This page created 5th April 2012.
Optare Excels: Thorpe's Stationlink
XL100,200,300,400Thorpe's took on the revised Stationlink service in June 1996. SL1 and SL2 linked the main railway stations in London, plus Victoria Coach Station, both clockwise and anti-clockwise (Paddington - Marylebone - Euston - Kings Cross-St.Pancras - Liverpool Street - Fenchurch Street - London Bridge - Waterloo - Victoria - Victoria Coach ). It was specifically but not exclusively to aid cross-London jouneys by people with disabilities. (More mobile folk could make their connections much quicker by Tube or direct service bus). To provide the tendered service F.E.Thorpe acquired four new short (9.6m) Optare Excels, which had the required low floors and wheelchair access. They were in red, with yellow trim and prominent Stationlink branding, with white low-floor arrows. They received registrations reflecting the company name: N100FET, N200FET, N300FET, and N400FET.
N100FET on clockwise SL1 at Victoria Station.
XL845,846An increase in frequency on the Stationlink services in 2001 required a further two vehicles. Although Thorpe's used Dart SLF DLF41 as a spare for the service, the company acquired two more of the short Excels, secondhand. XL845 and 846 were treated to red livery with route branding and white fleet numbers.
XL846 on anticlockwise SL2 at Kings Cross Station.
The end of StationlinkBy mid 2002 the Excels were becoming increasingly unreliable, frequently needing substitution by Dart SLFs. Thorpe's hired another Excel temporarily during the summer: R88MMS was a single-doorway 10.0m Excel, used in white.
But the days of Stationlink were numbered. Now that many other London services were low-floor and DDA-compliant the powers-that-be did not see the point in maintaining the dedicated - and expensive - service. At the end of August 2002 the circular route was replaced by two conventional routes covering the southern and northern arcs. Thorpes gained the contract for the southern arc, on the 705 (Paddington - Liverpool Street Station). Serviceable Excels appeared on it, but were quickly replaced by allocated Dart SLFs. All the Excels were sold, minus their FET registrations. One - probably N200FET - was reregistered and briefly used on the 705, while the others of the original three were exported to New Zealand. The later pair were also sold.