Sunday 14th November 2004
next update week ending 28th November 2004
Please note that any comments made in this news page are those of the Editors' and in no way constitute
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Twilight for the ex Hong Kong Megabuses to and from Oxford
Leyton based 13609 makes its regular visit to Horspath for fuel, caught last Saturday afternoon.
Megabus route between Oxford and London - all change !
A significant change is occurring tomorrow, Monday, when Stagecoach makes changes to its first Megabus route, that between Oxford and London. This is especially interesting as the launch of Megabus some 15months ago certainly caused a stir in our University city. On the News Page for 12th August 2003 I reported the following.
A NEW CONCEPT IN BUS TRAVEL COMES TO OXFORD
A new concept in bus travel will be unveiled on Monday 4th August 2003 with the launch of ‘megabus.com’, the world’s first ‘low cost’ interurban bus route.
Special 94-seat ‘megadeckers’ – painted in the megabus.com colours of blue and yellow – will run between Oxford and London six times a day. Seats will only be bookable on the megabus.com website, but prices will start at just £1 each way (plus 50p booking fee).
Said David Whitley, Marketing Manager for megabus.com, “This is a trial of a new and innovative product which taps into the expanding market for low cost travel.
“It is very different from anything else being offered at the moment and we believe it will complement rather than undermine the existing coach services to London.
“Seats will only be bookable via the megabus.com website, but with singles trips starting at just £1 plus a 50p booking fee, it is sure to be a popular alternative.”
Although the website is launched on 4th August, the buses themselves will start running on 11th August, allowing enough time for customers to book on the first departures.
Buses will pick up pre-booked customers at Oxpens coach park, St Giles, Banbury Road (Lathbury Road), Marston (Cherwell Drive), Headington (Sandfield Road) and Sandhills before running direct to Hillingdon and Baker Street in London.
Whilst the double deckers returned from Hong Kong were not ready for the launch yesterday, two older Megadekkers new to Stagecoach Cumberland but more recently in Manchester and Glasgow, were drafted in for the launch. They are 14239 WLT727 F201FHH and 14240 WLT794 F202FHH. 14239 operated the first journey as can be seen below when it passed Stokenchurch and my camera at 0644.
Here 14239 climbs through the cutting close to Stokenchurch at 0644 on Monday 11th August 2003
Heading towards the sunrise and London, 14239 climbs onwards out of the M40 cutting, eastbound.
One of my regular correspondents was on board and sent me this report -
As a result of
EasyBus announcing they are to offer services at from £1 to London from various
cities. Stagecoach is starting a new service 6 times a day from Oxpens Coach
Park, St Giles, Marston Ferry Road to Baker Street starting on Monday 11th
August. Apart from Sandhills and Hillingdon, they do not service any of the
existing stops. First tickets are on sale at £1, but presumably increase in
value in a similar way to the low cost airlines. All tickets must be purchased
via the internet, and the coach drivers will not accept cash. The planned
vehicles are 94 seat ex Hong Kong 3 axle Olympians painted blue and yellow (the
same colours as in Hong Kong)!
Flyers were put on every bus stop in the City on Sunday 3rd August, but by daylight on the Monday morning all had been removed by unknown person or persons, except the stop outside St Aldates Police Station. It is strange they should all disappear as A4 flyers are a regular method of publicity of new services
of the Olympians apparently meant for Oxford has now arrived. (Monday 12th) It
is at present unregistered but is Alexander bodied CH53/41F Olympian. Fleet
number inside of 138 may indicate ex Hong Kong ER8635, built in 1990. It also
has 136004 (6 digits on the front windscreen). In Magic Bus blue with vinyls
advertising the service.
It will be most interesting to see what fleet numbers are used as most certainly the bus was Citybus 138 delivered in 1990. It was ER8635 and part of a batch of 40 Leyland Olympian ON3R49C18Z4's with Alexander RH BC53/41F bodywork.
Changes over the months have seen first, the ex Hong Kong double deck Olympians and then with operating changes and some services operated by Leyton garage the appearance of Dennis Tridents with bus seats on this service.
