Feel good Fun in the sun

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John G. Lidstone reports on a ray of sunshine from sunny Southend amidst the bleakness of 2020

Ever-enterprising Ensignbus reached an agreement early in 2020 to logically adopt the Southend seasonal summer seafront service which Thomas Drake of Go-Ahead London Commercial remarkably, but very successfully, brought back in July 2017 after an absence of several years and which ran each year subsequently.

But then Covid-19 struck: such ideas of ‘nice-to-have’ seafront frivolity were thrown into check, like so much else.

Nonetheless, Operations Director Ross Newman took the service under his belt and so service 68 was duly registered, timetable and fares planned to set the stage to bring back the successful structure of the 2018 Go-Ahead (GA) season once more.

Light was soon at the end of the tunnel as ‘lockdown’ was released, during which time the two in-fleet low-floor open-toppers – former Arriva London dual-door Volvo B7TL Gemini 392 (latterly known around the country as ‘the Brexit bus’ on long-term charter and converted to open-top in-house) and former Stagecoach and latterly Cambridge City Sightseeing Dennis Trident ALX400 339 – had been repainted and route-branded with artwork drawn up by Ross’s young daughter Lola.

Passengers taking photos and selfies have a little surprise on Metroliner 372 as the breaking high tide is whipped over the sea wall and will unusually spray a few of them!
It’s easy to see why London Pride knew these giant open-toppers as ‘Megaliners’ due to having 55 bus seats in place of former coach seats in their upper decks – the largest capacity of any double-deckers at the time they were converted from coach to bus. JOHN G. LIDSTONE
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