West Berkshire Tendering leads to new look for Newbury Buses
Following re-tendering of the Newbury Town network, West Berkshire Council have confirmed that Reading Transport will take over operation of the following routes from Weavaway Travel / Newbury & District from 5 September:
Many of the timetables are amended because of budget reductions, meaning reduced frequencies in some cases. Others are being replaced by a West Berkshire Council operated minibus service, including the section of the 101 between Thatcham and Tilehurst which becomes the 41, and the 104 which becomes the 44. Weavaway / Newbury & District will continue to run route 9/9A/9B/9C to the Newbury Racecourse development.
The new operation will be branded ‘Kennections’ using a red and green based livery created by Best Impressions with blue waves. The brand has been inspired by a modern take on the history of buses in Newbury dating back to Alder Valley’s ‘Kennet Bus’ brand (red buses), the green Newbury Buses colour band and blue for the river Kennet. At least two buses will be repainted ready for launch, and work is underway to install a new bus wash and fuel pump at Newbury depot, and further refurbishment of the depot offices is to take place following a staff room refresh earlier this year.
The operation will require 7 vehicles, and be made up of Wright Streetlites cascaded from Reading and two second-hand Alexander Dennis Enviro 400s. Whilst the vehicles are being prepared three Optare Versas are expected on loan, which will be supported by 521/3 and 1031 from Reading.
In further good news for Newbury Buses, a new five year contract with Vodafone has been secured that will see the entire Vodafone fleet replaced. The single deckers will be Scania Irizar i3 vehicles, with Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 MMCs for the double deckers and Optare Solo SRs for the midi buses. Delivery is expected in the next six months, with timetables changing from 5 September including a reduced frequency on Fridays.
Back in the Zone
After an unplanned 7 month break, the site is back providing the latest news and updates from the Reading area. Apologies go to all the regular readers for the gap in service - for some time it has become harder and harder to find the time to keep up everything up to date, and once more than a month had gone by it seemed like a good opportunity to take a break. It wasn't really intended to be quite so long, hence not providing some sort of holding message on the main page. Various issues were behind this, not least moving away from the Reading area in January 2013, but also a new house to maintain, a new part of the Country to explore and a lot of exciting projects at work. In addition, the site is looking increasingly dated and could be a lot easier to maintain and update.
The good news is that the commitment and enthusiasm is still there, and the camera hasn't been any less busy. The creative juices aren't flowing enough to come up with a new design just yet, but for the time being the monthly news page and updates pages will become year-by-year to allow for the slightly less frequent but more substantial updates that have really been the norm for the last couple of years now.
530 on 3 July 2016 with special Bus Zone destination displays.
Here is a quick catch-up on some of the things we've missed....
November 2016 - Reading Buses won the title of UK Bus Operator of the Year at the UK Bus Awards for the first time, having been runner up for the previous two years. 758 had special adverts applied to celebrate the success, along with a special photo-shoot where a number of windows were taken out for staff to hang through to highlight the vehicle type's quick change mechanism and all of the people involved with making the company a success.
758 still had the adverts in place on 4 June 2016.
By the end of November, 803/56/10 had all returned from repaint into generic silver with the Reading Buses colour bar across the destination display, and new wording "your usual coloured bus is being serviced today so this is one of our spares" on the sides.
806 at Reading Station on 2 July 2016.
January 2016 - Reading Buses selected CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) as their charity of the year and repainted 1114 into a ColourBus livery for them.
1114 at St Mary's Butts on 4 June 2016.
Following on from the summer vehicle trails, an Optare Metrodecker arrived for a number of weeks loan. It's time was primarily spent on Woodley services 13 and 14 due to the demonstrator's bright orange livery, but it also spent a short period on Vodafone services in Newbury before returning to Optare.
109 at Jackson's Corner on 9 January 2016.
March 2016 - a two-day exhibition on the future of Reading was held in the town centre on 18 and 19 March to garner the ideas and enthusiasm of the people who live, work and play in Reading. The team behind the Reading UK 2050 initiative from Barton Willmore, Reading UK CIC and the University of Reading were on hand along with Reading Buses 759 to talk people through their ideas, and a dedicated social media campaign encouraged and facilitated contributions and feedback from everyone.
759 in Broad Street on 19 March 2016. The vehicle was on Reading Station forecourt the previous day.
April 2016 - Warranty work commences on the recent fleet of Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 MMCs 751-74, and Alexander Dennis supply Enviro 400H demonstrator SN16 OGT on long term loan, and is given fleet number 232 and used as part of the generic fleet. It has a Euro 6 engine compared to the rest of the fleet which are Euro 5.
232 at The Water Tower (Bear Inn) on 23 April 2016.
At the same time work is underway to evaluate replacement battery options for hybrids 201-31 as the batteries come up for their 5 year renewal under a scheme supported by the DfT's Clean Vehicle Technology Fund. 205 has been away at Magtec since March for the installation of a plug-in-electric drivetrain with a sub-1000cc on-board Compressed Natural Gas engine to extend the range of the bus. A second example is having a Vantage Power series-hybrid system fitted, bringing stop-start and selective zero emission running capability.
Wright Streetdeck 106 paid a second visit to Reading ahead of the announcement of an order for six similar vehicles for delivery in September for Woodley routes 13/14.