From tomorrow passengers booking on the megabus.com site for this route will be able to choose from selected journeys operated by The Oxford Tube but only being able to board at Gloucester Green in Oxford or Buckingham Palace Road in London.
This may prove more attractive to some passengers whom having booked on the present service from London which departs from Gloucester Place, near Baker Street, have often turned up at Victoria Green Line which is where all the other services start from. Then finding they are in the wrong place have been left with insufficient time to make the journey across Central London to get the booked departure. Equally the "trek" to the Oxpens will now be unnecessary as all coach services to London will depart from Gloucester Green.
This is an interesting development and brings a true comparison to the low cost airlines where last minute passengers pay high prices and only gain when they are prepared to book well in advance. Equally the new 81 seat Neoplans will have many additional passengers filling previously empty seats on journeys which for Monday 15th includes all journeys from Oxford including the Capital Select journeys at 0600 and 0630. Such an opportunity must see a considerable increase in traffic on the Tube.
On Saturdays for the foreseeable future, no Megabus.com seats will be available on Oxford Tube coaches leaving Gloucester Green between 0826 and 1136 hours. Instead there will be two Megabus.com duplicate journeys departing at 0930 and 1100 which will be exclusively for the use of Megabus.com passengers.
Similarly on Saturdays returning from London, there will be no Megabus.com seats available on Oxford Tube coaches leaving Buckingham Palace Road between 1748 and 2005 hours. There will be two Megabus.com duplicate journeys exclusively for the use of Megabus.com passengers departing at 1800 and 1930 hours.
The Saturday Megabus.com “dups” will be operated with Volvo Olympian buses.
Stagecoach Bus issued the following press release on November 8th.
MEGABUS.COM EXPANDS OXFORD-LONDON SERVICE
· New timetable offers 75 trips a day in association with Oxford Tube
· Low-cost fares backed up by departures up to every 10 minutes
· Passengers to travel on luxury double-decker coaches
megabus.com, the UK’s first web-based low-cost inter-city bus service, today (8 November 2004) announced a massive expansion in services between Oxford and London with daily departures up to every 10 minutes from just £1.
The number of services will be dramatically increased from five trips each way to up to 75 departures to and from the capital each day.
Passengers will also experience a massive step-change in quality, travelling on new state-of-the-art luxury double-decker coaches under the expanded service, which will be operated in association with Stagecoach’s Oxford Tube.
Bookings for the improved megabus.com operation are being accepted from today and the first services under the new system will go live on Monday 15 November.
Brian Souter, Stagecoach Group Chief Executive, said: “This is a major expansion of our megabus.com operation on what is one of the busiest express coach routes in Europe.
“The feedback from customers across the country has shown that on shorter trips, such as between Oxford and London, their key priority is more frequent services. Now our megabus.com customers will enjoy a high frequency timetable, more seats, top-of-the-range luxury vehicles and still get the best low cost fares of any operator.”
The fully low-floor air-conditioned coaches on the Oxford-London route feature reclining seats, excellent legroom, seatbelts, powerpoints for laptops and mobile phones, and toilets. They are also equipped with CCTV technology for additional passenger security, have a dedicated wheelchair station, a wheelchair ramp and a stairway that meets the latest disability regulations.
Oxford-London was the first megabus.com trial route set up in August last year. Since then the ground-breaking service has expanded to offer travel between 30 towns and cities across the UK.
Using a mix of high-capacity double-decker vehicles, bendy buses and luxury double-decker coaches, the megabus.com network offers journeys of up to 575 miles from just £1 per seat (plus 50p booking fee).
megabus.com has now carried more than 1.2million passengers, around one million alone since the service was launched nationwide in March this year. It has won three major awards, including a top honour for innovation at the National Transport Awards this summer.
The existing dedicated megabus.com vehicles on the Oxford-London route will be redeployed elsewhere on the network.
