London Extravaganza: Part One

The mysterious Wright Streetlite at Birchanger Services.
Tuesday 7th July saw me venture to London for more courier work, this time in the Strand and Picadilly areas of central London. I have come back with so many photographs and comments to make that I have had to split the report in two; the second part will follow in the coming days. I would view yesterday as one of my best visits to London so far, and am really pleased at the results of some of the photos - which can sometimes be hard to capture due to the sheer rush in the capital.

An en-route stop at Birchanger Services brought out a very interesting find, which has completely thrown me and other enthusiasts off. Parked in the coach area was this door forward Wright Streetlite Max. Being fitted with a flashing beacon, one assumes it was destined for air-side use of some description. Lee Murphy said that he believes the same bus has recently been at Guernsey Airport. He says that the "P" sticker displayed in the front windscreen serves to show that the bus is freight and where it is destined for - having crossed into mainland Britain with Condor Ferries.

Stagecoach LT252 by Charing Cross station on the wonderful 15
My bus spotting day began after ferrying passengers into Strand Palace Hotel for lunch. Strand begins at the top end of Charing Cross and Trafalgar Square, the first of which is the central marker point of London, meaning it was a short walk to where I planned to be. I had just short of two hours before I had to be back to round up the passengers. Around eighteen bus services operate in this area, with the added bonus of hundred of touring coaches and the various sightseeing buses passing through. The network through Charing Cross is enormous; buses operate through the area out to Plumstead, Hammersmith, Chapham Common and Golders Green to name a few. 

Charing Cross is very much a Borismaster area, notable here is that the Borismaster numbers are now in the LT500 series as more and more creep into the capital. Alexander Dennis Enviro400s and the occasional Wright Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5LH also make a regular appearance. One of my favorite London bus routes, the 15, operates through here from Blackwall, Poplar, Tower of London, Monument and St Pauls Cathedral. It is the designated heritage route, meaning you could travel one way on an original London Routemaster, and return on its modern day equivalent.

LT271 sports the new bPay overall advert livery at Charing Cross
The London bus scene is probably more colourful than it has ever been before since 1907 when London General Omnibus Company painted all their buses red to stand out from the competition. A number of Borismasters, built by Wrightbus in Northern Ireland, have received overall advert liveries for a variety of big businesses. One of the most recent to appear comes from Barclays, who are using an allover purple livery to advertise their new bPay system which is sported by LT271 seen to the right. Other colourful adverts on the Borismasters include bright pink and bright yellow for Proper Corn, light blue for Via Coconut Water, pink and black for Magnum and matt grey for Tagheuer. A variety of other buses have gained advert liveries, retaining their red fronts, for the likes of Karen Millen, The Lord Mayors Appeal, Batman Arckham Knight for Playstation 3 and a variety of London theatre shows. It would be very interesting to find out how much one of the overall adverts of the Borismasters costs, however, I am as yet unable to find a cost.

Whilst in London, I began wondering the statistics and numbers behind the London buses and have rounded up some very big numbers and sums; in London, more than 90% of residents live within 400 metres of a bus stop. By 2016, 95% of the 19,000 bus stops in London will be fully accessible. These 19,000 stops are served by a network of 675 routes at the hands of a fleet of around 9,000 buses; compare this figure to the entire First Bus UK fleet which stands at around 6,300 vehicles. The 9,000 buses travelled around 301,986,399 miles in 2011 alone, when divided by the length of the entire UK road network in 2013, it shows that London buses altogether could have driven the entire length and breadth of the United Kingdom over 1,000 times. Now that is impressive.

VXE734 turns into Charing Cross operating the Yellow Tour
One of my favourite modern day buses operates through Charing Cross; the Optare Olympus/Visonairre. The type, which in the Charing Cross area is based on the tri-axle variant of the Volvo B9TL, are operated by Big Bus Tours and The Original Tour. The latter has been operating officially for over 60 years now when it was introduced as service J by London Transport in 1951 for the Festival of Britain. The name "The Original Tour" was first introduced in 1992, shortly after this it was sold to the Pullham Group. After a number of takeovers and switch arounds, The Original Tour was taken over by Arriva by the beginning of 1998. In 2014, The operation was sold by Arriva to RATP Dev during the later half of 2014 who began to make an appearance in the South of England. I have researched into the choice of name for the company, and it is due to the sheer originality of what the tour introduced. It was the first tour of it's kind, and later became the first tour so to offer live guides, a variety of language commentaries, the hop on hop off day ticket system, 24 hour tickets, a Kid's Club, brand new modern vehicles and to offer conjoined river cruises.  

That's it for Part One from my London Extravaganza, but I could go on. I am expecting Part Two to be around by Saturday, so keep an eye out for more like this.
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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: samuel.larke@gmail.com
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