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19/09/2014

Thursday September 18th 2014 ~ Forgotten Blog ?

Forgotten ? Well not at all, but in common with many bus blogs of late there has not been a huge amount to report. That's good news for 'First' of course as it means things are largely running smoothly. Timekeeping on the western leg of the route has improved dramatically following the route split. From September 2nd the X1 resumed its normal route in Wisbech traversing Nene Quay once more in both directions and punctuality has been excellent.
I was left red faced last week when I learned of the £26 weekly ticket giving unlimited X1 route travel - my embarrassment was caused because one of my  lodgers uses the X1 at least three times a week to get from Walpole Highway to Peterborough at a tenner a time. I'd like to thank the driver who recently pointed out the availability of these tickets. As long in the tooth readers will know, ticketing is not my strong point (along with the mechanics of buses etc etc !). " I thought you knew everything about the X1" Jamie said, to which I replied " No, but I know a man who does". I am referring to the man who once said "Nobody understands me apart from Gerard" - your secret is safe with me Mr T.
Our X1 drivers are really doing a good job at the moment, I've had several reports praising their politeness and for being generally helpful, which is always good to hear.
Showbus at Duxford takes place on Sunday 20th and as I previously reported, one of the King's Lynn based Enviro 400s will be making the journey there. It is unclear which example will be sent at the moment (earlier 33813 had been quoted).
Thanks must go to Roy at the East Norfolk Bus Blog http://eastnorfolkbus.blogspot.co.uk/
for the information on the Geminis which are to receive the X1 Enviro livery. 37578 and 37579 will be joined in the new colours by 33423, I also ought to add that 33818-824 are actually allocated to Lowestoft depot and not Yarmouth as I originally reported. All the Enviro 400s are currently available for traffic, so a nice bonus for the operators. Many of the fleet have now exceeded 100,000 miles and we will have a closer look at mileages when the anniversary of the Enviros entry into service occurs at the end of the month.
Please keep your reports coming in and a note to you drivers, Bruce is back from holiday on Monday having been starved of X1 action while enjoying the sun in Greece, so no doubt there will be lots of friendly waving going on !






31/08/2014

Sunday August 31st 2014 ~ Old Timers

33805 passing through Walpole Highway this evening (Sunday 30th) spot on time forming the 19.00 service to Peterborough. 
A quiet period since the last posting, although vehicle shortages at Great Yarmouth have been responsible for some older buses appearing on the Norwich to Lowestoft section of the X1.
Problems with the Enviro 400s have included 33807 requiring a new gearbox which was fitted at Great Yarmouth. 33807 was out of service between 2nd & 23rd August and also in trouble is 33822 which requires major attention. It was last reported by Malcolm in service on 15th August.
The bus rally season has its climax on September 21st with Showbus once again being held at Duxford. King's Lynn depot will be taking an Enviro 400 (rumoured to be 33813) to the event and elsewhere it is reported that 33423 will also be in attendance - plans to paint this and two of the X1 Geminis in the blue livery which adorns the Enviros have drawn negative feedback from some enthusiasts. On the positive side, this will mean spare blue liveried vehicles will be available to serve the western part of the route when required without the Great Yarmouth branding, which does look a little odd in Peterborough - especially if the bus is only travelling as far as Norwich !

I had a couple of X1 days out recently and on Friday 22nd visited Peterborough. The diversion which was due to finish at the end of the month, but which now seems destined to be extended, via Weasenham Lane adds about 3 minutes to the average X1 journey. My return on the 14.45 eastbound was not without incident. Traffic congestion was in evidence immediately after rejoining the A47 at Thorney bypass roundabout. We crawled through to Guyhirn and then took the diversion via Wisbech St. Mary to avoid a broken down car on Guyhirn Bank which was causing huge tailbacks. This was my first time through here on a bus since the 1970s ! We met a westbound service on Barton Road also using the alternative route. As is often the case on a Friday, the timetable became fiction, and Jamie who was on the service following ours actually arrived here over an hour behind us. Two buses had apparently arrived at Peterborough simultaneously and one went direct to King's Lynn to regain some time.

Friday 29th also saw the service disrupted when a car and a motorcycle were in collision near the Pullover Roundabout at around 11.15. Bus diagrams went out of the window and the late running 13.15 King's Lynn - Peterborough with 33803 was terminated at Wisbech. It then ran empty to Thorney to form the return working. Buses were swapped randomly and 33814 which had worked the 14.15 Peterborough - Norwich was turned round at King's Lynn to form the 15.45 back to Peterborough. Delays were considerable with 33810 on the 11.35 Lynn - Peterborough passing Bruce at Walpole Highway 41 late. The previous service came back from Peterborough 48 late with 33806 departing Wisbech  at 14.13.
Saturday 30th also seems to have suffered, though I am not certain why. The 15.15 King's Lynn - Peterborough ran around 35 late and the bus following it, 33808 was noted at Walpole Highway heading back east at 18.48, 29 late.

Malcolm reports some interesting observations from Lowestoft. Friday 15th witnessed 34109 on the 11.00 1a to Martham, while 44513  did the 13.55 X2 to Norwich and 44512 followed it, albeit 16 late on the 14.35 service. Next day saw old timers 34111 on the 11.00 and 34186 the  11.30 departures to Martham. Gemini 37564 did an odd move, it arrived on the 10.25 Yarmouth - Lowestoft X1 and then resumed its usual work on the 11.15 X2 to Norwich. On 18th 42358 put in an appearance on the X2 working the 14.55 Lowestoft - Norwich and the following day it was the turn of 44513 on the 13.55 and 34186 on the 11.00 to Martham. The variety continued on 20th with 66126 turned out for the 11.00 to Martham and next day it did the 10.00 instead. 33823 did the 09.45 Yarmouth - Lowestoft X1 on 21st but the return working at 10.40 was cancelled with the Enviro being declared out of service. On Saturday 23rd 37574 failed in Lowestoft bus station and the 11.00 X1 to Yarmouth was cancelled as a result, this was while 37572 busied itself on the 101 town service. On 24th, the aforementioned 33423 took interested parties to the Old Buckenham bus rally with Des Speed at the helm, where by all accounts, a good time was had by all.
34111 in frontline service once more on 27th August. Photo : Steve W.  http://busandtrain.blogspot.co.uk/
The nadir of  X1 availability was felt on Wednesday 27th when 34114 was pressed into service together with sister 34111 which managed around 10 hours on the route east of Norwich. So to 28th when another surprise turned up at Lowestoft, this time 60814 worked the 11.00 X1 to Yarmouth.
http://busandtrain.blogspot.co.uk/

Currently 33816 is undergoing modification to the hydraulic oil cooler fault, while 33807 seems to have settled back into service after sounding rather noisy on its first day back on the road.

