decent liveries around the country. Here are just a few examples of what was on offer.
However it was the 17 I was there for, and soon enough one of the Scania gas deckers arrived.
|Reading Buses 715 YP67 XCK|
You will see from the above picture that the wheelchair bays have USB points too. This detail has been missed on many buses so it's good to see Reading Buses include it.
I will be back to Reading soon, firstly to see what a week day service looks like, to get some photos in decent light, and to try out one of their fabled Streetdecks that don't rattle!
I caught the X4 back to Bracknell, another rocket E400 hybrid - if only all E400's were this standard - and discovered something else. As I was sitting further back I could see the information screen, and as we approached Wokingham Station saw to my amazement that the screen was showing real time train information. Now that is impressive, and I'm looking forward to First and Konect to do the same in Norwich! Nope not holding my breath either! Btw the weather was so foul nothing would have stopped the windows misting up so no criticisms there.
|How impressive is that!!|
|the Irizar in Bracknell|
Now let's put things into perspective here. Martijn is the CEO of Reading Buses, who employ some 650 staff. Yet here he was, on a dismal Sunday evening, in Slough, making sure the new Thames Valley services, that Reading Buses had started to operate, replacing First Berkshire, were doing ok. Because the new local office wasn't quite ready yet that meant collecting takings, cleaning and washing buses and basically doing stuff you would never see the CEO of any other operator that size doing. I went with him to a local garage to jet wash one of the Solo SR's and it became truly obvious just how much respect and value Reading Buses has for its staff. The driver who was on his break, Steve - obviously a lovely chap - came with us but Martijn insisted on driving as Steve was on break. As Steve volunteered to go back and fuel up hs Solo when he had finished his duty Martijn promptly gave Steve his hi viz jacket. Class. Unlike the DMS in December, Martijn managed to get us there and back without breaking down!
|Martijn and Steve at the Slough bus wash!|
Martijn was anxious to hear my verdict of the gas deckers, particularly asking about engine noise. Not noticeable upstairs, Martijn, but I'll sit downstairs next time and let you know! We could have nattered for hours, and probably will in the future, and I was left almost jealous of the good folk of the Reading area that they have such an excellent bus service, with an equally good fleet, and in Martijn and John arguably the most dynamic and forward thinking management team in the country. The thought of such dynamics, investment, consideration for the passengers and staff is almost unthinkable up here, and I still can't get over just how many damned buses there were in Reading on a Sunday. Just shows it can be done with the right attitude, the right people, and decisions made by bus people, not ruddy accountants in an office 500 miles away.
Martijn, it was an absolute pleasure to spend time with you, to witness your passion for getting things right, and mucking in getting your hands dirty. That's how to generate respect, and my word you have mine!
I had missed the last bus back to London thanks to spending time with the boss of the operator of the buses to London.....irony?....so was forced, kicking and screaming to get the train back from Slough which just so happened to be a GWR Intercity 125. Damn!!!! We arrived at Paddington alongside the Riviera Sleeper to Penzance, which had a stand in loco on the rear. Won't get pics like this for much longer.
|An icon and a DRS 57|