Reading Buses most popular route gets major upgrade


Reading’s busiest bus route, the Purple 17 that covers Tilehurst, Oxford Road, Central Reading and Wokingham Road is set for a major upgrade on its fleet, with brand new state-of-the-art low carbon bio-gas buses.


The route, which is undoubtedly Reading’s flagship bus service, has even been referred to as ‘the backbone of Reading’. Due a well-earned upgrade, the route will see the introduction of 17 Scania bio-gas double deckers fitted with the latest style of Alexander Dennis Enviro400 City bodywork, including a stylish glass staircase design.


Reading17BusExteriorThis upgrade builds upon Reading Buses’ successful strategy in upgrading main road bus corridors to keep pace with modern travelling demands, stimulate additional growth and make buses the very best way to get around and keep Reading moving.


The new fleet has a number of incredible features including:

  • Comfortable high-back seats
  • At seat USB charging points and coat/bag hooks
  • Free superfast 4G Wi-Fi
  • Space for two wheelchair users, instead of the mandatory one space
  • ‘Next Stop’ audio and visual announcements on both decks
  • A group seating area upstairs with a table and ‘air-charge’ mobile phone charging dock
  • Exterior lighting to make purple buses easier to identify at night and help illuminate pavements and roadsides for customers when the bus stops
  • High quality on board ambiance including coffee-shop style wood effect flooring, mood lighting and styling


What’s more the buses feature two doors, one for embarking and one for disembarking the bus. Similar to London buses, will provide a huge benefit at busy stops by speeding up the time it takes buses to pick-up and drop-off, as both can happen simultaneously.


This along with the Council’s forthcoming red route scheme, will provide a dramatic improvement in bus journey times Reading17BusInterioralong the route and have the added benefit of reducing how long buses are stationary at stops, some of which are on the main carriage way and will therefore benefit all road users.


Commenting on the upgrade, Reading Buses’ Chief Executive Officer, Martijn Gilbert said. “It’s important that we continue the evolution of Reading’s bus network to meet demand and keep our compact and congested town moving. Popular services such as the 17 rightly justify this sort of investment and it’s long overdue as the current fleet of 17 buses has been on the route for 6 years now, the longest of any fleet in recent times. The previous buses will now be completely re-furbished for use elsewhere on our network. We’re delighted to have been able to work with Scania and Alexander Dennis on a pioneering high specification for these city buses. These provide users with modern and eco-friendly travel including a range of features to aid customers’ journeys, with the latest digital connectivity and extra features for wheelchair users. This will be the first frequent bus service in the UK to be able to carry two wheelchair users at once, reflecting the accessibility of Reading’s Bus network and its wide scale use by everyone regardless of their mobility.”


The company are particularly keen to advise customers about exiting from the middle doors. Around 90% of bus stops along the route are suitable and on-board announcements will advise when only the front door can be used.


Martijn added that “it is also great news that this substantial upgrade to this busy route comes alongside the Council’s soon to be introduced red route scheme, which will provide much wider benefits. We’re playing our part by not only making the bus a more attractive choice, but also speeding up waiting times at stops by bringing back duel door operation. This is something that Reading had until the late nineties and today’s technology means it now comes with a whole host of safety features. London has continually operated dual door buses since the 1960’s anre we’re now seeing city regions such as Brighton, Oxford and Bristol return to this type of bus. They’re a good fit for the 17. The purple 17 continues to provide a 24/7 service, yet another benefit for users. Also Reading’s bus fares, some of the lowest in the UK, have not been increased like rail fares so with affordable, frequency and now faster buses, there really has never been a better time to get on-board”.


Many of the new buses are on the road now and this £5.1 million investment will be complete when the final new vehicles enter service in February.


Commenting on the investment, Reading Borough Council’s Deputy Leader and Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Transport & Planning, Cllr Tony Page said “This major upgrade of the Route 17 buses by the Council-owned bus company will bring even bigger benefits to passengers of what is already Reading’s flagship bus route. Reading Buses has always been at the forefront nationally of clean-fuel technology and the new fleet continues with that tradition. The return to dual doors also means even quicker and more reliable journey times for passengers, which sits alongside the introduction of Reading’s first red routes along the length of the 17 route which will help keep key public transport moving, minimise delays for bus passengers and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists by preventing dangerous or illegal parking. Reading continues to grow and the Council is responding by creating quick and reliable alternatives to the car. Key new nus lanes have already been opened along the A33, and a new bus pedestrian and cycle only route is also planned for the east of the borough. It is only by investing in this type of public transport infrastructure that we can absorb the planned level of growth in future years”.


Regarding the vehicles and their environmental credentials, Mark Oliver, UK Bus and Coach Fleet Sales General Manager from Scania (Great Britain) commented, "Scania is firmly committed to driving the shift to more sustainable transport systems.  When operating on biogas, the carbon dioxide emissions of Scania buses are reduced by up to 84% compared to regular diesel.  They are significantly quieter too, making them an ideal choice for urban operations.  As the first UK bus company to take delivery of our latest generation gas-fuelled buses, Reading Buses has led the way and benefited from this technology since 2013."From a vehicle body work and customer ambience perspective, Stefan Baguette, Group Product Manager at Alexander Dennis added “Reading Buses are at the forefront of innovation in the UK bus industry and we are delighted to have collaborated with them on a bus that will give all customers a journey experience of the highest standard. We are particularly happy with the inclusivity offered by the provision of two wheelchair spaces and extra features for their users such as additional information screens. Operational efficiency is improved too with the two doors on our stylish Enviro400 City body”.


The official launch event was held on the 13th of January on Reading’s Broad Street opposite The Oracle entrance. In partnership with Broad Street Mall and Brick Galleria, Reading Buses is also holding a build-a-bus LEGO® brick event at the Broad Street Mall on the 14th, 15th and 16th of February where people can build a purple 17 bus out of LEGO® bricks.


For more information contact Jake Osman or Martijn Gilbert on 0118 959 4000.

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