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Last updated: 13 May 2022

 
     
  Archive/Photograph of the Month  
     
 

With the impending replacement of the second batch of Eclipse buses, in the form of the ADL Enviro200MMCs, with the third generation of buses, in the delivery of specifically-branded Wright Streetlite Max buses, I thought it would be the perfect time to look back at the originals – a fleet of fourteen Volvo B7RLE with Wright Eclipse Urban Mark 2 bodywork. These buses were the first to arrive in a widespread fleet renewal, continuing with Enviro200s for Southampton, and then four different batches of Streetlites across all Hampshire depots.

69548 (BF12KWJ) is pictured here on 8th June 2013 as it departs Gosport bus station with an Eclipse service for Fareham. These buses were the first in the fleet to have e-leather seats, next-stop announcements and wood-effect flooring from new. By all accounts, they were very popular buses with both drivers and passengers, with the reliable Wright bodywork on the sturdy Volvo chassis being an excellent heavyweight combination. The last vestiges of the willow-leaf livery was also on the Eclipse livery, which would ironically be phased out around the same time with First regenerating its brand and phasing out the willow leaf and ‘Barbie’ livery.

The Eclipse BRT busway completely renovated the service pattern on the Fareham to Gosport routes. The E1 was loosely the old 86, via Elson, with the E2 forming from the old 82, via Ann’s Hill. At Brockhurst, the services joined the BRT rapid busway at Hutfield Link, which has been extended a kilometre to Rowner earlier this year. Services 83 and 85 initially lived on, with the 83 operating along its old route every half an hour and also extended to the West End of Fareham, replacing route 31. Route 85 initially operated every 20 minutes serving the centre of Bridgemary along Nobes Avenue and Gregson Avenue. Route 88 remained as well, via Stokes Bay and Rowner, but peak journeys numbered X88 turned off at Wych Lane to run along the BRT link to provide extra links to Fareham railway station. This pattern of services did not last too long, however, for the whole network was recast again in the winter of 2012. It really was an interesting time between two networks and forms the last major network review in the Provincial area.

69548, meanwhile, saw out five years on the Eclipse services. Conditions for using the BRT dictate that buses operating along the length of the busway must be aged five years or younger; I can imagine Covid is the reason the Enviros have had a stay of execution for a year. 69548, along with the other fourteen original Volvos new in 2012, went down to Weymouth, where they continue to operate on town services 2 (Littlemoor), 4 (Preston) and 10 (Dorchester). 69548 is one of the latter, carrying dark green (almost Provincial-like) branding for the 10 between Weymouth and Dorchester.

 
 
 
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First in Southampton are in the process of introducing four former-First Leeds Wright Streetdecks in to service across the CityRed network. These are to give additional capacity and flexibility across the network and will be primarily operating on the high frequency route 3 from Thornhill to Lordshill. Pictured approaching Commerical Road in Southampton is Streetdeck 35212 (SL16RFX) heading for Thornhill 

Photo by James May

 
 

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