Optare Solo -
Reading has currently 24 Optare Solos. Six (102-107) were initially used on route 1, but a few months later the route was made less frequent so that it operated in time with former Reading Mainline Line A. They then appeared on other routes, especially route 4 for a time before Mainline Line A was withdrawn, and they were again needed for service 1 and the 1A. All of the Solos are branded "Solo Rider", as opposed to "LowRider" as applied to the Excels.
Here we see 106 on Broad Street in the first fortnight of operation.
Route 1 was previously operated by Mk2 Optare MetroRiders (615-620) branded with "FastLine" logos to complete with Reading Mainline. But for a while the "FastLine" image had been disappearing and a few months before RTL bought out Reading Mainline the special vinyls were removed from the buses, and the brand was discontinued. Also the route's limited stop nature was changed so that all stops along the route were served.
The first Solo, 101 was purchased for a Town Centre "Hoppa" service numbered 205, which had been operated with a mixture of minibuses and the occasional double decker before 101 arrived. The service seemed rather under-used, and this new high profile, low-floor bus, with special branding made the service more visible and attractive to people, the bus had a slightly different internal specification to the other Solos which was specifically designed for the service. Occasionally 101 would appear on other routes before operating it's Hoppa duties (and once or twice whilst it should have been operating its Hoppa duties!). Even with the improved image of the Hoppa service however patronage was still low, and the route contract was withdrawn by the council from 30th July 2001. 101 consequently had its special branding removed and SoloRider logos applied, although for a short time it operated town routes both with full Hoppa - 'I'm free branding', and later without any lettering at all. Then in November 2002 it received route branding along with its sister 102 for new inner circle routes 14 and 15.
Below is 101 on the Hoppa service in Hoppa livery in January 1999, and without vinyls a week after the Hoppa route was withdrawn in August 2001.
101 is seen below on service 13 at Reading Station on 6th August 2002:
Below is 102, and the back of 101 with Inner Circle service 14/15 branding on 17th December 2002:
Services 14 and 15 were withdrawn at the end of service on 22nd October 2005. 101 and 102 were debranded and used to replace the last two MetroRiders at Reading - 627 and 629.
The fleet number 101 was allocated the company's previous flagship, the first MCW Metropolitan double decker, this type of bus becoming very dominant in the fleet before the Metrobus replaced many of them. Metropolitan 101 was named "Boris" during it's time in the fleet, and later the ex-BeeLine short lived Ford Transit 101 was nick-named "Mini-Boris" and so Solo 101 has been called by some "Borisette!"
107 was moved to Newbury in November 2000 following serve reductions in Reading that made it available, and bus withdrawals in Newbury creating a need for buses there. It carries similar SoloRider branding to the Reading Solos, but in Newbury colours.
Following reductions to Newbury tendered services 6/9 in December 2007, and a short-term requirement for additional vehicles on Vodafone workings pending the arrival of 51/52, 107 eventually returned to Reading in mid April 2008 to operate new route 40 between Reading and Kennet Island. It went away for refurbishment and repaint into a white based livery branded for the route, returning in late May and entering service on 3rd June. It is seen below on 7th June 2008:
Following the loss of routes 126-9 between Reading and Wokingham in October 2008, 104 and 105 were withdrawn in December 2008. 105 was sold to Central Buses, Birmingham and 104 to Clarke's. From there 105 was sold to Blue Iris, Nailsea on 15th February 2010, followed by Crosville Motor Services, Western-super-Mare on 1st April 2012, and 104 returned to leasing company Santander in April 2011 before being advertised on ebay in October and November 2011 by Volant PVS, Aldridge (dealer) and was eventually sold to Ripley, Carlton (dealer) for scrap by October 2012.
Following the loss of routes 101, 104 and 105 in Newbury at the end of December 2008, 101/2 were withdrawn and sold in January 2009, with 101 going to Silverline, Solihull where it was in service by 26th, and 102 to Choice Travel, Stoke-on-Trent. 103/6 were sold to Premiere Travel, Nottingham in February 2009 (and collected in March 2009) where 103 was reregistered LUI 6233 and 106 LUI 8478. 107 was sold to North Somerset Coaches, Nailsea in April 2009, but leaving Reading on 21st May 2009. From there it was sold to Silverline, Solihull in September 2010.
