History of First 31787 (YN53 EFE)

20+ years on it seems amazing to think the Volvo B7TL with Wright Gemini body remains one of the most current and modern looking designs, and indeed the initial design was applied to other chassis such as the DAF DB250LF even before.


First had tended to apply Alexander ALX400 and Plaxton President bodies to its double-deck fleet with high concentrations in London and the former met-counties, but in late 2003 made the switch to the Wright Gemini design. 31787 was the first of a batch of 18 vehicles allocated to South Yorkshire, numerically following on from 11 similar Volvo’s carrying some of the last First bought ALX400 bodies (ALX 31776-31786, Wrights 31787-31804). 31787 quickly became something of a ‘poster boy’ of the time, and it and batch cousins were frequently seen on transport book and magazine covers.


Originally, the batch were due to be allocated to Olive Grove depot for OverGround service 82, but a late decision switch saw them allocated to Halfway depot in South-East Sheffield for OverGround service 41. Halfway was very much the small depot in South Yorkshire and new buses were something of a rarity, so these caused a lot of interest – albeit that initially there were concerns about the buses being able to fit into the depot via the entry doors!


The batch continued to run on the busy 41 service but made frequent appearances on other Halfway services (notably 21 and 95) when spare, but in the midst of competitive skirmishes on the 41 with the – now Stagecoach – 120, Halfway’s time was coming to an end and was finally closed in early 2007. The buses moved across along with the 41 to Olive Grove depot and were quickly part of a wider battle on what became the ‘Orange corridor’ now encompassing the 40, 41 and 42 routes with low fares and booming ridership.


By 2010, First’s Glasgow operations was requiring double-deckers for capacity and, in the face of local competition, a swap deal was agreed which saw the full batch (31787-31804) along with various other B7TL and B9TL Geminis sent to Glasgow in exchange for a comparable number of Volvo B7L and B7RLE single-deckers – a deal often regarded as a very poor one for South Yorkshire. Allocated to various sites including Blantyre (Motherwell) but latterly Caledonia depot, it was finally retired from use in April 2022.


Recovered and bought from First Glasgow by a quartet of trust members, it now resides at Eastwood and is currently going through refurbishment to restore it to ‘as new’ condition.

Owner - Private