I have changed the layout this week as one comment received following my request for your thoughts from last weeks issue, one reader said that the page had grown beyond the original concept and was maybe covering too much out of our area. Please let me know if the new layout is better, as it means you can immediately see matters from the Oxford Chilterns area and other items which may not be of interest to all readers are at the bottom of the page.

One item of note this coming Sunday is Showbus Flyby, which a few readers have wondered if it will go ahead. I am pleased to advise that when I write this on the preceeding Wednesday is ON.

Please visit the link for full information which is always updated and also a significant warning in the light of Covid-19 restrictions :-


I have retained the notes and pictures on highlights for the current page and trust this will wet your appetite.

From Nick Ross we see former Bournemouth and Red Kite Volvo B7 runs dead along the Linslade Western Bypass
towards Cottesloe school in Wing prior to working the 851 school turn on September 11th 2020

In the late afternoon sun, Ciaran Bird provides this atmospheric picture of 15933 at Wootton turn on September 20th.

Recently repainted into the new corporate livery 20686 is seen running along Woodstock Road on September 19th.
Picture is by Hugh Jaeger.

MCV Evolution 2790 arrives at Eden Bus Station passing a wide variety of liveries to be seen in High Wycombe.
Pictured by Malcolm Crowe on September 21st.

I liked the reveal of the interior in this picture from Jack Cooper of 905 in Abingdon on September 18th.

Read on and let me know what you feel about the new layout. 

In the Prime Minister's address to the nation on Tuesday last emphasis was made about care for ourselves and everyone else, use face masks in public areas as well as on public transport, in shops and crowded areas. This has not made life any easier and could last for another six months. Also working from home is encouraged where possible once again. This may once again have an impact on the already affected transport industry.

As the students come back up to Oxford I notice in the Oxford Mail, evening of September 23rd, OUTBREAK of 30 coronavirus cases at Oxford Brookes University which has been revealed today can be traced back to wild student parties.

Fleet news and developments

Changes made to schedules from August 30th

280 Aylesbury to Oxford
Revised 20 minute Monday to Friday, 30 minutes Saturday and hourly Sunday service.
300 Aylesbury to High Wycombe
Revised every 20 minutes peak / 30 mins off-peak Monday to Friday, 30 minute Saturday and hourly Sunday service.
500 Aylesbury to Watford
Revised 30 minute Monday to Saturday service
X60 Aylesbury to Milton Keynes
Revised 30 minute peak and hourly service Monday to Friday and 90 minute Saturday service.
31 High Wycombe to Penn
Revised hourly Monday to Saturday service.
37/37A High Wycombe to Maidenhead
Revised 30 minute service Monday to Saturday, hourly Sundays
800/850 High Wycombe to Reading
Revised 20 minute service Monday to Friday, 30 minute Saturdays and hourly Sundays.

Malcolm Crowe

Pictures taken on September 21st.

Solo 2479 with a 32 working to Asda at Booker.

Solo SR 2509 in Desborough with an inbound 32.

All white MCV 2790 with a 1A service leaves the Eden Bus Station.

All white 3813 with a 300 from Aylesbury passing now Wycombe owned 3532 still proclaiming SOUTHEND !!!!

3813 leaves for Aylesbury still proclaiming to be on hire from Arriva Bus & Coach
although I was told these white buses are now owned by The Shires??

Citaro 3918, beautifully branded for The one, is nevertheless working an 850 to Reading!

Tony Bungay

Ironic for a Bus, rear advert for Cars on a Milton Keynes Volvo/Wright, having just left Aylesbury Bus Station,
not unfortunately the sharpest of photos.

A better shot of 4210 in Exchange street Aylesbury on September 18th.

6044 working into Aylesbury on service 150 on September 14th,
 in the past couple of weeks these vehicles seem to appear quite often on this service, quite rare previously.
The Cow-horns livery is quite outdated now more than 15 years later!

