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

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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was added between Norwood Junction and Waterloo, although this didn't last long and in 1958 the Sunday service was withdrawn. 1971 saw the route cut from Tufnell Park to Euston, and in 1974 the route was rerouted to Brixton via route 3 and therefore removing the route from Central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!

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!