Summer Bus Trials
31-09-15 posted 19-10-15
Over the summer a number of different demonstrators have been tested in Reading to help assess their various features with future purchases and specifications in mind. Now with them all safely returned to their respective owners they can all be compared and contrasted.
102 (BV14 TZY) arrived on 7th July, and was a 32 seat Mercedes Citaro K from Evobus (dealer). After a few days for the engineers to crawl over it, it entered service on route 500 Loddon Bridge Park & Ride on 18th, then saw service on route 28 on 21st July before returning to the 500. It returned to Evobus on approx 16th September.
This bus spent the most time in Reading, but actually was a little out of place on the 500 due to its small capacity. It might have been better on Streetlite routes, but then a heavyweight bus is probably over the top for them.
102 at St Mary's Butts on 29th August 2015.
103 (BP14 FJZ) arrived on approx 7th August, which was a 12m 41 seat Mercedes Citaro from Evobus (dealer) to contrast against the short example. It entered service on route 500 on 12th August. It moved to Newbury on 1st September for assessment on Vodafone duties before returning to Evobus on approx 16th September.
The interior specification has come a long way from the ones used by Oxford Bus Company with split level seats at the rear.
103 hitting the spot crossing Broad Street on 29th August 2015.
104 (YJ64 DWK) arrived on 19th August, and was an Optare Metrocity with 42 seats from Optare (dealer). It went to Newbury on 25th August, before being swapped with 103 on 1st September for a spell in Reading. It was returned to Optare on approx 9th September.
Having operated large Optare fleets in the past, the concept of a light weight integral single decker isn't new to Reading. However, having fallen out of grace in favour of more heavyweight vehicles, the question will be whether the improved fuel economy will be a big enough draw. Optare have a renewed commitment to the UK and local focus.
104 in Minster Street on 3rd September. Thanks to James Cusworth for this photo.
105 (LTZ 1586) arrived on 13th August, which was a brand new Wrightbus New Routemaster (New Bus for London) delivered directly from the Wrightbus factory before delivery to its eventual operator Arriva London North where it would become their LT586. It had 62 seats, two staircases and three doors. It entered service on route 17 on Monday 17th, complete with conductor and handheld smartcard-enabled ticket machine, and departed for London on approx 9th September after running in service for an extra day than planned on Saturday 29th August.
This was probably the most eye catching of all the vehicles tested, and the Siemen's hybrid drive gave a very smooth ride that was certainly quieter than reading's E400s. But for operation outside London it's interior specification is rather impractical with too few seats downstairs, particularly compared to Reading's excellent long E400Hs that are normally used on the Purple 17. One overhead comment summed it up "This bus is all like Harry Potter and stuff".
105 turning at the Three Tuns on 29th August.
The rear styling with 105 approaching West Street on 29th August.
106 (SL15 ZGP) arrived on 24th August, and was due to enter service on 1st September after 105 was scheduled to leave for London. It had 74 seats, a glazed staircase and two glazed roof panels, and also had a ticket machine and cash vault fitted to allow use on the 17. It returned to Wrightbus on approx 16th September.
The highlight of this vehicle is certainly the use of additional glazing to brighten up the interior. However the rest of the styling is quite harsh.
106 in the pouring rain on 31st August 2015. Thanks to James Cusworth for this photo.
The conclusion - wait and see!
The Lion Launches
31-09-15 posted 19-10-15
On 5th August Reading Buses confirmed the new brand for route 90 between Bracknell and Reading would be the Lion. It uses the Leopard colours in reverse arrangement between front and back. The official launch took place on Thursday 27th August with a "Safari" between Bracknell, Wokingham and Reading using buses 214 and 217. The buses were scheduled to be in Bracknell 1000-1100, Wokingham 1130-1230 & Reading 1300-1400 along with various officials, stuffed Lions and Lion bars.
A few weeks later, 214 at St Marys Butts on 26th September 2015.
Nine vehicles (211-7, 1210/11) have been decked out with lion branding, and refurbished with the new Reading Buses seat covering and ‘coffee-shop’ style wood-effect flooring, superfast 4G WiFi and USB charging points for phones and laptops, with a tenth still to be done (209). A new timetable was introduced from 31st August with more weekday evening services between Reading and Wokingham and twice as many buses on Sundays, although the number of journeys through to Bracknell in the early morning and late evening has been reduced slightly to reflect the operation being based in Reading rather than Bracknell. The numbering 4 and X4 follows feedback from customers and drivers who found that having the same number for the different routes in Bracknell was confusing, albeit along a fairly recent innovation by First, from whom Reading took over in July. The X4 goes fast along the main roads and the 4 runs through the Southern estates.
Prior to 31st August and the confirmation of the new brand name several weeks earlier, some of the first buses to be repainted/refurbished ran without Lion lettering to maintain the mystery. They were then all branded in the week prior to 31st August.