Nigel Peach

"The London Bus" magazine reports that ex Carousel Citaro 872 (CB53 BUS) latterly with Chiltern Bus (Steve Burns) has passed to the "Bromley Bus Preservation Group", and I've just spotted some pictures of it on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/thebbpg/  

Quite a few changes here with branding taking place, odd working and note of changes. Phil Southall advises that the days of the M A N/E200s is limited and only 421 and 423 are still in use. Readers may remember that 420 was involved in an accident in Thame some months ago. 423 seem to be allocated to the 337 at present.

Malcolm Crowe

As you can see 880 has gained chiltern hundreds branding when seen at the depot on September 21st.

By September 24th the link40 had also received branding on two dedicated buses, being 886 and 887.
My pictures show them in Stokenchurch on the 24th.

I am not sure if we have featured an X8 before so here is 407 on September 21st leaving for Coachway.

According to www.bustimes.org 713 has not moved since May 29th but here it is with a 103 to Watford on September 21st.

941 and 942 are much in evidence as seen here on September 21st and one assumes that 942 will be going for repaint ?

Further pictures of the rebranding on other buses are awaited. 

A few interesting pictures again from Contributors.

StreetDeck 902 approaches Abingdon with an X13 road service on September 18th - Jack Cooper.

Having spent many weeks working Thames Travel's route 11 top Watlington via Chalgrove, 602 is now back at Cowley House,
seen working the 1 on September 24th by Gavin Francis.

This picture shows the Go-Ahead group variety to be seen in St Aldates from September 24th by Gavin Francis. 

Daniel Harwood

Daniel took these pictures of 24 working the Thames Travel X32 to Wantage on September 16th.
The confusion is because although the five coaches are allocated to Didcot, they appear to originate from Cowley House?

From Monday, September 28th, minor changes will be made to your BROOKESbusU5 timetable.

Please click here for details.  

Contributors have provided two interesting pictures this week.

Ciaran Bird

Coach 45, allocated to Didcot, is seen working the X32 on September 21st.

Daniel Harwood

904 on an early morning 38 service to Wantage on September 16th.

Citaro 855 is also seen with a service 38 to Wantage & Grove on September 16th. 

Jack Cooper

As reported in the last issue, 845 is one of the City4 Citaros moved from Carousel recently.
Here on September 25th it is seen working the 98A in Great Western Estate.

Gary Seamarks

Oxford's 57 with a 737 working on September 16th leaving Cambridge. 

Robert Williams, the CEO is pleased to announce that we have been named the National Express ‘Operator of the year’ 2019 in the ‘1 to 5 vehicles’ category.

This comes in addition to winning the golden spanner award for our engineering standards a few weeks ago.

This is testament to the hard work and high standard of service delivered by the small dedicated team responsible for running this operation at a consistently high standard. Congratulations to all involved.

Our congratulations to those involved at Reading. 

Ciaran Bird

Gold buses working the S3 and 7 routes feature in Ciaran's pictures this week.

15533 at Wootton Turn on September 20th.

15834 heading for Chipping Norton on September 20th.

15837 at Wootton Turn on September 20th.

Neil Bridges

Neil writes "My duty on S3/7 Chipping Norton outstation with the first one on service 7 all villages to Oxford and two. On service S3 to Chipping Norton at Oxford rail station 3. ON Service S3 at Cornish Rd Chipping Norton on my 2nd trip to Oxford. Not been a ex Witney Scania at Chipping Norton outstation before that I was aware of 15533. All on September 21st"


Theo Freeman

SKM has reported that 34882 has been seen in the Banbury area, so if it is at the depot on Saturday I will grab a photo 

I have been told these are to transfer and displace the two Solos at Banbury, 47735 and 47736 (the one that has been away for 9 months in Crewe for a replacement engine). 47735 will either be sold or transferred, whilst 47736 is to be scrapped as the replacement engine for it is worth more than the bus itself! I would assume this is happening as the B4 route is being replaced by an extended B3 and the B6 being replaced with an extended B9.