15/08/2014

Thursday 14th August 2014 ~ 100,000 Miles

Following last week's incident with the Wisbech diversion, the X1 has been travelling from the Horsefair Bus Station down the A1101 Churchill Road turning right into Weasenham Lane before rejoining the normal route on Cromwell Road. John Knight reports that temporary bus stops have been installed in Weasenham Lane to cater for passengers who normally use the stop located between Oldfield Lane and the Weasenham Lane Junction. This is despite the fact that the normal route down Nene Quay has been open westbound as advertised. May be it is deemed a better option to use the alternative route in both directions.
33807 has been absent from the route since the beginning of the month after its gearbox became unserviceable following its failure near Narborough on 1st. After an investigation it was decided that it should be taken to Great Yarmouth where the facilities are more suited to heavy engineering. It arrived there earlier this week, but this has left King's Lynn with just a single spare vehicle which has fortunately been sufficient thus far.
Not a great deal else to report, the King's Lynn bypass has now reopened and buses are no longer travelling via South Lynn. King's Lynn garage are currently short of drivers and adverts for recruitment have appeared on the companies Twitter feed. The new timetable requires two additional car lines which are yet to be allocated drivers, but up to now a full service has been run with no cancellations I believe.


A driver I spoke to tonight says the Enviros do vary in their performance. As we have mentioned before, 33803 is definitely not a good one and is rather sluggish, while 33814 is just the opposite and is a favourite. The Yarmouth based Enviros have settled in now although 33821 had the indignity of suffering a puncture at the James Paget Hospital on 7th August see picture below


The X2 continues to see occasional appearances of single deck vehicles recently noted were on 6th August 44513 on the 14.35 to Norwich with 42358 working the 14.25 ex Norwich. Malcolm also reports a correction, it was 34186 which worked a Martham service on 5th not 34188 as previously reported. On 6th 34114 put in an appearance on the 10.00 Lowestoft - Martham and next day 44531 was on the 09.45 X2 from Norwich and 34186 came in again, this time on the 13.59 from Martham. On 12th it was 34114 again, on the 08.59 from Martham.
The first X1 Enviro to break the 100,000 mile barrier is 33811 which has achieved this in 10.5 months. An astonishing feat I'm sure you will agree.
33811 about to depart from King's Lynn for Norwich on Saturday 9th August. Photo copyright : Andy Gibbs.
33811 after another days X1 graft. Note the Commonwealth Games support logo prominent in the leading lower deck window.  14th August 2014.
The next Enviro to reach the 100,00 miles mark is likely to be 33812 (current mileage 98284).
 John Wilson writes to say that former X1 coack 20122 , still in use as a driver trainer, was noted in Vancouver Avenue recently. John originally thought his sighting was on a visit to the tip on the 6th but then adds "Sorry Gerard - I'm told I went to the dentist on Weds a.m. so it was a different day I went past Vancouver Avenue and saw 20122  there.  I get so much excitement these days with both a trip to the tip and dentist in the same week. Must make you look forward to retirement! Now if you were to say to me "was it Monday or Tuesday?", I would reply "yes" with a degree of certainty. Yours unspecifically, and with a promise not to write too often". 
Always a pleasure to hear from you John, your sense of humour is certainly not on the wane.
This reminds me, thanks to all who have contacted me recently with info for the blog, all much appreciated.

05/08/2014

Tuesday 5th August 2014 ~ Creating a Diversion

The first week of the route split seems to have gone smoothly, though the roadworks which seem to dog the route have done their best to ruin things. The King's Lynn bypass work has over-run and I think is now due to end in a weeks time. Meanwhile, Nene Quay in Wisbech, for so long closed for flood defence work in recent years had been shut once again, meaning yet another diversion via Churchill Road and Weasenham Lane.
Photo copyright : Lisa Scott
This time gas main relaying is to blame, but today Nene Quay was open for traffic in one direction and although publicity points to it being open for Peterborough bound traffic only, there was an element of confusion this morning when instead the eastbound side was open, with Peterborough bound buses being diverted.
 The 10.44 departure tried the signed route via Market Place but was thwarted by the sharp right turn from Hill Street into Union Street as shown here :
Whoops ! The bus had to reverse all the way back up Hill Street to escape. One imagines the little lad in the photo asking his Dad if he can go for an exciting trip on the X1 soon !
 At 11.45 today, the Quay was reopened to Peterborough bound traffic only with eastbound buses having to use Weasenham Lane, but not before three services (33816/12/10) had travelled through to Wisbech Town Bridge where they had to take the tight left hander to go over the bridge through to the Old Market.


The buses themselves seem to have been well behaved lately with just one failure being reported, 33807  cut out at Narborough on Friday and had to be replaced, this amid all the chaos caused by heavy traffic and with major tailbacks, some services travelled from Swaffham to Lynn via Stradsett depriving Middleton, East winch and Narborough of their service for a while.
Over in the east, 33818 -24 have all been in action on the Lowestoft - Yarmouth -Norwich service, although today was the first day that Malcolm noted all 7 in service when they worked as follows:
33818 10.00 Lowestoft - Yarmouth
33819 11.45 Yarmouth - Lowestoft
33820 12.20 Lowestoft - Yarmouth
33821 14.40 Lowestoft - Yarmouth
33822 12.00 Lowestoft - Yarmouth
33823 11.00 Lowestoft - Yarmouth
33824 10.20 Lowestoft - Norwich

Other unusual sightings in Lowestoft today were 34188 on the 11.00 to Martham, while 44512 came in on the 09.45 X2 from Norwich and later 44513 worked the 14.15 X2 to Norwich.

