Service changes in July 2016 resulted in Go North East's service 96 being renumbered to 11, for which it received the "Blue Arrow" identity and was extended to Whitley Bay while covering Newcastle City Centre, Wallsend, Royal Quays and North Shields.
▸ Livery: in summary, "Blue Arrow" was a variation of the pre-established “Green Arrow” brand that was introduced in October 2015. The two shared the same principal component of a large target board, located towards the rear of the branded vehicles.
Like its green counterpart, the logo for the "Blue Arrow" brand consisted of the Twentieth Century and Avenir typefaces. Both the word 'BLUE' and the message underneath the logo were displayed in Twentieth Century Regular, while 'ARROW' was set in Avenir Black and incorporated the target board graphic to substitute the 'O' character. On this blue variant, the board used magenta and peach as secondary colours to contrast the dark base colour of the livery. A message under the logo referenced the connection that the services made with Newcastle City Centre, reading 'direct links to the heart of the city'.
Route branding was typed out in DIN Bold, and conveyed 'Linking The Coast, Royal Quays, Wallsend, Newcastle & Metrocentre up to every 30 minutes". It was situated inside of a light blue pointed flag banner running along the cant rail of each side face.
▸ Vehicles: the "Blue Arrow" identity launched with an allocation of Scania L94UB/Wright Solar vehicles. In 2018, however, it received a somewhat upgrade to Scania CN230UB/Scania OmniCity vehicles — displaced from the "Coaster" brand — all of which were fitted with WiFi for customers.
▸ Routes: its duration as an active brand saw "Blue Arrow" encompass services 11/11A. The 11 was the chief of the two, operating on a half-hourly basis between Whitley Bay HSBC and the Metrocentre Interchange while covering North Tyneside General Hospital, North Shields Metro, Wallsend Metro, Newcastle Monument Market Street, Gateshead Interchange and Lobley Hill. The route took approximately two hours to complete from beginning to end, stopping near and through three shopping destinations along the way: Royal Quays Outlet Centre in North Shields, Byker Retail Park, and of course the Metrocentre. When the service operated under its previous 96 route number, it covered between Gateshead Interchange and the Metrocentre only. This extension therefore allowed for many connections to areas in North Tyneside, which weren't available directly before. The 11A variant ran on Sundays only, covering the same route as the former 96 did. There were also a few 11X journeys briefly introduced for the morning peak, stopping directly at Cobalt Business Park for workers stationed there.
▸ Discontinuation: after less than three years in use, "Blue Arrow" was discontinued as part of service changes made on 19th May 2019. Effective from these changes, the brand was among many that would later become defunct in a bid to crackdown on unavailing promotional identities in the Go North East network. The first victim of this scheme, carried out two months prior to the aforementioned service changes, was the long-established "Whey Aye Five O" brand.
Service 11 was merged into the new "Little Coasters" network with former "indiGo" services 40, 41 and 42/42A, with its route curtailed between Whitley Bay and Wallsend. Monday to Saturday journeys continued to serve Wallsend Forum, while Sunday journeys terminated at Wallsend Metro. The Metrocentre to Newcastle section of routes 11/11A was replaced by the revised "Coaster" 1A service, now running via Lobley Hill, Malvern Gardens and Knightside Gardens.
Scania L94UB/Wright Solar version (2016–2018)
While in service at Deptford, eight Wright Solar vehicles (fleet numbers 4968, 4970–4975 and 5203) made two separate visits to Saltmeadows Road depot: first, to be painted into the upcoming brand's dark blue base colour, and later to receive vinyl branding application. Once completed, they were collectively transferred to their next permanent home of Percy Main depot to operate on the newly introduced service 11. Beforehand, the vehicles making up the "Blue Arrow" fleet carried three identities between them: 4968 and 4970–4972 in the "Prince Bishops" livery (for services 20/X20), 4973–4975 in "Fast Cats" (for services X35/X36), and 5203 in the red base colour representing Go North East's corporate image at the time.
The Wright Solar version of the livery saw one of the newly released promotional stickers be applied to the second-from-front side windows, outlining that the services ran from early until late — applicable for Monday to Saturday daytime journeys. This sticker was later featured on more brands as part of a revised route branding style rolled out in late 2016, however "Blue Arrow" was the only brand that used it in this format as a standalone in the windows.
In early 2018, a little over a year since launching, "Blue Arrow" received an upgrade to a batch of Scania CN230UB/Scania OmniCity vehicles, which had recently been fitted with WiFi. This allowed customers to browse the internet whilst commuting on service 11's excessive journey. Following this upgrade, the eight previously allocated Wright Solar vehicles were withdrawn from service as multiple investments in newer buses deemed them unnecessary. Some were sold for scrap upon removal, while the remainders were purchased by other operators for further service.
A drawing of 4974 can be seen below, depicting the Wright Solar version of the "Blue Arrow" livery.
Scania CN230UB/Scania OmniCity version (2018–2019)
In December 2017, a new batch of Wright StreetDeck vehicles entered service for the upgraded "The Angel" service 21, resulting in its Volvo B5LH/Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 vehicles being transferred to Percy Main depot for reallocation to "Coaster" services 1/1A/1B. The eight Scania OmniCity vehicles that had operated the "Coaster" routes (5266–73) were then rebranded into "Blue Arrow" to upgrade the services, with onboard WiFi being available to customers. A ninth Scania OmniCity vehicle (5274) was brought in as a spare for both the "Blue Arrow" and "Coaster" services, carrying the "Big Days Out" livery to promote offers available from purchasing Go North East bus tickets.
The upgrade to the "Blue Arrow" brand occurred in conjunction with a subtle shake-up of vehicle allocations between late 2017 and early 2018, which was the result of a new batch of Wright StreetDeck vehicles being delivered to improve the aesthetic quality of service 21 ("The Angel" — Newcastle to Chester-le-Street/Durham). The Volvo B5LH/Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 examples operating on that service were then displaced to Percy Main depot, where they would upgrade and be assigned to "Coaster" services 1/1A (Whitley Bay to Wrekenton/Kibblesworth). This left the Scania OmniCity buses previously working the "Coaster" routes (fleet numbers 5266–5273) available, therefore they were allocated to the 11 in order for the former Wright Solar vehicles to be removed from the Go North East fleet.
The Scania OmniCity vehicles operated on service 11 for fourteen months before the brand was discontinued in line with the 19th May 2019 service revisions. These saw the route form part of the new "Little Coasters" network serving North Tyneside, for which a number of Optare Solo SR M925 vehicles were the designated vehicles. For a short while afterwards, the OmniCity vehicles continued to work from Percy Main depot while branded for "Blue Arrow", making frequent appearances on "Cobalt & Coast" services 309/310. They returned from repaint at Saltmeadows Road in Go North East's newly introduced fleet livery, and were then transferred over to Chester-le-Street depot. The onboard WiFi feature was sustained for passengers.
A drawing of the Scania OmniCity version of "Blue Arrow" will be coming at a later date.
Date last modified: 10th May 2022
▸ "Green Arrow" [original] — shared its identity with the brand
▸ "Little Coasters" — service 11 later formed part of this brand [coming soon]
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