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21/02/2015

Saturday 21st February 2015 ~ A Balanced Agenda


I'm starting this blog entry with a few quotes from last year as they seem appropriate at this time :

9th March 2014 : So what's been going on in the last couple of weeks ? As you'd expect from the lack of an update, the answer is very little. Some of the Enviros have now reached the 50,000 mile mark with little untoward to report. 

8th May 2014 : Well here we are at last again just to reassure you that everything has been going very well on service X1. Yes,  the Enviro fleet appear to be every bit as able as their Gemini predecessors at meeting the exacting demands of the route. 

2nd October 2014 : Overall it has been a highly successful year for the new buses with widespread acclaim from both the public and bus industry. Despite the switch away  from Volvo, it has to be said that operating problems with the Alexander Dennis fleet have been only what one would expect with a completely new fleet.

Do you get the feeling that there is about to be a but ??  What has happened since the turn of the year ? Firstly one has to say that whatever fleet of buses work the X1, a hell of a lot is asked of them. Even when the most popular and successful buses in the country  are employed, nothing is certain as the X1 is the ultimate test in terms of mileage and availability required. 
Now it would be wrong to suggest that breakdowns are commonplace as this is certainly not true and the fleet still receive the same exacting standards of maintenance, however, problems with the Enviro 400 fleet are being experienced. I take my reports from passengers and enthusiasts and while there is no doubt in my mind that the current fleet are the most comfortable and luxurious buses ever to grace this route, questions are now being asked along the lines of "Will they last the course" - this being a reference to First's five year plan. Admittedly the same questions were asked about the Volvo Gemini's which came through the five years relatively unscathed, just look back five years in the blog to find out what was happening then. 
This will not make comfortable reading for Alexander Dennis though. Not that I would imagine for one moment that they read this blog, but the X1 blog being independent has never shyed away from such topics - just looking back at the blog in its infancy, one of the first photographs ever featured showed a First engineer pondering at a rather unhealthy Premiere coach by the side of the A47 !
 Since the start of the year at least four Enviro 400s have had extended periods away from King's Lynn for repairs and this was before Tuesday night when 33811 expired at Hockering. Ian writes " Went to Norwich yesterday on the X1. Me for free being an oap and Allyson for a very reasonable £11 return. On the way home we were delayed by a broken down X1 near Hockering with gearbox problems". Then on Wednesday afternoon Bruce says "Was having the car washed at the A47 place on Wisbech bypass when I was shocked to see 33811 passing me by on tow heading westbound- what's going on ?". What indeed ?
 I have mentioned before about various ailments which the fleet have suffered from, although I am now told that the finer detail should remain confidential which is a bit silly when it appears some passengers know exactly what is going on. So before an embargo is placed on me speaking to anyone remotely connected with buses, I will put on record that I have had nothing but friendly co-operation and encouragement from my many friends at First ever since the blog started and this continues to be the case.  I ought to add that the efforts put in by the staff at King's Lynn (and I daresay at Yarmouth and Lowestoft too) are second to none. 
It would be sad for this state of affairs to end, just because reporting facts of the day to day operation of the X1 becomes uncomfortable for some when the going gets tough. As is illustrated above, people tell me things - they always will, it is what makes news, whether it be positive or on occasions negative. The blog was started because of this reason. To me contact is extremely important, that is why you will always see an email address on this blog. So if you have another side to this story and feel I am being unfair to any parties, please get in touch.
On a different subject, I am constantly being asked if  I can put the blog on Facebook. I've thought a lot about this, but have decided for the moment just to post update details on the X1 Passengers & Fans Group on FB. I will be posting a further update on recent events shortly.

06/02/2015

37573 is now almost ready to re-enter traffic. It is seen here at King's Lynn garage on the evening of Friday 6th February.

