Saturday, 30 November 2013



With the new educational year in full swing up and down the country and students settled into their respective seats of learning, transporting them to and from their studies is a major business. None more so than at the many University cities spread around the country. 
One such city is Nottingham which is host to Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham. Whilst the former is based in the city centre the latter has a large campus area out on the west side of the city. With studies held at various locations in and around the city, students are reliant upon a network of bus services, some dedicated to the Universities, others open to the general public. 
Dealing first with the younger Nottingham Trent University, this was established in 1992 from Trent (later Nottingham) Polytechnic, but with roots back to 1843. The main site is situated just off of the city centre with a campus area several miles away out on the south side of the city at Clifton. A regular bus service connects the two and was until recently marketed as the 'unilink', as illustrated by fleet number 303 in the Nottingham City Transport fleet. 

This is one of three 53-seater tri-axled all-Scania K270UB and although now with Nottingham City Transport, previously spent some time with the now ceased Premiere Buses company on a stage service out to Loughborough. 

A similar styled Scania vehicle was this articulated version number 700, and is a unique vehicle in the same fleet. It had previously been a Scania demonstrator vehicle and spent a considerable amount of time operated by Lothian Buses on their route network. However, it is not the only articulated bus in the Nottingham City Transport fleet.

A small fleet of Scania bendibuses was already in the fleet before number 700 appeared. Five Wright Solar Fusion versions numbered 700-704 were delivered and initially operated on routes to the north of the city along the Mansfield Road. With 59 seats (only six more than the tri-axle), capacity is boosted to upwards of 100 standee passengers. The upper image shows number 701 passing through the major roadworks associated with the extension to the Nottingham tram system. The large 'unilink' lettering has since been removed, the route now part of the NCT 'Go2' network of bus routes.

So that is Nottingham Trent University's bus main service dealt with. Now over to the west side of the city and the University of Nottingham. Here there is a much larger operation and network of routes to serve the students and staff alike. 

This feature has in fact been prompted by the arrival of a small number of buses from an island off of the west coast of England. To be precise, five East Lancs Myllennium Lolyne bodied Dennis Tridents from the Isle of Man.

Acquired by Nottingham City Transport and numbered 768-772 they now sport a two-tone blue livery. These colours might by coincidence be similar to that of the University itself, their website stating them to be Blue and Notts Blue. 770 is illustrated here within the grounds in the company of students and campus buildings.

During the passed couple of years though and before Nottingham City Transport became involved, the main network of bus services had been operated by at least two other companies. Up to late 2012 Premiere Buses ran the 'Hopper Bus' marketed services using Plaxton single-decks and Volvo double-decks.

An example of the single-deck was this Plaxton Centro number 3333 which like the rest sported a white and blueish swooped livery, and seen here again within the extensive grounds of the University.

Another single-deck was one of at least two Alexander Dennis Enviro200s, this one seen as it circumnavigated the large roundabout between the University and the nearby Queens Medical Centre, each on either side of the busy Nottingham Ring Road.

As for the double-decks these were Volvos with Wrightbus Eclipse Gemini bodywork. One was number 4637 both off and nearsides shown here. The offside (upper) as it passed beneath the QMC island on the Ring Road with the campus site in the background; the nearside (lower) on the same road but south of the island with the footbridge that linked the campus grounds to the QMC itself. This vehicle was a dual-door version and during the mid-day period carried a full loading between the various sites spread around the area.


In contrast was 4638 a single-door version just about to come off of the Ring Road and into the southern end of the campus site.

However, by February 2013 Premiere Buses had found themselves in difficulties and ceased operation. The Hopper Bus services and vehicles were subsequently taken over by Yourbus.

Volvo B9TL 4638 had become number 2102 in the Yourbus fleet....

.......and one of the ADL Enviro200 became number 1402. Both illustrated as they circumnavigated the QMC island on a sunnier day in the February. By now buses showed the route numbers 901-903 on their blind displays.

