Day 2 started bright and early. I woke about 0700 in Southampton and shortly after, I was back on the road. My plan for the day was to photograph FirstWessex’s 501 route in Weymouth, or more specifically the open top Olympian 39920 L650SEU; which would be my first Olympian in the new livery. The 501 operates between Weymouth and Portland Bill, and the open toppers which run it during the summer attract many a tourist/enthusiast.
I parked just outside the town at Mount Pleasant Park & Ride, which officially closed a few years ago but still sees use due to the fact that there is a regular bus stop just a few minutes walk away from the site. Using my new Firstbus staff pass I boarded 69212 MX06VPN and was shortly in Weymouth ready to board/photograph the open topper.
69212 - MX06VPN just before picking me up outside the Park & Ride
Me being me, I wanted to be prepared so I tweeted FirstDorset asking them what buses would be operating the service today. I swiftly got a reply which stated this “Hi there, unfortunately I don't have access to that information, it's also confidential.” My mouth dropped open whilst in my mind I wanted to write “Confidential?! As soon as it turns up I’ll be photographing them and putting them and putting it on twitter, how can it be confidential!” but instead I wrote "confidential?! Bit strange; no other first bus area I've been in have come up with that before! Never mind. Thanks."
Not to worry though, I would soon find out for myself if one of the buses would be 39920, so not to be phased I decided to use the time left before the bus to fill my stomach with a bacon bap from a nearby stall and then waited in anticipation for 0940. Which came….and went. At about 0950 I spotted a “customer assistant” donning a hi-vis jacket with a First logo on so I approached him asking if he knew how late the 501 was running. His reply was “it isn’t running late because it’s not running at all due to industrial action sir.” I was shocked; I explained that I had come all the way from Norwich and that the only reason I was here was to specifically photograph that particular bus! He listened well and then suggested I make my way over the depot which turned out to be just around the corner and explain my predicament there, So I did.
Upon arrival a helpful cleaner pointed out I had in fact gone to the back of the depot rather than the front so redirected me to reception. I tried again there, having seen 39920 in the garage stuck between a lot of other buses, I explained my situation to a man in reception who seemed to have sympathy for me. He proceeded to hand me a hi-vis jacket before escorting me over to said bus, and then he made my day by moving all the other buses around it before taking it outside in the sun for me to photograph! After saying thank you, a lot, and shaking his hand, I could leave Weymouth a happy spotter but I still couldn’t resist tweeting First back asking why they didn’t tell me the 501 wasn’t running in reply to my original tweet…
FirstWessex 39920 - L650SEU in the sunshine at Weymouth's depot
My second stop of the day was a few hours further west; Plymouth. Having visited a couple of times I was keen to catch up as I hadn’t had a proper session there since First sold their operations to Stagecoach. I parked at Bretonside Coach Station and paid for an hour which I spent photographing brand new Enviro400s and slightly older Enviro200s with Stagecoach, and also Plymouth Citybus’ fleet of Volvo B7RLEs, Dennis Darts and multi coloured “Flash” branded buses. Special mention goes to SN64CTU, currently on demo to the Go-Ahead owned company. I’ll have to make another visit next year once Anglian’s gas buses are in service!
Check back soon for #VegOnTour: Part 3!
Plymouth Citybus demonstrator Wright StreetDeck SN64CTU