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Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Lucky dip

From time to time it is fun to dip into my collection of photos and recreate the story that led to the subject.

Shown right is Alexander-bodied Volvo Olympian 238 in the Capital Citybus fleet, one of a batch bought for route 91 - our first real foray into Central London.

I had long hoped we could find a way to restore good destination blind information having seen it depleted over the years since single-person operation was introduced. (Don't forget that this is in the days before comprehensive route information was provided at stops on an individual basis).

We did put complete KM and NN blind boxes in the back of DMSs in 1986 but these manual units were difficult to access and it was difficult for drivers to know whether fitted or not. We made 'lazy' blinds for them but they were not entirely successful. We did manage to keep manual side blinds with ultimate destinations reasonably well observed but when our fleet had fewer ex-London vehicles in it these became more difficult to provide.

What was really needed were electrically-driven, electronically-tracked, proper blinds and Alexanders made this for us on the last of the route 91 Olympians. This was the mid 1990s and this equipment was, in the UK at least, in its infancy. McKennas helped us enourmously and made these special blind sets which relied on bar codes to be set correctly.

Today electrically-driven blinds are standard equipment on London buses and the co-ordination of multiple units is commonplace, including side and one rear unit on artics. Of course the technnology has come along leaps and bounds - the electric units are more reliable for sure.

The concept of ensuring consisent and properly set information, as often provided overseas, had been proven.

Someone will want to re-open the debate about the value of 'via' points on bus blinds. It is debated almost continuously on the internet so I am not doing so here. What we did was prove the concept of electrically setting the appropriate information on three sides - ahem, 15 years ago!!



  1. I know that electronic destinations are now very clear and readable, and have the advantage of flexibility when moving buses between garages (and a new set of destinations can be uploaded very quickly as required), but I still miss roller blinds, which will be extinct before much longer. I still think that these are hard to beat for clearness and readability (although of course they do go downhill after a while... ;_)

  2. I'd much rather open the debate about why TfL are so stick in the mud by refusing to allow LED displays, when they're quite happy for all the other modes (tram, train, underground, DLR) to use them on their vehicles.

    So here's a compromise suggestion. Keep the conventional blinds on the front for the purists/luddites out there and allow LED on the side and rear. You'd be able to have better information on the side and rear without the huge expense of auto-winding blinds.

  3. Recent punches into London for work (its all going well btw!) have shown a trend of bendis with defective blinds. This appears to be affecting all operators, is there a Citaro issue here? But yes it could all be avoided by using modern LED equipment which these days is clear and reliable and more importantly provide better and more useful information, whilst complying to DDA.

  4. Don't agree with the comments about LED blinds, conventional printed blinds are much clearer, especially in direct sunlight, when many LED units can be barely readable. Today's powerblind printed blinds are backlit by LEDs, and so are very bright at night. One common problem among many operators is the fact that they don't clean the inside of the destination glass, which should be done every 6 months minimum. The dust from the demisters has the effect over time of making the blinds look faded, when it is 90% of the time just dirty glass. Worst examples are some Wrights bodied single deckers with Dot Matrix blinds with First in Sheffield, and until very recently the youthful Scania Omnidekkas with Transdev on the 148 (these have recently been moved around, but were looking shocking).