Monday, 31 July 2017

Hounslow Hybrids

Route 120 has been a route that's linked Hounslow and Heston with Southall and Northolt. As it links two major regional town centres of Hounslow and Southall, it is indeed a very busy route. Plagued with traffic problems, the 120 has always been a hard route to run. No matter the operator, gaps in the service and curtailments have been the norm for years simply due to the unpredictable flow of Southall and Northolt traffic. However, for the most part, previous operator London United have done well to run the 120.

Towards the end of United's rein on the route, the 120 saw an ever increasing number of Trident TAs and TLAs appear on the route. TA235 departs Northolt for Hounslow, Bus Station. 21/04/17
© Tommy Cooling
The 120 has been run by London United since privatisation, with new buses ordered for contract renewals in 1993, 2000 and 2012. However, under tendering, this busy route has changed hands to Metroline. 

ADE40418 arrives at Northolt at the end of the route. ADEs and SPs were the main staple diet for the 120 being replaced by the new Volvo Wrightbus hybrids. 10/05/17
© Tommy Cooling
Metroline run the route from Perivale West, with driver changeovers at Northolt Station. As the drivers only have to travel a few stops on the Central Line, changeovers are easy to deal with at this end. However, this is not as easy as the garage terminus changeover point of Hounslow Garage when London United ran the route.

The new kit for the 120, readied into service for the past month on other West Perivale routes in preparation for Metroline's take over of the 120. VWH2270 blinded for the 120 whilst on the 90. 31/05/17
© Tommy Cooling
Metroline's new Volvo B5LH/Wright Eclipse Gemini 3s for the 120 are part of a larger set of buses ordered for various contract renewals, route gains (like the 120), and updating the fleet for the 7. In theory, this would cascade buses to the 4 and 17 for their hybrid conversions. The hybrids will surely reduce costs and diesel fuel burn during the lengthy amount of time they will be stuck in Southall traffic over the course of the contract.

VWH2278 on the first day of Metroline operation of Route 120 in Northolt. 24/06/17
© Tommy Cooling
The first day of the 120 proved to be quite testing. It was very near to Eid, a religious festival. This meant that, along with roadworks, Southall became a hotspot for traffic, rendering the 120 very difficult to say the least. The large gaps were extensive enough to be as far as Southall-Hounslow, due to the sheer volume of traffic the route was facing. 

Metroline VWH2280 on Route 120, Heston
VWH2280 struggling with a large amount of passengers at Heston. 24/06/17
© Aubrey Morandarte

Subsequent days found the 120 to be fairly testing and overcrowding in peaks still being a very notable issue. Operations are settling well. Diesel B9TLs have already strayed onto the route, but they are very few and far between.

Metroline VWH2271 on Route 120, Hounslow Treaty Centre

VWH2271 seen loading passengers after a downpour at Hounslow, Treaty Centre. 24/06/17
© Aubrey Morandarte

Overall, the 120 will be fairly interesting, with garage dead runs having to deal with possible A40 traffic if running to Northolt. With the unpredictable nature of Southall traffic, as well as the route being known for being very busy during the daytime, it'll be interesting how Metroline will cope with this difficult route to operate.

Photos and text by: Au & TC

Sunday, 30 July 2017

The 266 moves yet again

After an absence of five years, route 266 has returned back to Metroline, and its operating home at Cricklewood. The 266 is a route that has never really stood still, having changed operating garages eight times since the 1980s.

Route 266 was introduced in 1962 as a replacement for Trolleybus route 666 and was allocated to Cricklewood (W) and Stonebridge Park (SE) garages. In 1972 , the route was allocated over four garages, Cricklewood, Riverside (R), Stonebridge Park and Willesden (AC). R and W operated the Mon-Sat service leaving SE and AC to cover the Sunday.

