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”

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 Today, these have largely been superseded by Dennis Tridents and Enviro 400s.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.

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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 #6: Halifax Joint Committee J829 CEV

A Happy Yorkshire Day, courtesy of Halifax Joint Committee’s former Dublin Bus example

Ex-Dublin Bus Leyland Olympian, Halifax Joint Committee
Resplendent: the Halifax Joint Committee’s revived former municipal livery seen on a former Dublin Bus Leyland Olympian.

Between 1995 and 2009, Tony Blackman’s Halifax Joint Committee operated stage carriage services in the Huddersfield and Halifax areas. Its operations had modest beginnings with a heritage bus service between Hebden Bridge and Halifax. By 2001, they expanded with a mix of subsidised and commercial services, most notably the 509 from Halifax to Leeds via Bradford and various free buses for supermarket chains.

Today, stage carriage operations have been scaled down, with two free buses from Halifax to the town’s Sainsburys store, and a similar one from Brighouse to its town’s TESCO. The exception to this is a schooldays only service in Hebden Bridge. Besides stage carriage services, heritage charters using restored vehicles form part of their business.

Our Leyland Olympian hitherto saw service for Dublin Bus in 1992. Under the registration number 91-D-10108, it entered service as a dual door double decker. Having boarded this vehicle itself, its conversion to single door was pretty neat, and she made light work of the gradients up to Quarmby. The green moquette trim on the seats was in good condition, as demonstrated below on my journey:

Halifax Joint Omnibus Committee Volvo Olympian interior
Top deck interior layout of J829 CEV: it was quite a task trying to get a decent shot whilst the vehicle was in motion (yours truly being sat in schoolchild ratbag mode).

S.V., 01 August 2012.

Great Olympians of our Time #5: First Huddersfield T661 VWU

Swansong awaits the Volvo Olympian

Volvo Olympian, Huddersfield railway station
Towards the 21st century: a First Huddersfield T-reg example T661 VWU, seen outside its railway station.

By 1998, the big bus owning groups took hold of Britain’s bus network. Besides a radical shake up of operators, the number of bodybuilders also fell. Eastern Coach Works left the scene in 1985, Charles H. Roe became Optare. Courtesy of, or through happy accident, Perth and Aberdeen based Stagecoach and FirstGroup opted for Celtic bodybuilders, namely Walter Alexander and Son and, in later years, Wright.

By 1999, the Northern Counties name was no more, following its absorption by Henlys in 1995. That year saw NCME bodied buses becoming Plaxton bodied vehicles.

FirstGroup, like Stagecoach, have had dealings with Alexander with their roots stretching back to the Grampian Regional Transport era. This example seen outside Huddersfield railway station is among the last Volvo Olympians to have entered service. The last newly built Volvo Olympians would enter service in 2000. Even in 2012, Volvo Olympians remain in service on less lucrative routes or school services.

S.V., 31 July 2012.

East of the M60 Advent Calendar: 16 December 2011

16. An Arriva North West Alexander bodied DAF DB250LF

DAF DB250LF/Alexander ALX400, T296 FGN, Arriva North West, Piccadilly Gardens

Arriva North West’s DAF DB250LF joined Wythenshawe depot via London (hence the staircase position). On first glance, it could be mistaken for a Dennis Trident – given the similarity of the Alexander bodywork seen on Stagecoach Manchester’s Tridents. This example is loading at Piccadilly Gardens. On leaving the city centre, it will take a circuitous route into Altrincham via Whalley Range, Ashton-on-Mersey and Brooklands.

Bus Route of Christmas Past: Oldham – Mossley (Brookbottom). Oldham Corporation’s 16 route entered Top Mossley via Lees Road and Grotton, starting from the Town Hall bus stop. In 1973 – 74, it was renumbered 416. On the 20 July 1980, it was absorbed by an expanded 343 service, offering Grottonians a direct route with Bottom Mossley, Stalybridge and Hyde.

Bus Route of Christmas Present: Arriva North West’s 16 route is a Goliath among Altrincham to Manchester routes (65 minutes compared with 50 on the 263 and 25 on the tram). On Monday to Friday, the service is operated every half hour along its full length, with two evening journeys from Altrincham operated by Finglands (three from Manchester). These are operated daily. By contrast, Arriva’s Saturday service only operates up to Sale! The Sunday service covers the full route, albeit every two hours with Finglands the sole operator.

S.V., 16 December 2011