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Thursday April 27th 2017 : Part 2 !

A postscript to today's blog..... the Scania double decker demonstrator had its last day on the X1 route today and it is returning home tomorrow.

Here are three more pictures of the coach that was tested today. I'm sure I have seen the driver somewhere before :)

Photos by kind permission of Julian Patterson

Thursday April 27th 2017 ~ More Testing

An interesting development today was the running of a Scania coach over the western end of the X1 route for clearance purposes and performance evaluation. Coaches are believed to be the preferred option for the route in some quarters, so this is not altogether surprising.
The coach was tested between King's Lynn and Norwich this morning. Particularly pleasing was the section through Dereham Market Place which was thought to be a stumbling block, as the vehicle is some two feet longer than the Enviro 400s currently in use, however, this was navigated with room to spare.
This afternoon the coach ran at 15.15 from King's Lynn to Peterborough following the service route without any problems. The coach was collected at Peterborough and returned north whence it came.
It must have been quite strange to have witnessed the coach on test passing the Scania double deck demonstrator between Wisbech and Guyhirn this afternon. The double decker is now working longer diagrams in its last few weeks on loan, having proved itself on the shorter turns.

Here are some pictures kindly provided by our contact at First showing the coach on test today :

All pictures courtesy of RT / First.

The length of the six wheeler is emphasised by my poor shot of it leaving Wisbech this afternoon :


Sunday April 23rd 2017 ~ Post Easter

After much nagging from my deprived readers I have at last got round to updating the blog. Someone said "When you titled your last post 'Final Update', I didn't think you actually meant it !!".

Photo copyright : Matthew Holland
Time is perhaps opportune to look at the year so far. MOT's on the Enviro 400s at the western end of the route have been proceeding apace, 33803-807, 33809, 33812-815 have been done so far leaving five King's Lynn vehicles outstanding. This figure includes the accident damaged 33808 which came to grief on February 23rd.
The usual crop of unscheduled repairs have also seen buses out of service, so far these are summarised as follows :

33803 14th - 21st Feb : Powertrain : Gearbox

33804 14th Jan - 2nd Feb : Full Circle : Bodywork repairs
            8th - 14th Feb : Powertrain ; Flexplates modification
           2nd - 12th April : Rear axle replaced at First Norwich

33805 has suffered with an intermittant gear selector fault which has seen it removed from service on several occasions.

33806 4th-11th Jan ; Powertrain : Flexplates modification

33808 Full Circle for assessment since Feb 25th

33809 24th Jan - Feb 8th : Powertrain ; gearbox mod and fuel fault
            9th - 19th March : Cummins : Engine failure (broken valve)

33812 Jan 10th - 23rd : Powertrain : Flexplates modification

33815  18th - 26th March : rear axle fault

33816 21st - 24th Feb : gearbox mod at Powertrain

The Scania demonstrator in Wisbech on March 2nd

The Scania demonstrator has been fairly reliable with just two periods out of traffic, namely 16th - 20th February (starter motor) and 7th - 11th April (electrical fault). It currently is having an issue with its handbrake sorted.

This has at times led to a full vehicle run out being impossible without assistance, meaning that Yarmouth's 33821 which originally arrived on October 12th last year remained on loan to King's Lynn until 23rd February. The failure of 33809 and MOT work then meant it returned for a further fortnight between 13th & 27th March. In addition, the replacement of the back axle on 33804 saw the loan of Norwich green liveried 36171 and this was in service on the X1 from 7th to 13th April.
Gemini 36171 at Walpole Highway while working the 14.45 Peterborough - Norwich on April 10th
I'm delighted to be able to include some photographs from the eastern end of the route thanks to Matthew Holland. The pictures below were all taken on March 17th

33824 working the 10.45 Norwich - Lowestoft

33823 on 11.15 Norwich - Lowestoft

Now restricted to the Eastern end of the route here is 37575 on the 12.00 Lowestoft - Norwich

