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March 2005

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Wright Solars Launched


Today saw the official community launch of the new Scania L94UB / Wright Solars for routes 4, 5 and 6 outside the Oracle in Broad Street. A number of officials were on hand to answer questions and distribute timetables.

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1001 in Broad Street today.

The new timetables devote a significant amount of space to the second part of the new real-time system, where real time departure information available by mobile phone. Users send a code number for their desired stop to the system, and it sends back the next three buses due to depart. There is the option to limit the response to a certain route number, or all services that serve the stop.

Also available on the bus were the various freebies distributed for the route 17 launch. This included route 17 branded bags, notepads, pens, key rings and a mouse mat with the core network map. At the time of the route 17 launch there was also a cut out card model of a branded OmniDekka, however today they had cut out card models of a branded Solar instead!

Meanwhile 20 Optare Excels have now departed for New Zealand, and Scania OmniCity demonstrator YN54 OBA, numbered 1000, is on loan until the 8 remaining Solars enter service in June.

1000 on 21 March 2005 (37040 bytes)

1000 on route 20 today. The livery was drawing a lot of attention from passers by.

A Hot Story - the February Fire


Nearly a month on, the fire on Broad Street / Oxford Road which gutted the Rosebys and Ethel Austin shops is still having a minor effect on bus services in Reading.

It all started at around 4pm on 11th February when a fire broke out on the top floor of the historic shopping block which was once McIlroys. The fire broke out on the top floor where builders were turning former offices into flats, but soon took hold in the Rosebys and Ethel Austin stores, which were completely destroyed by the blaze.

Several roads were closed off to allow access for the fire crews. There were cordons along the top of West Street, closing Cheapside, the top of Grey Friars Road and Friar Street to traffic. Another was placed at the ramp in St.Marys Butts, closing that area to traffic and a final one on Oxford Road before the junction with Cheapside. Pedestrians were kept clear by another cordon on Broad Street.

Fire Crews on 11 February 2005 (68620 bytes)

The scene from behind the cordon at St. Marys Butts at 1815. Hoses were trailed from hydrants as far away as Castle Street. Apparently twelve crews were in attendance.

Buses were diverting as best they could, although timetables were severely disrupted. Traffic outside the town centre wasn't too bad as the closed roads were mainly only open to buses anyway. It wasn't entirely clear what diversionary routes were being taken, with Bridge Street, Chatham Street, Russell Street, the Forbury and other roads being used to access the IDR and navigate around the problem. Drivers of routes from out of town were obviously subject to particular confusion, with local drivers helping out as best they could.

Fire Smoke on 11 February 2005 (17468 bytes)

The smoke was visible from the IDR (between Oxford Road and Castle Hill) at 1820. There was also an orange glow in the sky that could be seen from much further away.

Most of the roads were re-opened by the following day, with only the section of Broad Street / Oxford Road outside the gutted shops still closed. Services from Oxford Road were diverted via Chatham Street, and services to Oxford Road via West Street and Chatham Street. Services from Tilehurst Road were diverted via Castle Street as per their normal outbound route.

Road Closed 12 February 2005 (56683 bytes)

Broad Street / Oxford Road at 1510 on Saturday 12th.

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806 arriving in town from Chatham Street on 12th February.

Monday 14th saw the closure of Chatham Street for demolition work, so it was announced that buses from Oxford Road would use Russell Street and Castle Street to access the town centre, and return via West Street and a U-turn around the Chatham Street roundabout into Cheapside.

Destroyed Shops 12 February 2005 (93280 bytes)

The damage to Ethel Austin and Rosebys. The shops on West Street were able to reopen a couple of hours late on Saturday, whilst the others reopened on Sunday.

Finally on Thursday 17th the last stretch of road was re-opened, and buses could return to their normal routes. However stop CV outside Rosebys remains closed, with buses using stop CU in West Street instead.

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808 in West Street today.

Some of the newspaper articles relating to the incident:

Reading Evening Post 14/02/05
Reading Evening Post 15/02/05
Reading Chronicle 16/02/05

An Excursion into Shipping


It seems that we have several readers that know a thing or two about shipping!

The Wallenius Wilhelmsen website reveals that the Tampa is scheduled to depart Southampton on 11th March and arrive in Auckland, New Zealand on 13th April, calling at Baltimore, Savannah and Brunswick in the USA and Manzanillo in Panama on the way. The Taronga is scheduled to depart on 21st May, but the similarly named Tarago is scheduled for 21st March - which is much nearer the timings that were originally anticipated, but May is much nearer the second batch of Solars. So it remains to be seen when the last 8 will actually depart.

Mac Head wrote the following notes:

The 'Tampa' came to fame on 22nd August 2001 when it was directed by the Australian Canberra Rescue to proceed to a vessel in distress with, so it was said, some 80 persons onboard. In fact it was 438 immigrants attempting to enter Australia illegally. Having taken them on board the Tampa headed for Christmas Island where the Australians, taking a political stand, refused to allow the refugees ashore. It became an international incident with the refugees living in empty containers on board, with concerns for their health etc. On 3rd September the refugees were taken off onto H.M.A.S. Manoora and steamed to Nauru for processing.

Incidentally both vessels (the Tampa and Taronga) can carry between 4,500 and 5,000 cars each so a few Excels should present no space problem!

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