Whilst not with in the remit of this blog, but by way of a change Jim Long writes "I thought you might like to show 32479 as she was a Norwich car originally and now displays the Privatised livery of 1987.
This shot was taken on August 2nd and has the back drop of the Orwell bridge on the extended Superoute 66 service Martlesham to Halifax which is a local estate in Ipswich not West Yorks ..lol..
Thought it would be nice on your site as the new team in place at First are making a real effort to spice things up so to speak"...... and indeed why not Jim ? 

28/07/2014

Monday 28th July ~ An Amicable Split ?


So here we are in the new regime and the first weekday of a split service. I hope to report later in the week on the first few days of the revised service, but today we look at events over the past week.
33819 stands at Acle forming the 15.03 to Peterborough on Wednesday 23rd July.
 Photo copyright : Richard Adderson
On Tuesday, 33820 was in a spot of bother in Great Yarmouth working L12. It was unable to continue and 33805 which was on the following turn, Y13 which normally garages at Yarmouth, was turned round to do the last leg of L12 back to Lynn. Next morning King's Lynn sent 33811 to Yarmouth early and this then worked Wednesday's Y13 with 33820 then being driven back to Lynn for attention. Thursday saw 33806 in the depot for repairs to the hydraulic oil cooler and this was also the reason for 33820's downfall. 
33803 managed to do at least a half day's work on both Thursday and Friday, but its availability continues to give cause for concern. There were wholesale vehicle swaps on diagrams on Friday, partly because of the chaos caused by the King's Lynn Bypass roadworks, but also because of the need to get 33818 - 824 in position for coastal finishes on Saturday. By the time Saturday arrived, only L8 had to swap buses with 33809 giving way to 33824. So the buses for Great Yarmouth ended up on Saturday as follows :

K2 ends Lowestoft : 33820
K4 ends Yarmouth : 33818
K6 ends Lowestoft : 33819
L8 ends Yarmouth : 33824
Y13 ends Yarmouth : 33822
K18 ends Yarmouth : 33823

Earlier 33815 working K16 omitted the Lynn- Peterborough - Wisbech run because of the horrendous delays from East Winch westbound, instead it went empty from Lynn to Wisbech to work the 16.08 to Lowestoft, thus depriving our regular corresponent Des Speed of a final trip to Peterborough. 

Richard Adderson writes "Destination blinds have always fascinated me. When I was at school I used to while away boring lessons by drawing them in my exercise books, 3 piece, two piece, and all the permutations of displays you could see around Norwich in the early 1960s. The most exciting one, and I remember it to this day, was the once daily 91 which was extended beyond Sprowston (Blue Boar) to Sprowston (Hall Gates)  Goodness knows why, and there was no timetabled return working. And before you mock, it's no stranger behaviour than noting the advert displays on the sides of buses! 
Anyway, something must have stirred deep in my memory this afternoon, as I suddenly decided it would be nice to pop over to Acle to see a couple of X1s with the "full route" displays before they change.
The picture below 15.11 eastbound (and I'll leave you to conjecture whether the young lady in white trousers found her way into the picture by accident or by design!)".
  


So with all the buses safely garaged in their own depots on Saturday evening, Sunday saw the first day of the new timetable - what nice pictures on the front of it too, well you have to blow your own trumpet sometimes ! The Sunday service from King's Lynn depot now requires just six Enviro 400s - previously eleven different buses passed through the town on Sundays. Malcolm reports from Lowestoft viewing the following :-

33824 0946 X1 to Gt Yarmouth
37575 1014 1 to Gt Yarmouth
37565 1020 X2 to Norwich
37578 0950 X1 from Gt Yarmouth
37569 1420 X2 to Norwich
37579 1350 X1 from Gt Yarmouth
37566 1520 X2 to Norwich
33818 1514 1 to Gt Yarmouth
33820 1450 X1 from Gt Yarmouth

So a mixture of the old and the new there, we await further reports with interest. At King's Lynn the self contained Norwich/Peterborough service utilised 33805/8/10/13/15/16.

33808 passes through Walpole Highway spot on time with Sunday's 10.03 to Norwich (the 09.05 from Peterborough). This bus could also be seen working the 17.03 eastbound and arrived back at King's Lynn depot at 20.50 after working new diagram 6.
Monday has been interesting so far with most buses seen near time until the 13.45 ex Peterborough (K1) which had been on time going west, but returned 30 late through Tilney, 'not in service'. The following service was just two minutes behind it.
33810 on today's 11.05 Peterborough - Norwich gets away from the Lynn Road / Walton Road stop at Walsoken .


The 09.50 Norwich - Peterborough passes Wisbech Park with 33804. Monday 28th July


23/07/2014

Tuesday 22nd July 2014 ~ Unfinished Blog ?

