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Saturday 22nd June 2013 : Lothian Loathing and other stories

Well it's been a quiet period on the X1 route since my last report on 14th. Firstly here's a quick look back at how the service has fared.
Saturday 15th was a day of incident with 37563 in trouble on L8-XL14. Dashboard warnings were showing, but although 37574 was despatched from King's Lynn eastbound to replace 37563, in the event this was unnecessary and 37563 was able to continue, being seen on time working the 20.15 from Peterborough. An hour earlier 37566 had failed on the 19.15 ex Peterborough with a fractured water pipe and 37159 which had arrived in King's Lynn at just after 18.00 on the terminating Y7-XL13 was utilised to work the 20.33 to Lowestoft. This left just 37158 of the B7's at Lynn on Sunday, usually there are up to 4 in evidence.
20514 at Norwich on an X1 short on the afternoon of Saturday 15th. Photo : Matthew Holland.
Sunday 16th saw some examples of late running with 37576 passing Walpole 15 late on the 12.50 from King's Lynn westbound, but it had recouped most of this by the time it returned being just 2 minutes late. 37571 was seen arriving at the Southgates from Lowestoft at 13.51 - this service is now scheduled to depart the bus station for Peterborough at 13.54. Finally, the 16.54 King's Lynn - Peterborough was seen at Walsoken at 17.28 (9 late) with 37156 having earlier replaced 37568 eastbound at Yarmouth for reasons unknown. 37572 was taken off XL04 this evening with a shattered window and 37574 worked forward.
34113 earning its keep on an X1 short seen near the Blofield roundabout on Monday. Photo : Joe Watson/NBP.

It was my Mum's funeral on Monday and a contingent from Scotland came down to Peterborough on the train taking the X1 forward to Wisbech. Here is Stuart's report which should not be taken too seriously - my comments follow afterwards :
"The City of Edinburgh Council's Transport Convenor Lesley Hynds recently said that Lothian Buses was "not just the best bus company in Britain but the best bus company in the world". This was to launch Lothian's new state-of-the-art hybrid single deckers in April at a cost of £2.5 million. It is therefore perhaps unlikely that a contingent of Scottish transport enthusiasts coming south of the border would be enchanted with what was on offer on the 120 mile diagram between Peterborough and Lowestoft - a service operated by, shall we say for fun, the less successful company 'First' on 6 year old rather grubby and unserviced Volvo Wright Gemini deckers. 
In a lightning strike yesterday, joining fleet number 37157 between Peterborough and Wisbech, the four bus critiques - one of which is the current Chairman of the Scottish Tramway Society and another an official photographer for the year-on-year award winning Lothian Buses, endured a journey of around 45 minutes to Wisbech bus station in what can only be described as not the best in the world.
The funeral party board 37157 at Peterborough rail station. Photo copyright : Stuart Montgomery's L****an Buses

On boarding the late arriving Gemini at Peterborough railway station (First's real-time tracker display leaves much to be desired) the driver was not shall we say awfully pleased to see four men in formal dark suits presenting Scottish sterling notes as an offering for the £4.50 fare. "What's this"? This was followed by "and another" wouldn't get this at Lothian! What ever happened to 'Hello and welcome'?
So off we go and the upper saloon did seem at first quite smart....we took our seats. Immediately the fan of the vehicle roared at an almost soprano pitch - this was complimented throughout the journey by intense vibrating when the bus stopped, indicating poor timing within the engine area. The bus was sluggish and lacked rhythmic vitality - the intensity of the vibrating and screeching of the fan scared one of our party so much that he was forced to grip the vertical hand rail for fear of being thrown onto the aisle. 
Grim faced Frank Mitchell, the Chairman of the STS holds on for dear life (allegedly !)

The photo of this grim faced man demonstrates clearly his anguish. At Lothian buses a vehicle performing like this would be removed immediately and taken in for servicing. 
Quite by chance we had located ourselves at a seat which had lost it's handle - the broken off top had been painted over in a vulgar manner,  most unsightly. The photograph demonstrates that passengers sitting in this seat have nothing to hold on to and could easily be propelled on to the floor at any moment. 
It was a pleasurable experience to alight at Wisbech to the safety of the road surface - in thanking our driver for the journey I received no response - something unheard of at Lothian.  
All in all it was an interesting experience and our trip on 37157 will be remembered for all sorts of reasons".
37157 roars out of Wisbech bus station on its merry jaunt to Lowestoft. Photo : Stuart Montgomery.

Well now, it would appear our guests were less than impressed, but let's put a few things straight shall we ? The part I take exception to the most is that 37157 is described as unserviced. Regular readers will know that safety services are made at very strict intervals and the mechanical attention lavished on these buses is second to none, One only has to look at the almost entirely failure free stats for the B7s to realise that the standards of maintenance must be very high indeed. 37157 itself has accumulated 39,500 miles in the five months since mid January - a figure which I doubt is ever achieved by any single bus in the Lothian fleet over a whole year. Monday was its 134th day in service this year and the number of breakdowns in service for 37157 in this period ? You've guessed it, precisely zero ! As we have discussed numerous times, the B7s do suffer a bit on the punctuality front due to their 48mph max speed setting and I suggest that the sluggish performance was down to this. I particularly recall Stuart being very impressed by the top speed of 37570 a couple of years back, something he'd never experienced with the suburban services operated by Lothian. It is unfair in my opinion to describe 'First' as less successful than the Edinburgh based operator. Compared to the huge fleet of buses at 'First', Lothian's can best be described as a drop in the ocean, however, to be fair, I have always been impressed by the smaller companies vehicles cleanliness. I also recall a Lothian 'Gemini' with a screeching fan on one of my visits to the City, I think Stuart was looking the other way at the time ! I will just add that the Lothian drivers had better be on their best behaviour next time I am up there, because I will be listening out for my big welcome. Oh and just to mention that we have a certain amount of investment (already related in this blog) in the next couple of months !
Elsewhere during the day 37575 was 15 late into Lowestoft on L8-XL14 before continuing on the 15.25 to Peterborough and Des had a trip to the city on K16-XL03 with 37566. All went well until delays were encountered in Wisbech after a Venni lorry broke down near De Havilland Road which meant a 7 minute late departure, however, Peterborough was reached on time - marvellous things these new timings ! His return trip was dogged by the perennial A47 problem, three tractors between Thorney and Guyhirn ! Des says "I got past one and then had to stop at Thorney Toll where it overtook me again ! I was 7 late from Wisbech, but a good run saw us into Lynn just 2 minutes late".

