Saturday, 18 August 2007

Part Two: Stockport-Manchester Airport-Glasgow-Edinburgh-Heriot Watt University


Please click on any photo for a larger version

After a good night's sleep, I got up early at 0545 and enjoyed a long soak in the bath - until I dozed off and found all the water had drained away that is! I made my way downstairs and outside for a quick smoke, returning to reception to hand in my key. I mentioned I didn't have time for breakfast, but the friendly lady receptionist pointed out that the cereals were all there and to help myself. I had about 20 minutes until the bus, so happily tucked into some muesli and toast and some glasses of orange juice. My co-Editor phoned from his room enquiring if I was up, and was rather surprised at my reply that I was already downstairs! He joined me a few minutes later and managed to have a small bowl of cereal and wrapped up two slices of toast to eat whilst waiting at the stop for the bus!

The Trent / Barton Skyline service 199 was due at 0710 from the stop opposite the hotel, and Optare Excel 263 (Y263 DRC) arrived punctually and took us on a speedy trip to Manchester Airport via Stockport. The next stage would be on the National Express service 538 at 0805, which started at Manchester Airport and ran through to Aberdeen, and we would travel on this as far as Glasgow. A brief walk around the airport found no shops open, and Graham was amused to see 185120 stood at the railway station there, bound for Cleethorpes, where he had set out from less than 24 hours before!

Waiting outside for our coach to arrive, we noted Haytons Volvo / Plaxton, YN55 WSO, and Scania / Berkhof, YN06 TFY, on the 0715 service 244 from Manchester to Newquay.

Also seen was Go North East Volvo / Plaxton, 7086 (JCN 822) on the 0700 service 380 from Liverpool to Newcastle.

Our coach, LSK 815, a Neoplan double-decker in the Trathens fleet, turned up and we managed to procure both the front seats of the upper deck for our journey. Departing at 0807, two minutes late, we made our way to central Manchester, passing the Royal Northern college of Music, arriving at Chorlton Street at 0829. The driver announced we would not be leaving there until 0900, so leaving Graham on board, I made good use of the time calling at the toilet, shop, and photographing a few vehicles to pass the time, amongst which were Megabus, PX07 EAC, on route M11 to London.

Also seen was Burnley & Pendle's Volvo B7TL / Wright Eclipse Gemini, 2762 (PJ05 ZWK), in a smart black, silver and red livery with route branding "Witch Way".

We departed at 0859, making our way out of Manchester to our next scheduled stop at Bolton bus station where plenty of activity could be seen in term of buses, mainly operated by First.

Our next scheduled pick up / drop off point was at Carlisle, reached via the M61 and thence the M6, and overtook Daimler / Northern Counties VTC 503M, new to Greater Manchester PTE in 1983, but now used for transport by the Hagfold Morris Dancers!

The further north we progressed, the heavier the rain became, and the more glad I was to have a waterproof coat! Tebay services was reached at 1045 where the booked 20 minute stop was extended to 35 minutes, allowing time to photograph the coach.

There was time to purchase a few snacks, ignoring the ubiquitous expensive restaurant, I opted for the shop which sold a large variety of cheeses, pies, etc., and came out with a Blencathra Pie packed with meat (£3.29) and a Pork and Stilton with ginger chutney pie (£1.49) - so I ate all the pies, and very nice they were too! Selwyns DAF / Van Hool, YJ05 PWE, had arrived for a refreshment break whilst working the 0645 National Express service 533 from Liverpool to Glasgow.

We departed at 1120 and continued north up the M6, now in pouring rain, to Carlisle, departing from the bus station there at 1208, 18 minutes late. We were further delayed by works on the M6 and crossed the border into Scotland at 1237 during a mini monsoon! The scenery became more mountainous and the rain became heavier. The place names also became sillier, Ecclefechan being one example! Starting to doze now as the forward view was impossible with condensation and rain, suddenly the driver announced that we were passing Lesmahagow - quite why, we never established as there was no stop there nor, as far as we could tell, was there any cause for celebration!

