It's Barking Mad (Part 2)

We are back with Part 2 of "Barking Mad" and today we will explore two recent changes that have taken place in Barking. Both of these are to do with two Single Decker routes going Double Decker to handle capacity issues and to provide capacity on these routes for many more years to come. The two routes which have been converted from Single Decker to Double Decker operation are routes 62 and 368. Route 62 runs between Barking, Gascoigne Estate and Marks Gate while route 368 runs between Barking, Harts Lane and Chadwell Heath.
Some Brand new MMCs are seen lined up at Barking Garage
© EastLondoner
Route 62 and 368 are both pretty similar routes in the fact they are both almost wholly contained in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham with just an extremely tiny proportion of their route in the London Borough of Redbridge. Today's post will be split into two parts, one for each route.

19854 takes some stand time at Gascoigne Estate
© EastLondoner
Route 62 is operated by Stagecoach London from Barking (BK) garage which it passes. Prior to its double decking it was allocated with pretty much everything that you would find in the garage on a normal day, even an 8.9m Pointer has been on the route before! during different days you could get a different mix of buses on the routes, some days it would almost fully be Double Decker whereas other days it would be Single Decker fully. 

The 62 has a lot of history behind it as a bus route. It is remembered by many enthusiasts for being the last RT operated route in all of London, mainly because the bridge at Chadwell Heath needed widening before any wider buses were used. The route also used to run between Little Heath and Chigwell Row via Barking back in the 1930s, with it then being extended to Ilford in the 1950s making it a long spiral of a route.

25310 takes stand at Gascoigne Estate
© EastLondoner
By the 1960s the route started to unwind from its spiral and it got cut between Barking and Little Heath, with the section being replaced by route 238 and which is now part of today's 387. Then furthermore in the 1970s the route was withdrawn between Marks Gate and Ilford while also being diverted at its other end in Barking to serve Gascoigne Estate. It was in 1993 when the route was downgraded from Double Decker operation down to single deck midibus operation, and since then it has always been, on paper, a single decker route. However Double Deckers did continue to work the route and they do still continue to work the route very frequently.

36285 is seen along the A13
© EastLondoner
However as times changed and places developed, the 62 ended up serving a lot of residential areas as well as a lot of schools. It was the only route serving many of the places that it went, with help from other routes every now and again. Many people relied on the route to get them to the train station in the morning so that they could get to work, and many children relied on the route to get to school. With this growing demand the Single Deckers that ran the route were very soon no longer fit for purpose.

With Crossrail soon coming and with it many more people, not to mention the various housing developments taking place in Gascoigne Estate and Chadwell Heath, the decision was taken upon tender to reconvert the 62 back to Double Deck operation just like it was in the early 1990s, albeit with a higher frequency suited to the needs of today. With the new contract came a higher Sunday frequency as well. Up from 20 minutes once to 15 minutes once.z

Brand new Enviro400 MMC buses were ordered for the route on the E40D chassis. The batch for the 62 are coded 10308-10325 following on from the previous batch of vehicles which were ordered for route 294. The first of the buses started to arrive at West Ham (WH) garage for preperation and commissioning during the end of March, with the deliveries continuing into April. Some new Enviro400 MMCs started to appear at Barking (BK) garage on the morning of 8th April for driver training. 

They surprisingly started to enter service two weeks early the 14th of April, with the first journey performed by 10331 (SN16OKO) as BK duty 234. I, being a local to the route went out the see if I could have a quick ride on the bus.

10331 sits at Gascoigne Estate on Stand
© EastLondoner
As I was waiting for it I started to get very impatient. Once the bus pulled up in what felt like ages, my heart sank after looking at the blind display for the route which are specified to TfL's new blind standards. Despite that I was still very anxious to board the bus, while still trying to take into my brain the fact that an Enviro400 MMC was on the 62. 

Upper Deck interior of 10331
© EastLondoner
The bus itself felt much more roomy than your average Enviro400 and ALX400. I spent my first journey on the bus sitting downstairs. While sitting at the back the Voith gearbox that is found on the buses make their presence clear very well. Most people that boarded the bus realised that it was a new bus, with a surprisingly lot of attention given to the extra perpendicular step that is found on the staircase. The ride itself was very smooth, just like all Voith Enviro400s are, however they are much faster than the standard Euro5 ones also found at Barking (BK) garage. However, throughout the whole lower deck you can hear the various noises of footsteps and things being dropped on the upper deck floor very loudly, which can be pretty irritating.

I went out again to ride this bus on the 15th of April. This time the bus was much faster than it was the previous day, and was a much more fun ride. The bus handled speed bumps and tight turns very well, something that I did not pay much attention to in the previous day.
10331 seen at Barking Town Centre
© EastLondoner

Below you will find a fleetlist for all the new buses that are allocated specifically to route 62. There are more buses in this batch, however are allocated to routes 145, 294 and 496.

10308 SN16OJM
10309 SN16OJO
10310 SN16OJP
10311 SN16OJR
10312 SN16OJS
10313 SN16OJT
10314 SN16OJU
10315 SN16OJV
10316 SN16OJW
10317 SN16OJX
10318 SN16OJY
10319 SN16OJZ
10320 SN16OKA
10321 SN16OKB
10322 SN16OKC
10323 SN16OKD
10324 SN16OKF
10325 SN16OKG

Barking (BK) garage have a reputation for having a very relaxed allocation, and already the new buses for the 62 have been straying on many of the other double decker routes in the garage. Including route 238, which has moved its night service from West Ham (WH) garage to Barking (BK).Overall I do think that these buses are a wonderful addition to route 62 apart from the terrible blind display. The Double Decker conversion is indeed most welcome and the buses suit the 62 very nicely. The next 5 years are, in my opinion, looking very bright for route 62.
10330 sits on stand at Marks Gate
© EastLondoner

Moving onto the other service change in the area, Route 368 has recently transferred from Go Ahead London, Blue Triangle at Rainham (BE) garage to Arriva London North at Barking (DX) garage. 

