• The Wright Way Forward?

    Go Ahead take over their first route in North West London in the form of route 232

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    Get to know the team who have been fuelling the blogging community for 5 years.

  • Major Model Change

    Route 208 introduces the MMC type to Go Ahead's Orpington garage in a move from Stagecoach London

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    London is a leader for low-emission vehicles and we closely follow how well the growing electric bus market meets our demands for cleaner and greener transport.

  • Know Your Routes

    This series allows us select a variety of routes to boast our credentials as bus enthusiasts. Check out route 18 from Euston to Sudbury in our most recent KYR post.

  • Borismaster Watch

    The London Bus Breh and EastLondoner catch up with all the Borismaster-related service changes of the past two years in the latest articles of the series.

  • Back On Track

    EastLondoner covers the introduction of a brand new type to the London Overground network

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The Wright way forward?

August is a big month for Go Ahead, all the contract changes taking place through this month involve them taking over a route. The first these is the move of route 232 from Metroline to Go Ahead London.

DE1137 seen at Turnpike Lane on Metroline's last day
© EastLondoner
Route 232 originally started in 1994, meaning it's not a particularly old route. Its route hasn't changed much either initially running between St Raphael's Estate and Wood Green. The only major change to the route came in 2001 when it was extended from Wood Green to Turnpike Lane Bus Station and has remained that way ever since except for a few months a few years ago when it was cut back to Wood Green temporarily due to long term roadworks. The route has always up until now been with Metroline and their predecessors London Northern and MTL London. However the route has been operated by its fair share of garages, initially being operated out of Potters Bar (PB) before moving to Cricklewood (W) in 2000, then North Wembley (NW) in 2005, Perivale East (PV) in 2009 until moving back to Cricklewood in 2012 where it remained since. The move to Go Ahead London sees the route moving into the firm's only North London garage at Northumberland Park (NP). 

DE1319 seen on stand at Turnpike Lane
© EastLondoner
Go Ahead opted for brand new Wright Streetlites as the allocation for this route, a controversial decision for a route which spends a fair chunk of its route on a dual carriageway. These buses are also the first diesel single deckers in London to contain USB charging points, a feature which should become standard on buses from now on. The buses started arriving through June and July, although a slight issue did present itself when the buses arrived without Turnpike Lane on the blinds as the initial plan from TfL had been to cut the route back to Wood Green, however they didn't follow through with the plan and by this time the new blinds had already been ordered. However Go Ahead managed to get inserts fitted by the time they took over the route. 

WS144 seen on stand at Turnpike Lane
© EastLondoner
As I was preoccupied through the weekend of the change I went out on Monday to see how Go Ahead were getting along with the route. It wasn't off to a great start to see some confusion between the driver, controller and a mentor over what bus was going to be allocated to the driver as another driver had taken out a bus that he wasn't meant to take. Eventually that was sorted and the driver was allocated to WS144. That would also become the bus that I would take. The 232 also saw a frequency increase from every 15min to every 12min upon its new contract, so thankfully I didn't have to wait too long for the bus to arrive. Upon boarding I was instantly greeted with the "new bus smell" as well as a lot of heat. I made my way to my seat to make myself comfortable for the journey. 

One of the USB ports located on the seat
© EastLondoner
Little did I know that would probably be the most comfortable I was throughout the journey. My driver seemed to be new to the route as well as the bus type and had a mentor with him through the journey guiding him through the route as well as telling him how to operate the bus. The bus filled up pretty quickly and we were down to standing room only by Palmers Green, although a lot of the crowd got off at Arnos Grove. Just after we passed Arnos Grove the bus driver was told to regulate the service, something which is becoming far too common across London. 