Hamilton bus station, our next stop, was reached at 1352, and we remained there until 1359, now running 29 minutes late. This was almost certainly going to mean that we would miss our connection - although, happily, services between Glasgow and Edinburgh are reasonably frequent so did not cause us much concern.

More time was lost as we approached Glasgow, with heavy traffic caused in part by a sign indicating that a lane was closed when it actually wasn't, and a broken down car. We eventually reached the Buchanan bus station at 1502, 67 minutes late. So late in fact, that the booked 20 minute break for passengers travelling onwards, was dropped.

We called at the cafe in the bus station for a tea and refreshments, and I braved the rain for a few minutes to have a smoke and take a photograph of one of Stagecoach's bendi-buses.

Buchanan Street bus station is one of the largest in the UK. The photo below shows First SA52 DVR, a Volvo B7L with East Lancs Nordic EH55/40F body, departing from this location.

Not too far away was the location of one of Glasgow's railway termini. Buchanan Street railway station, long since obliterated under modern development, was closed in 1966. Some excellent photographs of it when open and the location as it is now, can be seen here.

The fun started when we tried to catch a Motorvator service. Stagecoach had acquired this firm in July 2004, and operated in direct competition with the Scottish Citylink service. From September 13th, 2005, Stagecoach and Citylink ran the Glasgow - Edinburgh services on a joint basis (more details here). So it was we had to use the Citylink 900, the downside being that we were unable to use our Stagecoach staff passes on this so ended up each paying the £4.60 single fare. The first coach we waited for was packed to capacity, so we let this one go and instead caught the 1600 service (departing at 1602). Parks of Hamilton Volvo / Plaxton, LSK 879, was on this well used run. Arrival at Edinburgh's St Andrew Square bus station was at 1722, just four minutes late.

Exiting the bus station, I paused briefly to light up a cigar. The matches I'd purchased from the bar at the hotel in Stockport were clearly not the best as the lit end broke off and nearly set light to Graham! We adjourned to the public bar of the Balmoral Hotel called NB's. I'd discovered this on a previous jaunt, and it's rather upmarket and also does has live jazz performances some nights. On the previous occasion, we were told to find a seat and our drinks would be brought over to us, along with these were complimentary snacks. No such luxury on this occasion as I waited several minutes whilst the staff were busy preparing fancy cocktails, and eventually got the drinks - no snacks being offered. The one thing that hasn't changed are the high prices - £3.20 for a pint of McEwans for me and £4 for a bottle of Kronenberg Blanc for Graham!

The bar itself is a part of what was once the North British Hotel, once owned by the railway company who constructed the railway to Edinburgh at nearby Waverley.

Tempus fugit, so time to make our way to our accommodation for the next two nights, courtesy of the Heriot Watt University, some 8 miles from the city centre. As previously researched before we set out, Lothian Buses service 25 was the easiest way and the stop a short walk from NB's. At 1819 we caught Dennis Trident / Plaxton President, 586 (X586 USC). Traffic was very heavy and progress very slow out of the city centre, and although scheduled to take 40 minutes, our arrival at the University was not until 1903.

The rain had at least eased off, and we called at reception for the two pre-booked rooms and paid the balance - £32 per night each and the rooms were en-suite. The building where they were located involved a very long walk (although we found shortcuts later) and on the way noticed Leyland Olympian / ECW, A658 OCX, in Mexborough & Swinton livery, in a car park. We assumed this was an entrant in the SVBM, although it failed to materialise the next day.

The rooms were small, but clean and comfortable, even though, as Graham remarked, were akin to prison cells! No television was a definite down point, so we opted to go utilise the restaurant facilities there as they were still open until 2000hs, and only made it with 5 minutes to spare! My sausage casserole with chips and carrots came to just under £6, a little on the expensive side. Luckily, we did manage to find a bar within the complex with Tennants at a more reasonable £2.30 a pint. Several pints later and several vodka and cokes Graham, we adjourned to our respective rooms hoping, but not expecting, that the breakfast in the morning, for which we were issued vouchers at reception, would at least be decent.


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