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'Inexcusable Betrayal'

In 2011 the tenders of routes 25, 26 and 30 shook the East London bus scene by making a move from Stagecoach London to First London. Today all three routes are now found with different operators. The 25 at Tower Transit, the 26 at CT Plus while route 30 has recently just completed a move from Tower Transit to Metroline.

It was soon announced that route 30 would operate from the previously fully single decker base at Kings Cross, with space being made available by route 46 moving to Holloway to co-incide with its electric conversion. It's probably quite safe to say that at the time of the award many enthusiasts expected Metroline to order the company standard of Wright Eclipse Gemini 3 buses on the Volvo B5LH chassis. Although a few months later it was announced that Metroline were going to change their bodywork supplier from Wrightbus to MCV, who are located in Egypt and therefore MCV EvoSetis were going to be the order for the route. 

Wright previously used to be Metroline's supplier of choice
© EastLondoner
The reason for this change is believed to be due to the delay caused by the introduction of the Gemini 3s at Willesden and due to quality not being up to the standard expected from Metroline. This unsurprisingly didn't go down well with Wrightbus who earlier this year had to make a number of employees redundant, and now more jobs look like they're at risk. The reason for these job cuts is being blamed on uncertainty in the UK bus market, as well as a lack of orders from London. Another reason being given by Wright bosses is the outsourcing of bus orders to China and Egypt - which is no doubt a clear reference to the orders of EvoSetis as well as BYD vehicles. The regional Unite union officer has called this an "inexcusable betrayal" of Northern Ireland's workers by TfL, although personally I don't agree with that statement, if Wright want the business they need to show they are worthy of business. This case wasn't helped with Lothian Buses, a loyal customer to Wright announced that they had entered an agreement with Alexander Dennis and Volvo to produce buses for them. Therefore things aren't looking too bright for Wright in the immediate future.

DN33795 seen at Euston Bus Station on the 30
© EastLondoner
Route 30 unsurprisingly has a long history. It started life in 1934 running a long route from Roehampton to Hackney Wick running via Fulham Palace Road, West Bromton, South Kensington, Knightsbridge, Marble Arch, Euston Road and Dalston although during days there were events the route was extended to the Greyhound stadium at Hackney. In 1934 these stadium journeys were withdrawn and the route terminated at Hackney wick at all times. In 1981 the route was extended within Roehampton to Bessborough Road as well as being rerouted in order to serve Putney Hill and Putney Heath. This however didn't last long and 1982 saw the route withdrawn between Putney Heath and Roehampton, at this time it was also rerouted via Hackney Downs. Further withdrawal came in 1987 when the route was cut between Putney Heath and West Bromton. In 1991 the route was completely removed from the South-West area after being diverted at Euston to instead terminate at Trafalgar Square. Although by 1992 the route was back to its old line of route, but running no further than Marble Arch leading to the 30 that is still in operation today. 

VN36163 seen at Euston Bus Station
 © EastLondoner
The route's last stint saw it housed with Tower Transit at Lea Interchange (LI), it was allocated with Enviro400s which it initially shared with the 26, 425 and later the 69 although Wright Eclipse Gemini 2s often frequently made it onto the route from the 25 and 58s allocation. Lea Interchange are known for their strict allocations concerning Hybrids and therefore it was quite rare to get Hybrids from the 212 or 308 on the route, although they did sneak out a few times. The departure of the route will leave space in LI, who are quite well known for their space problems, although the space should be filled in with the arrival of the D8 later this year as well as with the arrival of routes 262 and 473 in March 2019. As for the Enviro400s allocated to the route, they are expected to make their way to Westbourne Park (X) for the uptake of route 452 in December 2018. 