Some new arrivals at Oxford are reported this week and I am told these are for school extras which do not need Euro5 or 6 for their services. They are Darts in the 34xxx batch including 34821, 34829 and 34881.

Gavin Francis

Dart 34829 seen now at Horspath depot and in service at Milton Keynes on June 17th 2013.

M A N/ALX300 22416 now ready for training at Horspath on September 23rd.

Jim Wright

Seen on September 91th this picture shows the Driver Training detail inside the bus.

Hugh Jaeger

On Friday, September 18th Stagecoach West substituted an Alexander Dennis Enviro200 MMC for one of the usual Scanias on route 853. My photographs show fleet number 37628, registration mark SN69ZGY on the A40 approaching Burford from Oxford in the afternoon.


This bus is one of a batch of 14 that were delivered in December 2019 and named in January 2020 as the result of a public competition. Appropriately for route 853, 37628 is named after Dorothea Beale (1831–1906). Miss Beale was both Principal of Cheltenham Ladies' College and founder of St Hilda's College, Oxford. 

On Saturday 19 September 19th, I photographed one of the usual Scania / Alexander Dennis Enviro300 buses, fleet number 28686, registration mark YN64AOS. Its branding for route 41 between Cheltenham and Tewkesbury has been removed and the bus has been repainted in the new standard Stagecoach livery. 

My photos are an off-side view of the bus in Woodstock Road, Oxford in the morning and two near-side views of it passing through Minster Lovell in the afternoon.


I do not like any of Stagecoach's new liveries. White may help summer temperature control, but it looks cheap. It suggests a budget, independent operator who has taken a few years' lease on a few buses to run a council contract.

On some buses the new "standard" livery looks like the front bumper panel has been replaced with a wrong colour one after an accident. Or the bus has been built from Lego.

Many of your readers in Oxford and Bicester will have seen Stagecoach's new pale green for "specialist" services on the Volvo / Wright Eclipse 3's that temporarily ran on Stagecoach East route X5. Is it mint green? Or is it a shade of turquoise? Either way it looks cold and bleak.

I have yet to see Stagecoach's new orange coach livery in real life. Photographs of it that I have seen online do not make me keen to do so.

In all three liveries the Stagecoach "beachball" livery has been so enlarged that it no longer fits on the bus. The designer may think this is clever. But it breaks up the logo, which I think makes it harder to recognise.

How many million pounds will it cost Stagecoach to repaint about 8,400 buses? The liveries were planned before the pandemic and lockdown. But are they good value when HM Treasury is subsidising every bus operator to survive the pandemic, and coach operators are crying out for a Government rescue plan?

But these are only my personal first impressions. I hope readers of your website enjoy the photos? 

The service soldiers on and maybe with the return of students to the University Campuses load factors may improve.

Gavin Francis

Ex megabus 50235 is seen loading for Oxford in London on September 21st.

Jack Cooper

Ex megabus 50245 is seen at The Boundary House en route to Wantage on September 18th. 

The company seems quiet at present and I thought these pictures would be appreciated.

Chris Johnston

who writes " it is not very often that we get to take these south of the border but here is 50415 getting some juice at Warwick services during its southbound journey to London."

Another wrongly branded coach, 50415 with an M11 on September 12th.

Gavin Francis

Once again a citylink branded coach, 50419 with the M11 seen in VCS on September 23rd. 

Another interesting collection of pictures from the past for this week's issue which I hope readers will enjoy.

Michael Wadman

A few more unusual Oxfordshire operations for readers.

When the takeover of Guide Friday by Ensign in 2003 resulted in the franchise for the City Sightseeing Oxford Tour going to Tappins, the management of the old Guide Friday Tour set up their own operation called Full Circle Tours. It didn’t last long but it had a nice livery and some interesting vehicles.

