Monday, 20 May 2019

First Forges Forward in Edinburgh (1)

Reliable sources have confirmed that First Bus has registered an Edinburgh Sightseeing Tour and is currently recruiting staff. Apparently the vehicles are hidden away in the Caledonia depot at Glasgow, although quite how you can "hide" a dozen or more branded buses is unclear.

One question immediately arises, of course. Aren't there hoardes of sightseeing buses in Edinburgh already?

Answer yes! They queue up for customers on Waverley Bridge all day and all year ...
... and there is nearly always a queue at both windows of the ticket office.
It is big business at a big price.
There are FOUR tours as follows:-
The one with the international brand offers a city centre tour, passing all the obvious highlights of Auld Reekie. (click on the map for an enlargement).
The "Edinburgh Tour" ...
... is similar but not quite the same! (again click for enlargement)
It tours a little more of the New Town (upper left) and a little less of Waverley Gardens (lower left). The square wiggle centre right takes both tours to "Dynamic Earth", a part of Edinburgh's heritage with which many Sassenachs may be unfamiliar.

Dynamic Earth (originally known as Our Dynamic Earth) is a visitor attraction in Edinburgh, and also functions as a conference venue. It is in the Holyrood area, beside the Scottish Parliament building and at the foot of Salisbury Crags.
The principal focus of Dynamic Earth is to facilitate a better public understanding of the processes that have shaped the Earth (known as earth science). This includes the Big Bang, abiogenesis, plate tectonics and glaciation.

The centre opened in 1999 as one of the first major projects supported by the Millennium Commission. The project was part of an urban regeneration plan for former industrial land at the lower end of Holyrood Road.
Quite why there are two very similar tours is not clear; the reason may be historical as Lothian Transport has assiduously bought out any operator who attempts to compete - the council's arm's length bus company has, effectively, a monopoly.

Next comes the Majestic Tour.
This covers just a mini bit of the city centre then runs via the Botanic Gardens ...
... but the main USP is, obviously, the Royal Yacht Britannia.
The fourth tour does what it says on the label.
It links with a boat trip to view the bridges up close (at extra cost) but you can just do the ride for the standard prices.
The boat trip looks great, but the bus ride itself is a simple out and back.

All four tours have their own dedicated livery and the open toppers have a covered section to which to retreat in the event of precipitation, a rare event in Edinburgh! (?).
fbb had better add a Three Bridges bus for completeness.
So what exactly will First Bus do? Word on the bus staircase is that it will be one "simple" tour with no variations - fbb guesses some mixture of the two "inner" tours from Lothian - taking just under the hour for the round trip.

A formal announcement is expected soon from First and fbb will include it in a blog as soon as it is received. He is also hoping for a picture of one (or all) of the buses.

Keen bus watchers will know what has provoked this Dun Edin expansion decision; but, for those that are less keen Scotland bus watchers, the old codger will set the scene in tomorrow's posting.

But fbb cannot really get the week going without reference to the weekend's Railway Highlight. New timetables? Azuma to Leeds? 6 days a week to Gainsborough Central?

These all pale into insignificance when compared to First Great Western's farewell to the HST.
Although "main line" use has ended ...
... short-formation HSTs are available in Scotland ...
... and branded as "Castles", similarly for extra trains to Plymouth and Penzance.
There is no doubt that these original trains were the best ever operated by British Railways.
Sadly, in modernity they have been spoiled by high backed seats, crammed in so the views are poor, ...
... but the as-built coaches made a truly great train.

And, when there are still capacity problems on parts of the national network why are these trains now rotting in sidings?


FGW's new trains have not been as reliable as they company had hoped - better now - but might the odd HST do an Arnie Schwarzenegger?

 Next West Lothian blog : Tuesday 21st May 


  1. Andrew Kleissner20 May 2019 at 07:00

    Are East Midlands trains still using HSTs from St. Pancras, and LNER from Kings Cross to Inverness? Or have they gone, too?

  2. LNER will go this year; EMT probably from 2020 or 2021.
    I think X Country still have a few as well, and Hull Trains also have a couple whilst the Class 180's limp on to replacement later this year or next.
    Still plenty to ride on . . . . . !!

  3. East Midlands HSTs have nice low backed for great views out of the windows, although Kettering isn't as scenic as Dawlish. Cross Country's HSTs have high backed seats, but the upholstery is nice and sumptuous.

  4. The green tour has a live guide, the red one a multilingual recorded commentary.

    Judging by the time it has taken to convert the Scotrail HSTs to sliding doors and retention tanks, 'rotting in the sidings' may not be altogether wrong!

  5. It was the Mark 3 carriage that introduced the concept of seats not lining up with the windows, since it used one bodyshell whether the interior was first or second class.
    I nominate South Eastern's 375s (except for the 375/9) as some of the finest interiors on the network these days - decent non-high back seats, lots of tables, and seating bays that line up with the windows.