Nearing the end of January it is suggested that the next week or so will be cold and last week, here at Stokenchurch, we had our first light covering of snow. The forecast said snow above 200 metres whereas we are at 300 metres. I am always surprised how well modern vehicles climb hills, especially the M40 between junctions 6 and 5. It is always a good test of the bus or coach to see how well it will go up hills and I can especially remember when I was involved in training on the SW1 service from Witney to London (Tower) with one of the three, then new Gold buses 15964-6. how in spite of getting a good run at the hill they always died nearing the middle and dropped to 40 mph whereas the tubes when in "good nick" would keep up 62 mph all the way even though they had joined the M40 from Lewknor. Of course when two HGVs where overtaking each other then one could end up plodding along at 45-50 mph!

The past week has seen little of major interest apart from a tragic accident in Scotland where the driver of the bus involved was killed. Brexit rumbles on and one wonders how it will all end. Border problems would certainly cause a lot of inconvenience to continental coach travellers if many difficulties cannot be resolved in the current negotiations. I suppose if another heatwave and staycation holidays continue their popularity more people may choose to remain in Britain.

As I write this I received an email from a correspondent in Watford who reports a bus hitting a bollard in Clarendon Road, causing delays until the bus involved is removed.

As ever, support from readers has provided much of interest for this week's edition and I hope readers enjoy the detail?

For those who may visit the North West in the coming months this article concerning Blackpool's heritage trams may provide interest.

Blackpool Tram developments by John Woodman via Geoff Cunliffe.

John Woodman is a blog author on Tram Talk UK

January 17, 2019 

Today's Blackpool paper headline reveals the Local Authority's Local Plan covering development of sites for new housing as well as revising criteria for town centre commercial use.   An immediate eye grabbing by-line referred to Rigby Road Tram Depot identified as one of the potential Council owned sites which could be the subject of new housing.   This should be no surprise given the new housing construction which is ongoing along Rigby Road (facing the Transport operation) replacing former industrial and transport usage (Blundell Street Depot) from earlier times.  

Before anyone dashes off to register alarm and protest; inclusion of Rigby Road Tram Depot is one of twenty two Council sites and properties (large and small) offering potential for redevelopment within proposals covering a 5 to 8 year timeframe.  There is a qualifying reference indicating that the tram depot site is very much a longer term possibility with no decisions on its ultimate fate having been ordained.  


Redevelopment on the bus side of Rigby Road's existing transport infrastructure which is mostly under the ownership and or control of the Operator (BTS) - itself a Council owned business - is very much on the cards.   Intentions to introduce electric bus operation as a further enhancement to the BTS fleet are already mooted with exploratory discussions that include Alexander Dennis Ltd.   An all electric bus fleet is likely in phased transition involving replacement of the existing fleet but dates and details are yet to be officially announced.   Provision of wholly new maintenance and servicing of electric buses will require capital investment by the company in due course.   Proposals for relocating the entire bus operation and BTS offices to a new build site on the Squires Gate Enterprise Zone have been shelved - in part, it is understood, due to the high cost of cleanup of the Rigby Road site and more economic option of reconfiguring the bus garage and land to future all-electric vehicle operation.  


In the meantime the current heritage tram fleet and its workshops are expected to continue on 'as is'. 


How is it that often important sites are used to provide housing, which one cannot decry but there are many large and undeveloped sites around the country which are never developed, especially for housing. The link can be found below. Ed. 


First's Railair new coaches take to the road.

With thanks to Daryl Major and Ralph Adams I now have more pictures and information. I was especially interested to have pictures of the back of these coaches as they enjoy some nice promotional graphics.

Daryl writes "Here are photos from the launch today, with YT68GXG being pictured at the Reading buses depot and YT68GXJ in service outside Reading station."




Ralph writes "On Friday the 18th I visited Reading and had a profitable day securing pictures of most of the new coaches in service. The fleet is nine, with Monday to Friday a PVR of seven, weekends five, so those in use today were seen. All the nine are at Reading replacing all the previous coaches. Each have the same style of rear but with different wording and graphics.

Pictures below by Ralph Adams except where stated.