Former West Midlands PTE MCW Metrobus A722UOE in St Aldates on April 17th 2004. 

Another Full Circle vehicle, former Tayside Volvo Ailsa B55-10 / Alexander WTS272T,
named “Broughty Castle”, in Oxford High Street on 28th June 2003. 

Another touristy service, Oxford Limousines were running J27 OPC, a Toyota / Caetano Optimo new to Peter Carol, Bristol, outside the Randolph hotel on a service to Blenheim Palace on 11th April 1998. I really don’t know much about this operation but I recall finding a leaflet for it somewhere that rather gave the impression that it was run by an open-top ‘decker, so this thing was a bit of a disappointment.

A Toyota/Caetano Optimo,J27OPC new to Peter Carol, Bristol, by the Randolph hotel on a service to Blenheim Palace on April 11th 1998

Smaller operators and London developments

N&P local detail

Increase at existing operating centre:
New authorisation at this operating centre will be: 10 vehicle(s)
Transport Manager(s): BRUCE JOHN DRAY

Ken McKenzie

Charlton Services have acquired another Optare Solo M850 Reg No: DC53DEC B33F, ex Archway Travel, Fleetwood (LA). I visited there last week and had a warm welcome from the staff there, who were very helpful.

The other reg is below...still need the body number's if anyone has them.

Pearce, Berinsfield









  Pearce, Berinsfield









Abellio London 9012, BX54DJE,

Gavin Francis

TRAVEL LONDON's 9012 en route to CANADA WATER on September 29th.

Now look where it is!!

Mark Wakefield

Its last stop is for Kebabs in Edmonton on September 23rd.

Andrew P Webb with some current London pictures

Route 176 has a very mixed allocation of vehicles plying between Penge and Tottenham Court Road.  A handful of New Routemasters work alongside EH and WHV class vehicles as illustrated by EH167 and WHV171 nearing their journey's end.


Route 197 was awarded to Go Ahead for operation with a batch of EH class hybrids, the first examples in London to eschew traditional wing mirrors in favour of rear facing video cameras and screens in the cab.  EH341 heads for Croydon as it approaches Sydenham station.  Also working the route was WHV58, complete with conventional wing mirrors.


Other routes serving Sydenham had mixed allocations, route 122 making use of 'classic' Enviro 400s and more modern MMC versions, the latter being comparatively rare examples of the MMC body on Volvo B5LH chassis.


The first 70 plate buses for TfL services took to the road on 19 September when Arriva took over route 202 from Go Ahead.  Several recent contract changes have seen the use of loaned buses owing to Covid 19 related delays to deliveries.  Arriva, however, were able to wield a full contingent of brand new buses in the shape of ADL MMC hybrid E40Ds.  Most of the batch of 17 carry 20 plates, but the final six were registered after 1 September and carry 70 plates.  These are the first hybrid MMC E40Ds in Arriva's London fleet and introduce class code HT to the capital's streets. HT6 and HT17 illustrate both registration batches as they head through Sydenham on their first day in service.


A slightly different take on a 'Boris Bus', a term usually associated with the 21st century interpretation of the classic Routemaster.  Putney's WHV134 has been turned out in an all over advert for Britbox's new series of the classic 1980s satire show Spitting Image, illustrated with a rubber incarnation of Boris Johnson.  Cynical viewers may struggle to see the difference between the man himself and his puppet alter ego.  The bus is seen at a quiet South Kensington station headed for Russell Square with a route 14 service from Putney Heath on 19 September. 

Most adverts in London appear on the New Routemasters, with Putney seemingly a favourite garage for adverts on regular buses.  WHV134 has worn two previous adverts.  In 2018 it proclaimed the virtues of Michelin tyres, seen here crossing Oxford Circus bound for Putney on route 22. 

During January this year it was enticing Londoners to escape the gloom of the capital's winter for the sunshine of the Bahamas. 

Gary Seamarks has some questions that readers may or not know the answers to?

