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Speke's Geminis Take to the Roads

Article and photos by 50700914/10/11

Eight of Arriva Speke’s new VDL DB300/Wright Gemini 2s went into revenue-earning service for the first time on Monday 10/10/11 working the 82 route. A total of 44 of these double deckers have been ordered for two major bus routes serving the south side of Liverpool: the 82 which connects Liverpool city centre with Toxteth, Dingle, Aigburth, Garston and Speke, and the 79 which runs from the city centre to Netherley via Edge Hill, Wavertree, Childwall and Belle Vale. The new arrivals will see the 79 finally converted to full double-deck operation.

A resplendant 4442 (MX61AYU) stands in the layover area at Speke Morrisons, the terminus for Arriva’s route 82.

Those in use on the day were 4435 (MX61AUT), 4436 (MX61AUU), 4440 (MX61AYS), 4441 (MX61AYT), 4442 (MX61AYU), 4444 (MX61AYC), 4445 (MX61AYD) and 4446 (MX61AYE). It was also the first day of operation since the 82 became a 'Quality Bus Partnership' (QBP) route. This means that Arriva and Stagecoach run co-ordinated timetables (at a significantly reduced timetable) with either operator's tickets valid on each other's buses through the route's core section (Liverpool - Garston).

4444 (MX61AYC) is joined by DAF DB250/Alexander ALX400 4026 in Speke. The remaining 11 route 82 workings were covered by a mixture of these, Volvo B7TLs and the oldest double deckers left in the Speke fleet, the Volvo Olympians.

The benefits of QBP operation are limited for passengers aside from the shared ticketing. One other benefit for this route in particular is the enhanced frequency between Garston and Speke, now increased to every six minutes. Arriva continues to operate all 82 services beyond Garston.

An interior view of 4442’s upper deck, showing the low-backed seating with 'blue blocks' seat trim. A Metro newspaper has been left behind following the morning rush.

The DB300's seating capacity is 70 in total, with 43 seats upstairs and 27 downstairs. The seats themselves are Esteban Civic V2s which lack headrests, thus matching Bootle’s Enviros and most of the Pulsars introduced to Liverpool’s roads over the last three years. The choice of decor is identical to the new Pulsars at Green Lane Stoneycroft and Southport with grey vinyl floors and cream handrails. Seats are trimmed with the current 'blue blocks' moquette consisting of a chequered blue pattern.

Old and new: ageing Volvo Olympian 3332 (R322WVR) rests next to a brand new Gemini which will eventually see the former’s withdrawal from Speke. This is a scene which will quickly become obsolete as the Olympians leave for pastures new in the coming weeks.

A variety of buses, both single and double deck, will be ousted from Speke as a result of the VDL DB300s' arrival. Departures will include six Volvo B10BLE/Wright Endurance (2716-21), three DAF SB200/Plaxton Prestige (2401-03), seven DAF SB200/Alexander ALX300 (2405-08/10/13/15) and the remaining Volvo Olympian/Northern Counties Palatine II and ex-London DAF DB250/Alexander ALX400 fleets.

A night view showing 4440 (MX61AYS) and Ace Travel’s Optare Solo MX06BSU parked up at Speke Morrisons. The Solo will work an 81 service to Bootle Strand, with ACE Travel now responsible for evening services on this route. Note the marker lights extending across the bodyside of the Gemini, now fitted to all new buses in the UK as standard.

The 'new bus' smell is very evident on the Geminis, stronger even than the recent Pulsar deliveries. They are pleasant buses to ride with bright interiors and are an obvious improvement upon the previously single-decked 79 and the widely varied collection of double deckers which have operated along the 82 corridor in recent years.

They seem be settling in well, with all eight having made appearances each day this week and no observed failures. A new era for many bus passengers in south Liverpool has begun.

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