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  March 2016
BAF's Big Days Out
Western National Tigers on National Express Services



Over the years Western National and its predecessor Royal Blue contributed many vehicles to National Express services.   The 1980's saw a dramatic increases in passenger journeys thanks to the 1980 Transport Act that deregulated coach services.   Until then the staple product on National Express work had been Duple or Plaxton bodied Leopards that were sound vehicles but not ideal for motorway cruising.    Enter the Leyland Tiger in 1980, a chassis designed to compete with the Volvo B10M and significantly more powerful than the Leopard.   Western National favoured Plaxton bodies, both 3200 (normal height) and 3500 (high) models.   In March 1985 a batch of four Plaxton bodied Tigers was delivered numbered 2217-2220 (B194-197BAF).   Starting on frontline National Express routes they went on to serve for nearly 20 years and could regularly be seen on big days out on Summer Saturdays.

Photo Facts
[2] Initially the BAFs found homes on the 730 (Midlands and North East to Cornwall) and 806 (Aberdeen to Plymouth) routes.   In May 1986, 2218 (B195BAF) is seen in Taunton bus station heading for Plymouth having left Aberdeen the night before.   [10] When new in April 1985, 2219 (B196BAF) is seen in Reading bus station en route to Porthleven.   Note that some of the BAF's carried Cornwall Coachways fleetnames and some carried Western National.   [3] On the Plymouth to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne service, 2220 (B197BAF) is seen in Leicester bus station in December 1985.  [4] The Plymouth service left Aberdeen at 19h00 and was the final express service of the day to Glasgow.   Waiting to head for the stance is 2218 (B195BAF) in October 1987.   [5] Although all four BAF's were delivered as normal National Express vehicles, in mid-life some were painted into Rapide livery.   Most Rapide services concentrated on London, but Western National operated the 531 from Plymouth to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (which still exists today).   2220 (B197BAF) is seen leaving Digbeth Coach Station heading north on the 531 in January 1988.   [6] Also in Rapide livery but on normal service 300 from Bristol to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne is 2218 (B195BAF) seen in Leeds in October 1989.   [1] Latterly as would be expected the BAFs were relegated to duplicate duties or Saturday-only routes.   The 725 service ran (and still does as the 315) from Eastbourne to Helston.   A BAF, by now in Western National coach livery, is seen on the M27 duplicating the service in August 1993.   [7] August 1993 also sees 2219 (B196BAF), smartly turned out in Western National coach livery complete with Badgerline Badger, duplicating the service from Westward Ho! to Liverpool.   [8] Western National bought Grenville Motors in 1998 in whose livery 2220 (B197BAF) is seen in Samuelsons Garage in London having arrived as a duplicate on the 504 service from Penzance in February 1989.   [9] One of the final sightings of a BAF on National Express duties was 2220 (B197BAF), seen on the 329 Saturday only service leaving Bristol for Newquay in August 2001.
  Photo Key  National Express Today 
    First Devon & Cornwall, successors to Western National, operate no National Express services and the 336 route from Plymouth now terminates in Edinburgh rather than Aberdeen.   Bruce FN63PWJ, a Caetano Levante bodied Scania, is seen in Plymouth bus station in February 2016 loading for the overnight service north.   Bretonside bus station closed to all services apart from National Express in January 2016. South Gloucestershire Bus now operate the 330 Newcastle to Penzance route.   Their FJ12FXL, a Caetano Levante bodied Volvo, is seen leaving Bristol heading south in August 2014.



Passing Strangers (1)
  In the 1980's and 1990's it wasn't unusual to see several BAFs on National Express work in a particular bus station on one day.   In May 1984 in Plymouth Bretonside Bus Station all four BAFs appeared within a couple of hours of each other.   First through were 2217 (B194BAF) operating the lengthy 730 route from Nottingham to Penzance (which still exists today) and 2219 (B196BAF) on the 847 service from Guildford to Porthleven.    Next in the bus station was 2218 (B195BAF) on the 806 overnight service that started in Plymouth and arrived in Aberdeen just before lunchtime the following day.   Last in was 2220 (B197BAF) on another 730 service, this time from Birmingham to Perranporth.



Passing Strangers (2)
  Towards the end of their career the BAF's big days out usually entailed duplicating services between Cornwall and either Birmingham or Bristol.   On one busy day in Digbeth Coach Station in Birmingham in August 1998, when they were already 14 years old, three appeared on the same route.   The 330 service from Penzance to Nottingham passes through Newquay which was the main reason for its popularity.   On this day there were six duplicates including the three BAFs.  2219 (B196BAF) had come direct from Newquay while 2218 (B195BAF) and 2220 (B197BAF) were just normal duplicates.
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Then these may be of interest ..

Photo-Transport has been publishing themed articles about Public Transport for over 10 years.

If you enjoyed the above article you may be interested in these articles which were first published in September 2000 and March 2001.

  Birmingham National Express
Summer 2000 Duplicates
National Express
Rapide Retrospective




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