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    Who are Here East? LondonBuses72 tells us more about the Stratford City complex.

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    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.

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    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.

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    LondonBuses72 switches attention to Greater Anglia, who are giving some trains a makeover.

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Micros and Circles

In South-East London there is a route known well for quite possibly being the most indirect route in the area, and probably among the most indirect in London. Route 386 which operates between Blackheath Village and Woolwich via Greenwich Town Centre and East Greenwich. As well as taking on this route Go Ahead have also retained the contract to route 44, and introduced a new bus type (well...kind of) to London's streets.

Route 386 has recently (2nd June 2018) completed a move from Stagecoach London to a new home at Go Ahead London at Morden Wharf (MG). During its last contract with Stagecoach it primarily operated out of Plumstead (PD) although during its last few weeks it operated out of Catford (TL) in order to make space at Plumstead for incoming route 161

A trip down memory lane, 36337 stands next to a 188
© EastLondoner
The route was introduced in 1991, operating out of Plumstead garage from day one, although the route was quite different to what is in operation today running from Eltham to Greenwich, District Hospital. A substantial change in 1993 saw the route cut back to Plumstead garage and it was extended on the Greenwich end to serve Cutty Sark. In 1994 the route was then withdrawn between Plumstead and Woolwich, creating the eastern terminus of the route that we are still accustomed to today. A rerouting in 2001 saw the route rerouted to run via Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich then it wasn't until 2007 the route saw any more substantial change, the route was extended from Cutty Sark to Blackheath Village. 2010 saw another rerouting in the Woolwich area allowing it to run via Sandy Hill instead of Plumstead Common Road. 

Since inception route 386 ran out of Plumstead garage, and it had been allocated the running numbers of PD71+ ever since its first day of operation making this the first time the route has changed operator, although strictly not the first time it's moved garage as following the 161 win the route moved to Catford for its last few weeks. It's last contract with Stagecoach saw the route allocated with 58 plated Alexander Dennis Enviro200s along with one 13 plated Enviro200 (36555, which will now make its way to Romford for the uptake of route 193 in the Autumn). 

36327 is seen on stand at Blackheath
© EastLondoner
Go Ahead are also using Alexander Dennis Enviro200 buses, adding this route to the growing list of routes having existing Enviro200s replaced by another batch of Enviro200s. These Enviro200s have made their way south after previously being allocated to route 299 at Northumberland Park (NP) which was lost to Sullivan Buses earlier this year.

SEN16 at Woolwich
© EastLondoner
I'll be honest, I was not going to ride the 386 end to end on its first day. I initially made my way to Woolwich to try to get a picture of the route there. Luckily I didn't have to wait long for SEN16 to turn up heading towards Blackheath. I then hopped onto a 53 and then a 108 in order to get to the other end of the route and saving myself a lot of time. Upon arrival at Blackheath SE152 was just arriving on stand after its journey from Woolwich. After an 8 minute wait it wasn't long until we were off, I was taking a short hop to Greenwich Town Centre, just to get a feel for the operation under Go Ahead London. The bus itself was worn out and in a dire need of a refurbishment. The bus struggled to get up to any sort of speed, and judging by the reaction on some of the car driver's faces behind us I certainly wasn't the only one that was irritated. 

Luckily the ride to Greenwich Town Centre isn't too long, and I could bail there. Service wise the 386 was doing quite well for a first day, probably because Go Ahead are already familiar with many of the areas that the route serves and so were able to adapt easily to the conditions that they were faced with. Hopefully the service on the route continues to be of a good standard for the next 5, or maybe 7 years.

SE152 on stand at Blackheath
© EastLondoner
As for the buses that the 386 is now allocated, the staple is predominantly the Ex 299 batch of SENs, SEN13-SEN20 although these are topped up with some Euro6 Enviro200s which were made free by the 100s curtailment at the London Wall in the form of SE217-SE220. 

The other route having a change on the 2nd of June is route 44, which operates between Victoria Station and Tooting station. It operates out of Go Ahead London's headquarters of Merton (AL). The contract was renewed on the same day that the 386 was taken over by the company. A new bus type for London in the form of Wright Streetdeck Micro hybrids were introduced. 

