Sunday, 26 January 2014

London to Ride the BYD

I was recently invited to London to attend a two hour meeting and took the opportunity to use the rest of the day and stay overnight in order to study the public transport scene.
Of particular interest was the possibility of riding on one of the two Chinese built BYD electric buses recently brought into service between Waterloo and Victoria on the 507 route.
Having done justice to the two hour meeting I quickly dropped my bag at my hotel and made my way to Victoria.
Drivers on the 507 reported seeing a BYD in service on that route but no one could tell me where it was. One driver told me that one vehicle was on driver training and the other somewhere on service. Anyway, having hung around the Victoria bus station area and taken pictures of everything but a BYD I decided to call it a day. I was cold, hungry and fancied 'doing a show' and the BYD could wait until tomorrow.

 WSH62996 a 13 reg Hydrogen powered bus at
 the RV1 terminus  (click to enlarge)
I did however see a couple of the hydrogen powered buses in service on the RV1 which terminates in the Covent Garden area. These are recent 63 reg vehicles, the previous ones having disappeared off the scene about a year ago.
The next morning I headed for Waterloo travelling the 521 route between High Holborn and Waterloo, using Mercedes Citaros. The 507 route sets down and departs from the main Waterloo station concourse and runs every few minutes and I waited patiently as, one after another, Mercedes Citaros arrived and departed. A quick visit was made into the station to observe the busy scene as commuters scurried from their trains like ants, all working to a plan and everyone knowing exactly where they were going, oblivious to everything else.

 My first view of EB1 at Waterloo

Then, as I came out of the station building just before 10am there it was, a BYD pulling up at the drop-off stand and joining the short queue of other  buses on the 507. I quickly snapped away thinking it might just suddenly disappear and asked the driver if I could take a few interior shots to which he kindly agreed.
I then made my way to the 507 bus stop and waited for the BYD to emerge, as it did at 10.05.

 Passengers entering via the front entrance walk between two cupboards
Boarding on the 507 is via both front and central doors and passengers surged through the doors to take their seats. There were some comments about the new bus, especially that it "doesn't have as many seats" When entering via the front door alongside the driver one immediately notices that there are two 'cupboards' behind the driver, situated either side of the isle, so no forward facing seats until you reach almost the centre of the bus. I sat on the very centre rear seat and the bus soon filled to capacity.
It was noticeably quiet and pulled away smartly. There was a slight vibration during initial acceleration but overall first impressions were good. 

 Rear seating section (click to enlarge this picture and the one above)
As is usual in London progress was slow and the bus spent a good deal of time in stationary traffic but when the opportunity arose the driver made good use of the power and the bus accelerated well in spite of its full load of passengers. As we neared Victoria passenger numbers reduced somewhat and by the time we pulled into Victoria bus station at 10.27 there was only a handful on board. The bus had done well and had carried a standing load through dense traffic. It joined the queue of other 507 buses at Victoria and gradually made its way to the front of the queue where it then picked up passengers for Waterloo and departed again at 10.35. 

 EB1 enters York Road, Waterloo en route again for Victoria

 By 10.50 we were back at Waterloo again unloading passengers and ready for another return trip to Victoria which it did at 10.55. The driver pointed out that it was still showing over 90% of its charge on the gauge in the instrument panel which was a good sign. On this particular day he thought the bus would stay out all day rather than returning to the depot for a top up charge as had been the case previously. This had been as much to do with driver's rotas rather than the requirements of the bus, so it would be interesting to learn how well the bus can operate all day on a single overnight charge. At this point I decided to move on and took a few more pictures as the BYD departed for Victoria again.

 The Low Emission Zone sign is a timely reminder that cities welcome battery powered vehicles.
 Then an interesting opportunity presented itself in the shape of the arrival of one of the hydrogen powered Wright bodied vehicles which operate on the RV1 service. I climbed aboard the vehicle which was heading for Tower Gateway via the relatively quiet riverside roads near to the popular Tate Modern building situated on the south side of the Thames.

