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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Croydon and Chalk Farm Station, in 1957 the main service was then extended to South Croydon Garage, 1986 saw the route withdrawn between Chalk Farm and Euston, forming the northern terminus that we know the 68 uses today. 1994 saw the route withdrawn between Norwood garage and South Croydon garage - this section was replaced by route 68A.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!

MMCs, MMCs everywhere

It seems as if South London is where all the fun is at in terms of buses lately. Today's post focuses on another round of changes in South London. Go Ahead win another route using Enviro400 MMC buses in the form of route 172 from New Cross, however all is not great news for them as routes 161, 181 and 284 move to Stagecoach London from Plumstead and Kangley Bridge Road garages also with MMCs.


WVL222 seen at North Greenwich Bus Station
© EastLondoner
I'll try to keep this post short and concise, as I am sure a lot of you reading will know a lot about what the MMC range has to offer, if not many other posts focus on the various offerings of the bus type


Scania 978 is seen in North Greenwich
© EastLondoner
As always with these service change posts I'll go through some brief history about the routes involved before moving onto details about the actual service change itself. Starting off with route 161 it has to be mentioned that this route has had a long history, starting operation in 1938 running between Chislehurst War Memorial and Eltham, in 1941 Saturday journeys were extended as far as Woolwich although this was non stop between Eltham and North Woolwich, in September 1942 the route was extended from Chislehurst to its then home of Sidcup garage. 1958 saw the withdrawal of the section between Sidcup garage and Chislehurst bar a few garage journeys however at the same time it was extended to Greenwich church during peak hours, although this didn't last long and in 1960 the route was cut back to Woolwich Road and then further to Charlton Station in 1971. Many further changes were applied to the route over the following years and by 1988 the route spanned from Charlton to Petts Wood. By 1994 the route started to look more similar to the 161 of today, running from Chislehurst to Woolwich. In August 1999 the route was extended to North Greenwich Bus Station to co-incide with the new development there. The route remained vaguely the same ever since with just a few minor reroutings via Queen Elizabeth Hospital and West Parkside. 


WVL233 at North Greenwich
© EastLondoner
Prior to Stagecoach gaining the route it was operated by Metrobus out of their Orpington garage. Its latest contract saw it allocated with Scania Omnidekka vehicles, however upon the conversion of route 68 to New Routemaster operation the Omnidekkas were removed from the route and replaced with the Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied Volvo B7TLs from the 68 and these ended up forming the staple allocation of the route during its final few years at Metrobus. However other types that would frequently visit the route would include Alexander Dennis Enviro400s from the 320s allocation as well as Optare Olympus bodied Scania N230UD buses that were from the 353s allocation. Towards the final few months of the contract even Scania Esteems from route 181 started to appear on the route, something which should hopefully not be commonplace under the route's new home. 


Stagecoach's first day seemed to go relatively smoothly on the route, especially compared to the 181 and 284. The routes allocation was made up out of old generation Enviro400s and E40Hs along with Enviro400H MMCs. The route had its own Enviro400H MMCs ordered and these are easily identifiable by the 67reg plates. I caught up with the route at Woolwich, and was quite surprised to see the variety on the route for a first day. Although since then the route has been sticking to the buses that were ordered specifically for it. In order to make room for route 161 at Plumstead (PD) route 386 moved away from the garage to Catford (TL) garage where it will remain for a few months before being taken over by Go Ahead London later in the year. 


12368 seen at North Greenwich Bus Station
© EastLondoner
9054 seen at Waterloo
© EastLondoner
Although Go Ahead lost three routes on the 17th of March, there was a silver lining in the form of one gain which was route 172 that runs between Brockley Rise and Clerkenwell Green. Unlike route 161 this route doesn't have a very long history, only commencing operations in 1992 initially running between Grove Park and Moorgate, Finsbury Square. A few months later a few journeys were extended to Bromley North on Saturdays, around this time the Central London end was rerouted to serve Liverpool Street Bus Station. In 1994 the southern end of the route was cut to Brockley Rise, with the withdrawn bit being replaced by route 171.  In 1999 the route was rerouted to serve Waterloo as well as being cut to St Paul's. In 2011 the route was awarded to Abellio with second hand Tridents, previously from Armchair. Until this the route had always been operated out of New Cross (NX). A change in 2017 saw the route rerouted at Ludgate Circus to serve Clerkenwell Green in preparation for Crossrail. 

During its time at Abellio, the route's allocation was interesting to say the least. The Tridents originally ordered for the route didn't end up staying through the whole contract, and for the last few years Volvo B7TL Geminis made up the staple allocation on the route, being topped up with Enviro400s. Another common feature under the last few months was the lack of blinds many buses carried for the Clerkenwell Green extension. 