PVL170 seen on the 44
© GloriousWater
Route 44 started operation in 1950, running between Mitcham and London Bridge. 1963 saw a Sunday extension come into force extending the route to the Blackwall Tunnel although in 1971 this Sunday extension was reduced only as far as Aldgate and would only operate on Sunday market hours. November 1988 saw the route gain a Sunday extension on its opposite end from Mitcham to Sutton. In 1991 the route was restructured to operate between Vauxhall and Tooting, with new route 344 taking over the eastern section of the route. In November 2006 the route was sent via Chelsea Bridge to Victoria forming the 44 that is in operation today. Its previous contract term saw it allocated with Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TL buses. Many of these buses have now been stood down from service on the 44.

WSD6 seen at Battersea Park
© EastLondoner
The Streetdeck Micro Hybrids entered service ahead of the commencement of the new contract on the 24th of May with most of the new buses in service by the 2nd of June. These buses aren't your standard Hybrids like the E40H or Volvo B5LH. The Micro Hybrid system involves collecting the energy from braking, although instead of using the electricity to push the bus forwards the electricity is used to power other electrical components of the bus such as the air cooling or lighting systems. This means the engine won't have to burn as much fuel on generating electricity for those components, saving on fuel consumption. This however means that they're still effectively diesel buses with a Diesel engine that propels the bus forward. 

I went to take a ride on the new WSDs that same day that the 386 was taken over. After waiting for far longer than I'd have liked at Battersea Park WSD10 eventually turned up to take me to Victoria. Before I even sat down I was almost knocked off my feet by the sharp braking of the bus, although I'm not too sure if that was down to my driver or if it was the nature of the bus. An electrical hum was also noticeable throughout my ride, and it managed to drown out the sound of the iBus announcements. Although in general I think most people who board a Wright bodied bus aren't expecting loud announcements anyway!

WSD10 seen on stand at Victoria
© EastLondoner
Overall from my experience the Streetdeck certainly is going to be an acquired taste among enthusiasts, and it wasn't my cup of tea. Although I think many will enjoy it for its unique quirks. Therefore I do recommend giving the unique bus type a try if you are in the area and have time, or if you would like to spend a day out having bus rides. Hopefully Go Ahead continue to provide a good service on the 44 and 386 for the next 5, or maybe 7 years!

I'd like to thank GloriousWater for allowing his photo to be used in this post. Please check out his Flickr and YouTube accounts.

What Goes Around Comes Around

In what seems to be a continuing losing streak, today's short post will focus on route 196  which has become one of the routes to be lost by Go Ahead London. Saturday the 5th of May 2018 saw the route leave its home of Stockwell (SW) garage and move over to Abellio London at Walworth (WL) garage. They've introduced brand new Enviro400 MMCs numbered from 2603-2618. 

E9 seen in a commercial livery on route 196
© LondonBuses72
Route 196 has quite an interesting history, originally created in Autumn 1950 its original route was almost nothing like the route that is in operation. It ran between Tufnell Park Hotel and Waterloo only operating on Mondays and Saturdays. The route ran right through Central London passing Russell Square, Holborn and Aldwych. Less than a year later in July 1951 the route was extended from Waterloo to Norwood Junction and a Sunday service was added between Norwood Junction and Waterloo, although this didn't last long and in 1958 the Sunday service was withdrawn. 1971 saw the route cut from Tufnell Park to Euston, and in 1974 the route was rerouted to Brixton via route 3 and therefore removing the route from Central London although in 1985 certain journeys in the peaks were extended via Central London to Islington Green, this was the reversed in 1992. In 2005 the route was extended to Elephant & Castle and this forms the route that is in operation today. 

E7 seen at Vauxhall Bus Station
© EastLondoner
During its previous contract term the route was allocated with Go Ahead's first batch of Enviro400s, numbered from E1 to E15. Although as the years progressed other types of buses did frequently visit the route, types included the prototype E40Hs, production E40Hs, Wright Eclipse Gemini 2s that were on both the B9TL and B5LH chassis, Wright Eclipse Gemini 3s which were of the "frog face" design, and even some of Go Ahead's own E40H Enviro400 MMCs, however, the original Enviro400s ordered for the route remained the staple allocation for the duration of two contracts. These buses are now expected to move to the Go Ahead commercial fleet, with some of the buses already painted into the commercial livery before they've even left TfL service. E9 was one of the buses and LondonBuses72 caught up with the bus on the last day of Go Ahead operation on route 196, which can be seen pictured at the top of this post. Funnily enough prior to being taken on by Go Ahead London, route 196 was operated by Connex and Travel London out of Beddington Cross (BC) which were Abellio's predecessors, therefore similar to route 468 a few weeks ago this change can also be seen as a "homecoming". 

