Prompted by a comment from Debra regarding the limited public transport in Southern California I thought a brief visit to the wilds of North Norfolk to show another side of Public Transport in the UK was in order.

Providing a bus service in sparsely populated areas such as North Norfolk is always going to be difficult as the returns are unlikely to make the service cost effective. Yet a public service of some sort needs to be provided as the population is often elderly and without their own means of transport. Back in the 1980’s the Eastern Counties bus company working with the local council, came up with an innovative solution to the problem – provide a vehicle and let volunteer members of the community drive it to provide the service. Communities were provided with a minibus at a secure location which then operated a set of routes specified by the company on each day of the week with a single journey each way. The unpaid drivers collected the fares which went back to the bus company to cover the fuel and maintenance costs of the vehicle. The company also provided training and medicals for the volunteer drivers.

The scheme was altered in 2001 when the bus was replaced by a Dial-a-Ride service provided by the local council. Still following the same routes, passengers intending to travel now call the day before to book collection from their front door.

A signpost on the outskirts of Briningham with the names of several villages served by the Sharrington Community Bus.

Sharrington Community Bus
The Sharrington Community Bus on its Thursday run to Fakenham for the market in 1993. Having started at Sharrington and passed through Thornage, Brinton and Burgh Stubbs it is seen in Briningham where it will collect passengers waiting on the corner (including me!).

Cottages in the Village of Gunthorpe, the next stop along the route from Briningham.

Volunteer Driver
The Volunteer Driver concentrates on the road ahead as the bus heads for the next village.

Drop Off
A 2008 view of the Dial-a-Ride service in Burgh Stubbs – the driver helps an elderly passenger with her shopping.

So – He’s gone… If I abused a Police Officer I would initially have been warned and had I continued I would have been arrested (I’ve watched enough Police Camera Action to know that’s how it works) so I wonder if the then Chief Whip was warned by the Police Officer or did his position prevent that, making it an example of a one rule for them and another for us situation? 4 weeks after the event, the resignation letter admits to the fact that the Officer was sworn at which contradicts the Chief Whip’s claim in the House of Commons just a couple of days previously that he had not sworn at the Officer. So the story on one side of the arguement changed whilst the Police story stayed as constant as the Northern Star – based on the record of the incident in the Officer’s notebook which reputedly includes the word ‘Pleb’. Those of you who have seen Hot Fuzz will appreciate that an Officer’s Notebook is the most important tool in his armoury 🙂 Whatever the Conservative Chief Whip may have said to a Police Officer who was only trying to do his duty, it has left an impression with me and many others that the Conservative Party remains the party of those who sneer down their noses at the rest of us. The fact that it has been widely reported that he told the officer at the gates to “learn your place” and “you don’t run this government” doesn’t challenge this view of them either. And they should be doubly embarrassed as they have always stood on the plank of being the party of Law and Order!

As the resignation grabbed the headlines, another political story involving the Chancellor briefly raised its head on Radio 5 Live. Having bought a Standard class ticket, the Chancellor and his aide decided to sit in First Class. Now why would you do that? An honest mistake? I doubt it very much – I know the difference and I can remember the good old BR days when at weekends you would sometimes find First Class coaches carrying stickers with the legend ‘For the use of passengers travelling with Second Class tickets’ (in those days the standing joke was that there was also a sticker for the toilet window saying ‘for the use of passengers travelling without a ticket’). But, I digress…

Virgin Pendolino at Willesden Junction
Virgin Pendolino at Willesden Junction
Were it a strange route on a local suburban train then maybe, just maybe, it could be an honest mistake but the Chancellor was travelling back to London from his constituency – a journey that I hope he does lots of times as I assume that he still represents his constituents! No, the story appears to be very different – the Chancellor chose to sit in First Class with a Second Class ticket. The bad news for the Chancellor is that he chose a carriage with a Journalist in close proximity so what went on has become public knowledge. Apparently the Chancellor “couldn’t possibly sit in Standard Class” – Now why would that be? Because it’s full of Plebs? If he couldn’t sit in Standard Class, why did he buy a Standard Class ticket? – surely he should have bought a First Class ticket to start with. It begs the question as to whether he has tried travelling First Class on a Standard Class ticket before and got away with it? – I guess we will never know but there is no smoke without fire (or over heating electric motors and excel spreadsheets on the West Coast mainline). Anyway, it made most of the National papers today – You can read all about it with the reporter’s tweets that were sent as events took place.

So much for the Prime Minister’s ‘We’re all in this together’ speeches 😦

It’s that annual occasion that every UK Motorist dreads – the day when the car has to go for its MOT test. The idea behind the test is simple – detect faults so that they can be rectified and thus enhance road safety. What this invariably means for the motorist is an annual repair bill. My car was due in for its test on Tuesday so I booked it in with my maintenance people and dropped it off at their Mill Hill workshop. I usually drop it at the Finchley branch but I’d decided to take the day off and use the opportunity to do some transport photography around Mill Hill and Borehamwood. It proved to be a glorious autumn day and my decision was full justified.