Friday 6th February 2015 ~ Another Blue Gemini

The past couple of weeks have seen a few Enviros having mechanical problems. Fortunately these have not meant any substitutions by other types of bus and 33818 remains on loan at King's Lynn from Great Yarmouth. Both 33808 and 33817 have been away for repairs, but are now both back at King's Lynn with 33808 re-entering service on 3rd and 33817 expected to follow it soon. In the meantime following a repaint in Excel colours, Gemini 37573 has arrived at Lynn for minor repairs and to have some seats replaced and it may yet see some use at the western end of the route as Enviro 33803 has now been taken out of traffic. This follows it failing on the last Norwich - King's Lynn service in the early hours of Saturday morning. 33803 came to a halt near the A1122 roundabout west of Swaffham and is now away for repairs.
If anything, delays to the X1 have been slightly less conspicuous than is normal in January, A collision between three cars on the A47 at West Bilney resulted in the road being closed for 6 hours from about 16.45 on Friday evening (30th January)which resulted in some disruption. There have also been a few delays due to adverse weather.

In Tuesday morning's rush hour the combination of the snow and roadworks on Bourges Boulevard meant services were losing time badly at the Peterborough end. The 08.05 ex Peterborough had lost 25 minutes, 33816 on the 10.05 came into Wisbech at 11.25, 35 late with the next service less than 2 minutes behind it. Going west K10 10.44 from Wisbech got away at 11.13 with 33804 but had commendably regained 12 of the 29 lost minutes by the time it passed Walton Highway at 12.50.
Back on 22nd January 33804 was delayed while working K10 11.35 from Peterborough and came through Walton Highway at 12.57, 24 late. The following service with 33809 was just 5 minutes behind it  running on time. Saturday 24th was a challenging day with 33807 cutting out and 33805 with a door problem but both survived the day.
The revised wording on destination displays was event from the week commencing 26th January and at least one service on 29th  as noted departing Wisbech for Peterborough still showing Wisbech on the front. This was not surprising given that this was a new innovation for drivers to remember at various points on route.
Over at Lowestoft X1 variations have been few and far between despite the loan of 33818 to King's Lynn. 32629 was noted departing on the 14.40 on January 14th and the same bus was deputising on 28th. Yarmouth's Royale 34109 has continued to occasionally appear on the Martham services seen by Malcolm on 17th and 19th January and again on 31st.
Single decker vehicles have included ex Yorkshire 62143 becoming a bit of an X2 regular having worked on January 14, 21,22, 26 & 28 and again on February 3rd. Volvo B7L Eclipse 66334 has been out on the Marthams on 17th, 31st Jan & Feb 2 & 5 and this is one of the type reallocated to Yarmouth to replace the 608xx series B10BLE Wright Renowns. Loaned to Lowestoft is South Yorkshire Volvo B10BLE 66112 which was first noted on a contract on 26th Jan before appearing on the 99 next day and then on the 09.10 X2 from Norwich on 30th.  Other sightings have included 60618 regularly on the 1's and 60622 also being seen on the 15.10 to Martham on 23rd. Enviro 200 44513 was pressed into use on the X2 on January 22nd and 28th. 28th was a bit of a poor day for the Lowestoft Enviro 400s with only 33823 being seen by Malcolm, the other turns being Geminis and 33423 plus as already mentioned 32629 helping out.

21/01/2015

Wednesday January 21st 2015 ~ Timetable Revisions

A new timetable will come into force on January 25th which includes provision for the X1 to call at all stops between Dereham and Wendling as well as allowing extra time over certain sections during the morning and evening rush hours. You can find the revised timetables here :

http://www.firstgroup.com/ukbus/suffolk_norfolk/journey_planning/timetables/forthcoming.php

I have been taken to task by some readers for failing to mention the ongoing work at King's Lynn bus station. This will result in the X1 being diverted away from the bus station to temporary stops in Portland Street between March 9th and mid June. Here is another link, this time with the new timetable in PDF form as well as further details on route changes east of Norwich :
http://www.firstgroup.com/ukbus/suffolk_norfolk/travel_news/news_initiatives/?item=24701&conf=0

On the traffic side, 33815 returned to service from repairs on Thursday 15th January, 33808 is also back at King's Lynn now while after a failure at Dereham on 14th, 33817 has gone to Yarmouth for attention, it is also due to go to Full Circle at some point to have its crease on the back corner removed. A three car pile up  at West Bilney resulted in some delays on the morning of 20th but only the 07.20 Norwich - Peterborough was badly behind time and most of this was soon regained. The next report will look at recent happenings in the East.