WSH62993 appears on the RV1 service on York Road, giving me the 
opportunity to take a ride and compare the vehicle with EB1
In comparison the Hydrogen powered bus seemed very bright and airy, with its conventional seating layout giving a good forward facing view. It was quieter than the BYD although sharp acceleration was never required on this part of the journey through the narrow back streets. The two routes could not be more different, the RV1 being mostly undemanding and lightly loaded, the 507 heavily loaded and using busy, congested roads a tough test for the BYD's.

 A New Routemaster on the 11
The other new attractions on the modern London bus scene include the shear numbers of what are now called New Routemasters - previously New Bus for London. More routes have been converted and it seems strange to see so many of them mixed in with conventional buses. More than 600 of them will be in passenger service by 2016.
Route 24 between Hampstead Heath and Pimlico became the first to fully convert to the new bus in June 2013. The New Routemaster also operates on route 11, which runs between Liverpool Street station and Fulham Broadway, route 9 (Hammersmith to Aldwych) and route 390 (Notting Hill Gate to Archway). Initially route 38 was selected as the first to be partly operated by the new vehicles but has now reverted to conventional buses. 

 The new buses are now a common sight as can be seen by this view taken on Oxford Street

The new Routemaster has its critics but also has its fans and the more I travel on them the more enthusiastic I become. There is very little noise from the engine which is buried somewhere towards the rear and they seem to glide along with no fuss or noise experienced on other conventional buses. Due to the rear platform the downstairs seating layout needs to be slightly unconventional but most passengers just accept this and are grateful for a seat even if it does face rearwards as some do.

 A 9 taking a break before heading for Hammersmith
The ability to hop on and off at will is so convenient and brings back the big advantage that all buses used to offer, including the original Routemaster. We made use of this feature during a December trip to London when we took in a show one evening and hopped on to the open rear platform of a 9 just before it pulled away in Piccadilly. The policy seems to be that the person who stands at the open platform doesn't inspect tickets but we waved our passes anyway and no comments were made as we grabbed the last couple of downstairs seats as the bus headed west towards Knightsbridge.

 The open rear platform is useful for hopping on and off in London's congested traffic
Finally a mention about the original Routemasters that are still operating on heritage routes 9 and 15. It is sad to hear that in July they will no longer be operated on the 9's and that at this point the best of the vehicles (and hand held ticket machines!) will be cascaded to the 15 route. Is this the writing on the wall for the true end of service of this remarkable bus which has defied all the odds to carry on serving passengers since the 1960's?

I'm always fascinated by the London transport scene, especially the buses. London's transport system is always held up as the shining example of how well passengers are served night and day by a well organised and well funded system. No other area in the UK could afford such a system and those that think they can imitate it even in a small way will find out the hard way that it comes at a massive  cost.

Read the BYD press release here

David Gambles 

Colin Lloyd has sent the following two pictures of the EB1 in the Victoria area, has anyone got pictures of EB2 please?


Saturday, 18 January 2014


We welcome Oliver Foreman to our new Features element of the Focus Transport website with this article about the demise of Doyle's Coaches.

Local councils and bus company move fast.

On Monday 13th January 2014, all seemed normal for the bus passengers who used the services of Doyle's Coaches, running tendered services for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire County Councils. Unfortunately, all was not well. For reason or reasons unknown to the general public, that night the 28 or so Doyle's buses were locked in their yard and did not go into service on the Tuesday.

Little do we know what went on behind the scenes, but the fact is that Nottinghamshire County Council in conjunction with Stagecoach East Midlands (the predominant bus operator in Mansfield) managed to get on the road buses to cover routes 17, 18 and 145 from the start of service on the Tuesday.

Before 10am, Nottinghamshire CC posted on their website details of what was happening to all the Doyle's services running on behalf of the Council. Well done!

Overnight, Stagecoach had to increase its Peak Vehicle Requirement at its Mansfield depot by at least 5 buses. Thus buses had to be brought in from the reserve fleet and drivers' schedules reorganised.

One of the buses hastily brought to Mansfield was ex Roadcar DAF X835 HFE here working the Sainsbury's free bus on 16 January.