11 April saw the September 2014 increased frequencies on the Claret 21/21A revert back to their previous levels as passenger numbers had not grown sufficiently to justify the increase. The 21 and 21A each now run every 15 minutes compared to the previous 10 min frequencies. The result of this was that two of the Claret Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 MMCs 756/7 were surplus to requirements, and so went for repaint into a new Royal Blue livery for route 33 where they would be joined by 5 brand new vehicles later in the year. 756 returned from repaint in late May and re-entered service on 30 May, followed by 757 by 20 June.
757 at St Mary's Butts on 2 July 2016.
June 2016 - 4 and 5 June saw Station Road and the top of Blagrave Street closed to allow a crane access to the former Foster Wheeler building to lift in materials associated with the ongoing work to add an additional four storeys to it's height. The flow of traffic was reversed along Friar Street West, with buses returning to their former stops along this section in place of Station Road, albeit in a slightly amended order. Woodley services terminated opposite the Apex Plaza in Forbury Road.
Station Road and Blagrave Street on 4 June 2016.
856 in Friar Street (East) on 4 June 2016.
On 25 June Scania OmniDekka 803 took part in the London Pride event for which it received special adverts, rainbow-coloured window stickers and some rainbow-based graphics. 803 returned to service by 27 June with the window stickers removed but all the other branding still in place. The adverts promote SupportU and the Reading Pride event in September 2016. This continues last years partnership with the Reading-based LGBT support group SupportU to promote LGBT issues and the Reading Gay Pride parade for which 759 carried less elaborate special adverts.
803 on 4 July 2016.
July 2016 - Reading Buses unveiled 1208 freshly repainted in the original Reading Buses livery of cream and burgundy with aquamarine stripe to celebrate 30 years of deregulation of the bus industry, and all of the innovations that have since followed including wheelchair and buggy accessibility, new technologies such as WiFi and USB charging, lower emission engines and trials with alternative fuels, partnership working providing a product rather than a utility and planning for the future as well as the present. It was unveiled to the public at the Reading Buses annual open day on 3 July.
1208 led a cavalcade at the end of the open day on 3 July 2016 with the CEO at the wheel.
The livery has a few modern twists including; the curved ends to the maroon stripe along the top, the maroon triangle at the front below the top deck windows hinting at the current livery, the aquamarine stripe extending round to the front of the vehicle and across the whole of the rear (only Spectras 701-7 had this on the rear when new and the logo was incorporated), the location and font of the fleet numbers and legal lettering, and the obvious WiFi and Solo logos. Technically it ought to have LowRider logos given it's low floor credentials, but overall is a very welcome and unexpected appearance!
It is also a reminder of the era when Great Knollys Street depot was built as the depot has a matching colour scheme with the drain pipes and brickwork.
The opening of IKEA saw routes 15 and 26 extended to the new IKEA store on Pincents Lane in Calcot from 25 July along with summer frequency reductions on a number of routes. As the school holidays commenced just over a week after the store opened on Friday 15 July, a special free shuttle bus ran for the first nine days. The 15 previously terminated at Tilehurst Triangle, and so has restored a regular service up and down Pierces Hill with the routing of the 33A amended to serve Mayfair instead of St Michaels Road in it's place.
A number of buses had IKEA added as an option of the destination blinds early, with 206 accidentally displaying it whilst on diversion on 4 June 2016.
So, not a lot happened.....
1st October 2015 saw the entry into service of newly refurbished "Claret Spritzer" Scania OmniDekkas on route 21A short workings between Central Reading and the University. The buses, which only see use during the University term, have been redesigned in an innovative and creative way in the hope that the unconventional layout and new technology creates a buzz for Reading and the University. From a business point of view it has also allowed more effective and appropriate utilisation of the older and newer vehicles in the fleet.
808 was the first to return from repaint and refurbishment in mid-September and was shown off to students at Reading University Whiteknights Campus at the start of Fresher's week on 21st September, with all four in service by 26th October.
809 at the University on 16 November 2015.
Downstairs the buses have had a retrim into Reading's latest moquette and USB charging points added, along with the now standard free WiFi. Upstairs a much more radical redesign has taken place with the stairs and top deck carpeted, an individual mural on the stairwell and the top deck separated into three zones - study zone, play zone and lounge zone.
The study zone with strap line "all work & no play (or is it the other way around)" at the front features a fixed study lamp, bin and honesty library called the "Spritzer Library", and brown suede effect seats. Four seats in different vinyl styles are set around a table in an area behind the stairs called the "Spritzer pod".
The study zone inside 802 on 16 November 2015.
The game zone with strap line "play to win (it's the only way isn't it?)" in the middle features forward and rear facing seats with tables, covered in a variety of purple based vinyl. Each of the three tables features a different game - every bus having one with a Lego board and a tablet preloaded with games, and a third table with an MB game such as Connect 4 (809) and Operation (802).
Looking from the study zone through the game zone to the lounge zone on 802 on 16 November 2015.
The lounge zone at the back has a wood effect floor with fluorescent green and leopard print vinyl seats in a U shaped arrangement. It also features a Bluetooth jukebox and two wireless charging points for QI inductive mobile phones.
Looking forward from the lounge zone on 809 on 16 November 2015.