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Country Area operation

Is there much evidence of the different problems thrown up by sporadic operation of the Country area vehicles from a maintenance specific perspective?

I am referring to the probable similarity between a spare vehicle and some of today's preserved buses which attend the popular running days. A couple of hours running around on muddy and salt strewn roads followed by several days or a couple of weeks idle time is how many buses then and now operate. Then comes the sudden full day's often hard work, which might in previous times have involved a transfer to another distant garage which replicates today's experience.

Were the costs of Country area operation noticeably higher per mile run/hours in service than Central area use?

Re: Country Area operation

There must have been a different mind set for dealing with routine rota servicing in the `country area` in LT days based on the reliability of the RT, RF, RMC and RCL types.

In the `central area` it was usual for rota servicing and / or deep cleaning to be carried out between the morning and evening peak hours by allocating a bus to a spread-over running line to provide four to six hours of garage time during the middle part of the day.

How did that work for Green Line vehicles? Just about every route was a lengthy cross town route with each vehicle doing two round trips per day. And as headways were generally hourly seven days a week, there was no `garage time` during the main part of the day. A late start into Green Line service rarely happened as most buses were on the road by 0800 - sometimes starting with a single journey on a non Green Line route. No Green Line vehicles ran in off service until after the pm peak. With most garages having between four and six Green Line running lines, the ratio of one spare bus for so few in service would seem generous. But as we all know, it`s sods law that on the day when routine servicing takes a bus off the road all day there will be another one off the road too with an unexpected problem. There must have been many instances of a rota bus being sent out to work rather than to drop an infrequent service and the catching up of work would have to be done at night. That`s asking a lot of RT, RF and RM types to be so reliable and almost always available for service. It`s not difficult to see why London Country got into such a mess with vehicle shortages of newer types that cost more to maintain whilst at the same time causing an interruption to revenue streams and passenger confidence through cancelled services. Costs went up, income fell. It was never as bad in RT, RF, RMC and RCL days.

Even in country area during LT ownership, spare vehicle margins were tight bordering on foolishly optimistic. I can recall HF having three MBS`s for the 324 route which required two `all day` buses and one `peak hour` bus. In other words an expectation that all three were fit for service each weekday with the `spread-over bus facilitating between the peaks garage work. And these were Merlins not known for reliability. And being `Autofare` equipped vehicles, nothing else could exactly substitute. RMC 4 with a conductor was often the answer!

Vehicle problems that caused a shortage for service could almost be `covered up` in the central area where more frequent services and parallel routes might enable a passenger to make a journey albeit slightly delayed and by more than one bus. Not so easy to do that in the country area on hourly headways and long sections of road served by only one bus route.

Re: Country Area operation

Thank you Neil for that very informative reply.

Currently I am reading 'Green no More' by Peter Aves, which details the struggles of London Country to both maintain a service and at the same time attempt to balance the books. It would appear that the vehicle availability problems encountered did not focus strictly upon the new designs. While it was certainly true that the modern single deck fleet caused emormous problems,in the mid 1970's period it was the lack of available Routemaster type vehicles which seems to have caused significant difficulities in spite of the efforts to adopt one man operation. It would seem that London Country was dependent upon LT for the supply of Routemaster spares, which seem not to have been forthcoming because LT did not have enough for their own fleet. This left LC with a 25% shortfall (52 vehicles) of the Routemasters required for scheduled service. By contrast there was actually a small surplus of rear engined DDs.

With such levels of unserviceable vehicles one wonders how the engineering staff managed to acquire anything scheduled for rota inspection, which must have made the situation worse still.