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Monday 25th June - Sunday 1st July 2012 ~ Sampling the Delights (a long blog !)

I've been able to use my VIP Pass recently for a few shorter trips as my Mum is now a little better. I've made 8 trips and been driven by nine drivers. The odd figure occurs because on Y10 on Saturday, we started out from Lynn bus station and changed chauffeurs at the South Gates. This is a bit odd from a drivers point of view too as the driver taking over doesn't actually know which passengers are on board (unless he uses the CCTV cameras) and is also unaware of which stops he is likely to have to make.
 One of the most infuriating things (I would imagine) is the number of times passengers inadvertantly press the bell pushes which are easily caught by bags etc. On one trip we came to a halt at the South Gates coming into Lynn after somebody had rung the bell, the doors opened and closed again without anyone leaving the vehicle - it was almost like we'd stopped for a ghost to get off ! I'm not sure if South Gates is regarded as an X1 stop, but I know that many drivers are willing to stop there to let passengers disembark. My journeys have all been comfortable, though the lack of legroom on a B9 compared to a B7 is noticeable. The first higher level seat downstairs seems particularly tight for someone of average height and build such as myself and it is necessary to constantly readjust seating position to avoid your knees rubbing against the seatback. The main problem though is definitely the lack of air conditioning - something which passengers often mention to me. The windows when open tend to give excessive draughts, especially in the Fens, so come on chaps, let's have some air con when we get a new fleet. Carol says " I used the X1 this week and it was just so hot, we also had one of the slower buses (37158) which didn't help, but the driver did make a sterling effort to make up time after the bus had been delayed by the Royal Norfolk Show".

All the drivers I have travelled with have been courteous and in some cases jovial, I've only had one bad experience where the driver on seeing my pass said "Yes ??? Well where are you going ? I need to know where you are going"  - turned out this was so that he could issue me a ticket, don't know if he was in the right or wrong but none of the other drivers have ever issued me a ticket. I wonder if he asks all the passengers where they are going when he takes over a bus at the Southgates ? Anyway, I think his customer service skills could do with brushing up - apparently he is a recent arrival from a rival company.
The driver needn't have worried - I was only going to sunny Wisbech !
The buses themselves have been clean and tidy, though the excessive amount of rubbish that the public leave behind is disappointing. Noisiest vehicle was 37575 which didn't sound very well at all, but the others have been quite good. Pick of the bunch was probably 37579. 

Finally I must add that the drivers have a heck of a lot to put up with. On one occasion, we were about to leave Wisbech 5 late when two lads boarded with scooters asking "Do you go to King's Lynn, near the centre". "I'm 13" said the bolder of the two, "how much is it". No word of thanks to the driver which these days is probably not surprising. The same driver then had to put up with three girls - the oldest being about ten - boarding en route and scrambling together enough change for their fares to Lynn - this took a couple of minutes making us even later. On another occasion the same driver again had an interrogation before departure from Lynn by a chap who was very persistent. "Are you taking us to Peterborough ?" The driver explained that he was actually getting off at the Southgates as his hours were up, this led to a very lengthy conversation to the point where he was asked what would happen if he carried on driving. The driver explained that a relief supervisor would have to come out and rescue the bus ! The point here is that at no time did the driver seem exasperated or flustered by any of these events, instead he was calm, pleasant and a credit to the X1.

and now Part 2 ! What has been happening......

