Spottings & Jottings

Issue nr. 11 - 6th November 2009

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Welcome to issue number 11 which as always has some interesting news and pictures many of which have been provided by Gavin Francis. Out of interest for readers and since National Express is as ever in the news, I have included the list of renumberings which have taken place in the NEx coach fleet.

The new Carousel Circle Line service continues to provide interest in what buses are rostered for this service.

Marcus Lapthorn has provided further pictures from Malta.

Following my comments on cyclists in Oxford in S & J nr 9 I received some strong comments from a reader and in order to address the balance of views I have included some of the very valid points raised. I am pleased that someone took the trouble to respond as any news vehicle should encourage response and comment.

The last 10 days has seen significant activity on the part of National Express who have responded to the competition by First Greyhound. NEx have introduced WiFi on their Portsmouth-Southampton services from London and applied branding to many of the coaches operating this route. Gavin Francis has provided a number of pictures to be found below under the NEx heading but the most poignant is the on below.

Competitors meet - "Anything you can do, I can do better!!"
Green Line, Victoria on 5th November.
Picture by Gavin Francis.

With the lack of full issues recently I seem to have lost out on "Buses in the Landscape" but I did take one the other day which I rather like.

One of the new Van Hool Oxford Tubes heads up on to the M40 at Lewknor, London bound. Its destination proclaims "Sorry coach Full"
Picture by M Crowe.

Again many thanks to all those who have contributed to this week's S&J issue and an apology for the delay in publication. The dreaded 'flu caught up with me earlier this week and I have been laid up for three days, even missing work which is, I have to say, most unlike me.


Peter Cabin writes that he noted in service "on Line 300 High Wycombe to Aylesbury Scanias N705EUR and N714EUR. On service Line 800 was recently transferred W452.XKX. This and Scania N712EUR still have roller blinds installed from their previous depots. Normally Arriva in High Wycombe get them changed over to digital straight away and I wonder if the Scania is just on loan to High Wycombe after all." 

Glenn Knight writes "pictured by myself on the 1st August 2009 at Watford's Arriva Garston depot DAF SB120 Wright Cadet B27D now at Metrobus (Crawley) depot "picture attached" originally in Romford CW1 then moved to "the Shires" under TFL 3975.

Arriva 3975 in Garston depot. Picture by Glenn Knight.

Various readers provided further pictures as shown hereunder.

At last we have managed to get a picture of the Inter urban liveried coach on the 797 from Stevenage and seen in Victoria, pictured by Gavin Francis.

When Gavin and I went to Aylesbury on our Busman's Holiday trip we saw this Leyland Olympian 5101, now 20 years old, had been treated
to a repaint. Gavin caught up with this bus in Oxford on 29th October working a 280 service.
Picture by Gavin Francis.


Versa 2402 leans into the corner coming off the roundabout on London Road, High Wycombe last week.
Picture by M Crowe.

Arriva have a number of Solos based at Garston which work various services around Watford.
The one in pink is interesting and was I think off router in the shot above.
Pictures by M Turner.

This batch of Dart MPDs have been somewhat scattered from their original allocation.
3211 is seen on route 10 in Watford. Picture by M Turner.

Finally in this selection of pictures from Mark Turner, we see Volvo Olympian 5136 working the 500 to Aylesbury in Watford.
This route seems to host a wide variety of buses and even coaches.
Picture by M Turner.

We notice that today, Friday 6th November, Arriva has rostered the two Solos, 2496 and 2497, on Line 40, the first time these buses have been on the route on weekdays for some weeks now.

Arriva 3117, on 30th October, must be one of the last of its kind. Most of the others have been withdrawn (or burnt out).  Picture by Gavin Francis.

Colin Humphrey writes "Great Bus Page, I am a regular visitor. I pictured F551NJE at the Barnsley scrap yard of PVS on 23rd October."

I much appreciate this picture as one rarely sees ex Carousel buses.

Picture by Colin Humphrey.

Gavin Francis and Mike Chadwick keep tabs on what is going on in Stokenchurch and Gavin notes that Carousel are gaining passengers on the on the hour service from the village to Wycombe..

Olympians in Stokenchurch by Gavin Francis.

Another day and a change of type, 6th November and its single decks now. Pictures by Gavin Francis.

