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01/03/2019

FEBRUARY 2019 REPORT

This week it was officially decided that new buses will be ordered for the XL route, targeted to enter service from September. The existing fleet of Enviro 400s have already gone a year beyond there original expected replacement date and in fact there were discussions as to whether they could remain on the route until 2021, however, new vehicles was the preferred option.
I am told the Enviro 400 body will be retained in the new build but Scania engines will be fitted if space constraints can be overcome. It is thought that the blue Excel livery will be discontinued and the new vehicles will revert to a white livery and be fitted with seat belts.

Can I really have been doing this blog for X years and never have posted a picture taken at Thorney Toll ? Well apparently yes, so to redress the balance here is 33816 on Sunday 17th February passing the outpost working the 10.10 Norwich to Peterborough.

Out on the road, the most notable event so far this year has been the reliability of 33806. In what is possibly a record for the fleet, this bus managed 46 continuous days in traffic between 2nd January and 16th February.  After a day off resting in Norwich on Sunday 17th, the bus returned to work on the 18th and has been out every day since. This remarkable statistic is all the more unusual in that buses requiring safety services are often off the road for an entire day and 33806 has managed to undergo these and still spend part of the days in question in traffic. The other factor which means this sort of thing is uncommon is that on Sundays there are only seven XL diagrams, so by the law of averages it is rare to get a bus in use for six consecutive Sundays, a feat which 33806 managed !



After all the excitement with Gemini substitutions in January, there were none whatsoever in February. MOTs have continued with 33805 and 33813 being dealt with.

33807 photographed by Zak Nelson before it misbehaved, here it is working through the frost at Easton on 31st January. 

Unscheduled stoppages have been scarce in February, though on the evening of 21st, 33807 was taken out of service smoking badly and after diagnosis it was decided that it needs a new engine. It was still at King's Lynn at the end of the month awaiting transfer to Norwich where the replacement engine will be fitted. This coincided with MOT preparation on 33813 meaning that normally a Norwich based Gemini would be called upon to act as a spare maintenance changeover bus, however, a backlog of maintenance at Norwich meant this was not possible, so it was fortunate that no breakdowns were recorded in this period. Other issues have involved 33811 (axle) and 33812 (gear selector).
In fact the only hiccup during the lack of spare buses was down to staffing issues when on Monday 25th, no driver was available to work the 07.30 King's Lynn - Peterborough and this and its return working as far as Lynn were cancelled. I had two texts from friends, one of whom was waiting at King's Lynn South Gates and the other at Walsoken Lynn Road for this bus, I'm sure they think I am personally responsible !! It is in fact an extremely rare occurrence and on average happens just once a year, but there you are.



Timekeeping has been good during February which of course in the last week included temperatures more akin to Summer than Winter ! Low points were on Tuesday 12th when the 09.10 Peterborough - Norwich with 33811 was 23 late into Wisbech - the delay was remedied by replacing it with 33807 at King's Lynn which departed on time. On the afternoon of Thursday 21st an incident on Guyhirn bank saw services diverted via Wisbech St. Mary commencing westbound with the 14.40 departure from Wisbech. Finally on 26th 33814 on the 08.00 King's Lynn - Peterborough ran via Terrington and Walpole instead of the A47 due to an obstruction. All in all another good month for the relaxed timetable !

Before I sign off, a word about my colleague and fellow XL watcher Bruce Billingham. He has had a spell of bad health recently, including some major maintenance at Addenbrookes Hospital, but is now thankfully on the mend. He assures me that 'normal' service will be resumed shortly, so drivers watch out ;)

Well wouldn't you know it, you wait almost eleven years for a picture at Thorney Toll and then two come along at once !  Well having seen 33816 earlier, it would have been rude not to take advantage of snapping 33817 heading east on Sunday 17th February. 


01/02/2019

JANUARY 2019 REPORT


Hello again. It's been a long time. I thought I'd do some monthly updates in 2019 as we approach the time when the current XL fleet of Enviro 400s near the end of their time on the route. Last year 33818 was reallocated to King's Lynn when the new timetable began last February and subsequently, following the loss of 33804 in the accident near Thorney Toll last June, 33819 has also joined the King's Lynn fleet as a replacement.

