Wednesday 22nd July 2009 ~ Anniversary Blog
A Birthday picture for the blog courtesy of Jamie Vendy.
Yes quite amazing really, but today marks the 1st anniversary of the X1 blog. Originally intended as a sort of tribute to the B10M and B12 Volvo coaches which were to be replaced come the Autumn of 2008 by a fleet of 20 Gemini B9 double deckers, things have turned out somewhat differently in reality. For a start the new bus order was cut back to 17 vehicles with the three B7 Profile coaches intended to make up the shortfall, then my intention to abandon the blog once the new charges had settled in was cancelled hence the fact you are reading this now.
The introduction of the B9s was a new concept in long distance travel and could not be compared to any other new fleet in the entire history of Eastern Counties, or as it is now known First Eastern England. The previous new regime with B12 Paragons was inaugurated when the service was still hourly, numbered X94 and only operating from Yarmouth to Peterborough. Expectations for the new B9 fleet were greater than anything gone before in terms of long distance mileage and intensive use. They have already run up a phenomenal mileage and with a very low casualty rate, so while the internal fittings were the subject of much criticism in particular the basic seating, the decision to adopt the fleet has been proved to be a success from the operating point of view.
The early days as regulars will recall were quite awful, the new buses being limited to 50mph and losing time hand over fist and this coupled with many drivers not having the necessary cards to drive them meant the first couple of months were a shambles. The advance to a 62 mph top speed has certainly done the trick and although we have seen a dip in availability of late - probably expected in view of the speed in which they have accumulated huge mileages - the overall 'Gemini' experience has probably, to the travelling public been seen as a success also. So there we are, a largely glowing testimonial to the B9s thus far, but what of the next year ? Well assuming that this blog has not been closed down at the request of the police, hopefully we will still be reporting at least some events this time next year.
So what of all this from an enthusiasts point of view ? As is generally the case the new fleet were greeted with a mixture of excitement in some quarters and disgust in others. The day to day operation of a fleet such as the B9s is rarely put under the microscope as it were, so in this aspect the X1 blog is possibly unique. We have a cross section of contributors, but in the main I think it is fair to say that most mourn the loss of coach operation. I say loss, but as I write it is still an every day occurrence to travel in a B10M and of course the three Profiles will probably be around for a while yet too. Recently the appearance of a Volvo Royale has renewed interest and the occasional Scania still deputises when things get desperate. Finally I must pass on my thanks to everyone and you really are too numerous to mention, who has contributed in any way over the last 12 months. Special mention must be made of a few individuals who have reported 'beyond the call of duty' over the last 12 months. Rob Brooks, Andrew James and Jamie Vendy have been instrumental in enabling me to make comprehensive reports in recent months and this blog would have long ceased to exist had it not been for the mammoth efforts of Bruce Billingham from his observatory overlooking the route at Walpole Highway. Then we have the employees of 'First Group' themselves - again many people who naturally I am not going to name here - you know who you are and sincere thanks for all your help.
37573 returned from Norwich Volvo today after repairs and 37577 looks to have gone the other way. 37574 was in the operational line at Vancouver Avenue this evening so is probably fit for service again. 37563 did K2 today, still with blank destination screens. 37564 was out (as usual) on L11, but this was changed at Lowestoft this afternoon for 37569, 564 was actually slightly late going east and 569 had been released off maintenance. The mystery of 37565's ultra low mileage has been explained by the fact that its hub mileage indicator is not working properly. In the past 6 days it has done approx 2424 miles, whereas its hub says it has travelled just 11 miles !!! If anyone gets chance to do an odometer reading on this one (easily obtained when buying a ticket incidentally), perhaps you could let me know the result. Whilst on the subject, the hub meter on 37569 is stuck and has been all year, so if (as we are led to believe) the powers that be are reading this, how about showing your commitment and getting them replaced ? Yesterday's mystery vehicle on L12 was 37568 and this did K14 today.
Two Profiles had scheduled services today, 20351 had one before taking out K5 at 07.45 from King's Lynn to Peterborough and 20353 was also treated with 20109 doing a trip to Peterborough and back on K4 before 353 replaced it. 20352 was performing all day on K3.
The old school were much in evidence today with 20109 working as mentioned above plus 20103 on K16, 20104 on L12, 20106 on Y6 and 20107 on Y13. I think 106 worked through to Lowestoft tonight on Y6, but 37569 was still at Lynn bus station so might have replaced it if deemed necessary. In this respect check out the blog on our first day 22/7/08 and see what it says about 20106 then! Punctuality was excellent this morning but faltered over here in the west at lunchtime with 37572 on K15 having still not appeared at Walpole 13 minutes after it was due.