Here is a Stagecoach Dart (with half a Mansfield Move branding!) on the ex Doyle's 17 service, photographed in Sutton-in-Ashfield bus station on 15 January.

 Another 17 photographed in Sutton bus station on 17 January.

The 17/18 route is not new to Stagecoach. The similar 8 route was once run commercially by the Company. This former Chesterfield Transport Mercedes minibus was photographed in Sutton-in-Ashfield bus station in 2001. The replacement tendered 17/18 was run by Veolia before passing to Doyle's.

An earlier version of what is now the 17 was run by Mark Kempin Travel in 1988. Picture taken in Sutton bus station by the late Richard Lomas. Our thanks to Kath Lomas for permission to use it.

Stagecoach have also taken over from Doyle's the 145 (Sutton - Kings Mill - Kirkby - Ravenshead - Blidworth). This picture was taken in Kirkby-in-Ashfield on 17 January. This tendered service has been run by a multitude of operators, including Stagecoach in the late 1990s. Before deregulation in 1986, it was operated by Butler Bros.The route around the upmarket estate in Ravenshead is very complicated! Drivers have been known to become totally disorientated amongst the mansions and Jaguars.
The many operators who have run the 143/145 include Trent who used this branded Mercedes. This photograph was taken in 2001 in Mansfield bus station. The service no longer reaches Mansfield.
Another Wellglade subsidary, Midland General, ran the service in 2010. Photograph taken in Kirkby-in-Ashfield.

Despite best efforts, two tendered routes in Mansfield (4 and 19) did not operate on Tuesday and Wednesday. At least the electronic display in Mansfield bus station informed people that they were not running. It was interesting to see what would turn up on Thursday on those routes.

And here we are . . .

For its first journey on the 19 at 1020, this Notts CC midibus waits on the stand.

First away was this vehicle on the 1020 departure on the 4 route to Forest Town and Woodhouse. Both vehicles had tiny cards in the windscreen indicating which route they were on.

Later in the day, the bus comes down Berry Hill Road on the 19 service. There are no passengers on this very lightly used service.  Both buses finish their duties in Mansfield before 3pm. Presumably, before and after they have school commitments, possibly in Nottingham.

Doyle's used a double decker on the 19 (despite the few passengers) as it did a school run in Mansfield morning and afternoon. It is not clear which company is currently covering that run.

Doyle's Coaches was formed in 1986, the year of deregulation, by husband and wife team Kevin and Helen Doyle. Their first contract with Derbyshire County Council was a taxi-bus service between Pentrich and Street Lane. Further contracts were added, including some for Nottinghamshire County Council from 2003. The fleet grew to about 28 buses, mainly low floor Dennis Darts and Optare Solos as well as two Dennis Trident double deckers. Whatever the reasons, it is sad for the drivers and management that a firm with such a good reputation should cease trading so abruptly.

Above text and images provided by Oliver Foreman

Now one example from the 'new order' over the border in Derbyshire, where Yourbus took on most of the routes in the Alfreton/Ripley areas.

Here one of the Yourbus fleet of Wrightbus DF Streetlites pulls out of Peasehill Road towards Ripley Town Centre, bound for Alfreton. This had normally been the preserve for Doyle's Dart MPDs and Optare Solos. Like the Stagecoach buses at Mansfield, electronic displays had been programmed and featured route number and destination.

But we are not quite finished, as there follows a brief pictorial history of most of the Doyle's operations in Derbyshire, images in route number order.

Route 59 Derby & Ilkeston

Route 78 Hartington & Calow

Route 81 Markham Vale & Bolsover

Route 113 Belper & Ashbourne

Route 140 Matlock & Alfreton

Route 141 Matlock & Ripley

Route 143 Belper & Ripley

Route 144 Crich & Ripley

Route 147 Marehay & Pentrich

Route 148 Alfreton & Codnor

Route 152 Alfreton & Meadow Lane

Route 214 Matlock & Sheffield

Route 331 Alfreton & Nottingham

Route 585 Chesterfield & Whitwell schooldays only

And finally a trio of images within the confines of the depot in Alfreton