via Louth, Horncastle, Skegness & Manchester
Service 51 (Stagecoach in Lincolnshire)
Next, with a perfect departure time, i.e. as advertised, was Stagecoach in Lincolnshire's 16944 (FX06 AOF), a Volvo B7TL with Wrightbus Eclipse Gemini bodywork; in fact it arrived a little before 1150. All was well through Spilsby and Burgh le Marsh, then we came to a stop. Temporary lights at the junction of the new Burgh by-pass to the east of the village was causing pretty bad congestion. It does make you wonder why they had to restrict the traffic flow on the A158, the busiest road in Lincolnshire on a Friday for traffic heading to Skegness for the weekend. Isn't there anything else they could have done instead on this incredibly busy day? Worse was yet to come for turning right within Skegness onto Roman Bank was a nightmare. During the early hours a complex of pubs and a nightclub had burnt down and a large section of the seafront had been closed off, forcing all traffic along Roman Bank. For quite some time the traffic lights at the junction merely changed colour and nothing else happened.
I got off at the first stop on Roman Bank and chose to walk the remainder of the way into the town centre, quite a few people opted to do the same. Luckily, I was going to pass the top of m'colleague's road and he was en route to meet me so I met him as I walked into town. With such awful congestion in an already badly congested town centre, we weren't too sure what time the next departure up the coast would leave. Luckily, 16394 (N394 LPN), a Stagecoach-standard Volvo Olympian/Alexander RL (ex Hampshire Bus) turned up a mere 8 minutes late to operate the seasonal Service 5 into Butlins. M'colleague and I were the only ones sat upstairs as we negotiated the congested streets out towards Ingoldmells and turned into Butlins. Also evident in Butlins was the one vehicle working Service 4 between here and Ingoldmells, and being used was ex London Dennis Dart, 34185 (W185 DNO).
The traffic was awful as we fought out way back into Skegness and then back out again, coming to another halt back at Burgh le Marsh. It took us 45 minutes to travel what can be done easily in 20. Thankfully buy 1530 we were clear of the Lincolnshire Coast and now using the A16 and A18 to head north to the motorway. Annoyingly we passed the A46/A18 intersection at Laceby, a mere 6 miles from home but no coach stop. I fell asleep at this point so missed us pass Humberside Airport and much of the journey along the M180, M18 and the start of the M62. The National Express Guide says a break of 30 mins is taken at Hartshead Moor services and we arrived there at 1741, leaving at 1800. It seemed a little odd having a break at this service area when we were so close to Oldham, our first stop in the north west. No sooner had we rejoined the M62 when we left it again at the summit (322m or 1,221ft) and pulled up just before the junction with the adjacent A road while we awaited a driver. He arrived after 10 minutes or so in a pool car, they swapped over and we were away again, back on the M62. We dropped a handful off in Oldham and then into Manchester Central coach station 32 minutes late.
I was glad to get off the coach. Everything about the seating was reduced from the depth of the seats to the legroom. I wondered if National Express were aware Travellers Choice had allocated this vehicle onto the working? M'colleague and I were booked into the Davenport Park Hotel in Stockport, on the main Stockport-Buxton road, so Service 192, once dubbed "the most frequent bus service in Europe" was the obvious choice. There were no signs of other operators running, just Stagecoach. Much news had been made earlier in the year when UK North buses were forced to cease trading after "ridiculous" competition along the route with Stagecoach and Finglands lead to too many buses to fit onto the city centre stops. According to the Stagecoach website there was a major section of route closed in the Stockport area while bridge repairs took place and an emergency timetable in place. The 192 timetable is impressive: a journey at 0430 is shown and then "at least every 10 mins until" 2330. I'm a pit of a pedant and like to see individual journeys shown, though was suitably bowled over with the 10 minute frequency from 0430 onwards!
via Manchester & Glasgow
The National Express Guide for the first time ever this year denotes which journeys are "normally operated by a double decker coach" and the 0805 Service 538 from Manchester Airport-Aberdeen via Carlisle, Glasgow and Dundee was one such journey. With time to spare, LSK 815 a Neoplan (Auwerter) Skyliner CH59/20Ct arrived and our female driver greeted us with a cheery smile and we both managed to acquire the two front seats in the top deck. Travel into central Manchester was unhindered and we arrived into the coach station there at 0831, leaving at 0900.
The M6 isn't the quietest of motorways at any time and we soon ran into congestion as we passed through Lancashire. This put us late into Carlisle and our driver announced our arrival into Hamilton as being 1345 - 10 mins before we should have arrived into Glasgow. From Caslisle northwards we weren't really hindered by traffic at all until the outskirts of Glasgow where we diverted via parallel back streets - no mean task in a 15m decker! We ended up arriving into Glasgow just over an hour late, in pouring rain. I was most impressed by the upper saloon fron window wiper that was used once as we approached Tebay Services.