Monday saw 37566 & 37570 kept in for servicing as scheduled and 37568 joined them in King's Lynn garage on MOT prep. 37574 had attention to an adblue sensor before it was released to work K19 (XL06). Timekeeping was fair but highlight was Y6 (XL12) 08.48 Wisbech to Peterborough & 37576 which actually departed bang on time which with traffic at this time of the morning is extremely rare.
L8 (XL14) which is normally solid B9 had 37159 today meaning a refuelling was required. Joe says "At 16.30 a Plaxton President broke down at Trowse causing delays to the X1, here's a couple of  pictures I took of 37577 on Y7 (XL13) stuck in the queue"

Tuesday began with two accidents on the Acle Straight, but X1 services didn't seem to suffer too badly as a result. L8 (XL14) with 37157 which due to late running had replaced 37575 at Lynn was seen passing Walpole by Bruce at 09.46, 8 late. 37158 on Y9 (XL15) was similarly late so 37575 off L8 (XL14) took this forward instead and was through Walpole at 10.26 (23 late), however, returning the delay had been reduced to just 14 minutes. Bruce didn't see L10 (XL16)  at all, but L11 (XL17) turned up with 37564 19 late reduced to 7 late coming back from Peterborough. After this things settled down but later 37158 replaced 37573 on Y6 (XL12) so that the latter could make its servicing slot.

Wednesday. The first day of the Royal Norfolk Show brought out the crowds and the delays !! At King's Lynn, the first westbound service affected by the event was Y9 (XL15) which was spotted arriving at Lynn Southgates 16 late with 37160. Des says "That was me driving, in fact we were 23 late at Easton - the outside lane is always the best way through, caught up a little time and departed Lynn 8 late at 09.53".
L10 (XL16) had 37158 and this was due to refuel at 13.05 being on one of the long turns, however, instead a clever bit of juggling saw 37578 on K16 (XL03) arrive from Lowestoft and then take over L10 (XL16) returning eastbound as the 13.02. Whether K16 (XL03) got through to Peterborough with 37158 is unknown, but the B7 was seen emerging from Vancouver Avenue after fuelling at 13.51 so at that point it would have been in excess of 30 late. 37156 on L11 (XL17) was seen returning from Peterborough 22 late but had recouped all this lost time by the evening when it was into Lynn on time at 19.58
XL18 (L12) with 37565 was seen at the Southgates inbound at 11.36, so 34 late and likewise Y13 (XL19) was seen at 12.08 (36 late). The latter with 37570 was then seen at Walsoken heading to Peterborough running 32 late. Of the eastbound morning services it was K1, K2 & K3 (XL07-09) which fared worst and these all swapped vehicles at some point.
Highlight of the month though was the unexpected borrowing by Norwich of 37567. This was spare at Lynn and was required at Norwich to cover for shortages caused by running the Norfolk Show shuttles.
Michael from Cringleford says " I could hardly believe my eyes this afternoon when I saw 37567 working the 16.14 local service 24a from the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital to Thorpe St. Andrew". Well thanks for the confirmation Michael, at least we know it was used on something ! Out on the X2 were 30887 on the 15.03  ex Lowestoft and 34155 on the 16.48 Lowestoft College to Norwich, thanks to Malcolm H for this.