WVL443 seen at Vauxhall Bus Station
© EastLondoner
2615 seen on stand at Elephant & Castle
© EastLondoner
Go Ahead wrapped up their stint on route 196 with E1 being the last bus, somewhat fitting considering that was the first Enviro400 for Go Ahead, as well as apparently being the first 196 to operate after Go Ahead took on the route in 2006. I caught up with the route on its first day to try out the buses and see how the operation was doing. My bus ride was going to be 2615 which initially started service on route 45 on the first of May. Upon boarding the famous "new bus smell" was evident and it wasn't long until we were off towards Stockwell. It was plain sailing until Vauxhall, where we got stuck in a bit of traffic. It was once again plain sailing afterwards until just before Elephant where we got stuck in another traffic jam, although that is to be expected by that place by this point.

Service on the first day was suffering from the famous "first day syndrome" with large gaps and bunchings evident, although I am sure as time goes on Abellio will get the hang of this route and provide a good service for the next 5, or maybe 7 years. The buses themselves live up to the standards that other MMCs have set, nothing about this batch sets it apart from other batches, although that's not to say that they are poor buses, they are good quality buses however I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to ride them.

2610 seen at Brixton Station towards Norwood Junction
© EastLondoner
Next in line for new MMCs are Stagecoach and Go Ahead London for recent retains and wins, although there's something special about those which you will find out in a later post! The rest of May is looking pretty quiet for tender changes although you guys are in for a very fun June!

Here East

Last year, Go-Ahead London was approached by HereEast to provide a shuttle bus service around the Olympic Park to the HereEast grounds. This short post gives an insight into a unique bus service within the E20 postcode.

A HereEast StreetLite (SN64 CUJ) at Stratford City.
HereEast is a high-tech business and leisure complex within Stratford's Olympic Park, recently built and boasts an array of offices, restaurants and green open spaces for staff working at HereEast to enjoy in and out of office hours.

The park is mainly home to start-up businesses and technology companies, as well as Loughborough University who has established a campus in London recently, to gain access to state-of-the-art facilities.

Supply and Demand
In the world of economics and business, a term that often gets thrown around is supply and demand. If thousands of people need to access the HereEast complex, which is set back a way away from the main Stratford stations [Regional and International] and the nearest bus stops to the front of the complex is quite a walk away, it obviously proves an inconvenience if you're working there the bog standard 5 days a week and having to walk.

The bus route going near the park itself, the route 388, is not always frequent and due to the nature of the route (as it goes to South and Central London), may suffer 'hiccups' in reliability, leaving HereEast passengers on the Stratford end waiting much longer for a bus to turn up than they should.

So we have the demand for a dedicated bus service to and from HereEast every few minutes.

Who's going to supply it?
Go-Ahead London supplies this bus route on behalf of HereEast, who funds the service and provides the drivers. The route was registered as the '847' to Transport for London last year, although is marketed as the 'HereEast' shuttle bus on-board the bus and at bus stops.

WS38 back at it's Transport for London days on the 192.
Buses run up to every 5 minutes during the peak, operating from Go-Ahead's Silvertown (SI) garage using Wright StreetLite Wheelfront buses, 8.9m in length and equipped with Cummins engines, that were cascaded from route 192 in North London in 2015. These are covered in all-over 'HereEast' branding both externally and internally and information screens promoting the HereEast complex, with no reference to their past as Transport for London (TfL) service buses.

There are 4 Wright StreetLites with 3 in use each day (and now a spare Esteem and Pointer too) in use on the route. Each bus has its own dedicated livery and colour scheme, from teal and blue to black and orange. The buses have been reupholstered with leather seating, new handrails, new flooring and vinyls and stickers plastered all over the ceiling and on the exterior of the buses.

The bus route itself only takes about 10 minutes from HereEast to HereEast via Stratford City, running in a clockwise loop around the E20 postcode, only stopping at HereEast, Stratford International Station and Stratford City station and is free for all passengers to use.

We'll let the pictures do the talking from here on.

SN64 CUC (WS35) stands at HereEast.
The interior of WS35 at HereEast.

SN64 CUJ (WS38) at HereEast.

The interior of SN64 CUJ (WS38).

Thanks for reading this post, and do remember to stay safe!

An Old Home and a New Home

While Alexander Dennis are seemingly doing quite well for themselves in the London market, Wright have arguably not been having a great time. Although they have had a few orders trickle through the clouds, one of them is an order for route 468 from Arriva, which was taken over from Go Ahead on the 31st of March while route 68 was awarded to Abellio on the same day.

