Autonomous bus dashboard

Full Size Automated Bus Begins Depot Trials

Stagecoach Manchester tests the world’s first autonomous bus at Sharston depot

For several years, Greater Manchester has been at the forefront of revolutionary developments in passenger transport. Almost 50 years ago, the Chloride battery bus – an all battery powered single decker bus – led to today’s electric vehicles.

Yesterday, as seen on North West Tonight and in the Manchester Evening News, Stagecoach Manchester tested Alexander Dennis’ new creation: an autonomous version of an Enviro200 single decker bus. This was also made possible with custom made software by Fusion Processing.

Continue reading “Full Size Automated Bus Begins Depot Trials”

Ralph Bennett: His Life in the Company of Buses

Our tribute to the man who revolutionised modern bus operation

1001 Leyland Atlantean HVM 901F (Mancunian style, Ralph Bennett, 1968), Manchester City Transport
For many bus enthusiasts and Mancunians of a certain age, Leyland Atlantean 1001 is Ralph Bennett’s best known legacy.

Cast your mind back to 1968: Greater Manchester’s bus network was on the verge of radical change. In a year’s time, the greens and creams of Salford Corporation and SHMD Joint Board, and the reds and creams of Manchester and Stockport corporations’ undertakings would be replaced by SELNEC’s neutral livery. Its 3 million inhabitants would soon receive modern buses in an orange and white livery. Continue reading “Ralph Bennett: His Life in the Company of Buses”

Great Non-GMT Standard Double Deckers: The Not So Perfect Ten

A round-up of some of the greatest non-SELNEC/Greater Manchester Transport double deckers ever to grace the Earth

Regular readers on East of the M60 would be familiar with any of the references to Ralph Bennett (particularly the distinctive Bolton and Manchester Leyland Atlanteans), or the GMT standard double deckers. For this month’s Not So Perfect Ten, we are spreading our wings a little and focusing on groundbreaking vehicles from other parts of the United Kingdom. Both aesthetically and functionally. Continue reading “Great Non-GMT Standard Double Deckers: The Not So Perfect Ten”

Experimental SELNEC and GMT Buses Since 1969: The Not So Perfect Ten

Non-standard vehicle types of the SELNEC and Greater Manchester Transport eras

When SELNEC came to being on the 01 November 1969, it inherited a mix of different vehicles from its precursors. Its biggest constituent brought us the Mancunian style Leyland Atlanteans and Daimler Fleetlines, whereas its smallest one would order the last front engine double decker bus. Continue reading “Experimental SELNEC and GMT Buses Since 1969: The Not So Perfect Ten”

Enviro 400s Reach 409 Route

In pictures: First Greater Manchester’s latest addition and review

First Greater Manchester, Enviro 400, SN12 AOH, Ashton-under-Lyne bus station (rear view)

Prior to disbandment in 1969, Manchester Corporation tried most of their innovations (trams, tram replacement and one man operation) on the 53 route. It was claimed that ‘if it worked on the 53, it would work anywhere else’ within the Manchester Corporation boundaries. Over the last 16 years, First Greater Manchester has had a similar maxim with the 409 route from Ashton to Oldham and Rochdale. This February saw the route as its guinea pig for their new livery. Continue reading “Enviro 400s Reach 409 Route”

Great Olympians of our Time #17: Stagecoach Manchester R506 UWL

Olympian swansong

By the mid 1990s, the Alexander bodied Volvo Olympian became Stagecoach’s standard double decker bus. Today, these have largely been superseded by Dennis Tridents and Enviro 400s. Photograph by Ingy the Wingy (Creative Commons Some Rights Reserved).

In 1997, the Alexander bodied Volvo Olympian became Stagecoach Holdings’ standard double decker bus of choice. Their then newly acquired Manchester subsidiary (late GMS Buses) was pretty much a Northern Counties fiefdom as far as Olympians were concerned. By the noughties, the balance of power had shifted towards Alexander. Stagecoach Manchester’s Northern Counties bodied Olympians were relegated to Magic Bus duties and marginal routes.

The R-reg Volvo Olympians, on arrival to Stagecoach Manchester, were a clear break from the old order. Legroom and comfort compared well with its Greater Manchester Transport and GM Buses predecessors. At odds with the old order, the step entrance vehicles had a low floor and lower step risings.

R506 UWL entered service in September 1997 and worked for Stagecoach’s Mancunian subsidiary till 2008, supplanted along with countless others by Enviro 400s. In 2009, it moved to Southampton where it was gainfully employed by Stagecoach in Hampshire, then Canterbury the following year where she currently resides.

*                                      *                                      *

This concludes our round-up of Volvo and Leyland Olympians, specially coinciding with the London 2012 Olympic Games. We hope you’ve enjoyed the seventeen pictures and profiles of each vehicle, and considered these features a worthwhile antidote to the sporting activities, associated chutzpah and hyperbole. As usual, comment freely on the buses and any changes which may have arisen since.

Stuart Vallantine, 27 July – 12 August 2012.

Powered By:

  • Yorkshire Tea;
  • Occasional browsing on YouTube;
  • Assorted 35mm camera film and Secure Digital memory cards;
  • System One Travelcards’ Monthly BusCard season ticket;
  • Special thanks go to Sammy, Jack Russell Terrier and official mascot of East of the M60.

S.V., 12 August 2012.

Great Olympians of our Time #16: First Manchester’s R622 JUB

A much travelled Volvo Olympian which, by the time you have read this, may have seen all parts of First Manchester territory!