WS140 seen at Brent Cross
© EastLondoner
After what felt like an eternity we continued towards Brent Cross, this was just going to be a zip down the North Circular road although my bus driver didn't seem to be in a rush, and the bus didn't sound too happy travelling at high speeds as well. The bus was also getting hotter and hotter due to the heat making me, and a lot of other passengers very uncomfortable. I was very happy to finally arrive at Brent Cross as I couldn't be bothered to continue my journey on the route any longer. After I got off it wasn't too long until another 232 pulled in behind my bus, probably as a result of the slow speed that my bus was travelling at through most of its journey. After this ride it didn't take a genius to see why bus ridership is falling.

The buses themselves were uncomfortable and hot, something that I really didn't want to travel in on a hot day like it was. 

WS133 seen at Brent Cross
© EastLondoner
The Wright Streetlite has never been a popular bus among enthusiasts, passengers and drivers so it was no surprise that these buses did not provide the best experience that I might have wanted. However they are certainly a step up from the old DEs that the route was allocated, although for how long they remain a step up is yet to be seen. 

Go Ahead have got off to a rocky start, during the first weekend there were multiple reports of buses getting lost throughout the route suggesting that route learning hadn't been completed to an adequate standard and there were also a few breakdowns reported, although these could probably be blamed for teething issues on the brand new buses. Hopefully these issues are ironed out soon and the service can be provided at a good standard - although with the excessive regulation and poor experience of the buses I had I do have some doubts myself.

Buses stand at Turnpike Lane Bus Station
© EastLondoner
The win of route 232 has been a silver lining in a string of recent losses that Northumberland Park (NP) have been facing lately, although their fate seems to have now turned around over the past couple of months in recent tender results. Routes 191 and 192 will soon be moving over to Arriva however route 214 is to start service at the garage over the next couple of weeks, soon being followed by routes 212 and 444 in March and 67, 106 and 230 in the summer next year. 

As they always say, tenders are swings and roundabouts! 

Orpington's Model Change

Bromley garage hasn't been having much luck in the tendering game recently. Following the loss of route 227 just a couple of weeks ago route 208 follows it in a move from Stagecoach London to Go Ahead London. 

Route 208 is quite an important route in South East London, running between Lewisham and Orpington, Perry Hall Road via Catford, Downham and Bromley. Up until this tender award the 208 had been with Stagecoach London and its predecessors since inception making this move quite a shocking change. 

10146 seen at Lewisham
© EastLondoner
The route was created in 1982 running between Lewisham Station and Orpington, Perry Hall Road, although at this time Saturdays it was extended further to Surrey Docks and Sundays it would terminate short at Petts Wood instead of Orpington. In 1987 the Surrey Docks leg was removed and in 1990 the Sunday service was extended to Orpington in line with the service through the rest of the week which forms the same route which is in operation today. During this time operation of the 208 has been shared between Bromley (TB) and Catford (TL) garages, and appropriately its final few years saw it running out of Bromley (TB) albeit with some cross linked journeys from Catford (TL). 

The outgoing type was the usual order from Stagecoach during the early 2010s, Alexander Dennis Enviro400s. The buses the 208 used in particular are from 2012 although 2013 Enviro400s would often make an appearance as they were also at the garage for routes 61 and 261. The 261s contract was renewed a few months before the 208s departure and brand new MMCs were introduced on it, these would also make a few appearances on the 208 although sadly I do not have a picture of one to hand. The 2012 Enviro400 buses will now be making their way to Romford (NS) garage in preparation for the takeover of route 128 between Claybury Broadway and Romford Station in the Autumn. 

A Stagecoach 208 stands beside an 89 at Lewisham
© EastLondoner
Go Ahead were to operate the route out of Orpington (MB) garage, the choice of bus type from them was the Hybrid version of the Alexander Dennis Enviro400 MMC, which has pretty much been the standard order from Go Ahead for over a year now. The buses were to be given the codes EH311-EH327. 