Solos 108-11 were originally allocated to Newbury. 108 carried Newbury SoloRider branding, but was unique in having a green stripe above it's windows and was purchased with help from West Berkshire Council to operate routes N4/N5 (later numbered 4/5) to Greenham. 108 arrived during the summer of 1999, and can be seen below at Newbury Bus Station in October of that year and a few years later on 22nd July 2002:
Following the loss of routes 126-9 between Reading and Wokingham in October 2008 108 was withdrawn in December 2008 and sold to Clarke's. In the interim it was used to cover an increased requirement on Vodafone services pending the arrival of Scania 1037.
109-15 all arrived in January 2000. 109-11 were for contract services for Vodafone, and replaced 3 Optare MetroRider Mk 4s that were hired from Optare until the Solos arrived (However in January 2000 the MetroRiders were purchased for normal operations in Newbury). They carry special burgundy Newbury Buses logos and have Vodafone lettering in red on the bottom of the side windows at the rear. Below is 111 in September 2000 and the burgundy Newbury Buses logo.
111 was replaced in April 2003 by a Transbus Enviro 300, and moved onto town work. 110 followed in March 2004 when Vodafone route CPC came to an end following the closure of their Pear Tree House (Castle Park) site.
Following the loss of routes 101, 104 and 105 at the end of December 2008, 109 and 111 were put into storage at Reading. 111 was repainted into Reading Buses generic silver livery in March 2009, re-entering service on around 27th. 109 was repainted into white Kennet Island livery in April 2009 to replace 107. 111 is seen below on 28th March 2009:
111 received branding for South Caversham routes 27/29 and "£1 Shuttle" lettering in January 2010. It is seen below on 23rd January 2010:
Following the combination of the Kennet Island service into the Green Park FastTrack services in October 2010, 109 was repainted into quality travel generic silver livery at Hants & Dorset Trim, Eastleigh, where it was noted looking ready to depart on 5th November 2010.
Following the loss of Newbury routes 4 and 13 from 4th January 2011, 110 was withdrawn. It saw occasional use until sometime in February 2011, and was sold to Chalkwell, Sittingbourne, departing on 22nd March 2011.
112-15 were allocated from new to Reading Buses. They arrived in January 2000 to enable the company to double the frequency of route 1, introducing the 1A from February to replace Reading Mainline line A, along with the Routemasters that operated it. The 1 and A routes were slightly different, hence suffix letters were used in Reading for the first time since the 1980s. The vehicles also strayed onto other routes from time to time, as well as operating contracted route 42. Routes 1 and 1A were withdrawn in March 2002 so the Solos now appear on all minibus routes. Below is 115 in January 2000 in the Great Knollys street depot.
Following the withdrawal of route 111 from Reading to Spencers Wood / Riseley from 13th July 2009, 112 was advertised for sale and sold to Countrybus (Alansway Coaches), Devon in September 2009. It left Countrybus in September 2013.
A cascade of vehicles following service changes in September 2009 saw 113 sold to Countrybus (Alanways Coaches) in October 2009 and 114 sold to Heyfordian Travel also in October 2009 where it was reregistered 2779 UE in January 2011.
115 was repainted into plain maroon and cream with red Reading Buses logos during July 2009, and had returned to service by 3rd August when pictured below:
109, 111 and 115 were withdrawn following the entry into service of Wright Streetlites 151-6 in April 2012 and sold to Weavaway Travel. From there 109 passed to Whites, Culham and 111/15 to Plaxton, Anston (dealer) in August 2013 and Logan, Northern Ireland soon after.
116-21 were all new to Newbury. 116-7 carried the same livery as 109-11 for Vodafone contracts and arrived in April 2000 to operate new contracts that started the same month. 118 also carried burgundy Newbury Buses logos but was acquired to operate Newbury service 146 under contract to West Berkshire Council. 119 carried standard green Newbury Buses logos, but with Vodafone lettering at the rear for use on Vodafone contracts. It arrived in late June 2000, and hung around the Reading depot for a few weeks before entering service. It is seen below at Newbury Bus Station in September 2000.