Gemini 36200 running spot on time despite foggy and icy conditions on January 31st as the 11.40 Peterborough - Norwich

2019 dawned with a shortage of vehicles as 33817 needed a replacement engine and 33807 had a car run into the back of it just before Christmas and was away at Full Circle for repairs. Norwich helped out by initially loaning Gemini 36180 (the usual replacement under these circumstances). 36180 returned to Norwich on 4th January with a problem and on Saturday 5th 36271 replaced it, working diagram 21 which starts and ends at Norwich. It was running a few minutes late when I saw it on the 16.15 Wisbech - Peterborough probably because of its speed limiter being set at 49mph. On Monday 7th January 36180 returned onto the route and 33817 left King's Lynn for its engine fault. 36180 remained on the XL until 15th, but on 16th 36199 appeared on diagram 21. Next day 36200 was out and this then worked until 21st. No sooner had it been returned following the repairs to 33817 which returned to traffic on 18th and 33807 on 22nd, then 33819 was grounded at Norwich on 24th with a fuel tank problem, so 36200 was back on XLs on 25th and was still deputising on 31st, before 33819 returned on 1st February.
MOTs have restarted and 33803 was off the road between 20th & 25th followed by 33814 from 27th to 30th. Next to be prepared for MOT is 33805.
Timekeeping has been exceptional since the revamped timetable last year and on the western section, almost everything has run to time except when traffic conditions have dictated otherwise.
Finally this time, a belated thanks to Matthew Holland who supplied me with pictures for use in the blog

26/06/2018

Tuesday 26th June 2018

My condolences to the family of the driver who lost his life in today's accident. We owe a debt of gratitude to all bus drivers who risk their lives in the course of duty. R.I.P.

28/02/2018

Wednesday February 28th 2018 ~ Snow Show

Snowfall in the Norwich area saw the XL service restricted to operating between Swaffham and Peterborough today. At the western end of the route traffic was light, so once the morning rush was over buses ran pretty much to time. 
Since the inception of the new timetable, the XL service has kept time much better than previously. This seems largely due to the increased allowance of time in Peterborough. Three buses now overnight at Norwich Vulcan Road and already there has been one instance of a substitute vehicle having to work. This came on Monday 19th when 33817 was unavailable and  Street Deck 35200 worked the first leg out to Peterborough and back (06.30 ex Norwich). On arrival back at Norwich, Gemini 36199 took over as 35200 had been unable to show XL on the destination display, instead showing X1.  
MOT's have restarted and 33803/14 have already been done with 33804 being tested this week. Hope to have some pictures in the next blog !

30/01/2018

Tuesday 30th January 2018 ~ Timetable News and Stagecoach Exit ?

The widely leaked news that Stagecoach plan to pull out of King's Lynn was made public this evening. Norfolk Green took over all the local services which were operated by First in June 2011. They were subsequently bought out by Stagecoach in May 2015 and they have gradually eroded the regional identity from their fleet and now it seems obvious why. Who will step into the breach if the Stagecoach plan comes to fruition ? Let the rumour mill start !

Back to First Group and the new XL timetable from next Sunday has met with mixed reactions. On the operating front, Norwich depot have made inroads into the lines formerly worked by King's Lynn. Three diagrams begin at Norwich, these being the 06.30, 07.00 & 08.40 departures and the first of these also finishes at Norwich. Until now King's Lynn has latterly had 36 drivers for 22 turns (on weekdays), but from Monday this is reduced to 31 drivers for 17 turns. The shortfall is because Norwich now have six driving rosters on the route including three where they work buses through to Peterborough. Three King's Lynn drivers now have diagrams on the University - Rail station service 25 in between XL turns. The King's Lynn drivers will now be working a four day week. 
On the timetable front on weekdays, the service largely follows the previous pattern, save the hourly serving of certain villages. In the evening the 15.40 from Norwich now copies the 18.10 and terminates at Wisbech instead of running through to Peterborough. The late bus from Peterborough is retimed to depart 15 minutes later at 22.45.
The Enviro 400s which were due for replacement in September / October now look as if they are going to continue operating the route, possibly for another two years, though of course this is subject to change (isn't it always ?), Certainly they have been behaving a bit better in recent months. This week King's Lynn have begun to remove the gold backed destination vinyls along the bottom of the upper deck windows. The gold lettering is also being removed, some has already gone and reference to the X1 will also go after Saturday.