Lets look at some shots from Borehamwood first…

Elstree & Borehamwood Station
Passengers from my train climb the footbridge steps at Elstree & Borehamwood station as a fast services passes through.
Lots of Commuters cycle to the station and leave their bikes there for the day. It looks like one of them has taken their child to work too 🙂
Metroline TE828
Borehamwood is right on the outer limit of Transport for London’s area and there are only two bus services on which the Oyster card is valid – the 292 and the 107. Here, Metroline TE828 makes its way along the High Street past one of many banners celebrating the work of Elstree Studios – in this case, Star Wars.
East of England Ambulance 611
Further proof that we are beyond the fringe of London’s urban sprawl – Here, the ambulances belong to the East of England Ambulance Service.
The nature of the bridges at Elstree & Borehamwood station makes photography of southbound trains the only realistic option. Here a service from Nottingham speeds through on route to St.Pancras. Most of the East Midlands trains services on the line are formed of these 4 / 5 car ‘Meridian’ units, often working in pairs.
Sullivan DP96
Borehamwood is very much Sullivan Buses territory. Most of their vehicles are painted in red as the company operates some Transport for London routes and regularly undertakes rail replacement services for London Underground. Here is one of their Plaxton bodied Dennis Dart’s crossing over the railway with the 306 Borehamwood to Watford service – Looking every bit like a London bus, this is not a TfL route so Oyster Card not valid.
First Capital Connect operate a fast service from Bedford to Brighton via the City of London. These services are operated by Class 377 units as shown in this photograph – This is the 10:40 service and will arrive in Brighton at 12:55.
Local stopping services on the Midland mainline are operated using Class 319 units in a variety of liveries – here is 319364 advertising Thameslink services with a green and white Southern unit behind.
Uno WS54
Uno (University Bus) operate the 615 route from Hatfield to Stanmore. Originally the service was provided using 12 metre Mercedes-Benz Citaro vehicles but now there are 4 of these brand new Wright Streetlite vehcles operating the route – presumably the passenger loading didn’t justify the larger vehicles. The ‘Pink’ branding is normally used for St. Albans local routes so presumably these vehicles can also fill in on those duties alongside Uno’s Optare Solo’s.
The Midland mainline has always carried its fair share of freight to and from London. In the past it was one of the main routes delivering coal to the capital from the east midlands coalfields. Nowadays, the most common commodity is aggregates for the construction industry. Here Class 66, 66613 of the Freightliner fleet heads north with a train of empty aggregates hoppers. The climb through Elstree and the tunnels under Scratchwood, is deceptively steep – hence the grey clag above the train. Built by EMD in London, Ontario, Canada, there are now over 400 of these loco’s working in the UK and they are also finding buyers in Europe.

And now some shots from Mill Hill…

Corbel YN54NYC
Morning in Mill Hill and a Corbel coach heads to its next duty after performing a school run. A number of London coach operators make their businesses viable by taking on schools contract work. Corbel’s Pink and Black livery is unmistakeable 😉
Arriva the Shires3706
An Arriva The Shires Wright Cadet bodied DAF on the 303 route collects passengers at Mill Hill Broadway station before setting off on its journey to Edgware. Compared with Boreham wood above, all bus services in Mill Hill are operated for TfL.
Mill Hill Broadway
Mill Hill Broadway bus station has an overall roof provided by the M1 Motorway which passes through the area on stilts alongside the pre-existing Midland mainline railway. Another example of vehicles working the 303 – This Plaxton bodied Dennis Dart is 14 years old which is ancient in London bus terms nowadays. Behind are vehicles on the 302 and 114 routes.
Mill Hill Broadway
Mill Hill Broadway is the main shopping street in the area – it is sandwiched between the railway and M1 motorway at one end and the A1 Barnet Bypass at the other.
LAS 7755
A London Ambulance Service vehicle negotiates heavy traffic on Mill Hill Circus (on the Barnet Bypass) at the eastern end of Mill Hill Broadway on an emergency call. It was a busy afternoon for the ambulance crews – 4 different vehicles on emergency runs passed through this roundabout in around 30 minutes 😦
London Sovereign DE57
Cross over the A1 and to the East you enter an area of genteel housing estates, posh schools and open fields. DE57 (an ADL Enviro 200 vehicle) of London Sovereign descends Lawrence Street towards Mill Hill Circus past St. Josephs Missionary College on the 251 route. The college is no longer a missionary school and is currently up for sale.
Three Hammers
A walk up Hammers Lane brings you to the Three Hammers pub which stands on a triangular green beside The Ridgway in Mill Hill Village. The climb is steep and the 240 bus grinds its way to the top or, in this case, tests its brakes on the way down. Metroline VPL200, a Plaxton bodied Volvo, picks up a solitary passenger in a typical suburban London bus scene.

Now wasn’t that much more pleasant than going back to work and worrying about the MOT all day? Ahh – That’s better as Nancy would say…