On Tuesday 18th 37563 began the day on K4, but 37568 took over at King's Lynn at 10.00, here she is arriving in Norwich at 11.40. 568 seems to like working K4-XL10 and this was its seventh appearance on the turn in the last month. Photo : Joe Watson / NBP

So on we move to Tuesday 18th and a good day for punctuality in the west  with the exception of L11-XL17 which was 37573 running 10 late for its 11.19 departure from Wisbech to Peterborough. Incidentally it had only been 4 late on Monday with our friends on 37157 ! A notable working on this date was made by 37575 on Y13-XL19 13.08 Peterborough - Lowestoft which made history by passing my window at 13.47, three minutes early and the earliest I have ever seen a bus arriving from Peterborough in almost nine years of observing the X1 !! Further east, Malcolm reports less success at Lowestoft where single lane traffic outside Great Yarmouth Asda due to line painting caused 37578 on Y6-XL12 to depart 10 late on the 14.25 to Peterborough. Y7 then arrived 34 late with 37577, departing 24 late westbound. Des was around shortly afterwards driving Y9-XL15 which was 37571 and this left Yarmouth 25 late on its way to Lowestoft. 
 Wednesday was a good day with just Y13-XL19 running notably late, 37570 was 15 late at Walpole on the 12.03 to Peterborough. Y7-XL13 and K15-XL02 both swapped vehicles at Lynn to fit in maintenance requirements. Des reports a frustrating journey with 37156 on Y7-XL13 : " Arrived Norwich on time. Could not get onto stand A or B, both blocked by Konnect. Konnect 8 departed 16.24, I loaded on stand A and departed -4 (16.29), slow A47, arrived Dereham 1st stop at 17.06, slow in Dereham and stopped most stops, departed last Dereham stop at 17.37 (31 minutes to negotiate Dereham!)". Gorleston High Street reopened to buses today.
Thursday was uneventful on the X1, but in Lowestoft the 14.48 X2 had to be cancelled after Malcolm reports 34155 faling. Incidentally, Zak Nelson of the Norwich bus page has commendably revived the idea of an X2 blog, here is the link :

Two services ran late on Friday, L11-XL17 again, this time running 17 late with 37571 after 37156 was taken off (and later put back on) at Lynn. 37571 was seen near Walton Highway on the way back  now 18 late. Then the 12.45 from Lynn to Peterborough (K15-XL02) passed through also 17 late with 37563. This made up some time and came back 14 late. 
Saturday 22nd saw me take a trip on the X1 to Peterborough. We travelled on the 12.03 from Walpole Highway, diagram no, XL19 -Y13. Our bus was 37566 which is one I've not travelled on before. This really was a most pleasant surprise, very comfortable suspension, absolutely no rattles and a credit to 'First'. Bernie was our chauffeur for this, possibly my smoothest X1 journey ever. I ought to add that 37566 is really the black sheep of the fleet, having spent more time out of service than all the other B9s excepting Thorney crash victim 37571. 37566 has currently travelled 499,000 miles so has almost reached the landmark half million miles. We sat upstairs about half way down and enjoyed the journey. We were six late from Walpole, 2 late from Wisbech and after loading at Queensgate, dead on time at the rail station at 13.12 and this despite heavy traffic on the A47 at Thorney and queues leading up to Eye Green.

37563 arrives at Queensgate on Saturday afternoon.

Coming home, we took K17-XL04 with 37563. Departing from Queensgate and the Rail Station almost 3 late, driver Wayne C took the route out back past the bus station via the passport office. By this time it had become apparent that 37563 was greatly different in terms of comfort to 37566. Rattles, bumpy suspension and to be honest, showing signs of its age. This was particularly felt over the stretch near Pasture House Farm where the A47 badly needs resurfacing. Nevertheless, our driver was determined to try and keep time. The section from Guyhirn to Wisbech Cromwell Road roundabout was covered in just 4 minutes 11 seconds which must be a record. The congestion out of Peterborough had lost us time though and we were seven minutes late into Wisbech at 15.58. We left the service at Walpole just 5 late with our driver heading for a break at Lynn before a further trip to Lowestoft and back. His shift finishing at Lynn at 00.44 !
We passed several other services of course, but only L9-XL15 11.08 ex Peterborough was markedly late seen running 15 down with 37570.

37158 negotiates the roundabout with Parnwell Way and Paston Parkway as it approaches Peterborough on K18-XL05 on Saturday afternoon.

Now for all those of you who think the blog is becoming a little less anoraky, (surely not ??) here's a chart with the adverts currently worn by the X1 vehicles - many of these will be changed tonight.

1 comment:

Victor Meldrew said...

Your friend Victor McMeldrew should just be grateful that 34113 wasn't operating his service. Edinburgh may have the best BUS service in the world, but as Chairman of the Scottish Tramway Society he won't exactly be boasting about the success of the Edinburgh tram notwork, sorry, network!