116/7/9 transferred to the Newbury town fleet in April 2003 when larger Transbus Enviro 300s took over from them on Vodafone work. 119 was withdrawn in March 2004 when Vodafone route CPC came to an end following the closure of their Pear Tree House (Castle Park) site, 110 replacing it in the town fleet because 119 was a leased vehicle. It was then passed to A D, Witherbridge (dealer).
A cascade of vehicles following service changes in September 2009 saw 118 sold to Heyfordian Travel in October 2009 and 116/20 to Premiere Travel, Nottingham departing on 29th. 118 was reregistered 2185 NU in March 2010. At Premiere, 116 was reregistered B15 PTL by August 2011. Following the loss of Newbury routes 4 and 13 from 4th January 2011, 117 was withdrawn. It saw occasional use until sometime in February 2011, and was sold to Chalkwell, Sittingbourne, departing on 22nd March 2011.
120-1 arrived in June 2001 and waited some time in the Reading depot before entering service in Newbury in August 2001. They had standard green Newbury logos with Vodafone lettering, and special fold out wheelchair ramps. They were purchased to operate two new Vodafone services, HUG and TH3 which for a short time until 1st October 2001 were also available to the fare paying public. 120 is seen below laying over at Newbury Bus Station after the morning peak Vodafone park and ride service on 22nd July 2002. It will wait here until going back into service for the afternoon peak:
Below is 121 at Newbury Bus Station preparing to depart on service HUG in August 2001, showing the interesting way HUG is shown on the digital numeral displays, and that whilst these services were open to the public the usual white Vodafone blinds were not used. Dot matrix displays are fitted on the side and rear and both show the route number/letters:
The pair moved to ordinary Newbury town services from 23rd October 2006 following replacement by Scania OmniCitys 6-12. 121 was then involved with a couple of serious accidents, leading it to being renumbered 126 following return from repairs in March 2008. It is seen below in Market Street on 20th March 2008:
126's run of bad luck continued when it was badly damaged by a fire on 17th August 2010, leading to its final withdrawal. It was sold to A1 Dismantlers, Arborfield for scrap in January 2011.
122-4 were delivered for the Newbury fleet during the beginning of April 2002 to enable tendered Didcot services 6 and 9 to be fully low floor operated. They were Reading Transport's first Solos to be equipped with Bright-Tech "Light-Tech" high visibility LED displays, similar to the ones used on the low floor Spectras. Below 124 is seen in the Great Knollys Street depot on 17th April 2002 before transfer to Newbury:
Following reductions to Newbury tendered services 6/9 in December 2007, and a short-term requirement for additional vehicles on Vodafone workings pending the arrival of 51/52, 122 transferred to Reading in mid May 2008 to operate route 142 between Reading, Pangbourne and Checkendon which commenced on 2nd June 2008. It entered service on the route on 10th June following repaint into Goldline livery. Below it is seen in Cheapside on 14th June 2008:
122 was withdrawn in March 2012 following the entry into service of Wright Streetlite 156, and sold to Weavaway Travel.
Following a fleet reshuffle in September/October 2009, 123 transferred from Newbury to Reading. It was repainted from Newbury Buses green livery into Reading maroon/cream at Newbury depot prior to transfer, re-entering service by 24th November 2009. It was replaced at Newbury by Dennis Dart SLF 609.
124 transferred from Newbury to Reading in January 2010 to cover an increased requirement for minibuses. It was repainted from Newbury Buses green livery into Reading maroon/cream, re-entering service on 18th January 2010. It is seen below on 23rd January 2010:
123 was repainted into lime green livery in June 2012, followed by 124 in July 2012. 124 was the last vehicle in the fleet to wear cream and maroon. 123 is seen below at Great Knollys Street depot on 1st July 2012:
Both were then withdrawn in October 2012 once the Wright Streetlites had settled in, with 123 sold to Walsall Community Transport on 16th October 2012 and 124 to the same location in November 2012.