Not much to report this issue.

A recent fleet addition is this new Plaxton Centro seen in Hemel on Sunday 1st November - picture by M Crowe.


Greyhound services now face competition from National Express who have branded coaches on their competing services. however Greyhound continue to compete and often, I am told, have attractive drivers, though I am sure this is not a competitive element.

23325 pictured by Gavin Francis.

Just like other operators circumstances sometimes demand the provision of a replacement coach and Hamilton's were on hire in the picture above taken by Gavin Francis.

Grant Palmer 

Glenn Knight sent a picture of a recent addition to this operator's fleet.

Pictured in Dunstable 27th-Oct-2009 Grant Palmer 's new addition Ex-Arriva Mercedes Alexander N357 OBC 

Gavin Francis reports a plain white Tappins coach, registered AJZ9161 - fleet no 161. It is an old Plaxton Paramount probably on a Tiger chassis. Looked a bit weary. Gavin says he has never seen it before. 

As mentioned above National Express have taken a major step up in profile on their Portsmouth and Southampton services with the provision of WiFi and striking branding. Gavin has managed to take a number of pictures of the coaches involved. These are owned by NEx themselves, Lucketts and Transdev, Bournemouth.

The branding now being applied to the coaches involved - Pictures by Gavin Francis.

The only Levante so far known to have been painted in other than NEx livery, EYMS nr 61 at VCS on NEx 040 service.
Picture by Gavin Francis.

A number of readers have asked about the NEx renumbering of their coach fleet and for the record I include what I know below.

CO 01-39  SC1 – 39    CO 27-31 and 34 sold to Bruce.
CO 40 -43 VP1 -4
CO 44-48  V29,37,41,42,43
CO 49-50  VC 1 and VC4
CO 51-7  SC 40-46
CO 58 NXL32
CO 59  D303
CO 60-72  VC 5-17
CO 73  V26
CO 74-75  VC2 and VC3
CO 76-86  V27,28, 306, 38,39
CO 87 not used?
CO 88-94  D319, 322,4,5,7,9 and 331
CO 95  FJ57KHP from Bruce
CO96  FJ57KHR from Bruce

The following 5 coaches have transferred to NX at Crawley from Kings Ferry
C097 (A 14 TKF)
C098 (A 15 TKF)
C099 (H 8 TKF)
C100 (A 19 TKF)
C101 (H 5 KFC) 

As at 3/11/09 some coaches have yet to gain their new numbers. 

i.e. CO 62 is still carrying the number VC 7

Gavin Francis
took this picture of 113 and another of 115 showing the branding removed from the rear of these buses.
One wonders what will be used now.

OBC are usually very precise in what its branded buses do and unusually City2 branded Citaro 847 was caught working a 4A service.
Picture by Gavin Francis on 2nd November.

Ex Oxford 27, now with a private operator working Rail Replacement services at Stansted last Sunday.
Picture by Gavin Francis.

One must note that the use of a Stagecoach Gold Enviro 400 on the S1 may not be taken as an unusual working.

Following publication of a 25 year history of Stagecoach which had as its cover picture a Megabus Neoplan passing an Oxford Tube in BPR, Victoria,
I am delighted to publish the picture above of the next generation. (50227 and 50203)
Picture by Gavin Francis.

Variety on the X30 recorded by Gavin Francis.
This a working on the S5 from Bicester which does an off-peak working on the X30.

M A N 22926 has gained a new Super Rear which is quite striking. Picture by Gavin Francis.

Gavin Francis
took this picture of Dart 33650 on a 16 working to Minchery Farm belying its route 10 branding - 27th October.

The rear branding on the Van Hools is impressive and thanks to Rob Williams I can now list which ones appear on each coach. Picture by Gavin Francis.


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Burn It At Both Ends


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Burn It At Both Ends


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The West End


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Oxford… the City Inspires


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Big Smoke Without the Smoke


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Capital for less Capital


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Business Coaching


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The West End


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The West End


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Business Coaching


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Westfield Shopping Centre


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Westfield Shopping Centre


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Oxford the City Inspires


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Big Smoke Without the Smoke


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Capital for less Capital


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Oxford the City Inspires


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Oxford the City Inspires


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Business Coaching


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Westfield Shopping Centre


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Westfield Shopping Centre


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Big Smoke Without the Smoke


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Burn It At Both Ends


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Capital for less Capital


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Capital for less Capital


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: The Big Smoke Without the Smoke


Oxford Tube, MegaRear: Business Coaching

Scania 15431 is seen passing the Randolph Hotel on S series 3 to Chipping Norton. Picture by John Hammond.