12/01/2015

Monday 12th January 2015 ~ Off the Rails

33805 on the 12.05 Norwich - Peterborough approaching Walton Highway on Sunday 11th January.
A major engineering operation to reinstate the double track junction at Haughley has resulted in an intensive rail replacement service operating over a number of weekends. Rail services affected are those between Stowmarket and Diss / Bury St. Edmunds.
Norwich and Cambridge/Ely to Ipswich services have been replaced by buses. On Sunday 4th, X1 Enviro 33805 was spare at Ely as required and yesterday (11th) 33812 did likewise. At the other end of the route Lowestoft Geminis 37569/70/71 along with tacho fitted 36180 from Norwich were drafted in on Saturday to help on the Norwich - Ipswich axis. This left a shortage of vehicles for the X2 and Michael Bryant noted Norwich Gemini 36175 on the 13.30 Norwich - Lowestoft on Friday, while  on Saturday Malcolm Hicks saw 36170 on the 11.00 Lowestoft - Norwich and 36175 on the 15.00 departure.
On the X1, the western section has run well for most of the week. Late services noted were on Monday, 33818 which although on time going west came back on the 15.15 from Peterborough running 18 late. Tuesday went well but on Wednesday there were westbound delays through Wisbech mid-morning, 33803 on the 10.05 from King's Lynn went by 20 late and the next service with 33813 was 26 late, however, some smart driving saw this return only 12 late on the 12.05 from Peterborough. Repairs to a manhole cover near Swaffham meant services were diverted via Holme Hale eastbound and Sporle westbound on Friday. Delays were fairly minimal and worst affected were the 07.20 from Norwich (33805) which left Wisbech 15 late and the 11.00 from Norwich which was 12 late with 33813. There were evening diversions for the last two westbound services from Wednesday to  Friday because of major roadworks on the A47. Services took a diversion via Whittlesea and did not serve Thorney or Guyhirn. 33808/815 remained off the road for repairs this week and 33808 is at Great Yarmouth receiving attention. 33818 is still helping out at King's Lynn as a result.
Over at Lowestoft there has been some variety and 66126 appeared on the 10.10 to Martham, while newly arrived Volvo Renown 62143 was at work on the 99, both on Saturday.

04/01/2015

Sunday January 4th 2015 ~ Carry on Blogging

Firstly a very Happy New Year to all my readers. I know updates have not been frequent over the last 12 months and several people have asked whether I intend to continue running the X1 Blog. The answer is that I will give up when I get bored and that hasn't happened yet, so for the time being it's a case of Carry On Blogging.
Thanks to all of you who supplied me with photographs and information in 2014, it is much appreciated and helps make the blog more than just my own thoughts and observations.
The big question is, will the blog have more to report in 2015. The answer to that will probably have more to do with vehicle reliability than anything else. Since the timetable split in July last, 33818 - 33824 have only operated over the Norwich to Lowestoft section of the route and apart from a brief re-appearance by 33824 to have an MOT at King's Lynn, this has been the situation. On Friday 2nd January however, 33818 arrived at King's Lynn to assist after a couple of incidents.
Firstly on Monday 29th, 33808 failed at Easton while working the 13.30 Norwich - Peterborough with a gearbox problem. The bus was disabled to the extent that it had to be towed back to King's Lynn where it arrived at 18.30 for investigative work to begin. The gearbox drive plates were the problem and it is hoped to have 33808 back on the road in the next few days. Meanwhile 33815 has been taken off the road with a serious engine fault and ADL staff will attend to decide on remedial action this week. It is thought that this may mean a new engine is required and the bus may be out of traffic for quite a while. It was therefore decided to bring in 33818 as a temporary replacement. On Saturday 3rd 33818 returned to the Peterborough route work commencing with the 06.34 King's Lynn - Peterborough.
As at close of play on Christmas Eve, 33811 was leading in the mileage stakes having clocked up 138,578 miles and seven others of King's Lynn's Enviro allocation had also exceeded 130,000. Laggard 33803 had done 117,944 miles at this time.
As you may know First have revamped their fares from January 4th and I'm pleased to report a wider choice of options for those who use the western part of the route. Special mention must be made of a new weekly  X1 west of Dereham ticket - this brings the cost down from £26 to £22 for the week and is incredibly good value for money in my opinion. More info on the revised ticketing arrangements can be found here :
http://www.firstgroup.com/ukbus/suffolk_norfolk/travel_news/news_initiatives/?item=24141&conf=0


23/12/2014

Tuesday 23rd December 2014 ~ Merry Christmas

33806 heads for Peterborough on 13th December
Long time no blog once again, but the incident free life being enjoyed by the Enviro 400s continues to impress. An intensive programme of fault finding before a failure occurs on the road has meant that it is now several weeks since a breakdown has been reported in traffic. Minor ailments do crop up though and certainly there have been a few reports of malfunctioning wi-fi of late. 33816 has provided an unusual sight in the last fortnight by operating in service minus a T side advertisement. 33817 is still awaiting a vacancy at Full Circle to have its rear corner repaired and also in need of attention (although this may be given at King's Lynn) is 33814 which has a bent front offside upper deck bar (see illustration below) following an altercation in Peterborough. Mechanically though the buses enjoy a pretty faultless reputation.
33814 in Vancouver Avenue garage

Observations in the west in the lead up to Christmas have seen a few delays as traffic levels intensify. Worst offender seen this week so far was Monday's 14.15 Peterborough - Norwich which arrived in Wisbech exactly 30 late with 33812. At least the delay made it appear to some that this was the following service running on time ! Earlier on that day, 33814 had also been a victim of the heavy traffic in Peterborough and it was 22 late into Wisbech to work the 11.55 to Norwich.
Last Saturday I had a trip on the 12.55 X1 from Wisbech to King's Lynn - this time with 33813. Despite delays getting out of Wisbech and further congestion on the approaches to King's Lynn, the journey was accomplished in just 26 seconds over the 31 minutes allowed in the timetable. All stops were observed except Walton Highway and Eau Brink. So all in all quite commendable for the Saturday before Christmas.
33813 after a punctual and comfortable journey from Wisbech is seen at King's Lynn loading for Norwich.
Over in the East it is disappointing to report that vandalism has occurred on 33818 as seen here, lets hope the perpetrators are caught and punished .

09/12/2014

Monday December 8th 2014 ~ Nocturnal Norfolk Notes

Hello again and it's high time I gave you an update on those strange goings on in the middle of the night with the Enviros. The Bernard Matthews contract from King's Lynn is weekends only at the moment. A bus leaves Lynn garage at about 23.00 and runs light to Great Witchingham. Here it picks up a shift load of BM workers and then takes them home, finishing up at Wissington - that's right, where the sugar beet factory is the main attraction. The driver then has about three hours in which to sample the delights of Downham Market, before returning to Wissington with a fresh load of employees and taking the same route back to Great Witchingham and then light back to Lynn.
The contract ran for the first time on Saturday 29th November when 33813 was the vehicle involved. The bus is seen below being prepared for its inaugural trip to Great Witchingham.

On the X1 things have been running fairly smoothly, although Thursday 4th December saw a rare occurrence when 33812 (not in service) and 33803 (X1 Norwich) were seen heading east on Lynn Road in Wisbech together. Earlier temporary traffic lights had delayed 33812 which turned out to be the 11.55 departure to Norwich with 33803 being the 12.55 ! Now hang on, isn't there a bus missing here ? Yes 33814 on the 12.25 had taken an alternative route and managed to overtake 33812.
33804 was on the Bernard Matthews trip on 5th and after arriving back on Saturday morning later replaced 33805 on the X1. 33817 has been sidelined with a demister problem for a couple of days but was back in service today (9th).
Yesterday (Monday 8th) an accident on the A47 between Swaffham and Narborough caused morning delays and 33808 on the 09.05 King's Lynn - Peterborough was worst affected being 20 late at Terrington. Today (9th) the 07.45 Norwich - Peterborough was not seen at either Walpole or Wisbech (maybe we blinked) and the following service which forms the 11.35 Peterborough - Norwich was sufficiently delayed to warrant it running empty from Peterborough to Walton Highway where it resumed its duty on time with 33805.