EH315 seen standing at Lewisham
© EastLondoner
Stagecoach London wrapped up their phase on the 208 with 10149 being the last bus. As I had commitments that weekend and had something important to do on the Monday I went out on the Tuesday after the change to see how Go Ahead were doing on the route. Initially I went to Lewisham where it wasn't long until a bus turned up in the form of EH315, this would be my ride to Bromley where I could grab myself some lunch. The journey was underwhelming to say the least, introduction of 20mph speed limits throughout the route made the journey very slow and boring. Although that's more so the fault of Lewisham council rather than Go Ahead's doing. The bus also felt quite gutless while going up hills, something E40Hs usually do very well. 

EH311 on diversion down West Street
© EastLondoner
I ditched the bus at Bromley, I wasn't bothered to ride the bus any further than. After I'd had some lunch I decided to give the 208 another shot on the way back to Lewisham but due to roadworks in Bromley all the bus routes in the area were on diversion. TfL did put some signs up telling everyone but didn't bother to tell anyone where to catch their bus nor how the routes were diverting which was pretty useless. I eventually worked out that the buses were diverting via Tweedy Road although by the time I'd worked that out I had a long walk to the 208 stop so I just picked up a 261 back to Lewisham. The 208s were also on diversion towards Orpington however I wasn't too bothered to find out how they were doing so, although I did manage to grab a picture of one going down West Street. 

This was overall a very poor experience, although the part of it that Go Ahead were responsible for was good. The culprits were Lewisham council and TfL themselves portraying a good example of why people are starting to move away from using the bus. The operation of the route so far from Go Ahead has been quite good, apart from a couple of reported break downs on the first day of their operation. 

EH315 in Bromley
© EastLondoner
These brand new E40H MMCs are believed to be among the final few buses in London which come equipped with wing mirrors, buses are now believed to be gradually moving away from using them being replaced by new side mounted camera, whether this will be more effective remains to be seen. Initial reports suggest that there is a big blindspot if they are used however as no buses in London service have been deployed with them there's not much information from drivers on their effectiveness. 

EH318 is seen at Lewisham
© EastLondoner
The 208s switch is just another chapter in a scuffle between Stagecoach and Go Ahead in the south east which has been going on for many years. The upcoming month of August is going to be fun for Go Ahead lovers with the takeover of route 232, 209, 214, 378 and 197  all coming up so make sure you guys check back for posts covering those routes! 

Yet another one?

These days it's not too often we get a new route completely out of the blue, or new routes at all with the amount of withdrawals that are taking place. However that is exactly what has happened recently in the Woolwich area with brand new route 301 running between Woolwich and Bexleyheath.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. Doesn't Woolwich have enough links to Bexleyheath with routes 96, 99 and 422? and now yet another one is being introduced? However it should be appreciated that they all take different routes between the two town centres and similarly route 301 too will provide the link through new places. This route was initially made public with the huge bus changes consultation to support the Elizabeth Line with the plan to introduce it on the 8th of December to co-incide with the opening of it. However by now we all probably know how that's panned out.

DW485 seen on the route
© LondonBuses72
The route was proposed to run from Bexleyheath Town Centre to Woolwich Town Centre with 70 capacity single deckers, although later the decision was taken to make it a double decker service. It's planned route would take it out of Bexleyheath through Woolwich Road, up Knee Hill, through Thamesmead then through Nathan Way to Plumstead where it would then continue straight ahead like route 472 currently does to Woolwich. The route was put out to tender, which to many people had two possible outcomes. A win by Go Ahead London from Bexleyheath garage (BX) or a win by Stagecoach from Plumstead garage (PD), so no doubt it caught many people by surprise when Arriva London came in and won from Dartford garage (DT).