Volvo Olympian, Alexander body, R622 JUB, First Pioneer, Ashton-under-Lyne bus station
R622 JUB seen on the 348 route to Carrbrook at Ashton bus station, October 2011. Notice the Dennis Arrow behind.

For our penultimate Great Olympian of our Time, we have before your very eyes a much travelled one of First Manchester’s vehicles. For once, it doesn’t fit the (seemingly) unofficial criteria in this feature of being a Northern Counties bodied vehicle. R622 JUB is bodied by one of NCME’s successors, Walter Alexander and Son – now Alexander Dennis.

R622 JUB entered service with FirstGroup’s West Yorkshire subsidiary [Yorkshire Rider] in February 1998, and offered a real contrast to their mainly Roe bodied fleet. By 2008, she moved to First Potteries, then First Chester and Wirral the following year.

In 2010, reorganisation saw First Chester and Wirral come under the control of First Manchester. From there, she would be seen in Greater Manchester the following year, on loan. September 2011 saw her on hire to their Dukinfield garage. The following month’s image sees her on the popular 348 route.

Her stay in Tameside was temporary as she moved to Oldham in the new year. Today, she now resides at Bury depot, though there’s every chance she might be in Bolton or Wigan by the time you’ve read this!

S.V., 11 August 2012.

Great Olympians of our Time #15: Mexborough and Swinton A658 OCX

Living proof of how well thought out heritage liveries look well on relatively new buses

Leyland Olympian, A658 OCX, Mexborough and Swinton
Seen in Heaton Park at the 2011 Trans Lancs Transport Show, A658 OCX often features at transport rallies.

After having a glut of Northern Counties Palatine bodied examples over the last four days, I thought it would be worth readdressing the balance. For our specimen, we have a 1984 Eastern Coach Works bodied Leyland Olympian.

A658 OCX entered service with the then National Bus Company’s Yorkshire Traction subsidiary. In NBC’s Poppy Red livery it entered service in June 1984. By 2006, it saw further service with Tees Valley Coaches for schools contracts before being withdrawn at the half way point of the year.

Shortly afterwards, Graham Law purchased A658 OCX for preservation. Instead of the poppy red of NBC, he opted for a green and cream Mexborough and Swinton livery, worn to commemorate to centenary of one of Yorkshire Traction’s predecessors.

It looks well in the heritage livery, and has often featured in transport rallies.

S.V., 10 August 2012.

Great Olympians of our Time #11: Arriva Yorkshire’s N621 KUA

Now enjoying its senior years in leafy Cheshire

N621 KUA Volvo Olympian, Selby depot
N621 KUA seen at Selby Depot at an open day in 2010. Today, she wears the blue and cream of GHA Coaches.

Our 1995 Volvo Olympian was a regular campaigner in Selby up to 2010. She began her working life with Selby and District, a subsidiary company of the Caldaire Group. The Caldaire Group was originally a subsidiary of the West Riding Automobile Company, prior to nationalisation and absorption by the Transport Holding Company in 1967. Twenty years after it returned to private ownership with most of the former Yorkshire Woollen District routes becoming Yorkshire Buses.

Caldaire Holdings was sold to British Bus in 1995, with the Arriva cow horns being foisted on N621 KUA by 1999. She remained at Selby depot till 2010, when she became a ‘pool bus’.

Today, N621 KUA has been shorn of the cow horns, moving to The Dairy County (Cheshire). She is gainfully employed by Vale of Llangollen subsidiary GHA Coaches, and wears a fetching blue and cream livery. A colour scheme which, no less, is reminiscent of Express Dairies’ and Dale Farm’s milk floats.

S.V., 06 August 2012.

Great Olympians of our Time #10: SpeedwellBus’ G501 SFT

Probably the last Northern Counties bodied Leyland Olympian to have seen regular service in Tameside and Glossop?

Leyland Olympian, G501 SFT, Northern Counties body, SpeedwellBus, Ashton-under-Lyne
Swansong: G501 SFT taking a rest on the lay-by outside Ashton bus station.

Yesterday’s entry focused on an Olympian hitherto operated by the defunct UK North, now in the care of Stott’s of Oldham. Today’s picture is G501 SFT, a former Arriva owned Olympian purchased by another defunct operator. This also explains the link between UK North, SpeedwellBus and Stott’s of Oldham – yesterday’s ex-UK North vehicle and the 343 route – both owned and operated by the latter.

G501 SFT was quite a comfortable vehicle and offered a superior ride to some of the more modern vehicles. I had the joy of boarding her once to Flowery Field railway station and made a point of sitting upstairs on the five minute journey from Chez Vall. She was new to Kentish Bus in 1990 as seen below in her original livery:

Kentish Bus 501 (G501 SFT)
G501 SFT seen in her original livery in November 1990. Photograph by Ian Kirby (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial-NoDerivs License).

After working for Kentish Bus, she moved to London and Country. It was through there she later became part of Arriva’s fleet, hitherto via Drawlane, British Bus and Cowie. She was a regular performer around Crawley and East Grinstead before moving north and seeing continued service for Arriva North West.

By 2010, she joined SpeedwellBus, offering extra capacity on schools services. She was sometimes seen on regular services such as the 343 and the 396. On the 18 January 2012, when SpeedwellBus ceased trading, her last destination was Wigley’s Scrapyard in Barnsley. A sad end to a fine vehicle.

S.V., 05 August 2012.