Going back to NBC days Oxford/South Midland operated some routes to the West Midlands. 

The X59 was Oxford to Coventry jointly with Midland Red 2 round trips each, Bicester did their end , was joint off/onto the Bedford

The X50 was Oxford to Birmingham jointly with Midland Red again 2 round trips each with Chipping Norton working their end.  

But do you or any contacts remember which Midland Garage worked the other end, assume Stratford for the X50, and perhaps Leamington for the X59. 

Also remember a Midland Red West route mid 80's that ran through from Oxford to Worcester but think they did that one alone.

Do let me have your replies and information please.


Ian Williamson

In issue 122 you had a photo of a Dennis Dart belonging to Derwent  Valley with the comment that a previous owner for many years had been Myall of Bassingbourn.

Although this company does not have a web site, a Google search reveals numerous past and present vehicles on a Flickr site including the Dart in the same livery.

There are also numerous coaches which appear to have been planted in the Cambridgeshire countryside but sadly they do not appear to be blossoming.....

There may even be some that remind you of vehicles you have driven in the past.

Myall of Bassingbourn

I was interested in Bassingbourn as it was my first permanent posting during my RAF service ! The pictures are of quite some interest.


Andrew Tyldsley writes from Newcastle

I note that in this weeks O&CBP you mention the temporary coaches being used on Go North East's X9/X10 pending the arrival of the Interdecks.


I've attached a couple of photos of these - furloughed National Express Volvo B11RT/Caetano Levante with temporary branding. Both seen in Newcastle on 15th September. 7121/BX65WDC passing a Stagecoach MAN/ALX300 and the rear offside of 7122/BX65WDD.

There are four of the these, the other three PVR being covered by former National Express Volvo B9R/Caetano Levante in retro liveries - I've attached a photo taken the same day of 7108/A10EYC in "Charterplan livery".

The double decks formerly used on the X9/X10 (Volvo B5TL/Wright Gemini) are being repainted in blue XLines livery for use on the X21 service from Newcastle to Bishop Auckland. I've attached a photo of 6310/NK6EBC in its new guise, seen in Chester-Le-Street on 12th September. 

Go North East have started placing their Wright StreetDeck in service now, thought you might like a picture for OCBP to compare with the Oxford/Thames Travel ones - 6375/NK70BYT is one of 12 in red XLines livery for the current "Red Arrows" X1 service from Newcastle to Washington.

Gary Seamarks visits Cambridge 2020

Although I had last visited Cambridge in late Winter the Covid changes to the City made a return visit worthwhile, these shots were taken on Wednesday September 16th 2020, of a much changed bus network.

The open top tour has been suspended at present and the X5 is now replaced with service 905 to Bedford worked by a batch of loaned Peterborough MMC’s. Busway frequencies are now reduced to every 20 minutes from every 15 on the A & B with the XLB’s having almost exclusive ownership to the B, while the A must be single deck worked south of the city centre.

Buses displaced from the Busway allocation, which is based at Fenstanton have moved to Cambridge depot with guide wheels removed, to work on the Country services and some are covering City work  alongside Golds off the Haverhill route,  It should be remembered that the Busway is in effect to Gold Standard, with a fair few repainted for an aborted Busway relaunched in the Spring. On the negative side 31 of the batch of 50 E400’s that were delivered new in 2010 are at present loaned to Peterborough and Bedford, two BYD electric buses have arrived this summer and are in another livery. 22 E400 MMC’s make up the park and ride fleet and all were in use, 8 E300 are the only single deck buses on the Cambridge allocation which totals 115, with some cascaded Scania’s from London and West making up the numbers, the oldest vehicle is an 07 plate E400 new to Manchester, The Fenstanton depot which covers the Busway and some local routes which does not serve the city at present has an allocation of 40 of which only 6 are Alexander Dennis chassis, the remaining 34 are either Volvo or Scania’s with some additional Volvo’s on loan at Bedford all capable of Busway working.