The route was to use DWs made free from elsewhere in the company. A few weeks prior to the start of route 301 it was confirmed that the DWs which would be used for the route would come from route 144 which would in turn get HVs made free from the partial LT conversion and the cut back of route 67. The 67 will later receive a full LT allocation when route 48 is withdrawn in time for the route's return to Northumberland Park (NP) although that's a post for a future date. TfL's recent attitude towards service changes over the past few months has left a lot to be desired, in many cases stop flags and route maps haven't been updated at all prior to a change. However the 301 to a surprise had all its stop tiles in place and the route maps for Woolwich and Abbey Wood had also been updated.

DW487 opposite Bexleyheath Shopping Centre
© EastLondoner
DW487 became the first bus to kick start the new route, although that proceeded to then break down later in the day. Unfortunately the days following the introduction of the 301 I had other commitments meaning I could only properly catch up with the change on the Thursday following the introduction of the route. Thankfully Woolwich isn't too far from Barking so it didn't take me long to reach the route, after arriving there I tried to get a picture of the route at its Woolwich stand, although traffic conditions stretching from the ferry meant that it was near enough impossible to get a picture of the route there. I headed to the first stop on Plumstead Road. This has been a bug bear for quite a few people as the route doesn't pick up in Woolwich Town Centre, although this will eventually mean that it stops near the Crossrail entrance and actually allows people coming out of the station to be able to board the bus, instead of needing to let it go past as it already picked up a crowd in Woolwich Town Centre. 

DW484 seen in Abbey Wood
© EastLondoner
DW455 seen on stand at Bexleyheath
© EastLondoner
The route heads down towards Plumstead before going down Nathan Way towards Thamesmead Town Centre, much like route 472. From there it heads towards Abbey Wood before going up New road like the B11. The initial routing was to have the buses climb Knee Hill, however testing of the buses along the road deemed it unsuitable for pubic bus service operation and the choice was taken to send it up New Road. From here it continues to follow the B11's route down Brampton Road and Long Lane, uniquely operating as a Hail & ride along these sections making it only the second double decker route in London to have a Hail & Ride section (after route 230). The route then continues down Long Lane until Woolwich Road where it takes a right into Bexleyheath Town Centre. This doesn't mean the route goes down any roads which are new to buses however it does provide quite a few new links as well as providing less crowded alternatives to other routes in the area. 

Being a new route it's hard to talk much about it for a post. It doesn't have much of a history, nor does it have a past operator to compare the previous experience with. Initial patronage seems quite good, passengers in the area have quickly warmed to their new route and it seems to be popular with the school crowd too! My experience on the route had a decent load on it throughout which certainly bodes well for the future of the route. Arriva have been running the route well since they started operating it, hopefully this continues for the next 5, or maybe 7 years.

DW445 seen in Bexleyheath
© EastLondoner
As TfL promise to redeploy bus capacity from the inner parts of London to the outer parts of London we may see many more new routes in the near future. The next new route is already on its way, route 378 will be introduced in Putney replacing route 209 which has temporarily been diverted there, then the 497 will be introduced this August in the Harold Hill and Harold Wood areas. Route 304, which like the 301 should have been introduced on the day Crossrail opened is still pending a new date of introduction and route 335 running in Kidbrooke is expected to be introduced in the Autumn. This will all be covered in upcoming posts soon after these routes are introduced so make sure to keep an eye on the blog!

Cities in Debden

Sorry about the delay to this post, various commitments around the time meant that this post had to be delayed until now. However hopefully it'll prove a worthwhile read.

A change that took place in the Walthamstow area in March of this year was the contract renewal of route 20 which switched from Go Ahead to CT Plus in what seemed like a never ending blow to Go Ahead London's Northumberland Park (NP) garage. 

2542 seen on stand at Walthamstow Bus Station
© EastLondoner
The 20 is one of London's few routes which operates out of the London border, running between Debden and Walthamstow Central, however this was not always the case. When the route started operation in 1968 it barely left the London boundary running between Walthamstow Central and Loughton Station via Leyton, Whipps Cross and Woodford Wells.  However a massive leap out of the London boundary in 1969 saw it extended as far as Epping Station. This lasted until 1976 when it was cut back to Debden Broadway forming most of the same route which is in operation today, the final bit at Debden Broadway was removed in 1986 when it was cut back to Debden Station. 

