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The desire by the Mayor/Transport for London for a fully low floor bus operation by the end of 2005 created a bit of a problem with some school routes, where the cost of new vehicles, especially late in the contract, could be hard to justify. In the case of the 649 and 651 this resulted in Blue Triangle surrendering the contracts early. The 651 had been particularly interesting having seen regular National Greenway operation for a while – thus becoming the last London route to use a Leyland National, a type which began its London career in 1973. Along with the 649, it was also the last route to see Titan operation (apart from a few special events), again ending nearly 30 years' continuous service.
The 651 passed to Arriva from the start of the spring term in 2006, using a standard DAF/ALX400 double decker from Barking garage. However, Blue Triangle re-took the route from 4 Janaury 2011. By this time the company was part of the Go-Ahead London group, and surplus buses from south London were drafted in, in the form of PVL class Volvo B7TLs. It is perhaps surprising that they are amongst the oldest buses in the fleet – where existing buses have been specified they are generally no more than about 8 years old. PVL96 (W496 WGH) dates from 2000, and was photographed in Romford on Tuesday 24 May 2011, having completed the afternoon run from Bower Park School via North Romford, Collier Row, Havering Park and Mawney.
|Photo © Stephen Williams.|
Bower Park School starts and finishes its day unusually early, and TfL have taken advantage of this in that the afternoon trips, after arrival at Romford, run empty to Campion and Emerson Park schools to do a trip each on routes 649 and 650. Those routes have the odd situation of more afternoon than morning journeys, and previously this was covered rather inefficiently, so the 649, 650 and 651 were let as a combined contract to facilitate this cross-linking.
The 651 started off as a rather complicated pair of projections of the 252 route (then Gidea Park to Collier Row via Hornchurch, Airfield Estate, Romford and Mawney Road). After serving White Hart Lane buses diverted via Havering Park (as now) before meeting the main service again at Collier Row and continuing to Chase Cross. These commenced operation in 1990, and were only formalised into a separate route in 1996. Both routes were then operated by Capital Citybus, Blue Triangle winning the route, along with some others, from October 2001.
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