To aid social distancing many routes are on amended stops, which means they are running dead from dropping off to commencing their next journeys which reflects in the low numbers carried in some of these shots.

Go Whippet has a very limited network in the City now, with A2B also having a few tendered routes. National Express workings seemed very few and far between still with only 5 seen during my visit.


10875 one of the Peterborough loans to Bedford for the new 905 departs the city.

13911 shows its bulk arriving in the city and heading up to turn at Parkers Peace where the 905 and NX routes terminate

14033 arrives back in the city on the half hourly route 6.

15078 is one of 10 ex London Scanias in the city that are mainly on the busy route 1, all are now single doored.

15214 shows the initial Busway livery from 2009, but is on City route 1.

15294 had spent the best part of the day on the Ely to March route and is seen here returning to the city mid afternoon,
one of four Scania’s with MMC bodywork that arrived for the Busway in 2017

19164 is the oldest bus allocated to either Cambridge and Fenstanton,
one of three transferred a few years back from Manchester, the other 2 have moved on.

21301 still in the initial Busway livery is seen on its intended duties dropping off at the City Centre,
the A route extends south of the City, to Addenbrooks Hospital and Trumpington Park and Ride.

21318 two additional single deckers were required for the Busway in 2018 when a hourly extension
to Royston was added,

21366 as can be seen is now back on its intended duties after a spell at Bedford on the X5, 99 routes.

MX12JXD, working a tendered route is this former Halton E200, that as can be seen is not usually in the City.

Trevor Wilson writes about the North West-North East services

I guess that your other Brampton correspondent can only be Paul Bateson of "British Buses In North America" fame!  By the way, until around 2011/12, we lived in Chalfont St Peter for 30+ years and that is how I followed your Bus Page.  Paul also recently said, (this year?0 after seeing a photo of 11157 on the 685, who would have thought double deckers would be regulars on the 685.

Some of what follows is the previous update which has been considerably extended.  This is my info with the occasional Wikipedia info (to check depot/company changes) and use of Flickr to check vehicle details and dates.

There are some photos attached and some Flickr photos mentioned -  see after the Stagecoach 685 allocation and Arriva vehicles.  The Flickr links are all from "Carlisle Bus Group"," Images are copyrighted to Chris Thompson, Dave Anderson and Lee Wardle. Photographs taken from this site and being reused elsewhere without their permission or being credited, is not permitted."  Chris, Dave and Lee all work for Stagecoach at Carlisle depot and do Stagecoach publicity photos, do supply Steven Knight with photos and own ex=Stagecoach Leyland Olympian/Alexander F805FAO.  You will need to ask permission if you wish to use their photos.

Regarding Weekly Bus Page no 120 and Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancashire, the 685 is operated by Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancashire (Carlisle Willowholme depot) and the regular vehicles are 685 route branded MMCs 11158 YX68UKJ and 11157 YX68UKH. 

The 685 is an interesting route and over the last 10 years we have been in Brampton has seen quite a few changes.  There is a 20 page booklet (1/3 A4 leaflet size) with maps, description of places, fares, etc. dated 18 March 2018 but at the moment it does not seem to be 'findable' online.

I now live in Brampton, Cumbria and our bus route is the Cross Pennine 685 Carlisle <> Brampton <> Haltwhistle <> Hexham <> Corbridge <> Newcastle.  The route uses the A69 (for at least half the distance) except for various bypasses in which case the old A69 is followed through Brampton, Haltwhistle, Henshaw/Bardon Mill, Haydon Bridge, Hexham/Corbridge and Horsley/Heddon.  In the eyes of the public this is a joint service operated by Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancashire (Carlisle Willowholme depot) and Arriva North East (Newcastle Jesmond depot).  [I get told the official regulations state Stagecoach and Arriva are not allowed to communicate with each other - so my guess it talks a County Council/Parish Council/MP to intervene to get the 'joint' service sorted out!].  Stagecoach North East do not have an operational interest in the service.  The 685 is a commercial service.