The EvoSetis were ordered originally for routes 30, 31 and 274 (which is going to convert to Double Deck operation), although a decision by Metroline later saw route 31 gain existing Gemini 2 bodied B9TLs instead from various garages and now the EvoSetis are expected to form a part allocation on route 43 instead, since then it has been announced that the 43 will convert to electric operation using E40H City EVs, so the long term future of the EvoSetis that will end up on that route is currently unknown. In the weeks prior to the uptake of route 30 the VMHs started to appear and were found parked up at the back of Willesden Junction (WJ) garage. 
VMH2472 at Hackney Wick
© EastLondoner
Tower Transit wrapped up their phase on the 30 in the early hours of the 24th of June 2018, with Metroline's buses starting service a few hours later. While many people were at home watching Belgium playing Tunisia I went out to catch up with the new operator on the 30, as well as the introduction of a new bus type to the Metroline fleet. Getting to Hackney proved to be a bit harder than it should have been due to a fire alarm at Westfield and a lot of traffic on the approach to Hackney Wick. Eventually I reached the 30s stand to find VMH2472 on stand. The driver was talking to the controller as I arrived, and continued talking for a while and ended up departing 5 minutes after he was meant to. This was then not helped by a problem with the Oyster machine as we tried to get on. Leaving Hackney Wick we were greeted by a long line of traffic, which tested the bus' start-stop mechanism quite well.

VMH2470 seen on Oxford Street
© EastLondoner
This traffic continued all the way through Hackney Central, where I'd say it was at its worst and then it started to die down as we left Hackney and travelled along Balls Pond Road towards Highbury & Islington. This part of the 30s route will be tested in its ability to handle crowds as parallel route 277 is going to be cut back to Dalston Junction from next Saturday (30th June), although the 30 is getting a few extra peak journeys to help combat this. Leaving Highbury Corner we ran into more traffic, although this time it wasn't as bad as the traffic that we encountered in Hackney. By this time my bus was leading a triple bunching, and inevitably it wasn't long until the bus got turned, we would now be ending at Baker Street instead of Marble Arch. After passing the Angel Islington the route is just the same as any Euston Road route. We encountered more traffic between Kings Cross and Euston, and once we escaped that we were being turfed off the bus at Baker Street. Upon arrival at Baker Street the driver did try to make an announcement on the PA system, although for some reason a very loud feedback sound played instead - which in all fairness was probably just as effective in getting people off the bus.  As I got off, VMH2476 was just pulling in behind. This time I opted for the upper deck and instantly I was reminded after sitting down at the front over how obstructed your view is on these buses due to the window from the sides not reaching the ends of the bus. Heading down Baker Street was smooth sailing and even Oxford Street wasn't that bad when we arrived. 

The buses themselves are quite nice to ride, upon boarding both the buses the "new bus smell" was evident. They have the same layout as both the Go Ahead and Tower Transit EvoSetis inside and contain Esteban Civic V2 seats. 

The interior of the upper deck facing backwards
© EastLondoner

The interior of the lower deck facing forwards
© EastLondoner
On the exterior the buses are again similar to their Tower Transit and Go Ahead counterparts, the buses are mostly red with a lot of black on the rear. Due to the presence of the battery on the B5LH the rear window only stretches along half of the bus. 

The rear of the EvoSeti
© EastLondoner
The service on the first day wasn't the best service as you can probably tell from my experience. Turns were evident throughout the day as well as bunching along the route. Although this was not helped by the traffic situation in Central London and Hackney although no doubt the service will improve as time goes on and Metroline get used to the challenges that the 30 presents.

VMH2476 at Marble Arch
© EastLondoner
The question now is would I recommend these buses to you? It's a hard one, while the buses on this route didn't blow me away like they have on previous routes that I have rode new buses on they are very good buses, the Metroline interior colour scheme works very well with the look and feel of the bus. Although the 30 as a route is not one that is doing the bus type justice, being infested with traffic throughout from the start. It might be more worthwhile waiting for these buses to start full service on route 274, or for them to enter service on the 43. Nonetheless after effectively years of almost no variety in Metroline's order books (the last time Metroline chose another Double-Deck bodywork supplier was the 332 in 2015) it is nice to see some variety creeping back into the fleet, alongside an order for Optare Metrodecker EVs for the 134 as well as the E40H City EV order that I mentioned earlier on in this post. 

It shouldn't be too long now until more VMHs enter service at Kings Cross to fully convert route 274 to Double-Deck operation, which has currently been delayed although a few were caught running as extras. They also should enter service soon at Holloway for the 43. Within the next few months Metroline will also be introducing another new bus type to route 46. After a dull few years in terms of bus orders variety seems to have finally found it's way back into the Metroline fleet.

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!