The route was solely allocated to Cricklewood following the closure of Stonebridge Park, and the removal of the Riverside and Willesden allocations by 1982. The allocations of the route was then shared between Cricklewood and Willesden for most of the time until 2000 before the route was moved in to Harlesden (HR) garage, before it came back to Cricklewood in 2005 when the low-floor Tridents (TAs) were introduced onto the route.

The route was lost through tendering to First London back in 2012, which then became Tower Transit in 2013. The route was based at their Atlas Road (AS) site throughout, however at the very end of its stint, the route was moved into Westbourne Park (X) for the last two weeks of the service to facilitate the closure of Atlas Road for Crossrail works.


Metroline won the route back in July 2017 on a short two year contract to allow TfL to restructure the route for the opening of the Crossrail Elizabeth Line. The route has been allocated back to Cricklewood again and uses TEs in the 700 series from Edgware (EW).
In 2019, the route is expected to be cut back to Acton High Street from Hammersmith, but the 24 hour night service would continue through to Hammersmith and renumbered N266.

VN37983 approaches Cricklewood Bus Garage heading towards Brent Cross 22/05/17
The VN class vehicle were new to the route following First London's acquisition of the 266 in 2012.
© Tommy Cooling

VH38136 approaches Cricklewood Bus Garage heading towards Brent Cross 22/05/17
© Tommy Cooling

In the run up to Metroline taking the route back, preparations were going on afoot behind the scene.
Existing smartblinded TEs that had transferred into Cricklewood from Potters Bar (TE1073-1092) that released hybrids for the 113 at Edgware, were given full route 266 inserts added onto the bottom of the existing smartblind sets. 30-odd E400 TEs from Edgware (TE712-830) were also in the process of transferring down to Cricklewood as well. Upon arrival at Cricklewood they received a brand new manual blind set ready for the 266.

TE1089 parked in Cricklewood garage having had route 266 inserts added 17/07/17
© Tommy Cooling

TE732 parked in Cricklewood garage having been fitted with new blinds for route 266 19/07/17
© Tommy Cooling

The first day of Metroline operation of route 266 saw a number of ex. Edgware (TE712-830) and ex. Potters Bar (TE1073-1092) E400s. A TfL issue meant that the Tower Transit schedules were still in their system so Metroline 266s were not properly showing on bus countdown screens.

TE828 passes Cricklewood garage on the first day on route 266 29/07/17
Don't be fooled by the incorrectly set side blind!
© Tommy Cooling

TE1083 passes Cricklewood garage on the first day on route 266 29/07/17
© Tommy Cooling

TE720 calls at Willesden Green station on the first day on route 266 29/07/17
© Tommy Cooling


TA642 turns into Cricklewood Broadway on the first day on route 266 29/07/17
© Tommy Cooling


Post by Tommy Cooling
All these images and more can be found on my Flickr page:
Please do not reproduce any of my images without permission

Route 382 to Metroline

On Saturday 15th July 2017, Arriva London lost route 382 to Metroline. The route runs from Millbrook Park in Mill Hill East to Southgate Station.
The change in operator also saw the welcome of two door buses onto the route, with Metroline's DEM class of 9.6m Enviro 200s, replacing Arriva London's EN class of 8.9m E200s.

EN1 picks up in Milbrook Park 26/05/17
© Tommy Cooling

EN4 arrives at Milbrook Park 26/05/17
© Tommy Cooling

Route 382 was able to be operated with the existing class of DEM E200 vehicles with most made spare by a frequency reduction on route 384. The cover the total requirement, three DEMs from Alperton made the transfer to Potters Bar outside the M25, and DEM1916 is one of them.

DEM1916 blinded for route 382 prior to the take over the following weekend 13/07/17
© Tommy Cooling

DEM1339 passes Mill Hill East station heading towards Southgate Station 29/07/17
© Tommy Cooling

DEM1356 enters Milbrook Park in Mill Hill East 29/07/17
© Tommy Cooling


Post by Tommy Cooling
All these images and more can be found on my Flickr page:
Please do not reproduce any of my images without permission