On Thursday 17th July, 33817 passes Walsoken working K16 10.00 Lowestoft (13.20 King's Lynn) - Peterborough.
Well you know how it is ? I'd just decided that writing a blog at 01.00 in the morning was not a good idea, so up went last week's posting only for me to realise next day that I'd failed to include some items. 
Going back to the Sacrewell Farm Rally on July 8th and I had a couple of nice emails, one from organiser Steve Knight who says "The organisers are grateful to First Eastern Counties who made the vehicle available and especially to David Squire and Chris Speed who made the arrangements, as well as First Group Director Giles Fearnley to whom the original request was made. The bus made one mid-day trip from the rally site to Wansford and return and was well loaded on both outward and return journeys. It also stopped to pick up passengers from the previous Wansford shuttle service, being operated by a preserved vehicle, which had suffered a technical failure on its journey.
 It was a nice touch for Chris Speed to programme the electronic destination display for the event". Following on from this, Stuart Perry writes  "I was a passenger on the broken down vintage bus on the A1 rescued by 33816. I would like to say that although the lay-by was fairly generous I thought the transfer was conducted very professionally in what was a potentially dangerous situation with the fast moving traffic on the A1. Congratulations to all the staff from First who were involved".
Apologies to Steve and Stuart for the late appearance of their comments.
I also failed to give a synopsis of goings on at Lowestoft in recent weeks , these can best be summed up as uneventful, however, on 19th Malcolm says Royale 34108 put in an appearance working the 10.40 service 1a to Martham, then yesterday (21st) 32629 - an ex Leicester Gemini allocated to Yarmouth made a surprise sighting on the X2, working the 09.55 Lowestoft - Norwich and today it worked on the route again doing at least two return trips.
Going back now to the X1 and we are in the final week of through services between Peterborough and Lowestoft. A few Yarmouth and Lowestoft drivers have mentioned to me that they lament the splitting of the route, not least because it will limit their own sphere of operation, leaving just Lowestoft to Norwich on their books. More than a couple have also commented favourably on the blog and how they enjoy following it. Looks like I may need some help from my fellow bloggers in the east after this weekend !
Several readers have also said that they intend travelling the entire route before services are curtailed on Sunday.
The last week has seen some trying times for the X1 controllers. Thursday was a good day, but Friday saw the King's Lynn roadworks badly affect services. As is usually the case, the morning services fared ok but it was at lunchtime that things began to go awry. 
Y13 12.18 Wisbech - Peterborough departed just 13 late with 33811 - this had replaced 33822 which was late arriving in Lynn. 33822 itself then became K14 and this was seen returning from Peterborough at 15.15, 45 late having lost time after being 26 late going west.  Westbound services seen were K15 at 14.24 (54 late with 33807, it returned 68 late), K16 at 15.12 with 33805 running 62 late, K17 with 33824 67 late at 15.37, K18 with 33810 61 late at 16.01 and finally 33812 on K19 passing me at 16.37, 67 late. Not surprisingly all these services then took up their nearest turn in terms of the timetable, so 33812 became K2 running 7 late.
On Saturday I had a trip to Peterborough and back amid the torrential rainstorms. I took the 10.31 from Walpole Highway which to my amazement turned up just a minute late - normally one can expect a 5 minute leeway on Saturdays. We made determined progress with 33823 and our driver was obviously a stickler for punctuality which is always a good point in my book. We left Wisbech on time to the second at 10.48 and despite the Saturday traffic and poor weather pulled into Queensgate just 45 seconds late on our 11.30 arrival time. 
Coming back on the 12.09 departure from Peterborough rail station with 33820, the weather was appalling with the A47
flooded in places between Guyhirn and Wisbech. Before this we had made an unscheduled diversion - see pictures - after the police had closed the normal route
into Thorney and we had to traverse half the bypass to enter the village from the north. Arrival back at Walpole was just a minute late which was commendable under the circumstances. On the way back we passed two X1s in close succession between Thorney Toll and Guyhirn, L12 having been heavily delayed en route with 33824.

Monday saw two failures, something which has not occurred for many months. 33816 working K3 came to grief in Norwich with the hydraulic cooler fault at about 11.20 and later 33809 took up its duty, then 33803 which had passed me 10 late working K19 to Peterborough expired at Guyhirn at 15.50 with loss of gears. some extremely quick remedial action saw 33820 sent hurriedly from King's Lynn and this returned westbound spot on time.
 Earlier K14 had yet again been delayed and it came past me 31 late with 33810 in the path of K15. Finally today (22nd) the hydraulic oil cooler problem claimed another victim when yesterday's thunderbird 33820 failed in Yarmouth working L12. 33805 working Y13 behind it then formed the last leg back to King's Lynn of L12. This effectively leaves Yarmouth a bus short tomorrow, unless a replacement is sent from Lynn or 33820 is repaired overnight.
Finally, although not officially confirmed yet, I believe that the Enviro 400s destined for Great Yarmouth as from Sunday are 33818 -24 inclusive. These will join some of the Geminis previously used in the 37573-9 series which will be wi-fi fitted. 


17/07/2014

Wednesday July 16th 2014 ~ Heatwave sets in

After flooding last week, we are now starting a heatwave it would appear. It will be interesting to see if the Enviro 400s cope well with the high temperatures. 30'c is forecast on Friday with the warm weather continuing well into next week.
Since the last 'road report' little has changed and the Enviro's continue to exceed expectations in terms of reliability. Public perception of the new vehicles remains excellent and only the daily grind of negotiating the increasingly choked and inadequate A47 causes the service to disintegrate at times.
Looking back over recent weeks, Thursday 3rd saw 33803 in trouble during the afternoon at Yarmouth, it was unable to achieve more than 15mph due to a gearing fault. The bus was rescued by King's Lynn engineers and K4-XL10 which it was working was seen later in the day with 33820 instead. The same day saw delays westbound through Wisbech, 33811 on the 10.48 Peterborough departure left 13 late and Y11-XL17 following was 15 late. L12-Xl18 came through on time but K14-XL01 due off at 12.58 was 33805 20 late. The service then returned to normal until about 17.00,  when the delays which are still occurring daily because of the queues leading up to the King's Lynn Bypass from Middleton, up Constitution Hill to Hardwick affected services.
Friday 3rd was one of those nightmare days with a combination of an accident in Dereham Market Place, an Acle Straight collision and delays of up to 40 minutes at King's Lynn causing mayhem. My observations showed the morning unaffected, but L12-XL18 was seen arriving in Wisbech at 12.10, about 25 minutes late and during the afternoon, Peterborough bound services were seen at 14.53 (33815 on K16-XL03) running 53 late, next was XL04-K17 at 15.01 with 33810 31 late and this was followed by XL05-K18 at 15.13, 13 late with 33809. 33824 then appeared on K19-XL06 at 15.43, again just 13 late.
After the Sacrewell  Farm Rally on 6th, I was on holiday for a week, though mainly locally. On Monday 7th I needed to go to the bank in Wisbech, so it being a fine day, I decided to hang around to get a picture of the 12.25 departure to Lowestoft. This was in vain as it turned out as the previous 11.55 service was seen leaving at 12.04, before I had my camera in position and the 12.18 to Peterborough passed me 6 late with 33808. After this there was nothing. I finally gave up at 13.10 and minutes later glimpsed an eastbound X1 approaching the town at 13.14. I realised there must have been some sort of A47 debacle and so it proved to be with an accident at East Winch causing delays and diversions via Stradsett & the A10. Tuesday 8th brought delays due to flooding at Trowse and things weren't a great deal better, although somewhat drier on 9th when I was surprised to find myself following 33808 on the 17.50 King's Lynn - Peterborough running into Walpole Highway at 18.38, 27 minutes late after negotiating the Lynn roadworks. 33810 going the other way on the 17.15 ex Peterborough did better being just 12 minutes late. The 10th brought further flooding with the A47 affected at the Ringland turn , west of Easton during the evening peak. One of my occasional lunchtime visits to the Woolpack at Terrington on Friday 11th showed the service coping quite well all things considered. Three consecutive eastbound services commencing with L10 12.39 to Lowestoft were on time, but westbound it was a different story. K14-XL01 09.00 from Lowestoft passed through with 33824 15 late and K15-XL02 lost more time with 33818 passing at 13.32, 23 late. Mid afternoon I saw K18-XL05 at Walton Highway heading for Peterborough 32 late (33809) and then just down the road at Walpole I met 33808 on K19-XL06 just 9 late. By the evening peak, things had worsened considerably and the 18.20 ex Peterborough was reported leaving Peterborough 58 minutes late ! A day to forget by all accounts.
33807 was another bus which had gear problems on Saturday 12th and it was replaced on K6-XL12 by 33805 at some point. Bruce was monitoring the service for me as I was away and he says
"The day started badly with 33803 being 12 late on K1! Normality resumed with K2 - 816, K3 - 823, K4 - 820, K5 - 805, K6 - 807, Y7 - 809, L8 - 814, Y9 - 815, L10 - 817, Y11 - 810, L12 - 808 and Y13 - 819 (4 early on return from Peterborough). A vigil found K14 21 late with 824 and K15 10 late with 821  both going to Peterborough.
A further vigil commenced at 13.35 to wave to the Yarmouth man on K16 but which eventually produced 812 at 14.19 but on K17 - I think ! ?  Whatever, it was the next bus after 821 at 13.21. Something may have gone to Wisbech at 14.39 but this conflicted with my personal needs break ! At 15.03 813 was on an assumed K18 running 22 late. 
A plan to see K19 then commenced but produced 818 (????) going to Lynn at 15.28, then  821 (again!!!!!) going to Wisbech at 16.09 on either K19 or K1 -  but it had not been  seen coming back on K15 which it operated earlier.  K2 only 5 late with 816 went by at 16.16 and then 806(where did that come from?) going to Lynn on an assumed K16, in which case it was 30 late.
 At this your correspondent's head exploded. A  final vigil at 17.10  till 17.55 produced neither K19 or K1 coming back east, just K3 toddling by to Peterborough 8 late. If you can make any sense of this, you are welcome".
Well the morning seemed ok Bruce, but what happened in the afternoon is a mystery - let's blame the A47, it usually works.
By comparison, this week so far seems quite well behaved. Just one blip noted on Monday lunchtime when K14-XL01 was cancelled at Wisbech, 33818 then running empty  'not in service' to Peterborough 30 minutes late, passengers transferring to K15-XL02 (33808) which was on time just behind it.
Fleetwise, 33803 is currently undergoing body repairs at Full Circle and 33811 is the latest bus to have an MOT. One or two of the fleet have now passed the 90,000 mile mark, so I would expect at least one to have exceeded the 100k mark by the time we reach the 1st anniversary of the new buses on September 30th.

07/07/2014

A Day Out With the X1

Well the title of this post is not really accurate, perhaps I should say "A day out on an X1 bus". As you will probably know, Sunday July 8th saw the annual Peterborough Bus Rally. This took place at Sacrewell Farm, Wansford and for the event, arrangements were made with co-operation from 'First' to provide an Enviro 400 in X1 livery to attend. Chris Speed was instrumental in providing the vehicle which was specially cleaned prior to display.
The chosen bus, 33816 ran from Yarmouth to Wansford early on Sunday morning and I was lucky enough to be able to travel on it from Walpole Highway where Bruce also joined. At this point the weather was wet, but by the time we arrived at about 10.20 things had brightened up and the day turned out to be warm and sunny. Zak from Norwich Bus Page and Cameron from Yarmouth Bus Page were also with us and the bus driver was Des Speed, a regular contributor and friend of this blog.
A very enjoyable day was had and many people attending the rally commented favourably on the presence of a 'First' vehicle in what is essentially Stagecoach territory. The highlight came at 12.30 when Des took the shuttle service to Wansford with 33816. The passengers unfamiliar with the comfort afforded by the Enviros were well impressed and as fate would have it, one of the vintage vehicles on the shuttle had expired on the A1, so their passengers also joined 33816 en route giving a full load. The air conditioning was appreciated on what turned out to be a very warm day.  Here are some of the pictures from an excellent day out with thanks to all concerned.

The rain was falling heavily before we left Walpole Highway lay-by

A proud Des Speed stands with 33816 at Sacrewell Farm
33816 attracted a steady stream of inquisitive rally goers throughout the day.
Ready to depart with a good load for the Nene Valley Railway

33816 is mobbed by enthusiastic punters at Wansford railway station including at least one lady who insisted on having her picture taken with the Enviro !

Time for reflection with a staged shot of 33816 with the ex Eastern Counties RLE GCL349N which was a class often represented on the X1 route in days gone by

03/07/2014

Thursday 3rd July 2014 ~ New Timetable and X1 route changes officially unveiled.

The new X1 timetable which commences on 27th July was made public today. The 'First' official announcement is as follows :

First has announced a number of changes to its flagship X1 service. 
Owing to the road works at Postwick on the A47 near Norwich, the First Bus X1 service will be split to run in two parts from Sunday 27 July 2014. 

The Postwick road works are scheduled to last 18 months, so this change is being introduced on a temporary basis. Splitting the X1 route will enable First to manage the service more effectively and the road works will be monitored continuously during this time to make sure X1 passengers are offered the best possible service. 

X1: Peterborough to Norwich 
The frequency of the western half of the route from Peterborough to Norwich remains unchanged (every 30 minutes Monday to Saturday, with an hourly service in the evenings and on Sundays and Public Holidays). However the X1 will no longer serve Toftwood, and instead will operate via Scarning (Chestnut Road and Scarning Church) and Wendling (Station Road). Owing to customer feedback we have added new stops at Cromwell Road Tesco in Wisbech and Bawburgh Road in Easton, as well as Tesco in Castle Acre Road, Swaffham. 

X1: Norwich to Lowestoft 
Between Norwich and Lowestoft, the X1 will now operate every 20 minutes (previously 15 minutes between Norwich and Great Yarmouth, and every 30 minutes between Norwich and Lowestoft) and will serve ALL stops between Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and Lowestoft, using Southtown Road between Gorleston and Great Yarmouth on all journeys. 
The X1 will still operate on the A47 between Norwich, Acle and Great Yarmouth, but alternative routes have also been registered so that X1 drivers can be proactive in keeping the journeys as quick as possible when unexpected heavy traffic is causing delays. 

Passengers travelling across the split route will be able to transfer at Norwich Bus Station, which should minimise any potential delays. Through tickets are available. 

Steve Wickers, Commercial Director for First East England, said: “The X1 is our flagship route and we have had to make these changes to maintain punctuality following the road works at Postwick.
“The existing high quality X1 fleet of vehicles will continue to be used on this service, and the small number of previous generation X1 vehicles are in the process of being fitted with free WiFi, as these vehicles will also still be used on some journeys.
“We will continue to provide a reliable, value for money service to people in Norfolk and Suffolk.”

In addition to the registered X1 route split, from 27 July the existing £14 Adult/ £9.50 Young Person Eastern Counties Network Day ticket will be reduced to only £10 for Adults and £7 for Young People. This fare reduction will cover any longer return journeys taken on the X1 service (single fares continue to be available).
The return fare between Norwich and Lowestoft (currently £6.30 Adult/ £4.40 Young Person) on both the X1 and X2 services has also been reduced to only £5.50 for Adults and £3.80 for Young People.

For any passengers travelling together as a group on the X1, the NEW High-5 day ticket is available costing only £15. This ticket offers unlimited travel on the First Bus 'Eastern Counties' Network for up to 5 passengers (a maximum of 2 to be adults). 

**********************************************************************************************************************************


Well, there we are. I have to say that the fitting of wi-fi to the older vehicles is an excellent idea as this feature is sorely missed by passengers currently using the X1 shorts.
Whilst the timetable at the eastern end has been completely recast, there are only minor alterations in the west. Most notable of these is an attempt to shorten the two hour gap in the evenings. Currently, Peterborough bound X1 services depart King's Lynn at 19.01, 19.53 & 21.53. These are to be adjusted to leave at 18.55, 20.20 & 22.10. Returning from Peterborough, the present departures of 20.20, 21.15 & 23.15 are to become 20.20, 21.40 & 23.30. The success or otherwise of this change remains to be seen, but shift workers finishing at 22.00 in Peterborough now have a longer wait for the last bus. Whether the 'missing' bus will ever be reinstated in a better economic climate, only time will tell.
 Similarly the QE Hospital in Lynn which has a major shift change at 19.00 will see workers having to wait until 20.20 if they wish to use the X1 westbound. These two examples might seem unlikely and yet I know of two people who are in precisely this situation. At least we can be thankful that First continues to run late buses on this  valuable route. I am sure in this situation, most smaller companies would simply shut down the service after 19.00 as is most often the case.
On a lighter note, I am delighted to have been asked to supply some photographs for the covers of the new timetable booklet which is currently at the printers and should be available shortly. For a PDF version of the new timetable, please visit these links :




02/07/2014

Wednesday July 2nd 2014 ~ In Deepest Norfolk

Sunday 29th June was a day of heavy showers, here 33806 creeps through Thorney with the 10.30 service from Lowestoft.
I was speaking to Richard Tucker at First King's Lynn on Monday, he is now promoted to be in charge of engineering at Yarmouth and Lowestoft as well as at King's Lynn where he has held a similar position for some years. He asked me why the blog updates have been less frequent of late, to which I replied that with the new Enviros being so reliable, there hasn't been a lot to report. The past few days have been rather eventful though. Incidentally, I'd like to wish Richard good luck with his new post and thank him for taking the time to have a chat with me about the current operations.
Since the last blog almost a fortnight ago, the work on the A47 bridges on the King's Lynn bypass has been underway with delays affecting the X1 service at peak times. Peterborough bound services from Lynn are still using the route through South Lynn which has traffic calming measures, due to the closure of the slip road at the Saddlebow roundabout. Elsewhere an Acle Straight accident on the 21st resulted in several services being terminated short at Yarmouth instead of going through to Lowestoft. Malcolm reports 33818 on Y7 15.00 Lowestoft - Lynn starting at Market Gates, while L10-XL16 went through to Lowestoft but was 30 minutes in arrears. Great Yarmouth was gridlocked on the afternoon of Thursday 24th after an accident badly affecting X1 punctuality and then the Royal Norfolk Show on 25th & 26th brought some expected delays. On 25th K1-XL07 finally reached Wisbech 31 minutes late with 33820 - it was followed to Peterborough by 33813 just two minutes behind. Things were worse on the afternoon of Friday 27th with heavy holiday traffic adding to the congestion. After seeing L12-XL18 passing me at 13.32, about 12 late eastbound through Wisbech with 33819, buses seemed to disappear altogether - I guess they must have sneaked past on the odd occasions I was away from my desk, anyway the next X1 I managed to view was a Peterborough bound service at 15.53. This turned out to be K18-XL05 which is due past town bridge at 15.00, so 33818 was running 53 late. Several buses jumped up a turn to help out as is usual at times of disruption.
A rare failure occurred on Saturday 28th when 33810 expired at Peterborough bus station while working Y13-XL19. Due to depart for Lowestoft at 13.05, it was viewed by Doreen receiving some coaxing from Mr T and his white rescue van. Eventually it was able to return to King's Lynn, it being another oil cooler casualty. Richard tells me that this problem will soon be eradicated as the fleet are now having a modification to solve the problem.
Tuesday July 1st saw a couple of incidents, firstly K18-XL05 running with 33813 was hit by another companies vehicle in Norwich bus station causing damage to a wing mirror. K18 was not seen west of King's Lynn, although it is believed that 33803 was available to take up the diagram working the 17.16 King's Lynn - Great Yarmouth.
33818 working K2-XL08 was also involved in an incident at the eastern end of the route and 33809 which had earlier in the day been sent to Full Circle for repairs, was hastily despatched via an unorthodox route through some Norfolk villages to regain the X1 route and replace 33818 which in turn went back to Full Circle as it warranted more serious repairs. 33809 was then replaced on K2 at Lynn by a repaired 33813. Complicated isn't it but at last it explains what Zak from Norwich Bus Page saw this afternoon :
http://www.norwichbuspage.com/2014/07/84-to-hempnall-what-take-x1.html
I hope the probably unprecedented sight of an Enviro 400 in these parts didn't distract him from his driving lesson too much !
A final word from Lowestoft where Malcolm says 37562 has left, initially it is believed for Yarmouth, its place being taken by 37572 which is now a Lowestoft vehicle.
33817 departs from its South Gates driver change working the 05.50 Lowestoft - Peterborough on Monday 30th June.

19/06/2014

Thursday 19th June 2014 ~ World Cup Bargain !

33816 heading westbound on Thursday 5th June at Great Yarmouth working K14 09.00 from Lowestoft.
Photo copyright : Kieran Smith


Well here we are again, I've been away for a short break, but thanks to my regular team for keeping an eye on things for me.

There have been many route diversions / incidents since the last report which can be summarised thus :

June 2 : Eastbound roadworks Postwick, roadworks Bourges Boulevard Peterborough


June 4 : RTC Norwich, Newmarket Road, 


June 5 : Temporary A47 closure near Dereham, Toftwood not serviced for a while. Southtown Road, Yarmouth temporary closure


June 9 : RTC A47 North Pickenham turn


June 10 : Lorry breakdown Hockering, Roadworks commence between Saddlebow and Pullover Roundabouts. Partial blockage at Postwich - A BAD Day


June 13 : RTA Martineau Lane, Gridlock pm East Winch to Hardwick


June 17 : Acle Straight incident, diversions via Wisbech Road, South Lynn


I make no apology for 'pinching' some of the above from the X1 Twitter pages, but it shows the sheer amount of dilemmas the X1 team have to face on an almost daily basis. Check out the Twitter feed at :


https://twitter.com/First_X1 



33805 working L12 12.35 Peterborough - Lowestoft on 5th June.  Photo copyright : Kieran Smith


There were a few unusual sightings at Lowestoft early in the month, not on the X1 though ! Malcolm reports 42358 operating the 09.25 X2 from Norwich on both 3rd & 5th June, 66126 was a surprise on the 10.40 1A to Martham on 4th and on 10th 34114 arrived on the 08.59 from Martham. Generally speaking X1 arrivals in Lowestoft have been punctual but on 14th, K6 arrived 16 late with 33812 and Y7 which was next in arrived 10 down with 33804.

The X1 fleet continue to behave pretty well. 33809 had an MOT on June 6th and 33818 was also treated a week later, while 33814 had a couple of days off that week for hydraulic tank attention.
Photo copyright : Cameron Robinson
 33823 returned to traffic after repairs on June 2nd but currently has a fault with its rear destination as seen in the photograph here taken by Cameron Robinson in Gorleston High Street on 15th June.
33824 made a visit to Full Circle for minor accident repairs between 9th & 12th. 33809 is currently sidelined again and has not been on the road since being removed from K16 on 12th.
Zak Nelson photographed this X1 short worked by 33423 in Norwich with a slightly incorrect service number on the afternoon of June 9th.

A Sunday swap occurred on 9th when 33819 had a fluid leak in the drivers cab, 33823 replaced it on L10.

The North Pickenham accident on 9th delayed a few morning services, westbound 33811 passed Wisbech Town Bridge 23 minutes late at 10.42 on Y9, L10 with 33807 came back from Peterborough just 12 late though and then normality resumed. I took advantage of the new Wisbech Tesco stop that day and boarded K14 12.58 Wisbech - Peterborough with 33822 (the bus I always seem to get). The driver couldn't get reverse gear to leave Wisbech bus station and had to switch off the engine before it would engage. Departure was 8 late, but it came back from Peterborough just 2 minutes late. On June 11th K15 and K16 passed Bruce at Walpole Highway within 5 minutes of each other, 33807 at 13.44  following 33809 which was about 30 late, but other services seemed to run to timetable.
A special X1 fare after 19.30 hours has been introduced during the World Cup - passengers can travel for a flat fare of just £1 for the duration (£1 fare only available in Norwich zones 1 - 5 and Yarmouth town to JPH.) Hopefully this will last longer than England's involvement which after tonight looks doomed.

Zak Nelson, webmaster of Norwich Bus Page kindly sent in a report with some photos of some X1 exiles. He says "I visited Chelmsford yesterday (12th) on bus spotting duties. I've now finished college so have a lot of free time on my hands! Whilst there I spotted some ex-X1 coaches operating the X30 from Southend to Stansted Airport in the form of 20500 AO02RBX, recently repainted into a special AIRCOACH version of the new livery:

Copyright : Zak Nelson (NBP)
Meanwhile 20501 AO02RBY was parked up at the famous Westway depot in Chelmsford which I was kindly allowed to be shown around. The latter was still in her old X1 livery, minus any route branding as seen here :





The new livery is seen again below, here on the rear of 20500 which has had a very close encounter with a local bus due to the tortuous nature of Chelmsford bus station :



Thanks to Zak for sending the report and photos. Whilst on the subject of redundant X1 coaches, Kieran adds "Saw 20515 outside First HQ in Rouen Road, Norwich on June 5th" and here's the picture to prove it :

Photo copyright : Kieran Smith


Peter has been making his usual trips aboard the X1 and has sent in a few photographs of interest. Firstly on 11th, Peter was on board 33804 working the 16.50 King's Lynn - Peterborough running some 20 minutes late due to the delays between East Winch and the Hardwick Roundabout. The next bus (33819 for the 17.20 departure) was only just behind and was passed at King's Lynn swimming pool as seen here.  Peter also sent me some pictures taken this evening (19th) of an X1 taking the diversion via South Lynn - this is due to the slip road onto the bypass being closed for a few days and not as Peter surmised so that the driver could avoid the average speed cameras which have been temporarily installed on the affected section of the A47 !