9005 sits at Clerkenwell Green
© EastLondoner
Go Ahead's win brought the route back to its home of many years at New Cross (NX). New Alexander Dennis Enviro400H MMCs now are the mainstay of the route, although a Gemini 3 has been out on the route. Its allocation is intermixed with that of the 343s which was won a few weeks prior. I had originally planned to catch up with this route at Brockley Rise, however wintry conditions meant that I was too cold to bother taking the 122 or P4 when I could just as easily meet the route at New Cross. 


EH175 is seen at Clerkenwell Green
© EastLondoner
From my observations the route seemed to be operating relatively well, a few bunchings here and there but nothing out of the ordinary for a first day. Although this could potentially be attributed to the fact New Cross (NX) was its Home Depot for many years, and some of the staff there may still have knowledge about the route and its nature. Through the following days the route seemed to be continuing its good performance under its new operator and it's probably safe to say that this route is in safe hands until at least 2023, or maybe even 2025 depending on if a contract extension is granted. The buses themselves seemed to ride well and live up to the high quality a lot of MMCs provide in London today.


EH207 is seen at Clerkenwell Green
© EastLondoner
603 seen on stand at Lewisham
© EastLondoner
One of Stagecoach's other gains from Go Ahead on the day was route 181 which operates between Grove Park and Lewisham. Initially starting operation in 1984 it ran between Lewisham and Lower Sydenham, shortly after in 1985 weekday trips were extended to Surrey Docks and was further extended to the Rotherhithe Tunnel in 1987. In 1989 the route became a Bellingham, Catford bus garage to Lewisham route running via Hither Green and Lower Sydenham. 1994 saw the route extended to Downham and further change in 2006 saw the route extended to Grove Park and that forms the same 181 that operates today. During its previous contract the route was allocated with Scania Omnitowns.

Route 181s first day was far from the smoothness of that of the 161 and 172, although no doubt over time this will improve but it wasn't long until bunchings started making themselves apparent on the route and turns to Hither Green and Lower Sydenham were pulled out. However no doubt over time this will improve and maybe Stagecoach will live up to the high standard they provide on the rest of their routes. The buses themselves are your Start Stop Enviro200 MMCs, so if you want a ride on them you'll need to make yourself familiar with the violent shaking on startup!



36698 seen on stand at Lewisham
© EastLondoner
751 stands at Lewisham
© GloriousWater
Last, but by no means least route 284 also made the move from Go Ahead to Stagecoach, also now operating out of the new depot in Kangley Bridge Road. This is another relatively young route, commencing operations in 1989 running between Lewisham and Grove Park. A change in 1994 saw the route extended from Grove Park to Grove Park Cemetery and that forms the same route that exists today. However there was a minor rerouting in 2008 in the Grove Park area which saw it omit the bus station. During its last contract it was operated out of Orpington (MB) using 2013 registered Alexander Dennis Enviro200s. These buses have since moved on temporarily to Silvertown (SI) but will eventually make themselves home at Morden Wharf (MG) garage for route 225 which runs between Canada Water and Hither Green, so should therefore still be a common sight in Lewisham. 

Like the 181, the 284s first day did not go as smoothly as could have been hoped for. Upon arrival at Lewisham I was left with quite a considerable wait. Although Metrobus weren't known for their marvellous operation of the route either. Like the 181 the route is allocated Alexander Dennis Enviro200 MMCs, albeit the 10.5m version unlike the 181s 10.9m versions. These can easily be differentiated by the different registration plates the buses carry, YY67*** for the 284 and SN67*** for the 181. These buses also have start stop built into them.


36671 seen at Lewisham Station
© EastLondoner
MMCs are becoming more and more common throughout London, with every operator except for Tower Transit operating a member of the family. Many more are expected into service in the future on routes 36, 46, 77, 171, 238, 241, 330, 356, 474 and many more. Among these will be electric versions as well as something new, which brings technology used in motorsport to buses. I feel The London Bus Breh will enjoy writing an article for all of you about it at a later date!

I'd like to credit LondonBuses.co.uk for being a reliable source of information during the writing of this post. Please make sure to check out their website! I'd also like to thank GloriousWater for allowing his picture of 751 to be used in this post, please make sure to visit his Flickr stream (although he's temporarily away from it due to technical reasons) and make sure you are subscribed to him on YouTube!

Go-Electric

The Go-Ahead Group continue to establish a platform for new entries into the electric bus market as route 360 becomes the first in London to have three different zero emission bus types in its allocation.