Malcolm Hicks reports visits of ex Leeds based Geminis on the Eastern X1 fairly frequently, but 33423 is less seen these days. 37274/5 also appear and Matthew Holland photographed 32348 working on March 21st, it is seen below at Lowestoft before working the 15.00 to Norwich

Photos copyright Matthew Holland


Wednesday February 23rd 2017 ~ Final Update

I can confirm that X1 services resumed at 19.00 this evening after the storm had passed. Sam Larke has advised me that the good company relations between Lynx and First continue and this afternoon Lynx ran a relief service at 16.45 from King's Lynn to Swaffham  with this fine vehicle :

Photo courtesy of Julian Patterson.

Meanwhile 33808 is spending a night in a field guarded by security to prevent material thefts. Having seen the stricken vehicle at close hand I can say it is only by pure luck that casualties weren't more serious and fortunately a very experienced driver was at the helm and was rescued shocked but I believe unharmed. 

Wednesday 23rd February 2017 ~ Storm Doris Update

An update now on the earlier news that the X1 service was suspended following the incident near Walton Highway. Reports vary of the number of injured, although it is believed only three had to visit the QE Hospital at King's Lynn. Storm Doris had of course been forecast, but scarcely a week goes by these days without us being warned of a named storm in the vicinity. Quite often these pass without any notable damage or reactions. Bruce spoke with the driver of 33808 who said the gust took hold of the bus and despite trying to take evasive action and braking, the wind was just too strong and the gust took the bus off the road wiping out a lamp post in the process. The bus will require a major exercise to extricate it from the ploughed field where it landed. Most windows on the passenger side are destroyed as is the top front screen. Here are a few pictures of the damage :

Photos : Bruce Billingham / Gerard Fletcher

A limited X1 service has resumed between Norwich and King's Lynn early this evening as the storm disappears off eastwards. More news as it arrives.

23rd February 2017 ~ Storm Doris

X1 services between Norwich and Peterborough are currently suspended due to high winds from Storm Doris.
33808 working the 12.45 King's Lynn - Peterborough was blown off the road to the west of Walton Highway. Ambulances etc attended and a couple of passengers were taken to hospital. The driver was rescued and is ok thank goodness. More news as we have it.


Friday 17th February 2017 ~ Update

The Scania demonstrators outings on the X1 have been hit and miss so far, It worked diagram 6010 successfully on Monday and then followed that up with a start on 6003 on Tuesday, however, it was replaced by 33813 in the middle of the turn,
On Wednesday it did diagram 6011 but was halted at Peterborough at 18.30 when the starter motor failed. It has since been sent to Truck East and is awaiting a replacement. 
On the Enviro 400 front, 33803 is currently away for repairs and the MOT programme has restarted.


Monday 13th February 2017 ~ On Test

Today was the first day in service on the X1 route for the Scania demonstrator, registered YN16CFU. I was able to nip out from work - I have very understanding bosses - to get this picture at 11.00 just after it had departed from Wisbech on the 10.54 service to Peterborough (diagram 6010)

Later it was photographed arriving at King's Lynn to work the 13.11 service to Norwich by Cameron Robinson 

Photo copyright : Cameron Robinson

By mid afternoon the sun was getting low and here is the Scania in Dereham photographed by Sam Larke

Photos copyright : Sam Larke

Sam also captured the newby departing Norwich on the 15.10 to Peterborough.

I hope to do a further update on the success or otherwise of this vehicle later in the week, but many thanks to Cameron and Sam for supplying the pictures.


Tuesday January 31st 2017 ~ Demonstrations ?

Plans are coming to fruition now over the provision of demonstrator buses as the search begins for what will replace the Enviro 400s when the time comes. Several  options are being considered and the suitability of the various types is to be evaluated. First arrival is this Scania which arrived at King's Lynn today. Initial thoughts are that an increase in the vehicles speed will be necessary before and if it takes up X1 duties, there are also some concerns about headroom upstairs. Photographs kindly supplied by our man on the spot. More news on this as I receive it.


Saturday December 24th 2016 ~ Happy Christmas

It's been a long drawn out affair, but finally in the last week all 15 King's Lynn based Enviro 400s have been in operation on the X1 route.
The two loan Geminis which were helping during the crisis in October were last used on 24th October (36169) and 3rd November (36190). Enviro 33821 which arrived to assist at King's Lynn on October 12th is, however, still on loan and has worked on pretty much a daily basis since its arrival. It is noticeable by the lack of X1 branding and route itinerary compared to 33803 - 33817, see picture below.

The continued loan of 33821 has been to cover for vehicles away for gearbox attention, engine problems and bodywork repairs.

I last monitored individual bus mileages on January 7th and so I can update this to December 23rd. During this period of 50 weeks, the mileage covered by the King's Lynn examples was as follows :

33803 83,005
33804 109,695
33805 92,188
33806 96,761
33807 101, 330
33808 95,569
33809 102,704
33810 100.108
33811 101,254
33812 107,006
33813 102,852
33814 66,358
33815 78,625
33816 96,067
33817 98,747

The highest mileage bus 33812 nearly came out on top again, only beaten by 33804. 33812 has now travelled 362,126 miles since new just over three years ago.
At the other end of the scale the vastly reduced accumulations for 33814/15 reflect the long periods out of traffic this year. 33803 remains the lowest mileage of the Lynn fleet at 305,381. Loan bus 33821 has only amassed 287,204 due to its normal use on the shorter journeys at the eastern end of the route.
Since the 20th December there has been an opportunity to see three of the fleet without any advertisement boards and only three buses still have boards on both sides, this is thought to be due to an industrial dispute.
The last week has seen services during the middle of the day at times of Christmas peak traffic being diverted via Wisbech St. Mary not serving Wisbech Tesco and Weasenham Lane stops.
During a comfortable journey on 33804 on 17th December I noticed a blip on the scrolling information screen upstairs. After we passed Eau Brink eastbound, the display said the next stop was Dereham Sandy Lane for a couple of minutes before reverting to the correct South Gates stop !

Malcolm Hicks reports that the ex-Leeds Geminis are becoming increasingly common on the Eastern section now, while on 9th December 30900 came into Lowestoft on the 09.15 from Norwich.

I hope you all have a splendid Christmas and a great 2017. Cheers Gerard


Thursday October 20th 2016 ~ More Variety

Last night (Wednesday) loan Geminis 36180 and 36172 are seen here at King's Lynn after finishing their duties.
Today they were both due for safety services and as King's Lynn no longer stock a comprehensive range of parts and materials for Geminis, they were required back at Norwich.
This morning 36180 worked diagram 6013 commencing with the 07.10 Wisbech - Norwich and 36172 went out on diagram 6007 which starts as the 07.23 Dereham - Peterborough. The vehicle for this turn in reality runs light (empty) from King's Lynn garage at 06.30 to Dereham. The 06.45 Norwich - Dereham X1 which arrives at 07.18 is worked by a Norwich bus and passengers for destinations westbound have to change to catch the 07.23.
During the day the opportunity was taken during layover times at Norwich to swap 36180 for 36190 and similarly 36172 was replaced by blue liveried 36169, so tonight we have two new loan buses at King's Lynn seen below accompanied by the other loanee, Enviro 33821.

33815 which was returned to King's Lynn with a replacement engine yesterday was utilised today on diagram 6004 07.04 King's Lynn - Peterborough etc. Meanwhile 33816 has gone back to Cummins for...... a replacement engine, believed to be its third in its short life so far ! 
33813 has now returned from receiving a new back axle, but 33810 has gone the other way for the same treatment. 33814 remains at Full Circle receiving bodywork repairs. 
A close eye is being kept on 33811 which has had gearbox problems - yesterday it lost 30 minutes on its last run in from Norwich and 33805 is also misbehaving in this department. I hope to bring you better news before long, but in the meantime catch one of the loan Geminis if you can, although they are limited to a lower top speed, they do have wi-fi and leather seats.


