A celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Routemaster double deck bus took place at Finsbury Park over the weekend of July 12th and 13th. This was the biggest collection of Routemaster buses seen together for many years and the organisers, the Routemaster Association, deserve credit for pulling the event together.
The display included buses in Preservation, still in service in London or with private operators and buses which are now used as bars and promotional vehicles.
We particularly liked the destination display on the Routemaster used for Ghost Bus Tours in London, but can confirm that at least one member of its staff is anything but scary.
Despite telling Steven Knight Media that it had ‘first refusal’ on the Mk3 ‘Pretendolino’ loco-hauled set from November this year through until April 2017, the train no longer features in Virgin Train’s plans.
Virgin Trains announced yesterday that the train will be handed back to Porterbrook when the current lease expires on November 9th, although it adds that handback may take place sooner. The contract for the hire of the Class 90 (90034) locomotive from DRS, trumpeted by both DRS and Virgin just months ago, will also be terminated and the option to extend the contract will lapse.
The Mk 3 set was completely refurbished in 2004, when it was also painted in the Pendolino-style livery. The intention was that the set would act as a standby train, but would also be available for train charter hire. However, the lack of WiFi on the set - too expensive to fit - meant that high-profile train charter companies specified a Pendolino.
Even cosmetic enhancements to the train, carried out last year, have failed to secure new business.
Virgin Trains also says that it has become increasingly difficult to manage and maintain the train and it is also challenging in maintaining driver and train manager competencies.
Increased availability of the Pendolino fleet means that the duties carried out by Mk3 ‘Pretendolino’ can be accommodated from the fleet of 56 Pendolino trains.
The latest Peterborough Bus Rally, held on Sunday 6th July 2014 was supported by both Stagecoach and FirstGroup with a wide range of modern vehicles contracting with the Routemasters from A1 Bus and other preserved vehicles.
Stagecoach provided vehicles from its Peterborough, Lincoln and Chesterfield operations.
From Peterborough came the ever popular Open Top Bristol FLF, which is now 48 years old. For the first time the vehicle was able to display appropriate destinations with blinds in the traditional white-on-black style. Both the Open Top, and the closed top FLF which is part of the Stagecoach Midlands fleet, have received these 'heritage' blinds which were made by McKenna Brothers through a sponsorship arrangement with Steven Knight Media.
Stagecoach East Midlands provided a leather-seated Scania double deck with Enviro 400 bodywork finished in the purple and gold Interconnect livery, whilst a Transbus Dart with Pointer bodywork and painted in historic Chesterfield Transport green livery was provided from Stagecoach's Chesterfield depot.
The Stagecoach buses operated the shuttle service between the Rally site and the City's Queensgate Bus Station as well as shuttle services to the Nene Valley Railway.
Preserved and in-service buses also operated the free Nene Valley Railway shuttle services and included the newest double deck in the Delaine Buses fleet. First Eastern Counties, supporting the Rally for the first time, sent one of its luxury ADL E40D/Enviro 400 double decks which are used on the X1 Peterborough-Norwich/Great Yarmouth/Lowestoft routes. A nice touch - as with the two modern Stagecoach vehicles - was the programming of the electronic destination blinds to show relevant destinations.
Steven Knight is a Transport Specialist who has over 40 years experience in the bus and rail industries as well as in specialist transport journalism. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists.