Deck The Streets With StreetDecks

There's a good chance that a lot of the next couple of posts will be in the Harrow area, as their bus scene has an overhaul of their fleet and a new route has joined their network.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             'Route 340'
So the first of these many posts will be based on one of the smaller service changes around Harrow. One of my local childhood routes for many years, the 340, has finally received an upgrade to brand new Wright Streetdeck buses - these being the first new buses to work the route in over 13 years. 

For those of you that don't know the 340 that well - or Harrow for that matter - it's a small double decker route that runs between Harrow, Bus Station and Edgware, Bus Station via Wealdstone, Harrow Weald, Stanmore and Canons Park. The route is the birth child of route 140 which operates on the western arm of the route, who will have a special post dedicated to it in a few weeks time from now. 

This year, the route turns 29 years old. Having been introduced in 1987 along the same roads as the route still runs now, 340 was originally set up as a route operated by Harrow Buses from Harrow Weald (HD) garage, this having been in the days before Metroline were around. The route had a PVR of 7 on weekdays with 6 on Saturdays and 3 on Sundays, when the frequencies were justified as a half hourly route.

But why was the 340 introduced? The 340, as the number indicates, comes from a split of route 140 on the northern half of the route. Those of you that know today's 140 will know very well that the length of the 140 is no joke - it is a very long route. But imagine that Long Elmes wasn't the last stop, but that the bus continued to Edgware - that's a clear 2 hour journey. The 140 was far too long in length, and began to suffer in reliability from time to time as a result of the length of the route. So a more localised variant of the 140, called the 340 was created to cater to passengers travelling north of Harrow Weald Bus Garage, the new terminus for route 140.

Although the 340 has stayed the same since inception, running between Harrow and Edgware via Stanmore and Harrow Weald, until July 1993, certain journeys during the peak hours were extended beyond Harrow to South Harrow, running via Lascelles Avenue, Porlock Avenue and Shaftesbury Avenue supporting the 114 and 140. The route was cut back to terminate at Harrow at all times after this, with alternatives being provided such as 114, 140, H10 and 258 and slight frequency increases implemented on route 140 to support the link.

Four years later, route 340 was transferred to Arriva Watford from their Garston (GR) depot in 1991, this having been the fixture for over 25 years now. The brand new Leyland Olympians that were operating on the route in their distinctive Arriva blue colours with the 'white cowhorn'. These buses were the face of route 340 until late 2002, when they were replaced with the longest serving buses that have operated route 340 for a good 14 years. The DLAs, numbered 6001-6024 entered service, in a sport to make all London Buses low floor and accessible. Above is 6022 at Edgware with white cowhorns and original paint.

The 24 new low floor Alexander Dennis ALX400 bodied DB250LF buses were purchased for routes 142 and 340, the former having had a contract renewal whilst 340's contract still had a year and a half until expiration. A top up vehicle, which was the last ever DLA made, 6025 (YJ54 CFG) was sent to Garston as a top up on routes 142 and 340.

The route had seen the same vehicles until 2012, when the majority of the DLA buses had been withdrawn from TfL service as a result of route 142's new contract. The new contract saw VLA buses from Arriva London sent over, with 6001-6013 withdrawn and converted to commercial vehicles. The VLAs were from Brixton (BN) garage with fleetnumbers VLA164-179, then changed to 6164-6169. 

VLA170 (LJ55 BVY) is seen at Edgware on route 340.

On New Years Day 2016, Arriva decided to merge all TfL operations into Arriva London allowing for more flexibility of vehicles to transfer across the garages, a re-unification of the fleet system - 6001-6025 being numbered DLA601-625, and the VLAs re-instating their old numbers.

VLWs ex-Clapton (CT) garage from route 242 have also made it to Garston (GR) as spares and are removing the DLAs on route 340, making 340 the last route in London to be operated with these vehicles.

VLW131 (LJ03 MHA) is seen at Edgware on route 340.
But the new Wright Streetdecks crowned the 340 the first Streetdeck route in London.