Saturday 15th October 2016 ~ and then there were more ......

The crisis affecting X1 Enviro availability has worsened since my report on Tuesday. 33821 has arrived to replace broken 33816 which had expired at Wisbech at 12.00 on Tuesday and when 33812 was taken off the road last night with an electrical fault, it meant insufficient vehicles were available at King's Lynn to complete today's run out allocation.
The 08.27 Swaffham - Peterborough and return working were cancelled and Gemini 36172 was hastily appropriated from Norwich to run as the 14.00 to Peterborough see picture below. This means that 33812-816 inclusive were unavailable this morning and 36180 + 33821 continue to deputise. 
33816 is due to leave for repairs on Monday when 33815 is scheduled to return with its second new engine, the last one having lasted a mere 12 months. The gruelling work on the X1 compared to town and city work more usually allocated to Enviros seems to be taking its toll at the moment. 

In some rather bright conditions, 36172 enters Walton Highway as the 14.00 Norwich - Peterborough this afternoon.


Tuesday 11th October 2016 ~ At Last Something Different.

The last post here was on 21st August and the following day, Monday 22nd, all fifteen King's Lynn based Enviro 400s were used on the X1 service. This availability has not occurred again since then.
Passengers board 33817 at Peterborough rail station before it set off on its abortive journey to Norwich (see below)

We had our annual trip to Peterborough Beer Festival on Saturday 27th August, our bus to take us there was 33817 and this performed well, however, on its way back to Norwich its gearbox failed at Wendling meaning a period out of service until 9th September. Before it returned to traffic, 33814 was involved in a collision on 6th September. Shortly after leaving King's Lynn for Peterborough working the 08.35 service, a vehicle careered into the front of the bus near Eau Brink causing considerable damage. 33810 resumed the diagram with the 11.28 Lynn to Norwich.
This left a three day period with no spare bus in the vicinity, but fortunately everything else behaved. 33814 is currently still away at Full Circle having major repairs done.

The end of September saw 33815 taken out of service on 28th requiring a replacement engine and the following day 33806 was diagnosed needing a cylinder head replacement.
As a result Gemini 36170 was summoned from Norwich. On 29th it worked diagram 6002 which in detail is the 06.04 Lynn - Peterborough, 07.30 Peterborough - Norwich and 11.00 return continuing with the 14.15 Peterborough - Norwich and 17.40 Norwich - King's Lynn. This is most unusual as these days normally one of Lowestoft's Enviro 400s comes over on loan to fill the breach. Next day 36170 worked the same diagram until arriving in Norwich at 10.40, whereupon it was swapped for 36180. Since then 36180 has been out daily (except Sundays) deputising for an Enviro.
33806 had its repairs carried out at King's Lynn and was back on the road on 5th October, however, 33813 was then stopped with an axle fault on 7th meaning that as I write, 33813/4/5 are all off the road and the loan Gemini shows no signs of disappearing (or thankfully, breaking down !)

The past few weeks has seen an easing of traffic conditions on the route, with seemingly less congestion in the Peterborough area in the mornings. Another persistent problem until recently has been the late running of the 08.25 Norwich - Peterborough, caused by it being delayed at the Norwich end at peak time. This has meant that the 07.45 ex Norwich, which is usually on time has been leaving Wisbech punctually at 10.14 and then the following 08.25 ex Norwich has seen delays of up to 30 minutes meaning that it has been well after its scheduled 10.54 departure. for example 11.13 on 24th August, 11.16 on September 13 leaving a gap in the service of, in some cases, over an hour.

Here are a few more pictures of our loan Gemini and a couple of alternative ways to get into Peterborough  as well as a two in one moment at Peterborough rail station........

Peter says he'd long hoped for a picture like this ! On 23rd August, 33808 and 33807 arrive at Peterborough rail station simultaneously on the delayed  17.20 & 17.55 services to Norwich and King's Lynn respectively.