LT685 is seen at Euston Bus Station
© EastLondoner
Route 68 started operation all the way back in 1934 running between South Croydon and Chalk Farm Station, in 1957 the main service was then extended to South Croydon Garage, 1986 saw the route withdrawn between Chalk Farm and Euston, forming the northern terminus that we know the 68 uses today. 1994 saw the route withdrawn between Norwood garage and South Croydon garage - this section was replaced by route 68A. This formed the 68 we know today that runs between Norwood Garage and Euston. Despite the relatively few changes in terms of its main route relative to its length of existence it has been housed at many different garages located at Holloway, Chalk Farm, Nunhead, Norwood, Thornton Heath, Croydon, Stamford Hill and even Tottenham and Barking. 

EH50 is seen at Euston Bus Station
© EastLondoner
The last two contract terms saw the route housed at Camberwell (Q) under Go Ahead London, initially using Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied Volvo B7TLs, these were then supplemented in 2014 by Alexander Dennis Enviro400 buses that were released from the New Routemaster conversion of route 453. However this didn't last long as in early 2016 route 68 received its own allocation of New Routemaster buses. However quite frequently other buses did stray onto the 68 mostly in the form of MCV EvoSetis and Alexander Dennis Enviro400H MMCs. Luckily in the final week of Go Ahead operation EH50 strayed onto the route during the evening peak and I happened to be nearby, so it gave me the opportunity to photograph one before it was too late!

E199 is seen on stand at London Road
© EastLondoner
Unlike route 68, route 468 hasn't existed for as long. It started operation on the 27th of March 1999 running between South Croydon Bus Garage and Elephant & Castle operated by Arriva out of their South Croydon garage. It came about as a renumbering of route 68A. On the 1st of April 2006 the route was awarded to Go Ahead London from Camberwell (Q) and was also cut back to South Croydon, South End as it would no longer be able to turn around at the garage. During its time at Camberwell it was allocated with Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied Volvo B7TLs, however as with route 68 the conversion of route 453 to New Routemaster in 2014 saw the allocation supplemented with spare Enviro400s. The arrival of Hybrids from 2016 onwards for various contract renewals and route gains saw the allocation of the route become very varied leading to MCV EvoSetis, Wright Eclipse Gemini 3s and Enviro400H MMCs all making frequent appearances on the route. 

MHV12 seen entering London Road at Elephant & Castle
© EastLondoner
The contract change on the 68 would be the second time a New Routemaster allocated route has changed operator, with route 15 making the switch from Stagecoach to Go Ahead back in August 2017, although this time the buses wouldn't have very far to travel to their new home which was Walworth (WL) garage just across the road. Although for this reason the 68s time at Go Ahead was seen out with a fully conventional allocation made up out of MCV EvoSetis and Enviro400H MMCs in order to allow for the New Routemasters to be driven over to their new home.  It'll be a bit pointless me going into detail about the New Routemasters on the 68, especially when The London Bus Breh has already provided an extensive review of the buses when they were initially introduced. Unlike when Go Ahead took on the 15, Abellio were far more pro-active in getting their information onto the New Routemasters. With almost all buses on the first day having Abellio logos and even WL garage codes, proudly showing off their identity with their new owner. 

LT667 seen at St George's Circus proudly displaying its new logo
© EastLondoner
The contract change of route 468 brought the route back under Arriva operation, which is where the route started its life back in March 1999, effectively making this contract change a "homecoming". However this time the route was going to operate from Norwood (N) garage, filling in the space left by route 176 when it was taken over by Go Ahead a few months prior. Its new allocation sees it allocated with new Wright Eclipse Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5LH buses, known colloquially among enthusiasts as the "frog face" version of the Gemini 3, with this seemingly being the new standard for Arriva double-decker orders in the capital. 

HV400 seen on stand at Elephant & Castle, London Road
© EastLondoner
HV407 seen at St George's Circus, highlighting the difficulty of photographing there!
© EastLondoner
Overall, both service changes seem to have gone smoothly, hopefully both Arriva and Abellio can keep up the good standard of service that they have been providing so far. Even though it may seem like the next few months of service changes will be dominated by Alexander Dennis, Wright still do have an important part to play in the upcoming contract change to route 105, as well as the renewal of route 44 although you'll find out a lot more about those routes nearer the time!