Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith, This page created 23rd February 2014. Best on 800*600.

Travel with Hunny: Dennis Dart SLFs

873: the UVG

TWH UVG sketch Travel with Hunny, based at Stapleford Abbotts, started a group of routes in Seprember 2008, the 55 operating initially between Harlow and Loughton (M-F). It acquired add-ons to Ongar on weekday peaks, a Night Service (briefly), to Princess Alexandra Hospital during daytime off-peaks. A Saturday service to Lakesde was added, alsoserving North Weald market, then a Wednesday trip was added to Romford Market. A couple of step-entrance Darts started these services, but a UVG-bodied 10.9m SLF arrived in February 2009. R83GNW had been 783 in the Ensignbus fleet and retained the number with Hunn. The 55 disappeared with its arrival, being replaced by the NWF: the North Weald Flyer, linking Epping Station with North Weald and The Talbot, with peak extensions to Harlow.

TWH UVG sketch Initially the bus was in an overall advertising livery for Mecca Bingo, Hunn operating a service to Mecca Bingo in Dagenham. It was replaced in the Bingo livery in 2010, becoming overall red, with a vinyl "blind" for route 555 (Harlow - Loughton/Debden) mounted over the blind aperture - not much use after dark, as it was opaque! In August 2011 it was repainted in a smart royal blue with a gold cummerbund, with branding for route X5 (Romford - Harlow). When it ceased operating the X5, taking on instead the shorter 555 (Loughton - Debden-Harlow) the route branding vinyls were amended. The X5 destination blind vinyl was removed, the bus just displaying a 555 board in the front nearside windscreen. It was sold in August 2012.

A pair of 8.9m Alexanders for the 392

TWH MPD sketch During 2009 Hunn took on route 392 (Hoddesdon - Harlow, for which he acquired a pair of BMC Falcons, folloed by a third. These, as they did elsewhere, proved unreliable. In December 2009 TWH leased a pair of 8.9m Alexander-bodied SLFs, which were used to supplement - or rather supplant - the Falcons on the 392. Their white dealer livery was given blue skirts and gold waist-bands. These two formed a steady core to the TWH fleet while a succession of other vehicles came and went. They became regulars on the X5 between Romford and Harlow, and on the shorter 555 (Loughton - Harlow). Both finally gave up the ghost in November 2011, with engine problems, and were returned off-lease

Move to Waltham Abbey

The base for Travel with Hunny operations moved from Collier Row to Waltham Abbey in spring 2010, much reducing dead mileage for the company's Harlow operation. Route 392 was lost to Roadrunner in September, but the main 555 route was kept by TWH, registered to Gemma Smith Ltd (owner of the Waltham Base). Buses for the 555, in particular the UVG Dart SLF, plus a step-entrance Dart (P103HNH) were given the all-red treatment, with vinyl front destination "blinds".

More Dart SLFs for the 555/255/355/X5. Lea Valley Buses hives off and founders.

In January 2011 the 555 was split into two sections: 255 (Loughton / Debden - Harlow) and 355 (Harlow - Waltham Cross), under the Gemma Smith licence. From February Hunn started the X5 (Harlow - Romford).

For these changes the two licencees gathered more buses. A pair of 10.0m SLFs with Alexander bodies that had originated with Armchair came from S.M.Coaches, with the blue skirts overpainted to red. The Mecca Bingo livery swapped from the UVG to one of the MPDs, the UVG gaining its overall blue with gold band and branding for the X5. One of the new acquisitions had a very short career with TWH, suffering a disastrous rear-end fire at the end of January, which wrote it off.

In mid-February Gemma Smith and Hunn formally parted company. Gemma Smith kept the 555 and 255, with the remaining ex-Roadrunner Dart SLF, and the Waltham Abbey base. This operation took the trading name of Lea Valley Buses. Two more of the ex-Armchair SLFs came from Roadrunner to Gemma Smith (LVB) in February plus three very similar ex-London Central LDPs: 77,79 and 162. These SLFs were soon sold back to Roadrunner, replaced by Volvo B6LEs, but the company did not prosper, selling out to Roadrunner in July 2011.

TWH DML sketch

Hunn survives: some Dart Marshalls for 555.

Meanwhile Hunn kept his X5 to Romford, the school route 43, and the Dagenham Mecca Bingo contract. He moved his base of operations to Debden. When Lea Valley Buses demised he took back a much-revised 555, which no longer served Debden and Loughton. He borrowed ex-LDP47 during August to work the 555, and bought ex-Ensignbus R621 VEG, a Marshall Capital bodied SLF. This was treated to the royal blue and gold band livery. R619 VEG followed in October 2011, also going into the blue and gold. Thease two survived to early 2013, when both were scrapped.

More buses, more routes

Things were relatively stable until mid 2012, when Hunn bought a further MPD, this time from Go-Ahead North East. It arrived wearing two shades of green, and was repainted into blue and gold the following month. A Titan (T823) was used on the X5/555 during August. TWH expanded its field of operations, taking on the 269 (Brentwood - Grays), 268 (Blackmore-Grays and evening 31 (Chelmsford - Maldon). For these the Mecca Bingo Dart was used, along with loaned ex-Armchair/Metroline DA152 (running in Metroline red/blue). Another loaned Dart came from Go-Ahead North East: 8284 was a Caetano Compass, that had originated with Limebourne (Independent Way), and now operated in its GANE livery of red, yellow and blue. TWH also started service e20, Harlow - Waltham Abbey by a different routing from the 555. The X5 was cut back to Saturdays-only, and TWH ceased to operate schoolday routes 33 and 53. A further bus came in September: Caetano Nimbus SLF EU06KDJ, that was new locally to S.M.Coaches, but came now from Irvine's. This was used in its received livery on Harlow routes. Then 8284 disappeared in October, replaced by sister from GANE #8285.

EU06KDJ on 555, Harlow, February 2013

A scruffy if buggy-friendly EU06KDJ visits Harlow bus station on the 555, February 2013.

TWH Plaxton sketch Also arriving in October 2012 were a pair of smart-looking 10.7m Pointers. KU52RYF and KU52RYM had been with yourbus in Nottingham, in a metallic purple livery, with digital displays. They arrived neatly in time to replace the two original MPDs, which both failed in November and were returned off-lease. They were reliable enough to be used on the e20, which now burned its way down the M11 to Stratford, taking Harlow shoppers to the new shopping centre next to the Ol***ic Park.

Having suffered repeated vandalism at the Debden base, TWH moved to share the Roadrunner/Olympian base in Harlow, in February 2013, then moved on to another site in Collier Row in early June. By now there were only three of the Dart SLFs left: the purple Plaxtons and the cream and maroon Nimbus, the two Dart Marshalls having been scrapped and the MPD sold to Roadrunner.

An 11.3m Super Pointer Dart was acquired from Stagecoach South in the summer of 2013, presumably in a new burst of enthusiasm with the new school term coming up. A further two SLFs followed, to cover for a broken-down Dragon on schools work: ex-Metroline DSD216 (9.3m Pointer) and P980LNB from Stagecoach Manchester (10.0m).

The indigenous trio all suffered faults which took them off the road, leading to further short-term loans. The history of buses off the road eventually led to an appearance before the Traffic Commissioner, and Hunn decided to retire at the end of January 2014, closing down operations.

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