RF600, RF627, RF833, RF679

Hertford & Stevenage

Saturday 5th, Sunday 6th June 2010

Prepared by Ian Smith, 19th June 2010.

Sunday morning: Letchworth & Stevenage

384: Letchworth to Stevenage (RF4)

I was up early on Sunday morning, as buses in Cambridge do not seem to start before 0930. So I had a brisk couple of miles to walk across the city to reach the station in order to catch the 0828 train to Letchworth. I arrived there on time at 0854, and walked out of the station to find RF4 waiting at the station bus stop.

365521 at Cambridge RF4 at Letchworth Stn

I had travelled on the 384 before, but never on this stretch between Letchworth and Stevenage, from this most northerly finger of the LT route system. I walked right round RF4, one of the short private-hire RFs produced for the Festival of Britain, before thirty-foot four-wheelers were allowed. Peter Penfold welcomed me aboard, and we were ready for the 0900 departure.

RF4 at Letchworth Stn RF4 at Letchworth Stn

We set off through Letchworth. This was the first Garden City, and still displays a harmony of greenery and suburban architecture sadly missing from today's "pile 'em high, pile 'em close" mentality. Soon, from a roundabout, we dived into the greenery of Spring Road. We crossed Baldock Road and headed south along Letchworth Lane towards Willian. There The Fox has lost its elegant painted fox sign in favour of a soulless piece of script.

Now modern safety concerns affected our route several times. We had to turn left rather than right onto Letchworth Gate, the A6141, and do a half-mile north-west and half-mile back again, before crossing over the A1(M). That was no problem, but the right turn to Graveley is also blocked, requiring another half-mile there, half-mile back to the roundabout up the hill. But then we were on the old Great North Road, sweeping southwards over the hills.

Letchworth Great North Road

The Great North Road followed the line of the old Roman Road almost to Graveley, before swinging left down into the village. We stopped at the bus stop there for some photos. We went on, turning left to follow the old road into Stevenage Old Town. We trickled along the main street, and round the small one-way system at the south end, before having to sweep out onto the dual carriageway of the inner ring road.

RF4 at Graveley Old Stevenage

Stevenage Bus Station

We passed the modern railway station, and continued to the roundabout, where we turned left to pass the site of the later bus garage to reach the bus station. I left RF4 to continue its journey to Hertford, as I wanted to sample the northern area of the day first. There were plenty of buses buzzing around the bus station, including Arriva's DAF/Wrightbus Pulsar 3410 and Volvo B10BLE 3312 in new interurban livery.

RF4, 3410, at Stevenage 3312 on 3 at Stevenage

Centrebus Dart/MCV Evolution 545 passed through on the Stansted Airport Service. I went for breakfast. I should have had plenty of time to finish it in peace, but RT3254 arrived much earlier than expected on the 390 from Hertford, after unloading pulling round onto the central stand next to Arriva's Dart 3806.

Centrebus 545 at Stevenage RT3254 off 390 at Stevenage, 3806

There was another flurry of interurban services: Dart SLF 3237 was on the 301 from Hemel Hempstead, its lack of a destination blind presumably indicating that this is not its usual route.

Volvo B10BLE 3314 was another of the Wright Renowns bought for the 101 to Luton by Sovereign, and taken over with the route by Arriva. Now it wears the interurban livery.

3237 on 301 at Stevenage 3314 off 101 at Stevenage

Dart 3806, resting on the central stance next to the RT, is another of the buses taken over by Arriva from Sovereign.

3806 off 4 at Stevenage 3806 off 4 at Stevenage

3307, another B10BLE/Renown, occupied the end slot of the central reservation, next to 3806. This WAS the normal rolling stock for the 301, as shown by its Centraline branding, but today was on local route SB7. It pulled out to go to work, and its space was immediately filled with sister 3323, off route 4. This constant coming and going at Stevenage, even on Sundays, is a major reason for the restrictions on Country Bus Rallies' use of this Bus Station, which limit the number of buses we can have there at any time, and the number of service calls per hour.

3307 off SB7 at Stevenage 3323 off 4 at Stevenage

3407, one of the new VDL/Wrightbus Pulsars, 11.9m long, came in on a SB1.

RT3254 was being prepared for a foray round the town on the 801.

3407 on SB1 at Stevenage RT3254 at Stevenage

I went to join the crew of RT3254 for the next few trips...

Part Four: Journeys on RT3254

Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.

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