Stranger still when at Glasgow you soon realise both timetables are defunct and have been since August last year!!! The operation now covering regular services between Glasgow-Edinburgh using the Service 900 number is Citylink, of which Stagecoach and Park's of Hamilton are the main providers of vehicles, most of which are the extended 15m Volvo B12BT/Plaxton Panthers with 57 seats. We left the 1545 departure in the form of 54034 (SF07 AOA) depart as it was packed, the next departure was a Park's vehicle, LSK 879, identical to the vehicles Stagecoach provide for the service - they even have Stagecoach interior trim. £4.60 was charged for a single fare.
Stagecoach's Glasgow depot appear to have 54028-34 (SF07 AMV/X/NP/R/U/V/X/OA) allocated for their contribution to the CityLink 900 service. The vehicles do look very attractive indeed in their Scottish Citylink livery, irrespective of the provider.
Lothian's buses, similar to Nottingham City Transport, do not give change though offer a handy and attractive £1 single fare anywhere within the city. A day ticket at £2.50 is also available and very attractively priced. So many buses use Princes Street in the centre of Edinburgh that the queue for individual bus stops becomes worse than anything I've witnessed before and not just passengers: the 1816 bus we were awaiting at Waverley Steps was one of 5 in a queue for the stop occupied by single decker, the driver in convesration with a passenger about the best stop for him to alight.
After a very substantial breakfast, m'colleague and I boarded the 0858 Service 25 in the form of 635 (SK52 OGT) a Lothian Buses Dennis Trident/Plaxton from Heriot-Watt University to Edinburgh city centre. Again, the timings were not met - this on a relatively quiet Sunday morning. Our 0923 arrival at Princes Street/Waverley Steps was met at 0930. We descended to the rail station and bought our £4.80 cheap day return tickets to Dunfermline Town. Awaiting us for its 0955 departure was First ScotRail's Turbostar 170461. Unlike the vast majority of bus/coach services we'd caught so far, this left exactly at 0955 and arrived at Dunfermline precisely as timetabled at 1030.
It was a fair uphill walk to the city centre, where we had to seek advice from a very friendly taxi driver for the location of the fire station. A year last June we'd visited the SVBM though on this occasion the buses were picking up from the bus station, which is now closed.
M'colleague managed to catch a vintage vehicle to the SVBM while I headed to a cash point. I was a little luckier as my vintage vehicle was a Northern Bluebird-liveried coach! Very nice.
The locality of the SVBM has to be seen to be believed. It is incredibly picturesque, quiet and serene. Vehicles are parked specifically to give the best possible shot for photographers and the range and variety of vehicles offering tours is pretty unique as some vehicles will not physically make it to rallies in the south of england.
My only criticism is a result of the open day being so successful that some vehicles were parked two-deep or diagonally too close to the ones next to them so a full shot was very difficult.
Some very old lorries and vans were also in attendance, in a move that is the norm at the Lincolnshire Vintage Vehicle Society's open days, though when vehicles started to leave problems began as some had sunk deep into the sodden grass as a result of the day before (Saturday) being a near wash-out. David Urquart's brand new 07-reg VDL/Bova needed assistance as too did Rapson's Scania/East Lancs in Inverness Airport livery. Not wanting to be left out a modern fire engine also needed help, though once freed itself then towed its sister vehicles to the tarmac.
I managed to buy the National Express-liveried VDL/Van Hool Alizee T9 coach on Service 440 to Leicester, owned by Arriva Fox County for £10 in immaculate condition. I was most impressed.
We stayed longer than planned and were in a pub in Dunfermline city centre when the 1737 train back to Edinburgh departed so caught the 1827 train, though this operates via the Fife Loop (my term for it), operating north from Dunfermline to Cardenden and Kirkcaldy, where it then joins the main Aberdeen-Dundee-Edinburgh line back to Edinburgh clinging to the Fife coastline and back across the Forth Rail Bridge to Edinburgh. Our train was a Strathclyde Passenger Transport (red/cream) liveried Turbostar that was ex Hull Trains, 170478, even retaining the Hull Trains interior seat upholstery. We arrived into Edinburgh at 1954 - 6 mins early.
Progress was excellent as we travelled down the A1 towards Newcastle. Here we took a 20 minute break (1330-1400) and were all asked to leave the coach. There's nothing to do at the relatively new St. James Boulevard coach station, you even have to pay 20p to use the toilet. It looks clean and well operated and also parked there was the northbound Service 534, again with two drivers, with a near identical vehicle, HSK 642. We were soon on our way again, calling at Sunderland, Middlesborough, Thirsk and York. As we entered York I could hardly believe my eyes as we (in a 12ft tall coach) headed towards an 11ft 3ins bridge. The driver lowered the ferry lift as a token gesture and we literally bobbed under it.