Going around and around

After a couple of losses two weeks ago in Bexleyheath, Go Ahead on February the 3rd gained two routes, the 153 and 343 however all was not good news they lost three more, the 299, B14 and W4. Today's post will focus on Go Ahead's takeover of route 343 which operates between New Cross Gate and City Hall.





9047 seen on stand at City Hall
© EastLondoner
Route 343 as a route in itself is relatively young, only starting operation in 2001. However its roots date back to a route known as the P3 which started in 1970 which was a circular route in Peckham originating from Peckham bus garage running via Nunhead and East Dulwich. In 1978 route P3 was extended to London Bridge Station, no longer making it a circular route and in 1987 it was rerouted away from Nunhead and extended to New Cross Bus garage. The route remained in this form until the 2nd of February 2001 when it was renumbered route 343 from the next day. In September 2002 the route was rerouted in the London Bridge area and extended down to St Thomas' Street in Tooley Street. In 2006 the stand at St Thomas' Street was replaced by a new stand at City Hall, making the 343 what we know today. 

Route 343 gained fame in London among the public and enthusiasts when it was highlighted in the 2013 documentary "The Routemasters: Running London's Roads" due to severe overcrowding on the stretch between Peckham and Elephant & Castle. Route 136 has since been extended to Elephant & Castle to combat this, however since then the patronage levels on route 136 exceed those on route 343 so it can be wondered how long this fix will actually last. 


9554 seen at London Bridge on the last day of Abellio
© EastLondoner
Route 343 since 2001 has only been operated by two operators out of two garages, starting at New Cross (NX) from 2001 to 2006 when it passed to Abellio out of Walworth (WL) where it remained since until the most recent tender which has seen it revert back to operating out of New Cross garage. Abellio operated the route with Volvo B7TL buses on the Wright Eclipse Gemini body, although these buses may not have had the best reputation among the public and enthusiasts alike. Other types that were commonly found on the route included ALX400 bodied Dennis Tridents, Enviro400s and E40H Hybrid Enviro400s as well as the E40H Enviro400 MMC buses which were ordered for routes 45 and 415. 


2520 is seen on the 343 at Elephant and Castle
© EastLondoner
Abellio wrapped up their phase on route 343 with Enviro400 9557 being the last bus. Go Ahead started operation on route N343 shortly afterwards with EH189 being the first bus. I decided to catch up with the route on the first day to see how Go Ahead were doing on it. I made my way to New Cross Gate on the Overground and was met with EH176 sat on stand, however despite this it wouldn't end up being the bus I would get as it was suffering from technical faults and so the decision was taken to drive the bus back to the garage. It wasn't long until the bus behind turned up, and this was in the form of EH188. 


EH176 at New Cross Gate
© EastLondoner
After a short driver changeover the driver allowed us to board and wait on board the bus until departure time, although when departure time came the driver that had just taken over the bus didn't know how to start it. Thankfully another bus had turned up behind and the driver of that bus helped start EH188. It wasn't long until we had driven past New Cross Bus Garage, where EH176 was parked at the entrance, and we were heading towards East Dulwich. The bus was pretty crowded by this point, much to my surprise. It wasn't much longer until we reached Peckham Rye and the bus was very full, almost close to capacity. However most of the passengers alighted in Peckham and it wasn't long until we were on our way towards Elephant and Castle. This bus was also being followed by a 136 from this point, so most of the crowd between Peckham and Elephant & Castle was shared between the two buses. 


EH188 on stand at City Hall
© EastLondoner
It wasn't long until we were at Elephant & Castle and most of the people on the bus got off here, luckily being a Saturday afternoon the traffic in the area wasn't too bad and it wasn't long until we were at London Bridge. At this point the bus took a right turn and headed down Great Dover Street towards Bricklayers Arms, this was due to the fact Tooley Street is currently closed in the long term to facilitate works at London Bridge Station related to the Thameslink Project. At around this point the driver also started to drag the bus, stopping at every bus stop despite nobody wanted to get on or off. I was confused as to why he was doing this when the last stop was effectively just around the corner, not to mention another bus was just a few minutes behind us. However we did eventually reach City Hall, despite being caught in traffic from Bricklayers Arms to Tower Bridge. 

Upon arrival at City Hall EH176 was waiting at the bus stand with City Hall displayed on the blinds, no doubt showing that whatever issue it was facing earlier was a quick fix and that it entered service somewhere mid-route. 


EH176 seen after reappearing at City Hall
© EastLondoner
Overall the service was not great with me noticing many bunchings along the route, however with a central London route that's affected by roadworks and busy town centres, as well as high demand. No doubt Go Ahead will eventually improve on the route and hopefully the service will remain in good hands for the next 5 or maybe even 7 years!