Approaching the old Union Chapel

Negotiating the South Lynn speed bumps

Crossing the Ouse where once stood the old Cut Bridge.

Photographs copyright Peter Risebrow




04/06/2014

Wednesday June 4th 2014 ~ Confirmation of forthcoming changes from VOSA

PF0000323/201 - FIRST EASTERN
COUNTIES BUSES LTD, 6 LANSDOWNE
ROAD, NORWICH, NR6 6NF
Variation Accepted: Operating between
PETERBOROUGH and NORWICH given service number X1 effective from 27-Jul-2014. 
To amend Route, Start &
Finish Point, Stopping Places and
Timetable.
PF0000323/361 - FIRST EASTERN COUNTIES BUSES LTD, 6 LANSDOWNE ROAD, NORWICH, NR6 6NF
Registration Accepted
Starting Point: MARKET GATES, GREAT YARMOUTH
Finish Point: LOWESTOFT BUS STATION Via: GORLESTON
Service Number: X1
Service Type: Normal Stopping
Effective Date: 27-JUL-2014
Other Details: Daily service Service runs
every 20 minutes Monday to Saturday
and hourly on Sundays and Holidays
PF0000323/362 - FIRST EASTERN COUNTIES BUSES LTD, 6 LANSDOWNE ROAD, NORWICH, NR6 6NF
Registration Accepted
Starting Point: NORWICH BUS STATION
Finish Point: MARKET GATES GREAT YARMOUTH Via: Acle & Norwich , A47,A146
Service Number: X1
Service Type: Limited Stop
Effective Date: 27-JUL-2014
Other Details: Monday to Saturday
every 20 minutes Sunday and Holidays
every 30 minutes

02/06/2014

Monday June 2nd 2014 ~ Changes from 27th July

I can now reveal the changes I forecast a while ago in full. The splitting of the X1 route will be effective from July 27th. Services will operate at a 20 minute frequency from Norwich to Lowestoft calling at Acle, Yarmouth and stops to Lowestoft and on the western section the half hourly frequency will remain between Norwich and Peterborough, but without the lengthy, in terms of time, diversion through Toftwood. The approach to Dereham through Scarning will be used instead as was formerly the case.
Lowestoft and Yarmouth drivers will share the eastern section and the Peterborough service will be operated entirely by King's Lynn based drivers. Seven Enviro 400s will be transferred to Great Yarmouth for maintenance purposes. It remains to be seen whether these changes will be temporary covering the period of the Postwick Hub roadworks, or whether this will end up being a permanent situation.


33817  gets a clean up and fuel at King's Lynn depot on Sunday evening.

01/06/2014

Sunday 1st June 2014 ~ Friends

33803 departs Norwich on Tuesday 20th working the 10.30 Lowestoft - Peterborough. Photo : Kieran Smith
It is almost two weeks since we took a look at how the service has been running. Generally speaking buses have been running a few minutes late due to the usual problems here and there on the A47. Just as well it was only minor delays judging by the large numbers of friends of mine who seem to have taken to the new buses. Scarcely a day goes by without someone surprising me along the lines of "We took the X1 to Peterborough/Lynn /Norwich (delete as applicable) the other day, we're definitely going on it again".
Tuesday 20th saw a very rare breakdown in traffic. 33810 which had arrived in Peterborough on K5-XL11 at 18.44 failed with the oil cooler problem and the King's Lynn rescue van was sent to its aid. It wasn't out of traffic for long though as it resumed work with K19-XL06 on Friday 23rd. On election day, Thursday 22nd Malcolm saw 33806 arrive in Lowestoft 'not in service' before departing on K18-XL04 11.00 to Peterborough. While on the afternoon of Friday 23rd, K14 -XL01 was delayed and Bruce saw it go by eastbound 14 late (due past him at Walpole at 14.46 but passing by on the stroke of 3pm), 33805 was the culprit.
Peter says "I turned up for
the 17.20 departure from Peterborough railway station, but caught the 16.50 with 33813 running 15 minutes late. Very friendly driver called Alan who actually thanked people for travelling with the X1. Top marks from me. We came out of Peterborough via the Passport Office route (pictured left) which is unusual".

A funeral and election duty saw Bruce take command of sightings for a few days, all passing reasonably uneventfully. Tuesday 27th May (after the Bank Holiday) saw minor delays and Y7-XL13 was 14 late into Lowestoft during the afternoon with 33816. Neither  Wednesday or Friday last were good on the punctuality front as half term traffic took its toll. 28th saw 33810 arriving in Wisbech 15 late for the 11.55 to Lowestoft (Y9-XL15) and K18-XL05 14.58 Wisbech - Peterborough passed me 15 late with 33807. Peter reports that on Thursday 29th, some X1 services were disrupted by queueing traffic on Bourges Boulevard in Peterborough. The 08.48 from Wisbech was one of the services affected, see Peter's picture :
Friday was the worst day for a little while. It was Ok until lunchtime, but then Bruce spotted K14-XL01 12.20 King's Lynn - Peterborough sailing down the A47 bypass 26 minutes late. It was only 5 late returning into Wisbech where we discovered its identity to be 33809. Things improved momentarily with K18-XL05 being spot on time, passing me at a few seconds before 15.00, however, K19 due 30 minutes later popped up at 15.49, 19 late with 33813 and then we witnessed the very rare sight these days of two Peterborough bound X1s following each other. 33814 passed me at 16.30, exactly 30 late on K1-XL07 having been preceded by two car lengths by 33812 on K2 running on time !
On the vehicle front there have been few incidents, but 33823 has been off the road since the evening of 24th with a transmission fault and wiring problems. AD staff have been in attendance on more than one occasion as this vehicle seems to have more than its fair share of faults. It managed 4 miles on test runs during the last week, but is still currently unfit. 33811 continues to lead the way on the mileage front with 77,700 miles recorded as of the evening of Saturday May 31st.