Goodbye Inner Circle Service
Today saw the last day of operation on "Inner Circle" services 14 and 15 which connected the Town Centre with Erleigh Road, Cressingham Road, Morrisons, PC World, Rose Kiln Lane, Berkeley Avenue, Southcote, ASDA, Elvaston Way, Grovelands Road, Oxford Road and the Battle Hospital. The services commenced almost exactly three years ago on 28th October 2002 to mostly replace services 1A, 13 and 31 which were established during and immediately following the time Reading Mainline was in competition with the operator. In addition the services also provided some new innovative links to supermarkets and hospitals for quite a large proportion of the town.
The last day of operation saw both branded buses in use, with 102 on the 14 and 101 on the 15. Presumably these will now loose their branding, and could potentially be used to replace the last two MetroRiders at Reading, 627 and 629 (627 was in use on the 127/8 today).
101 waiting to depart on the last ever journey on route 15 at 1638 from Friar Street.
In practise however the route did not have a huge amount going for it. Large sections of the route were very close to core routes such as the 5, 6, 17 and 31 which offer a much more attractive frequency into town. Indeed, travelling on the route today, the vast bulk of the passengers seemed to be on sections that mirrored core routes. The economics of this caught up with the service from 21st February 2005 when Reading Buses gave it up commercially, but Reading Borough Council opted to put a replacement service out to tender which Reading Buses won. So the service continued for a bit longer until now when the Council decided withdraw the subsidy, and the service finally disappears.
102 having just departed on the last ever journey on route 14 at 1711 with the grand total of zero passengers onboard. The final trip on a Saturday only runs as far as Elvaston Way, normally the bus would display Southcote at this point.
Streetcar Visits Reading
First's Wright Streetcar demonstrator visited Reading today to transport delegates to "The Reading Conference" held at the old Town Hall. Based on a modified Volvo B7L chassis the Streetcar has exterior styling intended to excite attention not just among existing public transport users, but among non-users too. The Streetcar was also in Reading yesterday for photographs and inspection by Reading Transport.
The Streetcar about to turn from Station Road into Friar Street.
The shuttle route was as follows: RailAir bay, Forbury Road, loop around Forbury roundabout, Forbury Road, Station Road, Friar Street, Blagrave Street (stopping opposite the old Town Hall), Forbury Road, loop around the Station Road roundabout, RailAir bay. It operated on trade plates 339 RZ.
A nearside view of the Streetcar turning into Station Road. The vehicle handled all of the tight corners in Reading Town Centre with great ease.
The conference was designed to focus on recent achievements in Reading and to provide an insight into future developments that are planned, together with important improvements to the infrastructure, especially with regard to transport. Presentations were made by leading figures from both the private and public sector.
The rear profile of the Streetcar waiting in the RailAir bay.
During the day the Streetcar was displayed outside the old town hall. Thanks to James Cusworth for this photo.
James Cusworth had chance to have a look around inside, and sent the following comments: "The first thing to note is that the driver has his own cab which is reached through a door on the left as you enter. There is a self-service ticket machine directly in front of you, and on the panel behind where the driver sits is what looks like a real time and next stop screen. There is a pushchair bay on the offside with the wheelchair bay on the nearside. The seats are continental style all plastic and are in standard pairs of two upto the articulated section. After that, there are seats directly opposite the rear doors, including two corner seats. At the back, the seating is like a lounge with seats facing inwards and corner seats as well as the forward facing seats at the back. It certainly is different and the seats do not seem packed in like they do on most modern buses."
James wasn't able to get a clear shot inside, but still sent this which gives a good impression of what the lounge area at the rear is like.
First have played a key role in the development of the Streetcar, and are using it as part of a package that they have called "ftr" (the text message abbreviation for future). "ftr" aims to create a hybrid mode of transportation combining the best features of a bus in terms of affordability, accessibility and flexibility, with the best from a tram in terms of image, dedicated infrastructure and perceived reliability. Consequently First are only going to introduce Streetcars in towns and cities where they can work in partnership with the local authority to provide the infrastructure such a system would need. Cities such as York, Swansea, Bath, Bristol, Leeds, Sheffield and Glasgow are quoted as being very keen to create corridors like these, and indeed York seems set to become the first with their introduction planned for early 2006. James gained the answer to the big question for Reading - Where are these likely to be used? "The answer from one of First's representatives was that the council have mentioned using them on the Madejski Stadium service".
Proving First's point, an incorrectly parked taxi blocks access to the bus stop. Dedicated tramways do not tend to suffer from problems like this, and thus journeys become faster and more attractive. Similarly the vehicle design plays another important role, so First's argument is that given the cost of these vehicles, they should only be introduced as part of a complete package.
For more information about the vehicle visit the Wrightbus website.
For more information about First's ftr concept visit the First Group website.
Exhibits at Bus & Coach Live 2005
A number of interesting new products have been displayed at Bus & Coach Live at the NEC in Birmingham which took place over the last two days.
The new Caetano Levante for National Express. Levantes will become National Express' first vehicles with wheelchair access provided through the main front door. They have jointly developed a revolutionary new lift mechanism that folds into the stairs in a slightly wider entrance, whilst only two seats are lost when the wheelchair is onboard.
The new Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 for Stagecoach London. This bus has been purchased as a one-off to replace the Dennis Trident destroyed in the London bombings on 7th July. It has been named "Spirit of London" and will operate mainly on route 30. A single door example for Travel West Midlands was also on display.
The new Plaxton Primo for Mistral bus and coach hire. An example for TM Travel was also on display.
The new Optare Toro minicoach.
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