Now if you follow Steve's blog you may have seen that X1 timetables are due to change on January 25th. This is to allow more time at certain stages of the journey and to allow the abolition of tachographs on the western part of the route. The latter will be accomplished by re-registering the route in sections, which will involve changing destination screens at several stages during the journey.  I even hear from one source that new vehicles may be sourced for the route soon - surely not ? We've only just had a new fleet - stranger things have been known though.

A quick update from the east now courtesy of Malcolm Hicks. Recent Lowestoft sightings have included 60813 being provided for the 13.59 ex Martham on both 24th November and December 2nd. Dart 42921 put in a couple of what are becoming increasingly rare workings on the X2,  being seen on 14.10 from Norwich on 24th and the 14.40 to Norwich the following day. 60814 worked the 15.10 service 1 to Martham on 1st December. Geminis seen off their usual routes have been 37564 working the 10.00 X1 to Yarmouth on November 24th and next day 37571 arrived on the 13.45 X1 from Yarmouth whereupon it was taken out of service. 37572, now as Zak reminds me a Lowestoft bus, was back on the X1 on 3rd. Finally Lowestoft's 37570 appeared on the 14.40 X1 departure on Monday 8th before resuming X2 duties today (9th).

28/11/2014

Friday November 28th 2014 ~ All Mod Cons for Bernie

When is an X1 NOT an X1 ? Well the answer to this strange question is "when it's a Bernard Matthews Contract".
First have long been responsible for the running of BM contracts east of Norwich, but although often rumoured in recent years, King's Lynn have not been involved - until now that is.
In the early hours of tomorrow (Saturday 29th) a big blue Enviro 400 will creep out of King's Lynn garage - even before the X1 fleet are being prepared for another hectic day. The bus will then go light to Fakenham to do its BM deeds before returning to Lynn in time to be X1 reserve for the day.
The contract is only for the Christmas period I believe and I will bring you more details as I receive them.
33824 in Priory Plain, Great  Yarmouth on 24th November. Photo : Zak Nelson NBP

23/11/2014

Sunday November 23rd 2014 ~ A Look at Lowestoft

With such little of note happening at the western end of the route, I thought it opportune to take a look at daytime operations at Lowestoft, thanks largely to Malcolm's observations over the past few weeks. The X1 here continues to be worked by the 7 Enviro 400s transferred from King's Lynn at the July timetable split. These are supplemented by the Geminis which previously worked the full route prior to September 2013 and the unique Enviro 33423.
A look at recent weeks shows all the Enviros appearing regularly and for those who are so inclined to seek it out, 33423 seems to have its own regular diagram which involves the 10.05 Great Yarmouth - Norwich having been noted working this turn on six out of ten days recently.
The X2 seems to be going through a remarkable period of stability with almost 100% Gemini operation. ALX400s do appear occasionally though with 30889 being seen on 4th, 6th, 14th & 17th November and sisters 30886 on 19th, 30900 on 18th and 30901 on 10th, No single deckers were noted on daytime services in this period.
The Martham services 1 and 1a which partly duplicate the X1 route are a little more interesting, the majority find themselves with 320xx or 322xx series double deckers of the Volvo B7 type with Alexander or Plaxton President bodies. The ex Leicester 326XX series with Wright Eclipse bodywork also appear on occasions. That said, the 10.10 Lowestoft - Martham had 37574 on 10th and 37575 on 14th, while the 10.40 1a was more varied with exceptions to 32xxx series being 37577 on 5th November and 34109 on both Saturdays 8th & 15th. The 11.10 service 1 had the comparitively rare sight of a single decker on 15th when 60813 turned up. The 14.40 service 1a had the most unusual bus though when Enviro 33821 found itself working the turn on the 13th, on 18th this service had 37576. The 15.10 service 1 seems to be favourite to get a Volvo single decker though with 60813 on 4th, 60622 on 12th and 60814 on 17th. The only mishap reported was on 18th when 33819 arrived in Lowestoft on the 09.25 X1 from Yarmouth but was unable to continue and the return service at 10.20 was cancelled.
At the western end of the X1 route, things have been quiet, although this last week there were some early morning delays caused by temporary traffic lights near Guyhirn. Thursday was the worst day with some services taking the Wisbech St. Mary alternative route. Going eastbound, XL03 08.05 from Peterborough arrived in Wisbech 22 late with 33813 and this duty was still running 6 late when it once again went eastbound on the 14.45 ex Peterborough. XL04 08.35 from Peterborough with 33806 was 21 late into Wisbech at 09.41 and the 09.05 came in 18 late with 33807. The delays then evaporated though and services resumed running to timetable. On Saturday 22nd services ran well and only one late bus was seen, the 13.05 from Peterborough was 15 late into Wisbech with 33811.