Press Release ends
From next Monday for nearly all journeys, Megabus passengers will enjoy the comfort of the Neoplan Skyliners
now operating the Oxford Tube services. Here one heads for Oxford, passing one of its sisters on the M40 near Stokenchurch.
The photo was taken this afternoon just after 2pm with the winter sun low in the southern sky.
City cyclists face crackdown
The Oxford Times this week reports that City police are getting to grips with the problems of cyclists who totally disregard the laws which govern other road users in Oxford. Riding through red traffic lights, ignoring pedestrian crossings, riding on the pavement and the worst one for bus drivers in Oxford, riding without lights especially on these winter nights. Fifty tickets were given out in 90 minutes according to the report. It is noted that since September 2002 in the Thames Valley region, one in four fatal accidents involving cyclists has happened in Oxford. 51 of the 101 serious accidents involving cyclists happened in Oxford and there were a further 388 minor accidents in the city. PC Roberts-Ablett, who is leading the campaign, said "Thames Valley police lacked the resources to do checks on a regular basis but were determined to make cyclists realise they could not flout the rules of the road." My wife an ex Oxford City WPC of the '50s remarked that even she was in the force cyclists were a danger to themselves and the first cases in the Magistrates court were always cyclists. As a driver in Oxford I must say that the general standard of driving is worsening but it is in London that the most flagrant breaches of the road rules are ignored. There are seemingly so many road users now who either do not understand or know the highway code or just don't care. Indeed it is often cyclists who appear to believe that they have some sort of golden right to do just as they please. One thing I do think which should be made law is that cyclists should be obliged to wear a high visibility jacket at all times when on the road. Often without lights and dark clothing they become almost invisible on these dark winter nights. however I must state, before I am bombarded by protesting letters, that many cyclists do comply but there are sadly all too many who do not.
Report highlights the poor quality of city centre air
The Oxford times also reports on the poor state of air in the city and notes that 64% of nitrogen oxide emissions in the city are caused by buses. Oxford Bus note that 80% of their fleet are fitted with particulate traps and Stagecoach in Oxfordshire have invested £30 million in new low floor buses and a third of its fleet are new vehicles to the latest Euro 3 emission rules. Guide Friday is in discussion with Eminox, makers of particulate traps to be fitted to its 11 buses.
Interestingly taxis, another form of public transport are not mentioned.
The Oxford Transport Strategy, introduced in 1999, claims some improvement in overall air quality but once again it is noted that the various traffic bans are not enforced.
On the same theme Stagecoach in Oxfordshire will be demonstrating their "Designline" bus, built in New Zealand next week. The bus which runs on electric is highly pollution efficient. I am sure the councillors in Oxford will be most interested in this vehicle.
After having attended the Coach & Bus show in Birmingham, 80009 arrived in Oxford on 8th November and is seen here
in the Stagecoach Horspath depot being prepared for duty in Oxford.
Rob Williams notes that "It is a diesel-electic hybrid, so when the battery doesn't have enough power the diesel cuts in. Regenerative breaks help maintain the charge whilst the vehicle is in use, so the diesel is only required to top it up - kicking in a bit like a fridge. As such it is completely different to the electric buses that have previously been operated in Oxford, and by its nature a lot more reliable.
Tea and empathy in bus stop campaign
The Bucks Free Press carried a story this weekend about a bus stop being turned into a tea stop as an initiative to encourage the public to use the buses. The stop outside the council offices in Thame was the location for serving passengers tea and biscuits last Tuesday and Brian Drury, Commercial director of Arriva The Shires and Essex, was on hand to serve the refreshments. Everyone is reported to have had a great time and brings a hoped for success to "the going your way campaign".
Event next year in Stratford
Dave wrote to me saying "A little off route I am afraid, but I think all your
regulars will welcome this news.
.........To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the first ever preserved bus rally in Europe which took place at Stratford upon Avon in May 1970 , a special one-off event has been organised next July.
The Yesteryear Busfest is expected to be the major preserved bus event of the year when it takes place over the weekend of 23.-24th July 2005 at Stratford Racecourse a few minutes from the centre of the historic town. It is hoped to attract at least 300 preserved buses and coaches , but unlike Showbus, there will be no modern buses and coaches in sight.
