With its striking lime green base livery, the four route groups of Go North East's "The Highwayman" brand operated around the borough of Gateshead to provide frequent links to and from Gateshead Interchange, Newcastle, the Metrocentre, Dunston, Whickham and Lobley Hill.
▸ Background: highwaymen, according to Wikipedia, were robbers who commuted using horse to steal from travellers. They dated back to the 15th century, with the term coined in 1617, and operated until the mid to late 19th century. This was likely the inspiration behind the name of The Highwayman pub located on Whickham Highway, although there is no record of highwaymen incidents ever occurring in the northern region, since the majority of them in England conducted their crimes around London. The logic behind Go North East's "The Highwayman" brand was likely that its 97 service stopped across from the pub. In addition, the logo of a man wearing a mask and a tricorne explains the relevance to the robbers, as they were notorious for wearing them so as to go unnoticed.
▸ Livery: the earlier version of "The Highwayman", seen on the Wright Merit and Wright Renown vehicles, involved no form of branding other than a logo placed in the centre of both side faced of the allocated vehicles. Text in the original logo was stylised as 'THE highwayman'; the word 'THE' written in white and placed atop 'highwayman', which was filled in a shade of grey with a black and white outline for maximum contrast against the vibrant green of the base colour underneath it. An illustration of a highwayman, inside of on orange diamond shape, was placed behind the text.
When the brand was given a vehicle reallocation to Wright Solars in 2012, slight amendments were given to the livery including the addition of route branding, further use of the highwayman icon, and a recolour of the logo.
▸ Vehicles: between 2004 and 2012, "The Highwayman" was operated by Volvo B10BLE/Wright Merit and VDL SB120/Wright Renown vehicles. In 2012, as the services grew popular, they received eleven cascaded Wright Solar vehicles from various depots across the region, in order for larger capacity journeys to be made possible to coincide with the noticeable increase in customer numbers onboard the services.
▸ Routes: four similar route groups, all numbered consecutively and operating around the Gateshead area, were put under the brand at the time of its introduction: 95/95A, 96/96A, 97 and 98/98A. Terminating at Gateshead Interchange, the 95 commenced from Lobley Hill and the 95A from Dunston. Both the 96 and 96A journeyed to the Metrocentre; the 96 commencing from Newcastle and the 96A acting as a shorter route from Lobley Hill. Service 97 made a similar route to the 96 by covering Newcastle to the Metrocentre, although additionally covered Whickham. Finally, services 98 and 98A worked as circular routes to and from Newcastle Market Street West and omitted the Metrocentre, Gateshead Interchange and Lobley Hill.
Later down the line, services 95A and 96A were withdrawn from service following a significant period of low passenger numbers. Shortly thereafter, the 95 and 96 themselves were unexpectedly de-branded to become generic ("Northern", at the time) routes.
▸ Discontinuation: Go North East announced changes to "The Highwayman" in October 2015, whereby it was relaunched as "Green Arrow". Service 97 was improved to run at a frequency of up to every 10 minutes while the livery was refreshed into a darker green colour. Two additional routes entered service as part of the relaunch: 97A and an express X97.
VDL SB120/Wright Renown version (2004–2012)
Initially, one of the brand's two vehicle types was the VDL SB120/Wright Merit, of which there were six branded in the livery. Fleet numbered 8261–66, they were delivered as new vehicles to Go North East in 2004 and were based at Sunderland Road depot. Ahead of their repaint into "The Highwayman", each of them had carried the 'wedge' version of the 2004 fleet livery.
Following "The Highwayman" brand's vehicle reallocation to Wright Solars in 2012, 8261–65 were repainted into the "Northern" livery, which was at the helm of Go North East's corporate identity at the time. 8266 was the only example, out of the six, not to carry this livery; instead, it was repainted for the circular S1 service's new brand, "S1 Metrocentre", which represented a white base paint version of the "X66 Metrocentre" livery that was used on bendy-bus Mercedes Citaro vehicles. Permanent depot transfers later down the line involved both 8161/65 over to Washington, where they would be used as spares for the likes of "South Tyne" services 88/88A, and the various "indiGo" routes that operated in and around the town.
The "Northern" branded examples of the Wright Merits were scrapped in late 2016 due to the introduction of newer, lower emission vehicles to the fleet; Optare Solo SRs in particular. 8266 was finally taken out of service in July 2017, as a result of service changes that saw the S1 and its "S1 Metrocentre" brand be discontinued.