23601 YT68GXA Penzance to Provence

23602 YT68GXB Bristol to Brisbane

 23603 YT68GXC Redruth  Red Square
(Picture by Daryl Major)

23604 YT68GXD St Austell to St Peter’s

23605 YT68GXE - not seen by either contributor.

23606 YT68GXF Aberdare to Abu Dhabi (corrected January 29th)

23607 YT68GXG Luxulyan to Luxor
Luxulyan, also spelt Luxullian or Luxulian, is a small village, of granite cottages, and civil parish in mid Cornwall, England, United Kingdom.

The village lies four miles northeast of St Austell and six miles south of Bodmin.

23608 YT68GXH Great Western   Great Wall 

23609 YT68GXJ Malvern to Maldives 

Many thanks to both for the comprehensive report on the launch and in-service pictures. The rear graphics are delightful. Ed.

A development of some significance on the X90 London service.

From January 27th an additional stop will be introduced on the X90 London service in both directions. This will be at White City on the A40 presumably just before the Marylebone flyover starts. As I was writing this issue the exact location had not been made clear. It will be interesting to see just how successful this innovation becomes.

69 on the X90 with space for White City name. January 20th by Gavin Francis.

A day in Guildford with Gavin Francis

Gavin recently visited Guildford spending time at The Friary Bus Station and I can show you some of the interesting operators in pictures which he encountered at the bus station. Maybe this might encourage some readers to visit this interesting location. The variety of operators exceeds many other locations.

Guildford Bus Station on January 7th 2019

Compass Travel Fleet List

Arriva Southern Counties Fleet List

Buses Excetera

Safeguard Guildford -
This had to be the best presented fleet in use!

Stagecoach South

White Bus

If readers look at the bottom bar, you will find the titles for each picture. 

A visit to Costa Rica by Daniel Doyle

Map showing the location of places mentioned.

Daniel has just returned from three weeks in Costa Rica where he arrived in San Jose some 12 hours after leaving London. He and a friend spent a night in San José before moving on to Jacó, a town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, southwest of the capital city, San José. It's known for its surf beaches and nightlife, and as a gateway to national parks. Rocky, gray-sand Jacó Beach is west of town.

Public transportation in Costa Rica ranks with the best anywhere, and the country prides itself in its effective transportation systems. Tracopa buses operate from San José to Quepos, with an onward connections to Jacó.

Tracopa bus ready to leave San José and in Quepos.

The trip from Jacó to Quepos also takes around 2 hours and the bus cost was US$2.00 for 40 miles, then followed by a quick 20 minute ride up the hill to Manuel Antonio itself which cost US$ 0.50c. Prices in costa Rica were very reasonable. 

When one arrives in Quepos you are dropped off at the main bus terminal in town. From here, buses depart approximately every 20 minutes going up to Manuel Antonio and the national park. You will see the blue buses arrive with a sign in the front window stating that it is going to Manuel Antonio

Returning to Jacó on the bus simply requires you to take the same trip in reverse. The only difference being that you need to ensure that when you get to Quepos you purchase a ticket on the next bus to Jacó (there are pre-allocated seats for the return journey).

Because you need to purchase a ticket for a seat reservation for the ride from Quepos to Jacó, it is imperative that you arrive back in Quepos from Manuel Antonio a little while before the bus leaves to ensure you get a seat. Buses regularly pass by where you were dropped off in Manuel Antonio to take you back to Quepos, with the bus times from here to Jacó including:

The Guys enjoyed swimming in the Pacific and several days in Jacó before taking the bus to Manuel Antonio via Quepos, which is a town midway between the two locations.

Buses at Quepos

Garabito bus to Jacó

The bus fare was around US$ 2.00 for the single journey.

Manuel Antonio is a small oceanside village with plenty of great places to stay - from extravagant luxury condos to cozy hideaway hotels tucked into nature. Famous for its national park, this tiny yet bustling town is located off Costa Rica's central Pacific coast just a stone's throw away from Quepos which is famous for sport fishing. The region is a treasure for biodiversity, attracting nature buffs, eco-travellers and adventure-seekers alike. Better yet, if you visit, you can soak up white sand and perfect waters. Without a doubt, Manuel Antonio lies within one of the country's most celebrated spots.

Beach areas at Manuel Antonio

On the last days of the visit they stopped in San José again where there was a tram track running by the hotel. During the night Daniel took a picture of a service train making some repairs.

You can read about Trams in San José at this link: Trams in Costa Rica

Daniel found prices very reasonable and the whole visit including some other areas was most enjoyable.

I hope readers enjoy the pictures and the beach scenes help in these cold days in the U.K. ? 