The organisers felt that although modern buses did attend in 1970, three out of a total of 75, this should be one event were nostalgia was the order of the day. Only buses and coaches built during or before 1980 or having a minimum age of 25 years will be able to attend.
Saturday will see a promised running day plus Cotswold vintage tours and a planned Open Day at Stratford Blue´s depot with the main rally taking place on Sunday. On Sunday there will also be a programme of brass band music by bus company brass bands and a large collectors and model fair.
For more information visit the Yesteryear Busfest community web site at www.communigate.co.uk/bc/yesteryearbusfest/
drop the organisers an email at
you would like to enter a bus or bring a group."
A 2nd request
Phil Rumsby writes "A rather belated congratulations on your 100th issue on the new archive. It was really interesting reading your summary of the progress since the launch of the motorway services in the later 80s. With the modern air-conditioned coaches we have now, it seems strange to think of the hundreds of hours I spent in either freezing or boiling conditions on smoke filled Leyland Leopard coaches! I can also remember the bendy-coaches - they were so long: very strange sitting on the back seat - I was still at Thornhill while the driver was almost at junction 6!!
By the way, do you have photographs of the short lived Airport Tube with the striking airplane livery? I believe the service became the 390 and went to Heathrow for a while via Henley rather than direct on the M40."
I do have a couple but maybe other readers can help? So far I did not have any luck from readers for Phil.
Debate on transport blueprint
The Oxford Times this week reports that people in Oxfordshire are being given the chance to have their say about transport issues in the county. The campaign is part of the preparation of a policy blueprint that will last until beyond 2011.
A website has been established so that people can contribute on-line with their views.
The link for this site is http://www.transaction.org.uk
50 YEARS OF
SOUTH MIDLAND, 1921 – 1970
WRITTEN BY DAVID FLITTON AND PUBLISHED BY PAUL LACEY
Copies of this book are now available by mail order from Paul.
One of the pictures to be found in the 50 years of South Midland book.
To order the book please download the attached document and there you will find all details. (I understand that the link was not working but this is now corrected. please be patient for the form to download. Ed.)
Order form for the South Midland book
I received my copy yesterday and it proves to be most interesting reading and good value for £9. There is a lot to interest readers who study transport in our area and to note that the Oxford to London journey time 60 years ago was around just over three hours and there were no motorways in those days. It also shows a photo of the depot in Botley Road. By 1959 the fleet mainly comprised 30 AEC Regals with Duple bodywork and the fleet was only around 3 years old!!
Now on to this week's News and photos. Thank you to everyone who has contributed.
Malcolm Crowe - Sunday 14th November 2004
Visit the "OXFORD BUS PAGE" Archive 1998 - 2002
Visit the "OXFORD & CHILTERN BUS PAGE " Archives from October 2002
News of the local companies – 14th November 2004
Nigel Peach, a regular correspondent writes "Your correspondent last week, Alex Evans, asks what has happened to Olympians 5124 & 5129. I too had noticed that they've not been around. One of them has been at the back of the bus station for many weeks now in a state of cannibalisation. Its rear number plate has been removed so I can't identify it.
Presumably the recent two double decker additions to Wycombe, 5144 (N35JPP) and 5851 (C36CHM) have replaced these two vehicles.
On Wednesday (10th), Olympian 5145 (N45JPP) was in the bus station, near the exit. This is another bus from Luton depot. (The registration numbers of 5144 and 5145 confuse me, but there is a good reason why N35JPP is not 5135 - 5135 is G132YWC, also based in Wycombe .... which probably confuses things even more!)
At the same time as 5145 was in the depot, another of the all Leyland Olympians has found its way to the back row. Again, I couldn't identify it - a rubbish bin was parked in front of it! Perhaps 5145 is a replacement for this bus, or perhaps I'm jumping to conclusions!