Star Travel, Aylesbury 

Glenn Knight writes "Monday 2nd Nov saw the arrival to Star Travel Aylesbury of ex-Transdev London United DPF560/London Sovereign 560, V560JBH Dennis Dart SLF Plaxton B29F and then another addition to the Star Travel, Aylesbury fleet M10CLA Ex-Classic, Anfield Plain . MK Metro 420 & Arriva Shires 3513 Dennis Dart Plaxton B40F brought from Ensign Bus, Purfleet." 

Andrew Morgan writes "Wright Crusader Dennis Dart SLF 647 (P647SBH) is now with Tates of Barnsley."

Richard Sharman wrote regarding the first day of operation on the revised service X88.

Walters Excel 016, R207DKG is seen in Bicester on the company's first day of operation of the X88 taken over from Stagecoach but shortened to Silverstone instead of all the way to Northampton.

Pictures by Richard Sharman.

John Hammond noted that by day 2 Walters had already got a coach on the X88.  Today it was white Iveco / Bealus T546XBX.

Picture by John Hammond.

By Day 3 Gavin Francis and Richard Sharman sent pictures of another coach on the route

Picture by Gavin Francis.

Picture by Richard Sharman.

and later this week it was operated by a rather elderly Dart as seen by John Hammond and Richard Sharman. The Dart is ex Grayline of Bicester.

Pictures by Richard Sharman.

Certainly this is now a route of great variety.


Brian Kilham says that ex Reading Buses Excel 2 No962 has been bought by Whites Coaches (Culham) and has now had a repaint. It was used for the first time today 2nd November 2009 on Whites Coaches Route 145C from Caversham to Henley. It is expected to be used mainly on this route to take students to Gillotts School and Henley College. In the next few days it should be complete with the Whites Coaches logo. 

Ex Reading 962 now repainted in the familiar yellow colour scheme. Picture by Brian Kilham.


Story of a Bristol VR

Rob Sly writes "Daniel Stazicker's request for the identity of this VR, I attach a photo of it taken last year when under preparation for delivery to a customer which subsequently fell through. The bus is former United Counties 842 (OBD842P) and was the pilot LHD conversion at Munden. Its last UK operator was Classic Coaches of High Wycombe where it ran from 1997 to 1999 in Circle Line's green livery. Photo courtesy Allan Macfarlane."

Picture by Allan Macfarlane via Rob Sly.

Cyclists - a reply to my question

In a recent issue I commented on the behaviour of cyclists in Oxford, especially their lack of adherence to such simple matters of red traffic lights. Also my thoughts on the lack of lights in the dark hours. Reading a recent article in The Oxford Times, where the police had a blitz on cyclists without lights, it seems some of these people do  not think lights are needed if cycling in well lit city roads!!

Robin Stevens responded to my piece saying "I have to say that I am shocked by your comments about cyclists. You appear to suggest that cyclists are obliged by law to use cycle facilities. This is not the case - see the Highway Code sections
61-63[1] - and something of which all drivers should be aware, especially those who drive for a living in a town with a high proportion of cyclists."

That is indeed interesting and something I have to admit to not being aware of. I would however say in my defence that I did not intend to suggest that they MUST use cycle track s where provided , only that it might be safer to do so. Indeed the whole section of London Road, Headington, which prompted my comments is presently full of road works and the cycle tracks are as such closed!

Robin goes on to say "There are unfortunately many reasons why cyclists may wish not to use such facilities.  In general they are poorly maintained compared to the road, frequently narrow and obstructed by ill-placed hazards, and are often difficult to join or leave.  Pedestrians are prone to stray onto the designated "cycle" portion of such paths.  Vehicles entering or leaving properties adjacent to a pavement frequently fail to spot cyclists on such paths.  Priority is lost at every side-road.  In short many such paths are far *less* safe than remaining on the road, and a prudent, considerate cyclist cannot sustain anything like the speed possible on the road owing to the numerous hazards."