VDL SB120/Wright Renown version (2004–2012)
The other of the early two vehicle types was the VDL SB120/Wright Renown, which was of little difference to the Wright Merits; specifically the front face. Ten of the vehicle type (fleet numbers 4913–20 and 4924/25) were branded to begin with, plus an eleventh (4912) from 2010 when a change in timetables saw an increase of peak vehicle requirement by one. The whole batch had carried the 2004 'wedge' fleet livery from their delivery into the Go North East fleet in 2000, while being stationed at Sunderland Road depot. 4912 — the eleventh Wright Renown to be added to the brand — was unique in carrying a simplified version of the livery without the swirls as seen on the other examples. It had previously been a spare vehicle at Sunderland Road, for which it was painted in a white base livery for instances where all branded vehicles were being used.
After "The Highwayman" received its eleven Wright Solar vehicles in 2012, the Wright Renowns were repainted into "Northern". While remaining in service for an additional four years, they saw transfers to other depots in order to act as spares. In 2016, the vehicles were finally withdrawn from service and the majority were disposed of. 4915 and 4922 were sold to A-line Coaches, where they remain in service today as fleet numbers 915 and (still) 4922. At least one other of the vehicle type was preserved by an enthusiast.
Scania L94UB/Wright Solar version (2012–2015)
2012 saw a batch of cascaded Wright Solar vehicles be assigned to "The Highwayman" in order to support larger capacity journeys for customers. Arriving from three of Go North East's other depots, seven of the eleven vehicles were transferred to the now discontinued Sunderland Road depot, where the "Highwayman" group of services operated from at the time. With most of the the vehicles being dispersed beforehand, "The Highwayman" ended up comprising an inconsistent range of fleet numbers: 4932/33, 4938, 4940/41, 4947/48, 4967, 5218, and 5227/28; the latter four were manufactured in the 2004 model of the Wright Solar, with the rest in the preceding 2001 build that was absent of a large ventilation pod on the roof.
Prior to their allocation under "The Highwayman", three of the vehicles were stationed at Deptford (4932/33 and 5228), two at Washington (4938/40) and Percy Main (4947/48), and four already working from Sunderland Road (4941/67 and 5218/27). At their previous depots, 4932/33, 4938, 4941, 4967 and 5228 carried a generic, white base livery to substitute for branded vehicles. An adapted version of this white base was given to 5227, whereby a promotional livery was applied to advertise the "CentreLink" and "TEN" brands serving the Metrocentre directly from Gateshead and Newcastle. Both 4947/48, which were housed at Percy Main depot, had carried a purple livery: 4947 for "the NINE" — a temporary brand following the cascade of the vehicles from "The Orbit" — and 4948 as a spare with large, silver Go North East logo vinyls on the side faces. Arriving from Washington, 4940 had been branded in the newly-introduced, red "Northern" livery, which acted as the fleet livery for Go North East at the time. Finally, 5218 was repainted from the second version of the "Loop" livery before receiving the lime green colour that it would carry for the next three years. These eleven vehicles would make up the allocation to both "The Highwayman" and its successor, "Green Arrow", between 2012 and 2019.
Despite being painted into the same colour that the formerly used Wright Merit and Wright Renown vehicles had carried, the Wright Solar version of the "Highwayman" livery differed slightly. At this point, the 95/95A and 96/96A had been removed from the brand, and orange-coloured route branding for services 97 and 98 was added along the cant rail of each of the vehicles. The yellow and black highwayman icon, used in the logo, also saw purpose as 'separators' between each location in the route branding, similar to what was later incorporated onto "The Waggonway". A slightly modified logo was given to the brand, which saw the text be coloured in orange, and the diamond shape behind the highwayman made yellow. The icon was also shifted from behind the text, to the right side of it.
To close the Wright Solar era of "The Highwayman", Go North East announced changes to it in October 2015, whereby it would be discontinued and relaunched as "Green Arrow". In conjunction with the renaming of the brand, its services were improved to run at a frequency of up to every 10 minutes, and two additional routes were brought in: 97A, and an express X97 service for quicker journeys.
A drawing of 5228 can be seen below, depicting the Wright Solar version of the livery of "The Highwayman".
Date last modified: 19th April 2022
▸ "Green Arrow" [original] — succeeded the brand
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