I took a ride on them during the first week of their service back in July from Edgware to Harrow. I had roughly a 30 minute wait whilst waiting for some of the older fleet to pass, but an interesting spotting session it proved especially as it was the last week with 79s SELs.

My first impressions of the bus were rather optimistic. The buses did look smart, with their new shiny coat of paint, the white lights complimenting the Arriva blue seats and white poles of the bus, standing out amongst the other buses at Edgware on what was otherwise a rather glum, wet day. The new Johnston 100 blinds don't actually look too bad on these buses - 340 is one of the more luckier routes were both destinations and the route number look incredibly similar to the original Johnston typeface, so it isn't anywhere near as off putting for the eye.

Aesthetics was a tick, however all good things come to an end, they say, and with this SW, it ended a lot more quicker than I had anticipated. 

Lower saloon of the Streetdeck.

Upper deck of the Streetdeck.

We took a relatively slow approach to taking off Edgware Bus Station. We were cruising through Station Road and along Canons Park at around 15mph, which had already started to bore me a little bit. The engine does sound similar to the Daimler StreetLites on route 192, except that whilst those buses were fast, whilst this SW was slow.

You couldn't even say it was regulating service, this timetable was on the old contract where the running time wasn't as ridiculous as it was on the new contract. The bus would often kill speed just as it had slipped in to the second gear, which became frustrating along Marsh Lane where buses could easily do 35mph (or 40mph if the driver was so daring) like they did in the older DLAs at Garston (GR). Instead we were doing a fraction of that speed at roughly 10mph until Nelson Road where just north of the stop there was the usual traffic to get onto Stanmore Broadway. The traffic took about 10 minutes to clear, so surely by now we were running late, which the driver did take note to, so clearing The Broadway we were up to 25mph-ish for a stop along Uxbridge Road which was actually about as interesting as the bus journey got. However by Brockhurst Corner we were back to the usual 10mph now ready to crawl down Harrow Weald High Road. 

SW4 at the end of the a boring trip.
Harrow Weald is full of hills, which route 340 uses two of, but on both hills the bus refused to go any faster and by now the journey was actually quite boring to the point that I had fell asleep briefly only to wake up in Harrow another 20 minutes later, now being grateful that one of the most boring and slowest journeys that I have done in quite some time was now over. 

The 340 is a good route, and I can tell you that confidently having known the route incredibly well for over 10 years, but the new Wright Streetdeck buses are a major disappointment. I would rather the route have received T-class buses. The DLA buses carried out their jobs a lot better than the new SW buses, and I will miss them - the face of the 340. Although not all the Streetdecks are bad....SW1 is here to stay, having been an ex-demonstrator bus at Wood Green (WN) garage on routes 144 and 221 - it now acts as a top up on 258 and 340. It does do a much nicer job than SW2-10, looks more welcoming and the bus sets off much quicker although I can't say the maintenance on the bus is top notch. 

Some will know that I stated back when SW1 was the only StreetDeck in Arriva's fleet, '340 would be amazing if they ordered another 9 StreetDecks just like this for the route', I would like to retract that comment now.

SW3 (LK16 BYC) at Edgware.
A fleetlist and some final photos to round off the post:
LK64 DVV - SW1
LK16 BYB - SW2
LK16 BYC - SW3
LK16 BYD - SW4
LK16 BYF - SW5
LK16 BYG - SW6
LK16 BXJ - SW7
LK16 BXL - SW8
LK16 BXM - SW9
LK16 BXN - SW10

Same bus, different day, still glum. SW3 at Harrow.

We hope you've enjoyed reading the post, and please do stay safe.

Apologies for the lateness and long gaps between this and the last post.

Also expect more post releases in the upcoming days including more on the Harrow scene including new buses, tender changes and new route 483.

Once again, stay safe!

1 comment:

  1. You must have just been unlucky! I think these buses are great (not as good as the new 140/182 gem 3s though), and I'm yet to have a boring journey on one. It's just a shame the gasket style windows make the buses look outdated already.