Again Robin's comments are quite reasonable and worthy of the attention by city planners.

"Personally, I cycle through Headington infrequently, but I have in the past experienced severe harassment from a coach driver owing to my choosing to remain on the road.  The driver in question chose to intimidate me by driving *extremely* close behind me, sounding the horn several times.  I judged that any attempt to stop or divert onto the pavement path was too dangerous to attempt and that my only safe option was to continue.  Eventually there was room for the driver to overtake, which he chose to do with minimal clearance between me and the side of his vehicle.  Many people would consider such tactics dangerous driving and inexcusable from a so-called "professional" driver."

What an awful type of behaviour by a professional driver, indeed inexcusable.

"Also, you refer to "the roads [cyclists] neither pay for or contribute to".  I am, depending upon circumstances, a cyclist, pedestrian, bus/train/taxi user, or driver; whichever means of transport I use I endeavour to do so within the law and with consideration to other road users.  The vast majority of taxes in this country are not "hypothecated" but go into a general pot for expenditure as required. As someone earning considerably above median income I am contributing considerable sums through income tax, council tax, VAT and other taxes even if I were *never* to get into a motor vehicle.

I will fully admit that the actions of many cyclists (as well as many other road users) around Oxford leave an awful lot to be desired, and perhaps they annoy you even more than they annoy me.  However this is no reason to misrepresent the position, particularly not in a public forum. I hope that you will be retracting these statements in the next edition if not before;  if not then I regret that you will be losing at least one regular reader.

Many councils, Oxford included, appear to take the attitude that they must be *seen* to do something for the benefit of cyclists, even if those actions are of little or no benefit.  One site is devoted to some of the worst examples:

Simply painting a few lines on roads or pavements does not necessarily create safe cycling facilities.  Indeed many cycle lanes are barely wider than the bikes using them, and then for added excitement they may contain such hazards as gutters, wet leaves, loose gravel, potholes, drains, manhole covers, temporary roadsigns, crosswinds and the buffetting caused by passing vehicles (especially buses and lorries). Such lanes often seem to encourage motorists to pass far closer than
they would on the same road without a cycle lane.

I'd much prefer to see money and effort expended on education and enforcement of the law.  In a city with a high proportion of student cyclists, it would be great for a group of people to go around the universities each autumn and actually explain to them what the law requires, and why certain things may not be illegal but are nonetheless dangerous.  Groups such as Cyclox exist but seem to devote their efforts to such matters as campaigning for cycling to be permitted all day on
Queen Street or for cyclists to be allowed to jump red lights "when it's safe to do so" - I feel such actions are liable only to enforce the common perception that "all cyclists are reckless and break the law"."

I would note that a greater proportion of cyclists are now using lights but when loading passengers at St Clements last Sunday, a cyclist came along the pavement scattering intending passengers AND he was on his mobile phone. When a comment was made the inevitable middle finger was put up to all concerned.

I do hope that by publishing Robin's comments and response he will not cease to read this page which I personally put a lot of effort into and which is supported by very many people. Indeed monthly hits are now reaching 75,000 which maybe some indication of the value and content of this page. My thanks to robin for taking time to air his feelings.

Revised bus timetables in Milton Keynes by Harold Bradwell

New Milton Keynes Timetable with the major changes being: 

MK Metro 1B MK - Olney - Northampton formerly hourly on weekdays. Only 1 weekday return bus 1B between Stoke Goldington and Central Milton Keynes remains. The section between Northampton and Olney won on a Northamptonshire contract by Stagecoach as service 36. Between Olney and CMK it is part of MK Metro commercial service 1. 

MK Metro 6 - Bletchley - Stantonbury. Hourly service by MK Metro runs as before through the whole route, but half-hourly only between CMK and Stantonbury. The "missing" half hourly between CMK and Bletchley is now operated by Z&S under contract to MK Council. 

