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Route E8
27 November 2009

The E8 began in 1990 as a straightforward split of route E1 at Ealing Broadway. Unlike some such splits, which resulted in lost connections, there would not appear to have been any great hardship in this case, as the route virtually doubled back on itself the E1 runs between Hanwell and Ealing on the north side of the railway, while the E8 does the same on the south side.

The route is operated from the former Armchair base in Brentford, now subsumed as part of Metroline. A new contract in May specified new Enviro200Darts, which have now entered service. I have again been supplied with several photographs, and the first is DE996 (LK09 ENH) passing along Uxbridge Road, Hanwell, at the junction with St. George's Road. The photographer, who is a local man, notes: "On the north side is the bottom of Church Road. On either side of the junction are churches. On the south side is a 'modern' church, the roof of which has made the shadow in the bottom right hand corner. I took the photo about 4pm and it was bright and sunny so I don't know why the street light is on!"

Photo © John Bennett.

An alternative view, showing the other side of these buses, is of sister vehicle DE997 (LK09 ENJ) at Brentford Police Station on Tuesday 20 October 2009. Metroline has recently followed other operators in abandoning a contrasting colour skirt; Metroline's was probably the most distinctive, being deep and blue. The curvy lines of the Enviro family do not really suit coloured skirts anyway. The ComfortDelgro logo (the parent group of Metroline) is difficult to read on the red background!

Photo © Brian Creasey.

The E8 is also one of several routes to receive hybrid vehicles on trial. The previous Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was keen to be seen to be "green," and authorised these trials. Whether his successor will continue his enthusiasm remains to be seen, especially given increased budgetary pressures as a result of the recession. There have been no new announcements of hybrids for some time, though the official line is still that all new buses will be hybrids from 2012.

The principle of hybrids is that the engine drives a generator which charges batteries which then power electric motors to move the vehicle. The batteries can also be charged by regenerative braking. Depending on the technology, a smaller engine can be fitted, though the extra weight of batteries exceeds this saving. Their environmental benefits are also questionable, as, whilst fuel consumption and emissions are reduced compared with comparable conventional engined vehicles, the improvements are relatively marginal, and considerably more energy is used in their production. There are also issues about battery lifetime and disposal of the battery chemicals.

Anyhow, one of the types on trial is the Optare Tempo. There are no conventional Tempos in London, though the Excel, which it replaced, had some success. The hybrid Tempo is of the "parallel" type which retain a full size engine, which still drives the wheels directly at speed. This is thought more effective on rural routes with more high speed running, so how they perform in London's stop-start traffic remains to be seen. Metroline now have five for the E8, though their use has been sporadic.

Photo © Alan Herbert.

OTH971 (LK58 CTY), the first into service, over 4 months late, is seen in Commerce Road, Brentford, on 30 March 2009. The E8 originally terminated at the County Court, but when Armchair won the route (and route E2) in 1997 it was extended to their garage, which is at the end of Commerce Road. This was no doubt more convenient for them, and also freed up stand space at County Court for other routes. Evidently the extension is quite useful in its own right, as several passengers are boarding here. Terminating buses in the garage is also useful for the E8 hybrid trial, as it allows buses to be swapped over easily if there is a problem.

The code AH on the side of the bus is not just the initials of the photographer (!), but the garage code, harking back to its previous ownership by former independent ArmcHair. Though the identity has been eliminated by Metroline, certain local quirks continue, including the display of the running number of the nearside only (Metroline usually put it on the front) and running number plates that are the same colour as the bus, as can be seen in the next photo.

One other vehicle type has been making regular appearances on the E8, probably for the reason just noted, that they can easily be swapped on and off service, though in this case it would be because of vehicle type knowledge rather than any likely mechanical issues! These are the DM class MCV Evolution bodied Enviro200Darts intended for route 190, and DM961 (LK58 CRF) is seen turning the corner from Hanwell Broadway into Boston Road on Friday 27 March 2009.

Photo © John Bennett.

A healthy load is in evidence, and one must question the wisdom of the re-award of the route with continued single deck operation, especially as some double deck workings were to be withdrawn indeed, one had to be re-instated after a few months! Nominally, the double deck workings had been replaced by the extension of route 195 to Brentford, but that does not cover the popular "round the corner" link at Hanwell (which DM961 is just making, literally), whilst the E8 can also acquire heavy short-distance loads between Hanwell and Ealing.

It is also a pity that the opportunity was not taken with the new contract to extend the E8 to Hounslow. There is a clear local need for this round-the-corner link, as can be seen from the large crowds of passengers changing buses in Brentford between routes 195/E8 and 235/237.

See also routes E1, 117, 195, 235, 237, E2, 190

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