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Quite a stir has been caused by the introduction of a new type of single decker to London. The Optare Versa has been in production for some time, but had hitherto not been successful in London. Transdev, always keen to diversify its vehicle orders, broke the mould, and Selkent and NCP have since followed suit. The design borrows some features from the Optare Solo minibus design; the tapered front gives a peculiar appearance! Initial reports have generally been positive – build quality seems good, and drivers like them.
Deliveries were delayed slightly owing to the need for modifications to meet Transport for London requirements, such as inclusion of a centre exit door. OV7 (YJ58 VBG) is in Fulham Broadway on Sunday the 4th of January, heading for Sands End, devoid of fleet names and running numbers; this type code has been used before, for an earlier generation of Optare bodies on Volkswagen minibus chassis in the late 1980s!
|Photo © Brian Creasey.|
The 391 number derives from old route 91, which was divided in 1991. The main section of the 91 became the H91 between Hammersmith and Hounslow West, while the 391 took over the Fulham Broadway – Hammersmith – Turnham Green section. About a year later, the 391 replaced the Hammersmith – Turnham Green – Richmond section of the 27, which was cut back to its current terminus at Turnham Green. However, between Kew Bridge and Richmond buses run via Sandycombe Road, rather than Kew Road, the direct route, as part of the decimation of route 90.
The 391, which had been worked by small Darts since its introduction, really needs double deckers, and indeed conversion to double deck was proposed after route 27 was lost to Centrewest in November 2000. However, the new 391 contract, which started in November 2001, continued to specify single deck buses. New DPs class Dart SLFs were introduced (after a delay owing to parking problems in Sandycombe Road); at least they were larger and can hold more standees in less uncomfortable conditions, but they did not offer significantly more seats. Single deck operation has again been retained in a new contract beginning in November 2008.
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