Photo Special: A day in London

This pair of smart Routemaster from Ensignbus unexpectedly
appeared at Birchanger Services.
On Saturday, I was sent to London on a coach as courier with Eastons Holidays on a trip entitled "The Shard and Afternoon Tea". Between ferrying a lovely group of forty seven passengers to and from the coach, I managed to squeeze in some bus photographs.

The coach for the day was ex-Westbus Setra S415GTHD A19AWE. With a thirty minute comfort stop at Birchanger Services, a few pictures of coaches in parking area were taken; but I really didn't expect to see this duo. From Ensignbus Vintage was two of an impressive fleet of fourteen varying former London AEC Routemasters. RM2734 SMK734 was joined by RML2405 JJD405D. RM2734 was new in 1967 at Hanwell Garage primarily for use on route 207 (for which it still retains a fare chart in the entrance). Her final days were on the 13, between Golders Green and Aldwych, when she was sold to Ensignbus for onward sale. In mid-203, RM2734 was purchased back by Ensignbus and retained as part of the vintage fleet. RML2405 was one of the final five hundred Routemasters to built, being the longer version. It was one of fifty London buses to be chosen to wear a gold based livery for the Queen's Jubilee. RM2405 was withdrawn in 2004 and sold to Ensignbus.

Arriva London Enviro400 T115 at London Bridge bus stop
And so, with an hour journey sailing into the London Bridge area on A19AWE and getting forty seven passengers through London Bridge Station and 244.3 metres up The Shard to the 72nd floor, I had just under an hour to myself for a quick "Kieran Sightseeing Tour of London", with ample bus spotting stops made en-route. From The Shard, I took the walk over London Bridge.

London Bridge does have its own bus station, but (much like most of London) it is currently closed for roadworks. Buses are either stopping on London Bridge or are being sent to a temporary bus station on an empty patch of land beside a rail line. Photographed on the bridge was Arriva London Alexander Dennis Enviro400 T115 LJ59LXR operating route 133; which first began in 1929. The 133 operates between Streatham Station and Liverpool Street, calling at Elephant and Castle, London Bridge, Monument and Bank on the way. The route has an impressive peak vehicle requirement of some thirty buses - compare that to the PVRs of services here in Norwich, most of which do not top ten.

One of a batch of Chinese built Ankai double deckers with Big Bus
The Kieran Sightseeing Tour then took me over London Bridge to Monument, which stands sixty metres tall exactly sixty two metres from the point where The Great Fire of London began in 1966. Finding a nice spot in the sun, I managed a photograph of Big Bus Tours AN328 LJ12GSZ operating The Blue Tour. The bus in one of a batch of Anhui Ankai HFF6121GS3 tri-axle open top double deckers delivered in 2012. The delivery was controversially made following David Cameron's pledge to use British built products and services at the 2012 Olympic Games. The batch also marked the first time vehicles from the Eastern China based manufacturer had been shipped to the United Kingdom.

Big Bus Tours were formed in 1991 as The Big Bus Company Ltd, initially just in London, using a fleet of four buses. The business has since expanded rapidly to cover sixteen cities around the world. In 2011, Big Bus merged with Paris based Les Cars Rouges to form Big Bus Tours. Both operators had over 20 years expertise in the sightseeing bus tour industry. Big Bus Tours currently operate in cities around the world including Las Vegas, Dubai, Hong Kong and Sydney.

I then walked back along East Cheap and Great Tower Street, along the route of the 15 - first formed in 1908. The 15 operates between Trafalgar Square and Blackwall Station by Stagecoach London - with the workload of 22 vehicles split between Bow Garage and Barking Garage. The route is operated by a batch of New Bus For Londons and Alexander Dennis Enviro400s, with short workings offered by Routemasters to form part of the TfL heritage network. Spotted on the route was Stagecoach NBFL LT272 LTZ1272, which is painted in a special silver and red livery to commemorate "Year of the bus" (2014).

I love London. I love the way there are almost always more roads closed that open. I love way half of the city is always at a standstill. I love the way that no matter how many problems, queues and roadworks there are, buses still manage to run smoothly. Above all, I love the way every bus passenger seems to know what they are doing. In the whole day, I never saw a single person stand in the doorway of a bus asking where their bus was, asking where to catch the bus, or asking where the bus goes. In the whole day, noting that an entire bus station is closed, never once did I spot a bus not running smoothly; and that is something London really should not take for granted.

Heritage Routemaster RM1933 at Tower Bridge
Time was quickly ticking away, and I speed walked towards Tower Bridge. For one final photograph before heading back to collect the Eastons lovelies. RM1933 ALD933B is photographed on the 15 heritage runs, with a NBFL on the full route behind. The bus was chosen to wear a Platinum Livery in celebration of the 85th birthday of London Transport and the 100th year of Bow Garage.

With that, I was back into courier mode and made my way over Tower Bridge back to The Shard to get the group back to the coach, ready for an afternoon tea at The Strand Palace Hotel. All in all, a lovely day out with a lovely group of passengers and another opportunity for me to see parts of London I never have. Back to Norwich we headed with no issues, arriving back at the depot a little before eight o'clock.
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About Kieran Smith

Norwich Buses Blog was founded in December 2013 by Sam Larke after he left another popular blog, Norwich Bus Page. Since it's launch, the site has grown dramatically, especially whilst written solely by Kieran Smith during 2015. The blog is now in it's third year and we look forward to more success and growth in the future. If you think you'd make a good writer for Norwich Buses Blog, please do get in touch via email:
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