A further twist came as the new educational year began in September 2013. Yourbus had ceased their element of the University network of bus services, this then taken over by Nottingham Community Transport. However, buses were supplied by Nottingham City Transport along with other support from the Really Good Bus Company (Trent) and the odd vehicle from the Notts & Derby subsidiary of Wellglade.

As this was additional work for Nottingham City Transport they needed to boost their fleet. Thus several Scania saloons were acquired from Reading Buses. Most were operated in an all-over white livery like 540 (upper), but 538 (lower) came direct from a contract for the Vodaphone complex in Berkshire. 538 is illustrated as it passed through one of the controlled entrances onto the campus whilst on the 901 service to the Sutton Bonington Campus several miles near to Kegworth.

Until the arrival of the former Isle of Man buses three Polish built all-Scania double-decks were used, two 2-door versions in red livery and one single-doored version in all-over white. These were Scania-owned demonstrator vehicles and had spent a couple of years trawling around various bus operators, the two red ones ostensibly by some of the London bus companies.

The offside off number 100 is shown here within the grounds of the campus.......................

......and the offside showing the dual-doors, out on the Ring Road with the QMC to the left of the picture. In the background a new bridge can be observed straddling the roadway. This is where the extension to the Nottingham tram crosses over the A52 before it serves the southern end of the University campus. It then heads off towards Beeston and eventually to a Park-&-Ride site at Toton, within a few hundred yards of the proposed High Speed 2 railway station.

The third of the trio is the white single-door version shown here on the 36B service to Beeston that passes by and serves a stop at the north side of the Campus on the Derby Road. With one of the ex.Reading Scania saloons on the other side of the QMC island number 101 sports a registration with the letters LSE, a rather apt nod towards another seat of learning, the London School of Economics. 101 remains in the fleet, but the other two have since moved on. Incidentally the other two red buses respectively sported the registration letters LSC and LSD.

During this period Wellglade subsidiary Notts & Derby also supplied one double-deck bus. Usually number 33 a Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TL shown here complete with Hopper Bus vinyls, this was previously operated by Lothian Buses on Edinburgh city routes. This bus like the Polish Scanias has since been replaced by the arrival of five second-hand (or some might say pre-used) Dennis Tridents.

The five buses from the Isle of Man are numbered 768-772 and have been re-registered respectively FF04 JBX/JBY/JXL/JXM/JXN, with 769 (upper) entering from the Derby Road, and 770 on the road network within the main campus.

As well as this dedicated network of bus services specifically for the staff and students, the campus is also served by a number of other vehicles on a variety of contracts and services.

Public stage service 34 operated by Nottingham City Transport runs a very frequent service from the city centre, enters and terminates within the Campus. This is generally operated by a fleet of Scania saloons in the GO2 - uni34 orange and grey livery as shown here on number 216.

And then alphabetically there are the following who have a presence within the Campus.

Littles Travel of Ilkeston with this Plaxton Cheetah bodied Mercedes-Benz

Rhodes of Nottingham who have this Dennis Javelin with Marcopolo Viaggio bodywork

Contrasting vehicles from Sharpes of Nottingham with a Van Hool Alizee coach (upper) and an ex.Dublin Bus Alexander bodied Volvo Olympian (lower)

More double-decks with Irish origins, contrasting Alexander bodied Volvo Olympians (upper and middle), and an East Lancs Pyoneer bodied Volvo Olympian all operated by Skills of Nottingham.....

....who again provide contrast in the shape of coaches such as this Neoplan tri-axle coach....

......which is worth looking at from the offside as well

And finally local operator Tiger European who roar in and out with double-decks such as this former Cambus Northern Counties bodied Leyland Olympian and.................

....handsome Volvo B12BT tri-axle with Berkhof Axial bodywork. 

Off course there are many other Universities up and down the United Kingdom available, along with their respective networks, who provide transport for staff and students. Maybe there is someone out there who might like to take up the challenge and provide an alternative view of such operations. 

Tony Wilson

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


Logo and text now affixed to buses used in the venture (Malcolm Conway)

On the 7th of November Boris Johnson announced plans to run London’s buses on biofuel from food waste — including chip fat and a suet-like substance.

The Mayor’s environment adviser Matthew Pencharz suggested the pilot scheme could be rolled out across Transport for London’s bus fleet.
But the proposal to operate 120 buses across 10 routes on a biofuel and diesel blend was immediately dismissed as a gimmick. Critics said that while biofuel could cut CO2 emissions they would not reduce the levels of deadly particulates that have helped make London’s air quality among the worst in Europe.
They also questioned the point of the pilot when TfL was already testing four electric buses that could leap-frog any other technology if successful.
Stephen Knight, Lib-Dem environment spokesman for London, said: “Putting a part blend of biodiesel in 120 London buses is just a gimmick as all forms of diesel create air pollution.
“When over 4,000 Londoners face an early grave each year due to London’s appalling air pollution the Mayor’s first priority should be ensuring that London buses run entirely on electricity.”
However, Mr Pencharz insisted the scheme was a cost-effective way of reducing CO2 emissions by about 15 per cent for each bus with no mechanical changes required.
Mike Weston, TfL’s director of buses, said: “Using biodiesel recycles waste products reduces carbon emissions and we hope that by successfully trialling it we will encourage other transport operators to consider using it too.”

The full allocation of 120 buses at Stagecoach London's Barking Garage will be used for this venture, of which 100 are required for the peak vehicle requirement on ten TfL bus routes (5,15,62,101,145,169,366,387,687).

There are four different types of bus operated on the routes, ADL E400 and E40D Enviro400 and Dennis Trident double-decks, and ADL  Enviro200 and Optare Versa single-decks. Examples of each type are illustrated below on the respective routes throughout East London, the images courtesy of Haydn Davies.

The Other Point of View

Focus Transport asked Cumbria Classic Coaches for their point of view as they had, until recently, run their fleet on bio-diesel from a local supplier who processed and re-cycled vegetable cooking oil.

Will Hamer from Cumbria Classic Coaches said they wanted to do their bit to reduce emissions and initially thought that there also could be a cost saving.
Although there were positive issues such as increased power and torque and quieter running they were massively overshadowed by a number of negatives that couldn't be ignored.
The fuel caused glazing within the injector pumps and rack, like you would get on the inside of a chip pan resulting in major problems with inaccurate fuel injection.
The bio-diesel was so acidic that it destroyed seals within the lift pump. It leaked into the sump of the injection pump and also into the main engine sump thus diluting the engine oil.
It cleaned out the main fuel tanks of each vehicle and sent residue into the filters and clogged them mostly at the inconvenient times, even though there was a programme to check and change filters at more frequent intervals.
During cold weather the fuel waxed and made engine starting more difficult. Fuel economy suffered by 2mpg and when what were advantageous fuel duty rates increased during the time the company were using bio-diesel all chances of cost saving were wiped out.
It was not unknown for a purple gel to form in the bottom of the fuel storage tank at the depot. This would have caused major problems to the engines and it had to be separated and was credited for by the fuel supplier who replaced the shortfall.
On reflection Will said that it had been a useful experiment and had assisted in improving emissions. MOT's were easily passed due to the absence of harmful particles in the exhaust emissions but they could not continue due to the number of overwhelming negatives associated with using the fuel.
The fleet of AEC, Guy and Leyland buses and coaches were used extensively on a variety of tours, bus routes, film & TV contracts and Private Hire especially Wedding hire during this period, and provide quite a contrast to the more modern vehicles used in the current venture.

Will ended the interview by saying that he wished the London scheme well and that he hoped that the problems that Cumbria Classic Coaches had encountered would not be experienced in this latest effort to use this type of fuel. He also added that he hoped that vehicle warranties would not be affected in the more modern vehicles that are operated in London.

Here the company's former Crosville Motor Services Bristol Lodekka is refuelled with straightforward diesel at a local outlet in Kirkby Stephen at the end of a busy day, the driver no doubt expressing his delight at being at the helm of such an interesting vehicle (or not as the case may be!)


With the aforementioned problems came a considerable amount of head scratching and consultation to remedy the situation. You can maybe add your own interpretation and comments to the following two images