"There Goes the LowRider"
Today is likely to have been the final day for Mk1 Optare Excels in Reading - the vehicle which was instrumental in Reading's first moves towards a fully low floor fleet. A total of 60 Mk1 Excels have served Reading's streets in the short time since the first ten entered service in February 1997. Only three were in service on what was a fairly quiet occasion today - 926, 928 and 930 were joined Wright Solar 1029 on route 18/19.
928 at Reading Station today.
The first batch of 10 entered service on routes 15, 16, 18 and 32. The 15/16 ran from the Station to Northumberland Avenue, the 15 via Basingstoke Road and Buckland Avenue and the 16 via the present day route 5. The 18 and 32 ran between Calcot (Savacentre) and King's Meadow (Tesco), the 18 via the present route (Calcot to Station, then via the present route 19 to Tesco), and the 32 via Overdown Road. It is therefore notable that one of the final routes that they have been in service on is the 18, which in its present form extends to Lower Early where it interworks with route 19 from Lower Earley to Tesco.
926 reversing onto the stand at the Station today.
Thanks to their branding, the vehicles were better known to locals as LowRiders. Popular with mums with buggies, when new they were also ideal for the operational requirements of the company. As integral vehicles they are light weight and were therefore relatively cheap to operate. However, they mainly replaced MCW Metrobuses and worked very hard in their early years, particularly when the later batches allowed full or partial conversions of routes like the 25 and 31/33. Replacement with more heavy duty vehicles has therefore become a priority, and now 36 Wright Solars and various low floor double deckers operate in their place. The arrival of the ethanol powered Scania OmniCity double deckers for route 17 has allowed these final withdrawals as the cascaded vehicles convert more routes to double deck.
The last Excel to return to the depot was 930 which operated the 1907 18 from Toseland Way to Reading Station.
930 at Toseland Way preparing for it's final journey of the day. With the exception of certain morning and evening journeys like this, most continue to ASDA.
Reading Transport Open Day
Today Reading Transport held the first ever open day at their Great Knollys Street depot to celebrate 10 years since the site was opened. The day was opened by the Deputy Mayor at 1100 with tours of the facilities, rides through the bus wash, a safety bus, colouring competition, cake stall, transport sales stalls, driver recruitment information, service information, and vehicle displays. A free shuttle bus ran every 20 minutes to/from Great Knollys Street via the Station and Town Centre loop using a mixture of guest vehicles, whilst all proceeds from the day went to MacMillan Cancer Support.
Part of the line up of Premier buses at Great Knollys Street.
726 ran the rides through the bus wash from a temporary bus stop in the yard. Fares were 20p (towards MacMillan Cancer Research).
The day concluded at 1600 with a "cavalcade" of all the different premier buses running a circuit around the town centre.
1112, 1108, 856 and 1018 preparing to depart at the front of the line up.
The buses then lined up along Great Knollys Street to queue for the traffic lights. Right at the very front 1005 leads the vehicles as listed below, back to 828.
Preserved vehicles 3, 333, JRX 823, 52 and 76 make their way around the town centre loop via St Marys Butts.
76 descending Greyfriars Road, with a rather suitable destination blind.
The line up was as follows:
Followed by preserved vehicles:
Thanks are to be extended to Reading Buses for opening their premises for the event, which appeared to be very successful with a good and varied crowd of people present.
Some of the older members of the fleet were parked in the staff car park to create some more space. This photo was difficult to resist.
Reading Mainline Reunion
Following the open day some of the former employees of Reading Mainline held a reunion at the Four Horseshoes pub in Checkendon. Routemasters Nos. 17 and 25 provided transportation, with a short ride round for photos.
No. 25 and No. 17 at Clivedale Road, the terminus of Line C.
Weekend and over night line closures meant that rail replacement vehicles were required for a variety of locations in the Reading and Oxford area this weekend. Stagecoach in Oxfordshire provided two vehicles at short notice for the 2355 Reading to Oxford service on Saturday night along with operators like Hamiltonian, Moretons and Weavaway going to other locations.
Volvo B10M / Plaxton Paladin 20012 at Reading Station with MAN / Alexander ALX300 22053 behind.
BTS Annual Tour
This evening saw the British Trolleybus Society's annual tour of Reading by preserved bus. Leyland Titan 69 and AEC Reliance 52 were selected for the evening, so the first part of the tour was a recreation of the Berkshire College of Agriculture contract which 68 and 69, and later 78 and 79 operated between them for several years.
69 is currently in base Goldline livery as worn during its final years with Reading, pending the application of vinyls.
After pausing for several photographs, the buses headed out to Maidenhead, Slough, Windsor and Windsor Great Park before returning to Reading.