Incidentally, I note that Alex is a student of RGS High Wycombe. It's good to see that the school is still producing bus enthusiasts. It's over 30 years since I left there!"
Arriva's 3115, still with old destination display, has a black fleet number, certainly more visible than the normal small yellow ones.
Arriva 4038 is a Volvo trainer and was seen at High Wycombe, today, Sunday.
Martyn Banham caught another unusual bus on the 280 last week. This time it is 3164, a Scania, pictured at Gypsy Lane/Brookes Uni.
A week ago today Richard Griffin took this picture of the 280 (1400 ex Oxford) at Church Road, Wheatley.
The bus is Scania 3166 based at Aylesbury.
Several readers have remarked that Carousel have a new depot in Baker Street, High Wycombe. I was down there this morning in fine winter sunshine to record the two depots for readers.
Two Lynx, both with old fleet numbers, a Citaro and two Metrobuses, the white one also with old/new fleet numbers
seen at the main operating base for Carousel in Wycombe.
The security yard in Baker Street, High Wycombe, just around the corner from the main yard. Space seems to be available for about 15 or more buses.
I also noted today that one of the ex West midlands Lynx is still in service.
Rob Williams reports "Carousel were part of the Reading-Newbury rail replacements today, running an A40 branded Olympian, DAF 981 and Lynx F78DDA."
The four older Volvo coaches which returned from refurbishment a few weeks ago ran for a short period without the usual graphics on the rear panel. This has now been resolved and at least 8, 9, 10 and 1q2 sport new adverts. A sample of three are included below. I especially like the "young at heart" one.
Volvo coaches 9, 10 and 12 pictured in and around Gloucester Green last Friday and Saturday.
Today I spent about 30 chilly minutes on the M40 over bridge at Stokenchurch.
One of the coaches passing was Oxford's nr 12 taking its passengers to London in style.
A surprise sighting on Saturday, just when I was unable to get a picture was that of Citaro 838 on 4 road. This is the first time that I have seen one of this class on this road.
Ian Pinnell wrote "The 400 Park and Ride is set to soon stop outside of Blockbuster Video in Headington shops. 2 notices were put up at the present stop in Headington Shops, but they have suddenly been removed" (Does anyone know what the situation is? Ed.)
Marcus Lapthorn writes "I am informed that the two ex COMS VR's operated here by Coachman are now to be withdrawn consequent upon the delivery of the three ex Reading Titans."
Brian Matthews then writes with photos "What should have been......... I was with Marcus yesterday in Faringdon - waiting on purpose for the "coach" to appear on the morning 66. A short while before the coach was due the ex-COMS VR went through on the local service to Swindon - so far so good - but then, according to some well known law, a regular Volvo PS turned up on the 66.
Have just heard from Marcus that both of the Coachman ex-COMS VR's are shortly being replaced by recently arrived ex-Reading Titans - the Titans already being in use on the school services around Faringdon and Swindon. This photo was taken at their daytime lay-up."
The VR and the Reading Titan photos are from Brian Matthews.
So Guys, lets see who gets the first pictures of the Reading Titans in service?
Gregory writes ".....forgive me if you are already in possession of this
information- there's no question that you and the network are well on the ball-
but I've noticed a couple of interesting vehicles on the Witney Town Circular,
which I believe is run by McCleans Coaches. The first is an ex London Metroline
Plaxton Dart, P297MLD, still in original livery minus fleet names, which appears
to be covering for another Dart, possibly Wright bodied, (only glimpsed at a
distance whilst shopping) ex Dents Coaches of Market Raisen, Lincs. Pure
speculation would be that the latter is in for repaint in McCleans white, time
I really must invest in a digital camera! " (Yes please - lets have some photos of other local operators. Ed.)
Two new Bovas have appeared on the 539 service operated by Bruces. One up and one down each day is the situation.
Here brand new SJ54CCN works the mid morning northbound service, seen leaving Gloucester Green.
The CCN registration reminds me of Northern General coaches of old on the Tyne-Tees-Mersey services.