125 arrived in June 2002, also allocated to Newbury it wore a special livery for a free service to New Greenham Park. It is seen below on 22nd July 2002:
Following the loss of route 3 at the end of December 2008 125 lost its branding for Greenham Park and went into reserve at Reading, being used for a few days to help assess the suitability of longer examples on Reading services. It returned to Newbury by 7th April 2009 following repaint and refurbishment, and is seen below in Reading on 20th of that month:
125 was withdrawn on 27th August 2011 following the withdrawal from ordinary local bus operations from Newbury depot that day and moved to Reading pending sale. It returned to Newbury on 17/18th September 2011 to help run a park & ride service at the Newbury Show, and by 2nd November 2011 it went on loan to Weavaway to provide cover for one of their vehicles that had been accident damaged. The loan was then made permanent in December 2011 pending its sale to Weavaway on 16th January 2012.
In October 2004 a program was initiated to replace the Bright-Tech Power Blind / calculator destination displays that were originally fitted to the Solos (apart from those dedicated to Vodafone work. They have been replaced with Hanover LED units, which have the capacity to scroll information along them. The following is a summary of the conversions:
- 101 - Power Blinds since new, still present
- 102 - Hanover LED by 13th October 2008 (but after 26th August)
- 103 - Power Blinds since new, still present
- 104 - Power Blinds since new and until withdrawal
- 105 - Hanover LED by 24th June 2008
- 106 - Hanover LED by 19th November 2004
- 107 - Hanover LED during October 2004
- 108 - Hanover LED during October 2004
- 109 - Hanover LED during October 2004
- 110 - Hanover LED during October 2004
- 111 - Hanover LED during October 2004
- 112 - Hanover LED by 27th November 2004
- 113 - Hanover LED by 20th November 2004
- 114 - Hanover LED by 23rd November 2004
- 115 - Hanover LED by 1st December 2004
- 116 - Hanover LED during October 2004
- 117 - Hanover LED during October 2004
- 118 - Hanover LED during October 2004
- 119 - Power Blinds since new and until withdrawal
- 120 - Hanover LED during October 2004
- 121 - Hanover LED during October (?) 2004
- 122 - Bright-Tech LED since new
- 123 - Bright-Tech LED since new
- 124 - Bright-Tech LED since new
- 125 - Bright-Tech LED since new
During the second half of 2006 a new cream and green Newbury Buses livery was launched. Dates back into service following repaints were as follows:
- 109 - 25th September 2006
- 120 - by 13th May 2007
- 123 - 27th October 2006
- 124 - by 14th March 2007
Another revised livery was introduced during 2007 of British racing green and silver. All apart from 110 were also given an interior refurbishment at the time of repaint. Dates back into service following repaints into this livery were as follows:
- 110 - 19th December 2007
- 117 - approx 30th January 2008
- 121 (later 126) - by 8th October 2007
- 125 - by 7th April 2009
From time to time vehicles have been loaned from Reading to Newbury to help out when vehicles are off the road:
- 101 went from 31st January 2006 to 1st February 2006 to cover for 116
- 101 went from unknown to 18th February 2008, or possibly just the one day
- 104 went from 18th July 2005 to 1st August 2005 to cover for 116
- 112 went for a period in early November 2005
114 went for a period between August 2008 and 20th September 2008 126 went from Newbury to Reading from approx 27th February 2010 until around 2nd March 2010
YJ59 GGO was used on demonstration from 23rd December 2010 until 10th January 2011 as part of an evaluation of various types of midibus vehicle that were available at the time. It spent December in service at Newbury, and 4th-9th January in Reading on route 142. It is seen below at Newbury depot on 1st January 2011. Thanks to Brian Coney for these photos:
101 is seen below in operation with Silverline in Solihull on 28th February 2009. Thanks to Ben Morroll for this photo:
102 is seen below in operation with Choice Travel in Birmingham City Centre on 6th March 2009. Thanks to Ben Morroll for this photo:
104 is seen below with Clarkes of Tredegar operating local town services on 30th August 2010. Thanks to David Smith for this photo:
105 is seen below in operation with Central Buses in Chelmsley Wood on 14th March 2009. Thanks to Ben Morroll for this photo:
105 is seen again on it's second day in service with Blue Iris, Nailsea on 7th April 2010. Thanks to David Smith for this photo:
105 is seen below with Crosville in Western-super-Mare on 19th July 2012. Thanks to David Smith for this photo:
106 is seen below with Premiere in Nottingham on 27th August 2011. Thanks to Andrew McKinnon for this photo:
107 is seen below fresh out of the paintshop on 2nd July 2009 in North Somerset Coaches livery. Thanks to David Fricker for this photo:
108 is seen below with Clarkes of Tredegar in Rhymney on 15th July 2010. Thanks to Andrew McKinnon for this photo:
112 is seen below with Alansway Coaches (Country Bus) in Newton Abbot on 24th May 2010. Thanks to David Smith for this photo:
113 is seen below with Alansway Coaches (Country Bus) in Totnes on 19th February 2011. Thanks to Andrew McKinnon for this photo:
114 is seen below in Speedwell Street, Oxford City Centre on 16th August 2010 with Heyfordian Travel:
117 is seen below in Medway on 26th July 2012 with Chalkwell. Thanks to Nick Morton for this photo:
118 is seen below in St Aldates, Oxford City Centre on 28th April 2010 with Heyfordian Travel:
118 is seen below in Newbury operating former Newbury Buses route 13 on 8th February 2011, now in fleet livery:
124 is seen below with Thames Travel in Reading on 11th June 2013 having recently been acquired from Weavaway. Thanks to James Cusworth for this photo:
On 17 February 2016 a natural gas powered Optare Solo YM55 SVJ arrived at Reading on loan from Stagecoach in Lincolnshire for evaluation to see if smaller gas buses are suitable for some of the quieter routes, and possibly for pioneering routes into some of the new housing areas coming on stream over the next few years. It spend one day shadowing other single deckers in service prior to being stored. The bus has considerably less gas storage than Reading’s existing gas buses 401-34.
The vehicle was then acquired in March 2016, followed by similar FX04 WFR/V, YK05 CBV, YM55 SVK/L in June 2016 at which point they were allocated fleet numbers 181-6. 183 and 186 went directly for repaint and refurbishment at Bus & Coach World, Blackburn prior to entering service.
186 was the first to return on 22 August 2016. When first received from refurbishment and repaint, fleet number 181 was applied to 186, but this was quickly changed to 186 before entry into service. It was seen on driver training duties on 29th September 2016 and in service on 30th.
183 was seen complete leaving Blackburn on 22 August 2016, and was in Reading by 2 October. It entered service on 18 October and was reregistered RG05 BUS in November 2016.
181 (FX04 WFR) was delivered in as acquired condition by low loader on 7th August 2016, joining 184 (YM55 SVJ). It is being used for spares and is not expected to enter service.
184 was used sporadically on training duties whilst still in green Stagecoach livery, first noted on 30 September 2016, and continuing through to July 2017. It went away for refurbishment and repaint into generic silver in August 2017, entering service on 7th November having been reregistered RG53 BUS.
182/5 were put into store at Blackburn. 185 was then prepared for service in July 2017 in generic silver, followed by 182 in August 2017 in Greenwave livery for route 63. 182 was reregistered RG04 BUS prior to entering service by 8th September and 185 RG54 BUS just after entering service on 2nd August 2017.
Optare Solo SR
Four new Solo SRs were ordered following the renewal of the Vodafone contract in Newbury in 2016, and allocated numbers 191-4. They are model number M9250SR with 29 seats, and were delivered just before the end of 2016.
A further four second hand examples 195-8 were acquired in January 2018 from Dawson Rentals for a new operation in Slough branded Thames Valley, having previously been in use with Courtney Buses. They arrived in Reading on 11 January and had the branding applied on 13th.
194 went on loan to Reading from 24th July 2017 until approx 1st August to provide cover on newly amended minibus routes pending the arrival of 185.
Last updated: 21-01-18
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