Stevenage Running Days
Saturday 8th, Sunday 9th June 2013
Prepared by Ian Smith, 21st June 2013.
Sunday afternoon with RT3254
303: Stevenage (White Lion) to Hitchin: RT3254RT3254 arrived back from Welwyn Garden City on a 303 to Hitchin while RMC1500 was turning round the block to head back south on the 390. So for a glorious minute or two both green double-deckers stood on opposite sides of the road in Stevenage Old Town. That hasn't happened for a long time.
I decided that I was not fulfilling any useful function by remaining longer in Stevenage. I had despatched waiting passengers, mostly south on the RMC, with some sent to the bus station on the preceding GS in order to secure seats on the likely-to-be-popular circular trip via Weston and Hitchin. So I joined the RT, taking a seat behind the bonnet for the short trip to Hitchin.
We headed north, round the big roundabout then north-west along Hitchin Road to Lister Hospital, where we pulled in to visit the bus stop. Then it was on again, under the A1(M) and out along the Little Wymondeley by-pass. (The ECML main line railway bridge in Little Wymondeley is only plated for 14ft 3in these days). The dual carraiageway gave way to normal main road as we wound over the hilly terrain to Hitchin. At the big roundabout south of Hitchin we turned down the cutting to reach St Mary's Square.
We reached St.Mary's Square, where we pulled up at the stops to change the blinds for the short-working return to Stevenage.
303: Hitchin to Stevenage Bus Station: RT3254
From St.Mary's Square we went round the corner down into the town, and made the circuit through part of the High Street and up Brand Street. Then it was round the south side of the town and back to Stevenage via Lister Hospital and the Old Town. With Stevenage Day in progress on the KGV Playing fields we called at the stop on Fairlands Way. With the traffic conditions we could not turn right at the roundabout after calling at the stop, so had to go east up the rise to the next roundabout before coming back to St.George's Way. We skirted round the east side of the town centre to reach the bus station.
303: Stevenage Bus Station to Stevenage (Trinity Church): RT3254The next leg was even shorter: bus station to the Old Town. On our way out of the Bus Station we met the East Kent Reliance coming in with a 390. It was followed by Arriva's GreenLine 4068 on the 797. As we headed up Lytton Way towards the Old Town we met RF633 again, heading south for Benington after a lunch-time brak at the Old Town.
We pulled up at the White Lion, and the bus emptied. Cris and Peter were taking it away to park so that they could have their lunch break. I too went to a pub for Sunday lunch.
303: Stevenage Old Town to Welwyn Garden City: RT3254I was back at the stop in good time for the resumption of afternoon service. Arriva's Enviro300 Dart arrived first, on the 301 to Hemel Hempstead. It was shortly followed by RT3254, on the 303 to Welwyn Garden City, covering much the same route south to Welwyn as the Dart.
I took the seat behind Chris Wills, with a good view over his shoulder of the road ahead. We set off through the Old Town, then running down Lytton Way to turn in to stop in Fairlands Way. This time traffic conditions were favorable, and Chris could pull across four lanes to turn right at the roundabout, to run down St.George's Way to reach the roundabout at the south end of the Bus Station. GS2 was waiting in the bus station.
WE headed south from Stevenage, negotiating the tangle of roundabouts to emerge on the road to Knebworth. We passed over the Hertford loop railway, and followed the old Great North Road south through rolling countryside to reach cluttered Knebworth. We carefully negotiated its crossroads, and continued south, passing the junctions left for the 329A to Datchworth (via Swangley's Lane) and the 329 at Woolmer Green. We climbed over Mardley Hill, terminus for the 388, and descended towards Welwyn. We passed under the modern A1(M), and turned up Church Street, before turning left down to reach Welwyn Church. We paused for photos, but this was cut short by the arrival of a northbound 301, in the shape of Arriva Enviro300 Dart 3554, thus blocking the road.
We set off as soon as we could get people back aboard, heading through Welwyn Village along the old winding road, passing Prospect Place, the erstwhile terminus for the 388 from Hertford. We headed for Digswell, passing under the A1(M) again. As we approached Digswell we saw a GS round the corner ahead of us - a 388 from Hertford to Welwyn Garden City. We followed it south, briefly, then turned up into Knightsfield. This was a big dipper of a route, with the bus crawling up to the heights, then rushing down through a hollow and up the other side. We turned down into Welwyn Garden City, and made our way to the Station. GS17 was still sitting there with the connection to Hertford. There was only a small interchange of passengers though, most of the GS passengers wishing to return directly.
There was a chance to compare GreenLines with a sixty-year difference in design as Arriva's 3907 passed the RT on its way to Heathrow on the 724.
303: Welwyn Garden City to Stevenage Station: RT3254We headed back north, out of the formal gardens of the garden city into the hilly suburb of Knightsfield, and down into the quaint charm of Welwyn. A climb over the hill took us back to the Great North Road and the long climb up through the forest of Mardley Hill. We met RMC1507, out for the afternoon.
We negotiated a way through Knebworth, and rolled over the countryside to Stevenage, to call at the bus station. I made a request to alight at the station, so Chris Wills took us round that way. I alighted there, with my thanks to the crew, and I climbed the ramp into the station to catch a train north.
Seeing the green RT at the station stop brought back memories from the early 1970s, when green RTs at Stevenage Station were often the first signs of London Transport on my infrequent forays to the capital. Nostalgia. I suppose that is what these days are all about..
Many thanks to the CBR team for organising the days, especially Colin Rivers, Peter Aves and Chris Wills. Many thanks too to the drivers, crews and owners of the various buses that I rode on (and those I didn't even see). There were lots more buses based on Hertford that I did not get to see. Thanks too to the various local authorities, police forces and bus companies who gave permissions for the event and the use of facilities.
Ian's Bus-stop part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5