Work is now well under way on the rebuilding of the facilities at Horspath occupied by Stagecoach. Next week a new bus wash is to be installed and new offices are included in the rebuilding works. It seems Stagecoach are set to stay at this location for the foreseeable future. This after having spent quite sometime involved in negotiations over a new depot north of Kidlington.
These two pictures show work in progress, the old asbestos roof having been taken off units 2 and 3.
33822 puts in time on route 3 and is seen here near Rose Hill terminus last Saturday.
80009 to be demonstrated next week in Oxford !
I am told that 80009 will appear on the streets of Oxford during this coming week involved in various demonstrations to interested parties.
Richard writes "I found a picture taken several days ago of AFJ738T to be located on http://terrystapley397.fotopic.net/p9048522.html "
Ian Pinnell writes "....working the 7's for most of this last week was 22054 which I thought was going to receive route 1 branding. Also, if you look closely, you can see the outline of Stagecoach Passes accepted on the window next to the doors.
A number of those 'blue seated' buses have worked the 7 this past week, making a change from the ordinary seated ones."
Marcus Lapthorn writes "...in last week's bulletin I do not think you mentioned which route I was reporting on - it was the 66 Swindon to Oxford in fact. Coach use has extended into a second week with 52157 (L157 JNH) being used. I made a point of travelling on it and the driver informed me that others in this series were at Swindon in Megabus livery. Maybe 52157 will soon follow the others also into Megabus colours. The vehicle is not fitted with a card reader but appears to be in very good condition. It will be the 1545 off GGreen today.
I have taken photos today of this coach but I am not on digital so I guess this will not be of any use to you."
and then "....the coach is on the 66 again today. It formed the 1345 off GG and should be back there at 1630."
This was followed by "12/11 Latest update! - 52156 pulled into GG today whilst I was there but this one was not on the 66 but the X5. Whilst it was in Stagecoach colours it had no transfers on it so maybe this one is also on its way to Stagecoach Swindon, given that apparently 52158 and 52157 are already there? - No coaches on the 66 today."
Andy Gilmour joined the saga saying "Haven't got a picture, but I can confirm that Swindon have 52157/8 ex Cambus, originally of course United Counties. They arrived there about the weekend of the Wroughton rally c10/9/04.
Also worth mentioning is that 52474/6/8/81 have recently transferred from United Counties to Southdown for a new 800 Portsmouth - Chichester - Littlehampton Coastliner Xpress service. 52481 was of course an X5 coach - I believe similar age toilet fitted ex National Express coaches are due to be used instead of this 'R' reg. batch."
50124 mentioned last week is seen first one the M40 and the in a photo of the special promotional vinyls as captured by Gavin Francis during a layover period at Notting Hill last week. Two coaches layover at Notting Hill coach park during the day under the present schedules.
50124 approaches Stokenchurch on the M40 and then there are the promotional signs as applied at Coach & Bus NEC.
During the rebuilding work at Horspath, the new Tubes are being hand washed whilst the new wash is installed.
You can read all about Megabus changes on the Oxford service in the Editorial above.
Gavin Francis sent this picture of 50046 on layover in London. It certainly looks very smart indeed.
Tappins of Didcot
Kevin Stevens of City Sightseeing writes "I took the following picture over the last week.
The picture 009 shows the latest edition to the Tappins fleet. It is a 1913 Commercar charabanc which Paul Tappin bought from the USA as a wreck and has had restored by his engineers. The wheels were built by a firm of wheelwrights in Kent apparently and the sign writing will also be done by a professional in gold leaf sometime in the near future. When completed I will try and get further photos for you. I had a ride on it on Friday. It has a pre-select gearbox and hand operated throttle. The suspension might best be described as firm !!
I have been told its history but it is quite complex so will need to get it written down before I pass it over to you.
Paul Tappin is sending it in for an MOT and hopefully a PSV then use it for weddings etc. If it does not get the PSV certificate then it will do the show circuit instead. It is an absolute beauty as you can see and possibly qualifies as the oldest vehicle ever shown on your website.
The Commercars bus mentioned above.
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