Premier Route Network Completed
The final parts of Reading's premier route network were put into place today as light blue routes 15/16, maroon routes 20/21, dark blue route 33 and orange route 63/64 were introduced. The introduction marks the end of a relatively long period of planning and organising, involving not only Reading Buses but also the relevant district councils providing upgraded bus stop infrastructure.
851 at Reading Station today.
845 on new route 16 today.
1022 on route 21 today.
Workmen busy installing a new flag pole and raised kerbs at Pierce's Hill foot last Thursday.
In a surprise move Wokingham District Council have installed new flags and raised kerbs at most of the stops around Woodley in the last few weeks. The flag specification is particularly unusual.
The flags around the Town Centre were updated on Saturday, the stops around the station seem to be quite popular as bird perches, and the changes don't seem to have ruffled any feathers amongst the avian community.
Reading Says Farewell to Step Entrance Buses
The final day of operation of step entrance vehicles in Reading came today, as the town said goodbye not only to the last of the trustworthy workhorse MCW Metrobuses, but also the step entrance Optare Spectras. Reading Buses kindly arranged for several vehicles to be in operation on the final day, complete with full timetables available from their website. A large number of enthusiasts turned out to say their goodbyes.
464 and 463 providing an evocative picture side by side.
The following vehicles were used in ordinary service 463 (63/65), 464 (31/33), 468 (12/20), 469 (12/20), 701 (31/33), 710 (63/35). In addition Newbury operated all three of their Spectras on the 102 (708, 709 and 721) and Metrobus 466 was used to operate duplicates on route 17 using volunteer drivers (who are to be particularly thanked for donating their time). During the mid-afternoon 702 came out to replace 701 which had developed a minor defect, and then 707 came out to replace 466 for its final journey of the day.
468 at Reading Station preparing for its final day in service on routes 12/20.
466 turned several heads amongst ordinary passengers on the 17, who weren't used to such vehicles on their route anymore, but clearly seemed to have some memory of them. It is seen here at Jackson's Corner.
701 about to operate what turned out to be its final journey in normal service (barring any future football and school workings) on the 1355 route 33 from Turnham's Farm.
The last Metrobus was 463 operating the 1915 65 from the Station (1945 from Sandford Lane), and the last Spectra (and step entrance vehicle) was 710 operating the 1945 63 from the Station (2015 from Sandford Lane).
463 about to operate the last ever Metrobus journey - the 1915 route 65 to Woodley. A good number of enthusiasts queued to join it for its final jaunt.
For ordinary passengers, there is also a group of new routes to get used to from Monday. Routes like the 31 and 37 disappear completely (apart from odd evening journeys), so this final picture of Trident 474 heading out into the sunset, proclaiming information about the service changes, seemed appropriate:
474 on 18th. Once all of the Scanias enter service these will become a much rarer sight on ordinary services as their capacity will be put to use on schools services.
Olympuses Enter Service & Metrobus Farewell News
The first four of the new batch of Olympuses for Reading have entered service early to allow other vehicles to go for repaint ahead of the service changes from 25th. 841-4 are light blue for new routes 15/16, but will be operating on the existing light blue route 37 this week to allow the remaining route 37 branded Solars go to away for repaint into maroon for the upgrade of routes 20/21.
844 on route 37 yesterday. It has had its full Quality Travel lettering applied, but awaits the full route branding for the 15/16, which presumably will be applied next weekend.
Meanwhile Reading Buses issued a press release on Friday about the final days of step entrance buses in the town:
"As Reading Buses takes the final steps in its radical programme to introduce Premier Routes on all the main corridors in Greater Reading we will see the end of the use of step-entrance buses on regular services.
Thus, Saturday 23rd February 2008 will be the last day that people will be able to ride on the 21-year-old double-deck Metrobuses. It will also be the last chance to ride on the high-floor Optare Spectras, which also leave the network on the day. The first was the prototype and was exhibited at the Bus & Coach Show in Autumn 1991. These Spectras were a real revolution in design when first introduced in 1992 (though they are rather tired now, after a hard life!).
To celebrate this "step-change" in local bus services, Reading Buses will be running several of these old-timers on all-day service on Saturday 23rd February 2008, on routes 12/20, 31 and 63/65. In addition a Metrobus will make a special appearance on the 17 during the day. For full details of the timings that these buses will be used on, see the Reading Buses website from Monday."
It is expected that 4 Metrobuses and 1 Spectra will be in operation on normal services, whilst a fifth Metrobus will making the celebrity runs on the 17. The rest seem likely to be amongst the vehicles operating football services.
Olympus Preview 2
Initial deliveries of Reading's batch of 21 Scania / East Lancs Olympuses should now be underway, with the first expected to enter service before the service changes on 25th February. This should allow the four Wright Solars on route 37 to be repainted into maroon for routes 20/21 before the service changes take place.
844 is seen here outside the East Lancs factory today, looking ready for delivery. Thanks to "Bunny" for this photo.