The 685 has a full route hourly service in Monday to Saturday with the first buses out being 0530 ex Newcastle and 0605 ex Carlisle.  The last buses are 1955 ex Newcastle arrive Carlisle 2205 and 2025 ex Carlisle arrive Newcastle 2234.  Stagecoach also provide an extra bus on the Carlisle <> Brampton section which therefore enjoys a 30 minute frequency.  The extra bus runs on a tight schedule of 25 minutes each way just fitting in a round trip every hour.  However, there have been many roadworks on Warwick Road (Carlisle end of the route) which has a knock delay effect which is cured when the driver change takes place every 2 hours and a spare bus is deployed to bring the timetable back on time.  Arriva also run a morning and evening additional commuter service, X85, between Hexham and Newcastle which was 2 additional morning and evening X85 services until the 18 March 2018 timetable change.

On Sundays, Arriva operate Newcastle <> Hexham every hour and Stagecoach operate Carlisle <> Hexham every 2 hours (5 round-trips) with Carlisle <> Brampton being every hour.  There non-guaranteed connections at Hexham on Sundays.

Tickets bought on the route are valid on both operators.  Each operators area ticket is also valid on the route.  Through tickets across Hexham can be purchased on Sundays.

The full route journey times vary between 2 hours 09/10 minutes and 2 hours 24/25 minutes - the most common time being 2 hours 19/20 minutes - with a layover of 10-15 minutes at each end - and a 5 hour roundtrip time. 

The PVR for the full route Monday-Saturday is Arriva 3 buses and Stagecoach 2 buses with each bus doing 3 round-trips per day.  At 55 miles approx. each way, that is 330 miles per day, at least 1980 miles per week (6 days) or approx. 102,960 miles (or so per year) with the same 2 Stagecoach buses out 7 days per week except for servicing (etc.).  Stagecoach provide an extra bus on the Brampton shorts (Carlisle <> Brampton).  On Sundays, the PVR is Arriva 2 buses and Stagecoach 2 buses (the same 2 as per Monday-Saturday).

During COVID service reductions, Stagecoach continued operating the full route as normal with the MMCs (carrying a lot of fresh air) but the Brampton shorts ceased.  Arriva initially continued to operate the full route as normal but as passenger volumes dropped so the Arriva PVR became 1 bus.  The 3 Arriva 07 reg OmniCitys were confined to the depot and various Wright bodied VDL Pulsars were used.  Thurs the overall service became a mix of 1 hour and 2 hour gaps.

The current Stagecoach buses are 2 MMCs, 11157 YX68UXH and 11158 YX68UXJ obtained new and specifically allocated and route branded for the 685 service.  Why double deckers?  see later.  There was a batch of 20 MMCs of which 18 (11139-11156, YX68UWN etc.) were delivered to Morecambe (White Lund depot) and the 19th (11157) and 20th (11158) came (redirected?) to Carlisle.  The 18 MMCs into Morecambe were needed to up capacity running to/from Lancaster University and also Lancaster City has a low emission zone.  The 18 MMCs cascaded a PX12 batch of E400s (10014-10031, PX12DLV etc.) )from the main University route onto the secondary single deck University routes thus displacing the 08/58/09 reg MAN E300s single deckers out of Morecambe as well as no doubt providing a few more double deckers in total on the University routes.  There was then second MMC batch, SN19 reg 11202-11215 into Morecambe displacing the PX12 E400s off the secondary University routes with most of the PX12 E400s, some into Carlisle allowing all the Carlisle ALX300s, mainly MX55s originally from Manchester, to go elsewhere, many back to Manchester.