12/01/2018

Thursday 11th January 2018 ~ Timetable Release

The new timetable for the Norwich to Peterborough route has now been published and here is the link

https://www.firstgroup.com/uploads/news-attach/XL%20TT%20Extract%20Web.pdf

It is not clear at the moment how Norwich depot will be involved with the workings, but a proposal has been made that King's Lynn drivers will do a couple of fill in turns on Service 25 during what would otherwise be layover time at Norwich. Consultation on this between First Group, the employees and the Union are due imminently.
A quick glance at the timetable reveals that residents of Hockering, Tilney All Saints, Terrington St. John, Walpole Highway and Thorney are losing out due to a combination of low patronage from these locations and the need for buses to run punctually with the much higher volumes of traffic currently using the A47. Here the daytime frequency will mirror that of Sundays with these stops being served on an hourly basis, rather than the 30 minute schedule which has been the case for many years.
On the western section, services which run directly from Eau Brink to Walsoken via the A47 will then serve Thorney, while the alternate services serving the villages between King's Lynn and Wisbech will then run directly from Thorney Toll to Peterborough avoiding Thorney village.
In the unlikely event of passengers wanting to travel directly from say Walpole Highway to Thorney, therefore, a change and wait at Wisbech will be necessary. This might seem an unlikely scenario, but I happen to be making that journey this weekend, something which will not be possible without changing in the new timetable.
It should also be noted that the X1 service route number is being abandoned west of Norwich and here the service will simply be called XL. The X1 route number will be kept for the Norwich to Lowestoft section.
I will be reporting on the timetable in more detail when further information comes to hand.

04/12/2017

Monday 4th December 2017 ~ Changes Ahead

It was announced to staff today that with effect from 4th February, a new X1 timetable will be in operation based on customer and staff feedback.  The main change will be that certain vehicles will overnight in Norwich rather than King's Lynn to eradicate some of the 'lost mileage' caused by vehicles running empty from King's Lynn in the mornings to take up their diagrams at Swaffham and Dereham. It will also improve the service at the Norwich end. More details as I receive them.

The run up to Christmas is always a hectic time and with a spate of rtas in recent weeks, diversions and delays have been commonplace. Strangely, the last week has seen a slight improvement in punctuality, but even this evening I passed two Enviros within five minutes of each other working delayed services from Peterborough.

Victor Meldrew was in touch today and he was most unhappy. Apparently because it was a fine day he decided to take a photograph of his X1 when he alighted at Peterborough this morning, only to be hooted at by a disapproving driver. "He obviously marked the box with an x for 'no publicity' when he got the job" says Victor, "the thing that annoyed me most was that I actually found someone who was even more miserable than me !". Well that's hard to imagine I must say.
Victor continues " I think what really surprised me about this behaviour was that the  X1 drivers I see regularly are so polite and pleasant".

I ventured out with the camera today too for the first time for a while and here's my effort, 33811 running a few minutes behind time on today's 11.05 Peterborough - Norwich.

Hopefully the opportunity may present itself this Winter to get a few shots in the snow, something which has been a rarity while the Enviros have been in service.
Thanks to all of you who continue to send in reports and messages saying how much you enjoy the blog. I wish I updated it more often but that said things generally run pretty smoothly from day to day unless traffic conditions dictate otherwise.

10/10/2017

Monday 9th October 2017 ~ It's the X30 !



Many thanks to Nathaniel Mills for this picture of 33808 on the X30 today, see yesterday's blog for details.