08/11/2014

Saturday November 8th 2014 ~ Waiting Time

33815 near Walsoken working the 11.00 Norwich - Peterborough on a bright October 28th.
Well I've been waiting for something noteworthy to report in this blog for a while without success. That being the case, thought we'd better have an update. Thanks to Ryan and Des we can now confirm the mileages on the Enviro 400s based at Lowestoft. As at October 21/22 these were as follows :
33818 110820
33819 099283
33820 106572
33821 109559
33822 098786
33823 102116
33824 102936

21st October was the anniversary of the entry into service of 33824, the last of the X1 fleet, so these figures pretty much indicate the first years mileage. 33818 went into traffic on 7/10/13 hence its slightly higher mileage. Both 33819/22 spent sometime out of traffic for collision and engine repairs and yet both have almost touched 100,000 over the year. I wonder if there are any other UK bus (not coach) fleets which clock up huge figures like these ? Do let me know if you have any ideas.

It is extremely rare for any of the Enviros to spend more than three days in the garage, to illustrate this here are the occasions when that last happened with number of days off the road in parenthesis and the date of return to traffic / reasons where known.

33803 (5) 28.08.14 Rear advert and servicing
33804 (4) 15.03.14 MOT
33805 (4) 07.05.14 overheating
33806 (5) 03.04.14 MOT
33807 (24) 26.08.14 new gearbox
33808 (0) New 30.09.13
33809 (7) 20.06.14 MOT ?
33810 (4) 03.10.14 Oil cooler
33811 (0) New 30.09.13
33812 (6) 16.10.14 collision repairs
33813 (4) 01.11.14 Oil prob and servicing
33814 (12) 15.05.14 Oil cooler
33815 (4) 25.06.14 unknown
33816 (4) 08.09.14 Air Con leak
33817 (6) 31.12.13 Liner sensor fault

Pretty impressive by all accounts and the unblemished records for 33808 and 33811 are reflected in them being among the highest in the mileage stakes.
33817, one of four (33806/11/15 being the others) Enviros advocating shopping for Christmas in November at Chapelfield and just in case you didn't get the message, these vehicles have a similar ad on the other side too ! 33817 has a slight crease on its back corner following a minor collision and is due for attention shortly.
Speaking to a driver last night, he agreed that things were really quiet and that failures are almost unheard of. The most unusual thing that had happened to him was when a passenger arrived in King's Lynn at midnight wanting to get to Cambridge. Seemingly stranded, said driver then kindly offered to drive her to Cambridge himself, an offer she was pleased to accept. Nice to have a Good Samaritan story.

First of all it was pink ribbons (above)  and now our X1 fleet are adorned with poppy symbols to commemorate Armistice Day. Both campaigns strike a chord with the public and 'First' are to be congratulated for recognising the importance of both occasions.


Now I have to admit that just as I was about to post this update, I thought I'd better check out the other local bus blogs to see if I'd missed anything X1 related in recent weeks. Turns out I hadn't but do have a look at these blogs yourself if you've not already done so. Links are at the bottom of this blog. Between them they provide comprehensive coverage of the local scene with other operators as well as First. Congrats to Andy, Roy, Steve and Cameron in particular for keeping up the good work in this respect.

18/10/2014

Saturday October 18th 2014 ~ A Gemini in Blue


33810  approaching Walton Highway on the 14.30 Norwich - Peterborough today.
A few things to report this time. Not least the entry into service of 37578 in its new X1 livery, incorporating the wi-fi vinyls. It was intended to repaint 37579 in similar fashion, but an unfortunate accident with 37573 (details shortly) has meant that this bus is now at Full Circle for repairs and should now be the second Gemini recipient of the new colours. Fortunately my correspondents have been on the trail of 37578 for me and here we have some photographs :
Here is 37578 before the X1 vinyls were applied sitting in King's Lynn garage on Saturday 4th October.