Victor M says "For goodness sake - now we are going via Whittlesea !" Well he's never happy of course. Another correspondent remarks that even by using this route, services are usually on time into Peterborough. So there Victor !
Another route into the city used recently was via Eye village.
Spot the odd one out ? 36180 reminding us of how X1 buses used to be. 
36180 arriving in Wisbech working the 10.05 Peterborough - Norwich on Monday 3rd October

Heading back west along Nene Quay 36180 has just left Wisbech on the 15.54 to Peterborough (13.30 ex Norwich)

36180 arrives at Peterborough rail station forming the 16.45 to King's Lynn on Thursday 6th October. Photo by Peter. 

33816 has now joined the queue of vehicles off the road after an injector failed today (11th October), 33821 is due to be used to cover. 


Sunday 21st August 2016 ~ Update

Sometimes it is a job to know where to start having not written an entry here for some considerable time. If anything, the major news concerns the sheer volume of non bus related incidents on the A47 which have conspired to make the X1 operators days extremely trying ones. Seldom has a day gone by without delays accumulating due to roadworks, accidents, road closures etc etc. It certainly seems to have been worse than in previous summers, but maybe we have had a sustained period of better weather in July and so far in August in comparison to recent years. A warm spell always brings out extra day trippers to add to the already clogged roads.
Rather than trawl through the individual incidents, I will make this a catch up blog. My decorating at home is nearly complete now and I, at last, should get more time after 16 months of chaos at home, during which time it has been a wonder any blog entries appeared at all.
I ought to apologise also to those who keep me updated with news and events, I have not kept up with this and will try and do better.
Diversions via Wisbech St. Mary have been commonplace in the last couple of months and also X1s can regularly be spotted taking Northside from Thorney to Whittlesey to avoid delays in the Peterborough area.
On the vehicle front, the current fleet of Enviro 400s on the western section have been fairly reliable, save a few instances of gearbox problems and oil cooler failures. With MOTs now complete, there is a little more margin for error, although a backlog of bodywork repairs are now being tackled by Full Circle.

33806 - 33811 inclusive lined up numerically for a change at King's Lynn

Since the last report, the following vehicles have had extended periods off the road ;

33803 21st May - 15th June : Engine failure,  26th June - 14th July : rear axle.

33812 18th - 23rd June : MOT
33814 2nd July - 31st July : rear axle.  7th August - 11th  body repairs

33815 1st June - 19th June ; Engine failure

To help out Yarmouth's 33823 had an extended period on loan to King's Lynn from April 25th until July 12th.
33823 seen at King's Lynn garage four days before its long loan spell ended. 

Photo taken by kind permission of First Group.

Going back briefly to early June and Malcolm Hicks says on 7th unusual sightings were heritage liveried VA 479 on 1000 X1 Lowestoft to Yarmouth , 36172 1000 X2 to Norwich, 47506 1015 to Martham 1, 32348 1040 X22   to Norwich , 66112 1430 to Norwich X2 & 8 (30888) on 1440 to Oulton Broad 106. In this connection, Zak Nelson sent some photographs of the heritage vehicles working the X1 and X11 during a bus shortage in June.

Later in June, some X1 vehicles were seen on Yarmouth local services  and again Zak was kind enough to send some of his pictures for us :

Moving forward to the last week and it was another very difficult time with road conditions responsible for many late running buses and even cancellations due to driver displacement. Fortunately the Enviro 400s have been improved in reliability lately and at least this has helped the situation. 33809 did fail near Hockering last Sunday (14th) on the penultimate turn from Norwich to Lynn - 33810 went to the rescue, but 33809 which had the oil cooler fault was fixed and out next day. Tuesday was the only weekday when there wasn't considerable disruption to diagrams, but the last two days (Sat and today) have gone very smoothly. Maximum lateness recorded on Saturday was 16 minutes after the 14.11 King's Lynn - Norwich with 33809 had to visit Vancouver Avenue garage before continuing eastbound. It returned from Norwich exactly on time.