Excels to Ship to New Zealand!
All 20 of Reading's redundant Optare Excels have been purchased by Ritchies Transport Holdings of Swanson, Auckland, New Zealand. Ritchies are the largest independent bus and coach operator in New Zealand with over 450 vehicles in their fleet. The Excels are to operate on contracted routes in Auckland. Ritchies and another New Zealand operator may take 10-20 more in early 2006.
The vehicles will be shipped from Southampton in the next few weeks. The first two will go from Berth 35 Eastern Dock using the Norwegian "roll on roll off" shipping line Wallenius Wilhelmsen. A photo of one of their ships can be found at the following link. If anyone is able to get a photo of the Excels actually at the docks or being loaded up, that would be fabulous! Work has already started at GKS to prepare the first ones for shipping, although expected departure dates are not yet known.
The first of the Excels will start to leave for Southampton on 8/9th March. The first 12 will now travel on the ship Tampa, and the last 8 on the ship Taronga.
11-02-05 (improved 17-02-05)
The new Solars for routes 4, 5 and 6 are nearing completion at the Wrightbus factory in Ballymena. I was pleased to receive this photo of one of the buses taken in the factory this week.
1004, still awaiting its vinyls.
Return of the Metros
MCW Metrobus 193 and Optare MetroRider 624 have returned to the fleet after spending a period of time in reserve. There are several reasons why both of these vehicles are notable.
193 has become well known over the last three years after being repainted to celebrate the company's centenary in 2001. New in 1982 for Goldline's flagship service X1 to London, 193 is now the oldest vehicle in the Reading Transport fleet. After a few years running to and from London it was moved into the town fleet where it has stayed ever since. 193 was the first Metrobus to have its centre doors removed as a trial for completing the work across the rest of the fleet. As such it was the only Metrobus to have the door replaced with a window, and the central bulkheads removed so that extra seats could be fitted - only the Thames Valley Park / Goldline Titans 68 and 69 received similar treatment. 193 was put into reserve at the start of November 2004 upon the arrival of the new Scania OmniDekkas for service 17, whilst all of the other displaced Metrobuses and Leyland Titans were withdrawn and sold. Now with more fleet changes and a new rally season on the way, it has been reinstated.
193 on football shuttles on Saturday 5th.
624 was the last Mk2 MetroRider to be purchased by Reading Transport, arriving in May 1996. It was allocated to Newbury, and along with slightly older 614 was fitted with a special engine to run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). During 2000 the duo started to fall out of use in Newbury and were brought to Reading for conversion to run on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). They re-entered service in February 2001, this time based in Reading. They started to fall out of use again, with 624 the last to be withdrawn in around October 2003. Having been advertised for sale with little response, 624 was sent away for conversion to diesel in September 2004, returning in October 2004 and finally re-entering service in Reading at the start February 2005, nearly a year and a half since it was last seen in service.
624 at Reading Station today, having lost its LNG lettering.
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