37578 arriving at Norwich Bus Station on the afternoon of 11th October. Photo : Zak Nelson
www.norwichbuspage.com
Earlier on the 11th October, 37578 was photographed at Acle en route to Norwich. Photo : Cameron Robinson
http://yarmouthbuspage.blogspot.co.uk/
The bus stop at Lowestoft Tesco with 37578 in attendance.  Photo copyright : Cameron Robinson
A final look at 37578 in Norwich and 'Oh Calamity !' as the Archdeacon would say - and if you know what programme that quote comes from, you must be an old fool like me -  they've added  an advert to it ! Photo : Cameron Robinson
... and as if that isn't enough excitement we have another unusual working which Cameron spotted, this being the use of Gemini 32629 on the Norwich - Yarmouth / Lowestoft legs of the X1 last Saturday as seen here :


Photo copyright : Cameron Robinson
Returning now to the mishap with 37573, this occurred at speed, from front on front offside by a driver that fled the scene, but who was later arrested as he needed hospital treatment. The accident at 23.25 on 8th October happened in Lowestoft Road heading into Gorleston, just after Avondale Road. The batteries on 573 were completely obliterated and there was considerable floor movement. Fortunately the bus driver escaped with minor injuries.

The Enviros seem to have been behaving of late and 33812 (below) returned to traffic after collision repairs on Thursday 16th October. 
33812 has returned to traffic and is temporarily without the characteristic X1 vinyls.
Photo copyright : Grahame Bessey.

Last weekend saw the fitting of new ticket machines to the fleet and there were one or two delays on 12th/13th caused by drivers becoming conversant with the new equipment. There was also a problem with the fitting of the new equipment on 33808, but this was remedied on Wednesday 15th. Computer problems on 13th saw some passengers travel free for a while as tickets were unable to be issued. 33804 has been in service this week without a passenger side advert, quite an unusual sight these days.
Resurfacing work on the A47 between Swaffham and Dereham in the coming week may have a negative impact on the timetable.
We mentioned the Enviro mileages recently and in the next blog we will look at the buses now based at Lowestoft. Meanwhile, lets not forget the Yarmouth based Geminis which still work the route and take a look at how they have been accumulating the mileage since they left King's Lynn.
We will take as examples 37576, 37578 & 37579. Here are their mileages when they left King's Lynn and again this week 

37576 03/10/13 560655.  16/10/14 614791
37578 6/10/14 559474.  16/10/14 606496
37579 05/10/14 576132. 14/10/14 626081

So to save you calculating for yourselves, this means the mileages run in the last year - give or take a week have been
37576 54140
37578 47000
37579 49950

Obviously 37576 has been making up some lost ground, but it does mean that the annual mileages have been in effect halved, as previously the Geminis had been averaging 100,00+ each year.
Grahame Bessey has sent me some pictures from a visit to King's Lynn today which I'd like to share with you :
33812 departs King's Lynn for Norwich. Photo copyright : Grahame Bessey
Had to include this one as driver Adrian Freeman is leaving this week after five years driving the X1 - I'm sure he's looking for the camera ! 33813 departs King's Lynn eastbound. Photo copyright : Grahame Bessey.
33807 loads up for the 12.01 departure for Norwich . Note the advert for the film 'Love Rosie'. This is the second campaign for this film, see below
The original ad for the film featured a rather risque pose shown here, so this was withdrawn hastily !!

Thanks to all who continue to contribute - much appreciated. Next time we will catch up with events at Lowestoft of late.


