State Transit’s Scania L113TRB Ansair Orana fleet is now in the final stage of its retirement, with just 3 buses left in service and a planned final withdrawal in early December. These buses, affectionately referred to as the ‘long bus” and “14.5s” have been driving around Sydney for over 26 years, but alas, all good things must come to an end.
Our featured bus route for November 2019 is Route 686 between Katoomba and Echo Point via Scenic World, operated by CDC Blue Mountains Transit.
November 2019 marks 100 years from when services first began between Katoomba Station and Echo Point. In September 1919 a proposal was put to council by Bertha Tweedie to run a motorbus service between the railway station and Echo Point. Her application was approved on the timetable, route and fares submitted and she commenced the service on November 17, 1919. After a falling out with the council, her rights to the service were stripped in 1922.
A variety of different operators have run a service between Katoomba Station and Echo Point over the past 100 years. From 2001, this service was operated by Pearce Mountainlink, later Blue Mountains Bus Co. The previously unnumbered Katoomba to Echo Point “Trolley Tours” services were given number 696. From 5 September 2005, route 696 was modified to so that selected trips would service the Scenic Skyway.
From 31 December 2007, the service was renumbered Route 686 and all services began to operate to Scenic World. As of 2014, the service was taken over by CDC Blue Mountains Transit and the “Trolley Tours” Branding abandoned.
Route 686 is to this date the most popular bus service in the Blue Mountains, regularly carrying full loads at crush capacity all week. It operates between 7am and 7pm, with service frequency varying from every 30 minutes during the week, to every 10 minutes on weekends.