Welcome to the November 2008 edition of Busmopolitan, and with Christmas around the
corner, seasons greetings.
We start with a more serious note this month, however.
On 26th November 2008, a gentleman called Philip Rooney was found guilty of three
counts of causing death by dangerous driving, by Oxford Crown Court. He was
sentenced to five years imprisonment, and banned from driving for three years, both
penalties to be served consecutively.
What makes this more significant to this site, is that Mr Rooney was a National
Express coach driver.
Late in the evening on 3rd January 2007, Neoplan Skyliner LSK 827, operated by
Trathens/Parks on contract to National Express, departed from Victoria Coach Station,
London 30 minutes down, due a delay in arranging carriage of excess luggage.
The coach was on the overnight 592 service to Aberdeen, its first stop being London's
On departing Heathrow, the coach joined the M4, before quickly leaving this motorway
to access the M25, which would lead on to the M40, and towards Scotland.
The slip road off the M4 to the M25 involves vehicles traversing a bridge, while
negotiating a long right hand curve, which has a clearly marked 40 mph speed
As one gets over the bridge, the curve becomes sharper; firstly bearing to the right,
and then quickly going to the left, as the slip road descends, before levelling out to
join the M25.
The Neoplan Skyliner is a tri axle, 12 metre long double deck coach. The type has been
in production since 1983, with post 1990 examples featuring a steerable rear "tag"
axle. This backmost axle can be locked to become non steerable, if required.
Having had experience of driving Skyliners, your editor is aware that when the tag
axle is "unlocked", the handling characteristics of the vehicle change, and extra care
needs to be taken when driving at higher speeds. Ideally, the tag axle should be locked
when travelling fast; the steering facility is only really intended for slower speed
manouvering in "tight spots".
The Skyliner at the centre of this editorial, drove into the said slip road at 55 mph.
As is entered the sharper bend, beyond the bridge, the coach ran out of control, hit
the offside kerb, and then the nearside kerb, before overturning onto its offside.
There were 69 people on the coach in total, including the two drivers. Two passengers
were killed outright, and a third died later from his injuries. Everybody else on the
coach was injured to some degree. 19 were seriously hurt; some lost limbs. The
casualties were excassibated by the fact that most of the coaches occupants were not
wearing seatbelts. Current UK law states it is not compulsory for road coach
passengers to do so.
A further irony is that Rooney was doing a safety announcement over the coach's PA
system, when he crashed.
In the aftermath of this accident, all Skyliners on National Express contracts were
"grounded" for safety checks.
The vehicle involved in the M4/M25 catastrophe was only 3 months old, and no defects
were found. Evidence from the tachograph and eyewitnesses pointed to driver error.
Statements also highlighted Rooneys "aggressive" driving, prior to the accident.
Rooney was no "young boy racer" though. He was an experienced pcv driver in his late
forties. He however did have "previous form" for speeding in pcvs, and more seriously,
tampering with a speed limiter.
LSK 827 was eventually repaired and returned to service, despite the fact it had
suffered severe o/s damage when it rolled over.
However, the coach seems to be the only "winner" here. Those badly injured, and who
lost loved ones, could be affected for the rest of their lives. As for Philip Rooney,
he will probably only serve half his prison sentence, although his conviction "will
never be spent", as it is more than two and a half years in custody. It is also highly
unlikely that he will ever be allowed to drive a bus or coach again.
RIGHT: Neoplan Skyliner LSK 827 pictured prior
to the accident.
Picture courtesy Gavin Francis.
Onto more positive news.
Ensignbus has extended its Thurrock local bus network yet again, with a new route
linking East Tilbury with Lakeside. East Tilbury is notable, because the village was
developed largely to accommodate workers of the Bata Shoe factory, whose building
still exists today as a business centre and museum. As Bata was from Czechoslovakia,
this neighbourhood has a very "Eastern Bloc" atmosphere about it.
East Tilbury has been relatively poorly served by buses, maybe due to the fact it has
an established railway station, which serves both this community and neighbouring
Ensign is also selling off its Optare Spectras, after only a year of operation. They
are being snapped up, however.
First does seem to be "transforming travel" in Essex at last, with the influx of some
three year old Volvo B7RLE low floors from First Manchester. These are mainly going
into Colchester depot, and are allowing a cascade of slightly older Scania low floors
to Clacton, a place where low floors have been "late arriving" in the First camp;
beaten by Hedingham's ops in this coastal town.
At Hedingham Omnibuses, the Bristol VR ranks continue to decline, with more examples
passing through Ensign's dealer arm, and ending up in new homes as diverse as Italy
The smaller independants continue to invest in new buses.This month, both NIBS and
Stephenson's have new machines on the road.
Left : One of ELBG’s new
Omnicitys for TfL 248, no
Right: One of the EL-Tridents
temporarily covering on the
248, no 18882.
Both seen at Hornchurch in
Over on the fringes of Essex, East London Bus Group is at last receiving its new
Scania Omnicity double deckers for the TfL 248 Romford - Cranham contract. The
Tridents that have been "holding fort", will be used elsewhere within ELBG.
Go Ahead London is now disposing of its ex Blue Triangle Dennis Tridents through
Ensign. Many of these were surplus, following the loss of the 248 to ELBG back in
September, and some had latterly served with Docklands Buses, as temporary cover on
the recently launched TfL 425 Stratford - Clapton service, while new buses were
awaited and physical issues with that route addressed.
They are quickly finding new owners.
RIGHT: Map of Essex and District.
ON THE COVER: Ensignbus Routemaster RML 2405
(right), with RML 2394 from High Wycombe based Thisbus,
at Marylebone Registry Office, London, on wedding hires
in November 2008.
All pictures by John Podgorski unless otherwise stated.
1: Essex & District Bus News.
3: Fringe Theatre.
With thanks to Ensignbus, Essex Buses Yahoo Group,
and the PSV Circle for their help with information for