SEN31 turns onto High Road, Chadwell Heath
© EastLondoner
Route 368 was allocated with 2011 Enviro200s originally purchased by First London, they are coded SEN30-SEN37 and generally only stayed on the 368 during their time at Rainham (BE). However the 368 did see its fair share of workings durings its time at Rainham (BE), from standard Enviro200s ordered by Go Ahead to Plaxton Pointers.

Route 368 has had quite a life, frequently changing hands between operators, even when its contract is not up for tender! In comparison to the 62, it is a fairly young route starting back in 1993 running between Chadwell Heath and Barking Station via Becontree Avenue. It was operated by Docklands Transit before moving operation to Stagecoach London at BK during 1997. In 2001 its contract was awarded to Blue Triangle at Rainham (BE) garage, Blue Triangle then lost it to Docklands Buses at Silvertown (SI) garage. Then in a stroke of luck, both Silvertown and Rainham garages were purchased by Go Ahead London, and it made sense to transfer route 368 back to Rainham garage. However this didn't stop them losing it to First London in 2011, this time it was going to be operated from First's Dagenham (DM) garage using Enviro200s. But in another stroke of luck, First London had sold up and Go Ahead London purchased route 368 and it went back to operation at Rainham garage. It continued to operate using the Enviro200s that First had purchased for it back in 2011.

T169 seen in Ilford prior to taking up duties on the 368
© EastLondoner
However in 2015....yes, you guessed it...Rainham garage lost the 368 AGAIN, this time to Arriva London North at Barking (DX) garage. The route was going to be converted to Double Deck operation upon transfer to Arriva at Barking, using the Enviro400s that were previously used on route 168 from Ash Grove (AE) garage. The buses transferred to Barking garage by the end of 2015, however they lacked blinds and only strayed on the school routes. However as they went off to refurbishment, they returned featuring new blinds as well as a fresh coat of paint and newly padded chairs. They were found on routes 150 and 173 before the 368 came over to Barking (DX), intermixing with the Enviro400s on those routes.

However, while Arriva were getting ready to take over the 368, down over at Rainham (BE) the service of the 368 for the average passenger was going from bad to worse with buses regularly being late and looking like they had just had a ride through a swamp. The maintence standards on the buses was also falling fast, with many buses making funny noises from the engine. I was starting to find it extremely difficult to rely on the 368 to get me to where I needed to be as it was extremely unreliable and buses often coming in bunches of twos or threes. I was starting to get really excited for the takeover by Arriva, not so for the buses but for the fact that I may once again get a decent service, as well as decent buses.

SEN32 is seen at Barking Town Centre on route 368
© EastLondoner
As expected, Arriva took over the service on the 30th of April. everything happened as most people expected it. The Enviro400s that were transfered in from Ash Grove (AE) garage were the staple allocation, with two buses from route 173 batch of 09reg Enviro400s joining in on the fun.

T173 is seen at St Paul's Road in Barking on route 368 on the first morning of Arriva operation
© EastLondoner
The first day was less than smooth, as probably expected by many enthusiasts on the first day of a new operator on a route. This was not helped by the closer of the Lodge Avenue flyover which caused Barking to go to a standstill. However many local people on the area were commenting about the route's conversion to Double Decker and they seemed to welcome it happily.

A Dennis Trident ALX400 (TNA) on the 368
© EastLondoner

In my mind I was wondering how the 368 would be like with Double Deckers operating on it. The route made some pretty tight turns and many of the roads it used were covered with trees dangling over them. However these new buses are not the first instance of Double Deckers operating on the 368. Back in 2013 when First London operated the route there was a weekend the route temporarily converted to double decker as its single deckers needed to be utilised elsewhere. To the left you can see one of my very early pictures of buses. One of the types that operated the route was a TNA.

With the 368 being part of my daily commute, I thought it would be the best to try out the buses then, to see how they handled the school crowds. I had my first proper ride on the 368 on the 3rd of May all the way to Chadwell Heath. Many people who boarded were very happy about the sight of a double decker finally on the route after many years. However the service itself wasn't the best, as is to be expected for the first few days of a new operator on the route. Upon arrival at Chadwell Heath there were 4 buses on stand! 

The buses themselves were very good, they were nice and fast as well as being great fun to ride on. I might as even go as far as to say they are the best batch of vehicles that Barking (DX) garage have in my opinion.  
T172 sits on stand at Chadwell Heath
© EastLondoner
Below you will find a fleetlist of buses that are now allocated to route 368...

T168 LJ60AUT
T169 LJ60AUU
T170 LJ60AUV
T171 LJ60AUW
T172 LJ60AUX
T173 LJ60AUY
T174 LJ60AVB
T175 LJ60ATZ
T176 LJ60AUA
T177 LJ60AUC
T178 LJ60AUE
T179 LJ60AUF

T174 is seen at Barking on its way to Chadwell Heath
© EastLondoner

It will take some time for me to get used to seeing double deckers on the 368 and Enviro400 MMCs on the 62. However both these changes are very welcome, especially with the population in Barking and Dagenham expected to see rapid growth in the forthcoming years following further development in Barking Riverside as well as Crossrail starting to open in stages. 

So what do you think? Do you think the double decking of these two routes was needed? Please leave a comment below as to what you think.