Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Another Metroline Route Through The South Gate

On 15 of July 2017, Metroline took over one of London's more forgotten routes off the hands of Arriva London.

Metroline DEM1352 (LK62 DGO) on route 382
Operating between Southgate Station and the recent new construction of Millbrook Park housing in Mill Hill East, route 382 provides a bus service to the little roads we all forget exist, the roads that our main bus routes can't reach, whilst also providing some valuable links that some members of the public might not even notice, although that may of had something to do with its previous operation.

The fairly young route only started its life in 2003 operating between Southgate Station and Mill Hill East Station before receiving an extension to Mill Hill East newest housing development, Millbrook Park, in April 2015. Its whole life had been an Arriva London one previously, originally starting at Edmonton (EC) garage, then getting transferred into Wood Green (WN) garage almost 9 years after its birth, then returning back to its roots in Edmonton in 2014 following the reopening of the garage.  

Starting off with the Plaxton Pointer 2 bodied Dennis Darts SLFs, they were the only new buses 382 has ever received with Arriva taking the opportunity to replace the knackered Darts in 2015 with some Enviro 200s made free following the loss of route 192 to Go Ahead London. In general, Darts tend to be seen as the more favourible bus type as opposed to Alexander Dennis Limited attempt to improve the Dennis Dart with the Enviro 200, however 382 batch of ENs (EN1-EN11) were something special. Something about them always stood out. Yes Edmonton (EC) have a bad reputation with buses thanks to the VLAs roaring away on 123, but despite all the odds, 382 buses were healthy (and didn't roar), always speeding around the streets trying to get to their destination as quickly as possible, with some regulars finding the speed to much, but I loved it.

Arriva London EN5 (LJ57 USW) on route 382
Yes the journeys were fun under Arriva London, the buses were brilliant, but everything else wasn't all so great. Reliability was no more then a pain when it came to 382, gaps of over 30 mins not uncommon, its usefulness was useless with no proper service. Customer service wasn't a strong point either, drivers always in a rush, quick tempers and no enthusiasm to helping the general public on where to get off or directions to get to their desired place.

Its the end of 2015, and tender tranche 574 was due, one I was looking forward to for some time. Rumors had spread before the award announcement by TfL, that one of the routes involved in this tranche was going Metroline, that route being 382.

Obviously, these statements were not taken as a conformation as Metroline had won the route, but after the official tender announcement in December, we all knew for sure 382 was going to undergo its first ever transfer in operating company's.

There were two possible homes for the route under Metroline, one was the very likely Potters Bar (PB) garage and the other being the more unlikely Edgware (EW) garage, with the odds being correct, it eventually became known for sure that the route was going to Potters Bar (PB). So what about the buses? Thankfully the route was in line for some much needed additional capacity with Metroline offering the route 9.3m dual door buses as opposed to the single door ENs length of 8.9m, with the route proving that it could deal with 9.3m buses when once upon a time it used to borrow route W6 PDLs. The 9.3m Enviro 200s, DEMs to me and you, Metroline were able to source were from the recent departure of route W9 to Sullivan Buses.

However Metroline had a problem on their hands. Route 384 was also subject to get a share in the DEMs, with route 234 using them since new and had no intention of giving them up. There wasn't enough DEMs to go around at Potters Bar between the three routes so what was they to do? They could of either ordered some brand new buses to act as top ups to ensure there were enough buses for the three routes or they could of have looked at transferring in some buses from another depot.

With no news of new single deckers arriving to Metroline in the approaching weeks of Metroline scheduled date of the takeover of route 382, it became clear that some single deckers were going to be transferred in, but from where? The only other depot to have DEMs is Alperton (ON) garage so it didn't take long to figure out Alperton were about to lose some DEMs, which became certain when DEs started to randomly transfer into Alperton. Then DEM1918 was the first bus from Alperton to move up north into Potters Bar days before route 382 change, with its first ever Potters Bar route being the 384, with DEM1916 & DEM1917 quickly following.

Arriva London EN9 (LJ57 UTA) on route 382
Whilst Metroline were busy with the transfers and re-blinding, service was going from bad to worse under Arriva, frequent 30+ mins gaps, turns and bunching's just made the route near unusable. Often when I could of used it I was greeted with a sight of no 382s for over 30 mins on the countdown board so had to make a plan B, however the ENs were still going strong to the last day where I had a farewell ride on them with my driver speeding around all the back roads reminding me why I loved the Edmonton 382 and why I will miss some aspects of it.

With EN2 being the last Arriva 382, Metroline started their shift with DEM1337 being the first to introduce the route to its new life. The first day was pretty much a flop, although not too many people noticed thanks to Abellio putting out a MMC onto route 159 on the same day. The whole service was screwed, everywhere you looked there was a bunching taking place, turns everywhere, I think I saw more turned 382s then ones actually doing the full route. I wasn't even able to do the full route as my bus, DEM1347, departed late from Southgate Station, then got turned to Finchley Central with the next 382 services in 21 mins and 22 mins, to make it worse it had started to rain just as I got off my DEM. I decided to just go home and try to do the full route when the service had settled down another day.

Metroline DEM1917 (YX61 EKY) on route 382
I have since managed to do the route end to end, and whilst the journey may not of been as fun as it would of been with an Arriva driver behind the wheel, it was still a nice journey. I feel the Metroline 382 will be the opposite to the Arriva version, better reliability and less fun, which is what every bus route should in theory be to be a success to the regular commuters on the route, but sometimes its nice to have a bit more fun then reliability.

Below is a fleet list of all the DEMs at Potters Bar (PB) garage that are shared between routes 234, 382 & 384 at time of publishing:

DEM1916 - YX61 EKW
DEM1917 - YX61 EKY
DEM1918 - YX61 EKZ
DEM1337 - LK62 DAA
DEM1338 - LK62 DAO
DEM1339 - LK62 DBZ
DEM1340 - LK62 DCE
DEM1341 - LK62 DCF
DEM1342 - LK62 DCY
DEM1343 - LK62 DDU
DEM1344 - LK62 DDY
DEM1345 - LK62 DDZ
DEM1346 - LK62 DEU
DEM1347 - LK62 DFF
DEM1348 - LK62 DFJ
DEM1349 - LK62 DFP
DEM1350 - LK62 DFY
DEM1351 - LK62 DGF
DEM1352 - LK62 DGO
DEM1353 - LK62 DHC
DEM1354 - LK62 DHD
DEM1355 - LK62 DHE
DEM1356 - LK62 DHG
DEM1357 - LK62 DHP
DEM1358 - LK62 DHU
DEM1359 - LK62 DHV 

The service has started to see signs of improvements with less bunching and a lower amount of buses being turned. The future is looking bright for the route, with brighter buses, more friendly drivers and a more dependable service on the horizon, I can hopefully even start to rely on the service with confidence, something I've not been able to do for a very long time now.