Fleet News and developments/strong>

From Nick Ross

Arriva DAF 6309 at a grey Buckingham Bus stand prior to returning to Aylesbury on the 1040 60 via Winslow,
North Marston and Granborough (the scenic route!) on January 18th 2019

Picture from Gavin Francis.

Solo 2495 works the 32 in Wycombe on January 16th by Gavin Francis.
This is a recent arrival at High Wycombe.

The Joint route 1, The ONE, between High Wycombe and Chesham.

Citaros Carousel 856 and Arriva 3011 with the 1 at Chesham Broadway
on January 16th by Gavin Francis.

This time the 1A worked by Carousel 856 and Arriva 3925 in Chesham Broadway on January 16th by Gavin Francis.

From David Gray

Further to Ralph Adams' very informative article, SN63VTZ was noted in Basingstoke recently on the Sony contract - it is now in plain overall blue livery.

Charlton Services Optare Solo Y236 LRR is seen at St Giles on January 19th by Richard Sharman. 

Note the new Railair coaches referred to above under the Editorial.

Go South Coast often visit Oxford.

Two coaches from Excelsior now part of Go South coast on January 20th by Richard Sharman.

Once again Gavin Francis has provided a number of interesting pictures. A picture of Trident 102 when with Carousel is shown under the City Sightseeing below!

Ex Park & Ride Trident 102 re-registered from T102DBW with a 40 in STOKENCHURCH July 8th 2016 by Gavin Francis.

Citaro 856 with the 1 in Chesham Broadway on January 16th by Gavin Francis.

Citaro 859 looks very spruce in this picture when working the 1A in Chesham Broadway on January 16th by Gavin Francis.

We have referred to the changes in the X90 service above, otherwise not a great deal to report.

There are a number of joint operations in Oxford, including the Blackbird Leys route.

Oxford's 35 branded 305 and Stagecoach not route branded MMC 10680 ready to go to Blackbird Leys
 from the at Train Station on January 15th by James Freeman.

Pictures from various contributors.

Wrapped 368 with a 4A carrying the wrap for OPSCG on January 20th by Gavin Francis.

MMC 607 is seen working a 35 road service on January 15th by Gavin Francis.

MMC 607 is passed by Citaro 883 both working 5 road on January 19th by Richard Sharman

The same Citaro 883 is seen with a new super rear on January 19th by Richard Sharman. 

An interesting picture showing the flexibility of these small buses from Richard Sharman.

977 is seen in Pembroke Street on January 19th by Richard Sharman.  

We are pleased to note that the second converted Scania now in open top configuration is in service. The pictures below show this as does the Trident picture with the first use of the ageless registraion!

Scania 202 has returned from conversion to open top and is seen on January 19th by Richard Sharman.

Also seen on the same day in Gloucester Green by Gavin Francis.

From Luke Marion

Luke refers to the item from Ralph Adams last week.

"Point of clarification, 621-623 were built to order not purchased from a dealer. The seat fabrics are identical to those used on the P&R and City3/City8 StreetDecks."

Many thanks to Luke for that clarification. Ed.

Another fresh repaint is 206 in Thames Travel livery  working the X2 on January 15th by Gavin Francis. 

A coach that I do not remember having recorded before is the one pictured below by Gavin Francis.

Heyfordian YX63NFF in St Giles on January 19th by Gavin Francis.

This Parks elite has gained a cherished registration T4SCC and is on its way to Penzance with a 504 working
on January 15th by Gavin Francis.

Red Eagle SN51TCK with the 77 in Chesham Broadway on January 16th by Gavin Francis. 

Red Rose 50525 Y848TGH (ex London General) with the 71 in Chesham Broadway on January 16th by Gavin Francis. 

Still showing its Abellio origins, YX10FFJ with the 55 in Chesham Broadway on January 16th by Gavin Francis. 

From Richard Sharman

"Always on the look out for unusual, spotted in traffic this morning was 10668 which has been fitted with a GX upper deck internal sticker and a FX lower deck sticker. I have no idea the purpose of this exercise."

MMC 10668 with the S9 in St. Aldates on January 20th by Gavin Francis.
Gavin just missed the opportunity to catch the signs mentioned above.

From Theo Freeman

I nipped into Banbury depot today and got a bit of news

Optare Solo 47736 has been off the road for at least 6 weeks (not sure what the fault is) and Dart 34436 has been on the pit sine November with faults.

Dart 34468 awaits MOT and E300 28745 has a smashed window and like other E300s has body damage, possibly from operating on the 500 and S4, due to small narrow roads in the villages that the routes serve.

37403 an E200MMC over the pit on January 19th by Theo Freeman.

More pictures from Gavin Francis.

Work taking place on Horspath depot in January 2109.

Gold 15756 branded for the S5 but working a 2B service outside Debenhams on January 15th.

Gold 15762 branded for the S5 is seen working the 7 outside the Odeon in Oxford on January 15th.

Pictures by Richard Sharman

MMC 10671 is seen on a very wet Saturday with an S9 on January 19th.

On the same wet Saturday MMC 10685 is seen with an S3 to Charlbury.

Jim Wright managed to obtain a picture of this rather elusive coach during last week. It is the Volvo B9R/Plaxton elite SB12NMZ is currently on loan at Bedford depot for use on the X5 Cambridge-Oxford service.

East's hired SM12NMZ Elite B9 with an X5 leaving Gloucester Green on January 15th by Jim Wright .

From David Gray

Mention was made recently of the Dennis Trident at Oxford depot.


You may be interested in the attached photo taken yesterday showing similar 17811 in King Edward Street, London on a 56 Whipps' Cross service. This is one of only four of the type allocated to Leyton depot.


The photo didn't come out too bad bearing in mind it was around 4 p.m. in a rainstorm and under a bridge!
No it didn't. Ed.

From Paul Hawkins

 "Introduced into service this week were a batch of E400MMC'S for service 1 from Heysham Towers to Lancaster University via Town Centre. Branding is more applied to a few vehicles."

MMC 11139 branded for route 1 to the University in Lancaster on January 20th by Paul Hawkins.

MAN/Enviro 300 22840 has transferred from Rugby to Northampton.

The recent network-wide service changes have seen the Optare Solo vehicle type removed from the Northampton allocation whilst the Optare Versa's at Leamington (25237-41) are being stood down for return to Warwickshire County Council. It is understood that a number of Dart SLFs will be withdrawn whilst several MAN/Enviro 200s will be transferred to the Reserve Fleet. 

Reserve Fleet Tridents 17728/29 are now in the main fleet at Stroud whilst Gold-spec MAN/Enviro 300 22753 is transferred from the main fleet at Stroud to the Reserve Fleet.

Now withdrawn and for disposal here are Reserve Fleet MAN/Enviro 300s 22620 and 22621 whilst Volvo B10M training bus 20940 is now based at Gloucester.

From Ralph Adams

"Note the Sleeper coaches are going into SGBC, either to replace the left hand drive or for greater sub contracting?"

South Gloucester Coach & Bus

At least 54207/8 are going to SGBC plus Sleepers 50301,2,3,4 & 6 are being prepared by SC West Scotland for SGCB. If these are to replace some left hand drive Altanos with SGCB this will not be complete since they currently have the following LHD Altanos in UK use: 55008-16 & 21-28 making 16 in total. So one presumes that with 54207/8 and 14 Sleeper coaches this will signal the end of the Altanos in Megabus service. In addition they have 11 Volvo B12Bs in use for Megabus making a grand total of 27 coaches with a PVR of 20!

I understand that 50301-3 had arrived with SGCB by Christmas Eve, 2018. Pictures would be appreciated of the Altanos and the Sleepers when possible please.

For interest and as seen from recent pictures on this page 50305, 9-13 are based at Cumbernauld and are used on Citylink service and I understand that 50308 is currently with the Rennies fleet. So a few changes required to get all the sleepers with SGCB!

Megabus 54293 "Manchester Bee" heads north on January 19th by Richard Sharman.


VALE TRAVEL Solo AU54EOA with the 354 in Chesham Broadway on January 16th by Gavin Francis.

This bus has been around a while with Vale as seen in the picture below.

Back in the day, Vale worked the 48 in Sunday's now held by Carousel as the 40.
AU54EOA with a 48A at The Kings Hotel, Stokenchurch on April 19th 2015 by Gavin Francis.

Other operators

Another picture in Lancaster is provided by P:aul Hawkins and the Solo has an interesting badge on the front.

Kirby Lonsdale Solo KX03KYS with Maudsley Badge in Lancaster on January 20th by Paul Hawkins.