09/10/2017

Sunday 8th October 2017 ~ Airport Possibilities

Enviro 400 33808 which was involved in the storm incident back in February has left King's Lynn today for Chelmsford where it is to undergo a week of tests on the route to Stansted Airport . If successful, following the expiration of the 5 year period next September, the Enviros may be redeployed on this route.
 There is still no definite news about what will replace the Enviros on the X1 although another demonstrator is in the pipeline, a Wright bodied Mercedes vehicle is rumoured, but apparently this is still under construction. 
33821 is once again scheduled to step into the breach caused by the temporary loss of 33808. Meanwhile 33806 is due to have an axle replaced shortly. 

Here's an unusual scene. Passengers disembarking from 33807 and transferring to the Ensign Bus demonstrator at Walpole Highway. The Enviro was running very late due to Friday congestion and an incident with a passenger at King's Lynn. It then went empty to Peterborough to regain time. Photo taken by Victor Meldrew on September 8th.

Breakdowns in service with the Enviros are quite rare due to the preventative maintenance afforded to the fleet, however, on Bank Holiday Monday August 28th, an unexpected oil leak halted 33815 soon after a late morning departure from Peterborough. 33808 was sent to the rescue and passengers transferred to the following service. Photo taken by me !


The 94 seater monster demonstrator is seen leaving Walton Highway on its last run to Peterborough on September 26th

02/09/2017

Saturday 2nd September 2017 ~ It's That Time Again

The next vehicle to be used as a demonstrator on the X1 arrived on Thursday and should enter service on the 07.23 Dereham - Peterborough on Monday morning if all goes according to plan. It is a Triaxle version of the Ensign double decker which was on loan in late June and early July, here are the pictures from my man on the spot at First :






I will do an update on the last few months trials and tribulations with the Enviro fleet this month.

29/06/2017

June 29th 2017 ~ Fleet Changes

Time for an update on the Enviro fleet. 33821 left King's Lynn on Monday evening for Yarmouth after arrival in service. It had been on long term loan.
33808 which was involved in the Storm Doris incident in February arrived back at King's Lynn at 16.30 today after collision damage repairs, it needs an MOT and safety service before it can re-enter traffic.
33817 has had some bodywork repairs and no longer has bodyside fleet numbers on the offside. 33816 now has larger fleet numbers following similar attention and one night in mid June both the last buses into King's Lynn from Peterborough and Norwich had altercations with muntjac  deer resulting in identical panels needing replacement. The picture below depicts 33817 & 33814 flanking 33804. This would make a good 'spot the difference' picture, the replacement panels on 33817/4 are obvious when highlighted.

26/06/2017

Monday 26th June 2017 ~ Enterprise In Service

As we predicted, today was the first day in service for the latest demonstrator on the X1 route. The lack of air conditioning and wi-fi may be noticed by some passengers  I daresay but it seemed to do quite well today on diagram 6005 which commences with the 07.34 King's Lynn - Peterborough and finishes as the 15.45 Peterborough - Swaffham. Here are a few pictures of the new bus taken today :


Two views of the newcomer on the 09.05 Peterborough - Norwich at Terrington St. John this morning.
Now here's a strange picture, the demonstrator is seen from the upper deck of 33803 which had just replaced 33805 at King's Lynn garage on the 17.45 King's Lynn - Peterborough. Our photographer was just leaving the garage when the demo arrived back light from Swaffham after completing its first day in service on the route.
Photo by Peter R.

21/06/2017

Wednesday 21st June 2017 ~ Ensign Loan

The latest bus to arrive at King's Lynn for demonstration purposes belongs to Ensign (Purfleet). Newly delivered BCI Enterprise LX17DZB arrived on Tuesday for evaluation and it is intended to use it on a week's trial on the X1 commencing next Monday all being well.
Here are some pictures courtesy of First at King's Lynn.






27/04/2017

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 :



23/04/2017

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

23/02/2017

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.

17/02/2017

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.

13/02/2017

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.

01/02/2017

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.