The Stagecoach 685 allocation history for about the last 10 years has been:

The Arriva vehicles:

Why do the double deckers appear?  Around 2017 and 2018 there are various changes at schools along the route.  The secondary school at Haydon Bridge is not doing too well and so some parents in Haltwhistle/Haydon Bridge area chose to send their children to William Howard School in Brampton thus adding more passengers to a return afternoon Arriva working.  Northumbria County Council reviews the cost of free school transport and decides to principally only to provide coaches for those who are entitled to free transport and thus some children who paid for seats on Northumbria contracted school coaches have to find other transport and thus use the Stagecoach morning journey into Hexham and corresponding Stagecoach return afternoon journey.  There are "comments" in the press (Hexham Courant) about children having to stand on commercial bus services when children do not have to stand on Northumbria contracted school services because standing is not allowed.  So Arriva introduce their double decker and I think this also influences Stagecoach as well.

Also at some point in 2017(?) Cumbria County Council withdraws all financial support for commercial services and around the same time, the lack of passengers, results in the removal of the 1 or 2 journey deviations each way that pass through Gilsland and its low bridge -- thus there are now zero low bridges on the route.

In 2019 Northumbria County Council were required to prune a number of trees around Bardon Mill between Haltwhistle and Hexham.  Strangely only the MMC 11157 seemed to suffer tree damage (upper deck windscreen).  The E400s did not appear to suffer and neither did the even higher Arriva London height Gemini bodied Volvo B7TLs.

New buses?  Around end 2012/early 2013 there were "bad press comments" in the Hexham Courant about service reliability, or not, of which Arriva appeared to the main target.  And it takes a while to move vehicles around, hence the arrival of the much newer E300s, 27766 and 27767, onto the route.  This is a long route and if a breakdown occurs at the far end of the route to your depot then recovery costs start eating into the commercial viability, hence the requirement for reliable vehicles which Stagecoach take the approach of buy new and leave on the route all day for operational ease and consistency of bus type all day for the passenger.

"Ownership" of the route.  Going back to the 1930s when the big bus companies, like Ribble, Crosville, etc. established themselves, the Carlisle <> Newcastle route was operated by United Automobiles of the north east from their depots in Carlisle and Hexham.  In 1967 BET sold it's bus companies to the BTC.  In Carlisle there were 4 big company bus depots - Cumberland, Ribble, United and Western SMT.  The United depot in Carlisle passed to Ribble so the route is now operated by Ribble (Carlisle depot) and United (Hexham depot).  Bus deregulation in 1986 saw the Ribble Carlisle depot pass to Cumberland Motor Services so the route is now operated by Cumberland (Carlisle depot) and United (Hexham depot).  Privatisation follows.  Cumberland becomes part of Stagecoach North West and then Stagecoach Cumberland and North Lancashire.  United (Northumberland area) becomes Northumberland then Cowie and then Arriva North East.  In March 2010, Arriva takeover Go North East's Ashington depot exchanging Hexham depot but Go North East are not interested joint routes so the 685 moves to Arriva Newcastle (Jesmond) depot.  Hence 2 operators.  And then Go North East create more competition between Hexham and Newcastle along the A69 corridor by starting up their own Tynedale Express, X84 Hexham <> Newcastle X84 (via Wylam and Ovington) and X85 Newbrough <> Hexham <> Newcastle offering a combined half hourly frequency between Hexham and Newcastle.  So 3 buses per hour on the A69 corridor for passengers to choose from.

My photos:

Arriva 685 double decker Brampton Sands on April 4th 2017.

Arriva single decker operating the Cross Pennine 685 Carlisle (depart 15.15) to Newcastle at Brampton Sands eastbound.
7493 LF02PRZ Volvo B7TL Wright Gemini.

Recently introduced double decker round trip school days only.

Cross Pennine route 685 Carlisle - Newcastle trio

Some photos from Carlisle Bus Group

Stagecoach 52626 (S796KRM) Hexham 685


Arriva 1204 (R294KRG) Hexham 685


Arriva E400 7509 (NK57GXB) Carlisle Bus Station 685


Many thanks to Trevor for an interesting and comprehensive article.