Thursday. Mid morning Y6 (XL12) with Des driving 37575 caught up K5 (XL11) with 37579 at Dereham. The Easton & Hockering passengers transferred to 37575 and then at Norwich 37579 went light to Lowestoft to regain time, all passengers boarding Y6. Over in Lowestoft Malcolm saw 34155 on the 101 town service, but by the afternoon it had been replaced by Dart 43465, so may be the availability of these is improving.
The inability of the B7s to regain lost time was evident today. The delays caused by the Royal Norfolk Show were minimal  compared to yesterday and it wasn't until L11 (XL17) that things began to go wrong. This was 37159 and it was seen departing the Southgates for Peterborough at 11.09, about 14 late. It was past Bruce at 11.25 (now 22 late). Next was another B7, 37158 which was on L12 (XL18), this arrived from the east at 11.25 - 23 late but this had been cut to 18 late due to a smart driver change at Southgates by the time it passed Bruce. Y13 (XL19) in contrast was on time in from the east and remained so throughout its duty with 37563. K14 (XL01) was the first service going west which had to cope with Show delays in both directions and as a consequence, 37156 was 23 late into Lynn, cut to 15 late departing Southgates but back to being 23 late past Bruce. The timings for the X1 from Lynn to Walton Highway are extremely tight when the roads are busy and both 37156 & 37159 lost eight minutes on this section today.
37156 went back to Lowestoft on the 15.02 from Lynn and was 15 late departing. Another B7 which had lost time was 37160 on K16 (XL03), this was 25 late past Bruce heading to Peterborough with 37566 on K17 (XL04) close behind it.
Peter & Angela saw a succession of X1s in close proximity as they drove over to Peterborough, 37159 on L11 (XL17) was showing  'not in service' when passed near Guyhirn and just a few minutes behind was 37158 on L12 (XL18), itself closely followed by 37563 on Y13 (XL19)  which was on time. L12 (XL18) somehow managed to be just 3 late by the time it reached Walpole, but if you knew who was driving you wouldn't be surprised, well done that man ! Whilst all this was going on Y7 (XL13) swapped 37574 for 37577 at 11.30 for servicing requirements and 37568 had its MOT.
37569 on the outskirts of Norwich today (Thursday) with a healthy load. It was working K3 (XL09) this morning (Kieran Smith)
Friday. 37156 which has been a well behaved bus since its repaint was taken off L12 (XL18) with an oil leak today and it was replaced by 37568 back on the road after MOT. This left 37579 as spare bus. 37567 was due back from Norwich but never arrived ! 
After the last few days, timekeeping was good today, although late afternoon saw a couple of delays, notably K3 (XL09) with 37158 on the 16.15 Lynn - Peterborough which according to Peter was noisy, hot and very slow ! It was 21 late arriving into Wisbech and the following service, K4 (XL10) with 37574 was 13 late at Walpole. Another B7 37159 was on K18 (XL05), this ran 18 late from Lynn but was only 11 late into Yarmouth. Des says "We entered Norwich via the A140 as Newmarket Road was blocked". Whilst the X1 at Lowestoft seemed to be punctual, this afternoon Malcolm saw 32654 arrive on the 14.10 X2 from Norwich 22 late.

37574 arrives at Norwich bus station as Y7 (XL13) 10.05 Peterborough - Lowestoft. {K Smith}

Delays of up to ten minutes were the order of the day. I did a trip to Wisbech on 37564 on XL04 (K17) and this was 9 late at Walpole. Returning I took 37565 on K15 (XL02) and this was 8 late. Later 37579 on K4 (XL10) 16.45 Lynn - Peterborough was 11 late westbound but some smart driving saw it only 3 late returning and it was on time into Lynn.
37157 looking quite tidy on the ramp at Norwich Bus Station exit. It was working K1 (XL07)  11.55 Lowestoft - Peterborough, due off Norwich at 13.25. This turn now garages at Lowestoft on Saturdays so quite often gets a B7. Photo from Kieran Smith.
and a final one from Kieran. Isn't that Wayne C driving 37579 on K4 (XL10)  13.25 ex Lowestoft here ? I will have to ask him why he was 'out of service' with passengers on at this point, though it was 17 late .  37579 certainly caught up any lost time by the time I travelled on it later, see notes above.
 37567 returned from Norwich today and requires cleaning and servicing. 37576 is now the vehicle stopped for MOT work.

More tales of an X1 driver this morning. Paul was driving the 10.50 King's Lynn - Peterborough which I caught. A trio of passengers tried to board with their National Express tickets and he had to explain that this was not their bus ! We then left Lynn on time with 37578 and even though we didn't have to stop at Southgates for a driver change (this had happened on the way in), traffic and stops at Tilney and Terrington made us 7 late by Walpole, This was with a B9 and some good driving, so how on earth a B7 is supposed to keep time, Lord knows. 37572 was off the road with a starter motor problem today and the service was B9 worked throughout. The weather forecast today was originally poor, so the work at Norwich bus station has now been postponed until next Sunday.

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