02/10/2014

Thursday October 2nd 2014 ~ The First Year

33806 departs King's Lynn as the 09.31 to Norwich on Tuesday 30th September - the anniversary of the first Enviro 400 workings.
September 30th marked the anniversary of the entry into service of the first Enviro 400s. For the record, 33803-11 inclusive entered service on 30/9/13, but it was 21st October by the time the last of the fleet, 33824, entered traffic. The last two Gemini workings west of Norwich in the old era were 37574/7 which last  worked in their white Excel livery on Saturday 19th October 2013.
Overall it has been a highly successful year for the new buses with widespread acclaim from both the public and bus industry. Despite the switch away  from Volvo, it has to be said that operating problems with the Alexander Dennis fleet have been only what one would expect with a completely new fleet. Failures in traffic have been extremely rare, but when occurring have usually been because of the brake retarder malfunctioning requiring a system reset or the oil cooler problem which has on a few occasions resulted in vehicles having to be rescued. Almost all have now undergone remedial work.
All 22 of the fleet were returned to AD for modifications when new and in addition, depot mods have included a ramp structure modification and also another to the stairs. Problems with the air conditioning system have emerged but these have not been on every vehicle and have been dealt with promptly.

33817 negotiates Portland Street in King's Lynn on the 09.35 King's Lynn - Peterborough on Tuesday.

With few days off the road, it is not surprising that the mileages accumulated by the fleet have easily matched those achieved by the Geminis. Mileages of the King's Lynn based buses at start of duties on 30/9/13 taken from hub meters or * odometers were as follows :
33803 092416*
33804 102932
33805 106598*
33806 107033
33807 101694
33808 110404
33809 095163
33810 105070
33811 113432
33812 114308*
33813 100277
33814 102743
33815 108414
33816 103440
33817 106445

From this it can be seen that 33803 never did quite recover from its bad start and overall it appears to have missed more days in traffic than the others. Some drivers tell me they wouldn't mind if it was rested every day ! Going back to the mileage, the hub meter on 33812 has failed to work since it reached just over 98,000 miles but all the others are in order, although some buses now have a discrepancy of around 1,000 miles between the odometer and hub meter. 33812/17 are believed to have been involved in a slight accident within depot confines today so may not be out for a little while. This may mean reinforcements may need to be called upon. I hope to be able to give current mileages for the Lowestoft Enviros later this month to coincide with their entry into service just under a year ago.
Speaking of Lowestoft buses, 33824 made a rare foray over to King's Lynn on Tuesday as it was due an MOT and a window could not be found at Great Yarmouth. The bus returned eastbound on Wednesday 'not in service'.
Tomorrow (Friday) the newly repainted Gemini 37578 is due to arrive at King's Lynn for the relative vinyls to be applied before it resumes X1 duties from Great Yarmouth.
Finally a correspondent informs me that 33821 failed in Norwich bus station yesterday with a loss of air and it had to be towed into Lowestoft for repairs. More news as we have it !
Taken from my westbound X1, 33805 heads towards the Ouse Bridge on the 15.15 Peterborough - Norwich on Tuesday.

28/09/2014

Sunday September 28th 2014 ~ On with the show.

I was able to attend the Showbus rally at Duxford last Sunday (21st) and it was nice to catch up with fellow enthusiasts and see some of the 'First' crowd. Here are a few pictures from the event :
The two First X1 Enviro 400s at Showbus. 33813 (left) with one of King's Lynn's drivers and 33818 (right) which had travelled from Lowestoft.

33423 the pride of First Great Yarmouth was also in attendance.
When 66957 was a Great Yarmouth vehicle, it occasionally  had a trip out to Peterborough on the X1. Here she is looking smart after a fresh repaint in the new First Ipswich colours.

36180 which has had several stints on the X1 was exhibited by First Norwich at Duxford.


Away from the excitement of Britain's biggest gathering of buses and coaches, the X1 has been enjoying a settled spell. Only  hiccup of note was a breakdown involving 33810 on Friday 19th September when it was a failure at Swaffham due to a ramp interlock system fault. This was soon rectified and the bus was back in service immediately afterwards. 
Malcolm reports from Lowestoft that the old order continue to appear on the Martham services in particular, on Saturday 20th 34114 was on the 10.40 and 34186 on the 15.10 departures. Our old friend 34108 was on the 10.40 on 24th and the following day 42358  was all that could be found for the 14.00 X2 service to Norwich. 34108 repeated its journey on the 10.40 Martham on 26th and that morning Enviro 33824 arrived with the 09.25 from Yarmouth but was then taken out of service causing the cancellation of the 10.20 service. 
Hope to provide a further blog this week with a look at the Enviro mileages.


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