WVN52 seen in the last week of GAL operation
© EastLondoner
Since privatisation the 20 spent a large chunk of its time at Arriva London, initially operated from Barking (DX) garage however it was moved to much closer Edmonton (EC) in 2007. A slightly surprising tender award in 2012 saw the route awarded to Blue Triangle out of Rainham (BE) depot with an allocation of brand new Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TL buses introduced. This arrangement didn't last for long however as the gradual demise of First London saw Go Ahead London purchasing Northumberland Park garage and then a few months later saw Rainham garage taking on routes 193, 368 and 498 which were left homeless by the closure of First's Dagenham garage (DM) along with a plethora of school routes. Therefore it made sense to transfer the 20 to Northumberland Park in order to create space at Rainham. Under its time at Northumberland Park the 20 used a mix of its own WVL buses as well as WVNs borrowed from routes 259, 357 and 476. 

WVL358 seen among other buses at Walthamstow
© EastLondoner
CT Plus predictably ordered brand new E40H City buses for the route, an obvious choice seeing as the two other double decker routes at the company, the 26 and 388, both use the type. Although the 20 wouldn't be based at the same garage as them, instead running out of the relatively new Walthamstow garage (AW) located near Walthamstow Stadium. The buses were to be coded 2539 - 2547, the eagle eyed of you may notice that this does not correspond to the 20s PVR+spares. This was because it was intended to use two buses from a PVR decrease on route 388, unfortunately for CT Plus (although thankfully for 388 commuters) TfL turned around last minute and cancelled the PVR cut on the 388 leaving the 20 short by two buses. 

Usually when a new operator has an issue with buses on their newly acquired route they hire the existing buses from the incumbent company although uniquely in this scenario CT Plus hired buses from Stagecoach London, bringing a third operator into this service change. This gave many enthusiasts a temporary look at what could have been the face of the 20 should Stagecoach have won it instead. The two buses loaned were 10113 and 10114 from the 275 allocation. Sadly I couldn't catch up with these however LBOTG from the London Buses: On the Go blog has been kind enough to allow me to use his picture to illustrate the type for you. During this time CT Plus didn't bother to remove the Stagecoach logos or cover them up with their own ones. The only indication there was that CT Plus actually operated the vehicle was the card which you can see in the nearside window under the side blind.

As I said earlier the rest of the 20s allocation is made up out of the E40H City bus type, similar to those found on routes 26 and 388. However these buses contain Super Capacitors instead of batteries so you might notice a slight difference in the ride. 

2540 seen on stand at Walthamstow
© EastLondoner
Service was rocky to say the least when CT Plus took over at the start, the initial lack of serviceable double deckers at Walthamstow garage resulted in a few loans from Ash Grove (HK) in the first few weeks, and in some cases even Enviro200 buses have made appearances. Although thankfully now the Enviro200 appearances have stopped. The quality of service provided by CT Plus has also improved, showing that if you give a new operator time they do get used to it most of the time and will provide a good service. Two extra E40H City buses have also been ordered to make up the PVR on the route which are to arrive in the forthcoming weeks. However since the 388 has been cut back to Liverpool Street some of the buses made free from it have moved to the 20 allowing 10113 and 10114 to return back to Leyton (T). 

2547 seen entering Walthamstow Bus Station
© EastLondoner
At the time of the service change this relatively small route was something Northumberland Park really didn't want, especially after losing routes left, right and centre. Although since then they have made wins of many routes. The 212 and 444 will soon be coming over from Tower Transit and routes 67, 106 and 230 will be coming over from Arriva. As they always say, tendering is swings and roundabouts!

A massive thank you to LBOTG for allowing his photo to be used in this post today. Please show your support by visiting his Flickr page and his blog.