MK Metro 7A Wolverton - Great Linford - CMK extended to Bletchley over the 9 route and now runs every 20 minutes throughout weekdays, 30 minutes on Saturdays. The 7 is also rdduced to 30 minutes on Saturdays 

Service 9 is replaced by extension of 7A as above 

MK Metro 14 new peak direct buses between Stony Stratford and CMK 

Vale Travel 17A CMK Cranfield direct is now operated by Z&S (17 always has been) and 17B CMK - Newport Pagnell - Cranfield is now operated by Vale Travel of Aylesbury. 

Red Rose Travel 18 CMK - Woughton - Bletchley (peaks extended to Woburn Sands) some additional peak journeys, contract won by Red Rose Travel (previously MK Metro) 

Grant Palmer 20 some contract peak part journeys between CMK and Westcroft now operated by Grant Palmer, but the main service is still MK Metro commercial. 

Z&S 25 is a completely new contract service Newport Pagnell - Kingston - Open University - Hospital - Bletchley hourly Monday - Saturday. The publicity states that this was won by Z&S, but MK Metro/Arriva buses have been operating it this week. 

Arriva 26 New peak fast journeys between Tattenhoe - Furzton and CMK operated by Arriva (to supplement slower route 6)

29 Section Bletchley - Hospital - CMK won under contract on Saturdays only by Z&S. Rest of route and Mon - Fri still operated by MK Metro. 

Z&S 30/31 the peak and school contract route now won by Z&S from MK Metro. 

MK Metro 33 CMK - Hanslope - Northampton. In September one of your correspondents said this had been won by Z&S but this only applies to the infrequent Sunday short workings CMK - Hanslope. The weekday service is still run by MK Metro with additional fast peak journeys Wolverton - CMK. 

Stagecoach 36 New Stagecoach service Northampton - Olney as under 1B above. 

On a Mission coaches 44/44A This is real competition from 9th November! On a Mission coaches will run half-hourly Lakes Estate - Bletchley - West Bletchley - Fishermead - CMK in competition to parts of 3 MK Metro routes. There's even talk of a £1 flat fare but this is, I think, only a rumour. 

 MK Metro X9 New express Lavendon - Olney - CMK service running approximately two-hourly Mondays - Fridays operated under contract by MK Metro. 

Grant Palmer X34 new service operated by Grant Palmer. CMK - Ampthill - Flitwick approximately hourly Mondays - Fridays. 

The Aylesbury independents have done quite well out of this.

John Hammond has supplied quite a few photos of the current kaleidoscope of buses in this City. This certainly gives an idea as to the variety and colourful kaleidoscope of buses in the city of Milton Keynes.



More on Malta from Marcus Lapthorn

Marcus Lapthorn writes "It is amazing to think that some of the buses still in active service in Malta are over 70 years old! However, sadly these normal control buses are fast disappearing and I could only find these three in service when I visited Valetta in October 2009. Others may still be used but were not around on this particular day."

Pic: 929& 933 are of FBY661 which has an ex British Army lorry - Dodge chassis dating back to 1938. The driver today is about the same age I suspect! The bus body is locally built Brincat B34F. 

Pic 934: EBY636 Ford V8 with locally built Gasan B40F body. Note the Leyland turbo and Dodge details however! 

Pic 947: The immaculate EBY537 Ford ET7 with locally built Zammit B32F body.

Cambridge Busway update 

Gary Seamarks wrote that he believes "we have a start date for Cambridge Busway of Sun 29/11, if you read N&P for last week, major changes are in for the Huntingdon-Cambridge routes and some city routes. If this is correct its played where I wanted it as am off over that weekend till Weds evening so will hopefully get over there on either Mon or Weds, will pass photos over to you as soon as I can. Am away 12/11 to 27/11 so will be quiet till then. "

Midland Red 50th anniversary run

Last weekend National Express supported the 50th anniversary of the first UK motorway coach service, via the M1, between Birmingham, Digbeth and London, Victoria. 


Vintage Midland Red coaches and a brand new National Express coach celebrated this event by operating an anniversary run between Birmingham and London on Saturday 31 October (departing 09:00hrs).


A picture has been provided by Pete Hancock.

COMS in 1975 by David Harrison


It's nearly "Life on Mars" but not quite.

David Harrison writes "Just a few pictures taken in Oxford in the summer of 1975, whilst taking a break from driving a Darby & Joan party to Isle of Wight."



Above pictures by David Harrison.