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Thursday 17th October 2013 ~ Meeting the Public

Wednesday saw the appearance of 33808 in Lowestoft and 33811 in Norwich at the press events to mark the official launch of the new X1 bus fleet. By all accounts, the day was a success, although the weather in Norwich was pretty awful. There was an enthusiastic reception from the residents of Lowestoft though and feedback shows that the public are really liking the new vehicles.
37564 is now being prepared for an MOT at King's Lynn and 37566 has now joined some of its sisters at Full Circle for repainting. 33803 was sidelined on Wednesday with electrical faults, but the rest of the new buses had a successful day.
Zak Nelson from the Norwich Bus Page was present at Wednesday's launches and his enthusiasm in handing out timetables and goody bags resulted in him joining us today (Thursday) in King's Lynn and Peterborough. 
The day began for me with my first trip on one of the new fleet - yes well I've been spending too much time talking /writing about them to get to actually travel on one !
33816 turned up at Walpole Highway 17 minutes late due to heavy traffic in Peterborough and roadworks in Wisbech. I took a seat upstairs and settled into the 'leather luxury'. At Terrington St. John (I know it was there because of the on board announcements !) three ladies boarded and came upstairs. Despite the late running they were full of praise for the new bus, 'lovely seats', 'very comfortable' etc and best of all when they got off at Lynn, 'I'll definitely come on the bus again". Meanwhile, I was so comfortable in my seat, I was the last person to leave at the bus station. 
33811 which was the bus on show, was already parked outside Argos inside the pedestrian area when I arrived and present were various familiar faces from First and also a few fellow bus enthusiasts including Zak, David Bell and Andy James 
No 'First' launch would be complete without Freddie the Frog and he kept the youngsters entertained again today.
Photo copyright :

33811 with Zak handing out timetables for the cause.

Rosemary Parry, Richard Tucker and driver Wayne Savory were representing 'First' in King's Lynn. The public seemed very interested in the Enviro and again were well impressed in the new features employed on the bus.

At Midday it was time to move on to Peterborough and at the invitation of Mrs Parry, Zak and myself were allowed to travel 'not in service' on 33811. This gave Wayne a chance to stretch the legs of the new bus and we went sailing down the dual carriageway parts of the A47 with ease - I thought the B9 Geminis were fast, but this bus seemed even quicker. 
On arrival in the city, we had to manouevre the bus into the pedestrian area of Long Causeway, which involved some delicate shunting and reversing, all accomplished perfectly by Wayne despite the tight clearances. Rosemary suddenly became a traffic policewoman and managed to halt all the surrounding traffic for this to take place, an unenviable task in this busy part of the city, before arranging for the bollards to be lowered to allow us to progress. 
Mrs P sorts out the Peterborough traffic. Now how did that large camera appear in that tree  ?
The Peterborough public seemed just as interested as those elsewhere and there were various references made by them to the effect that 'First' would make a better job of running the local buses than Stagecoach. To be fair, I guess the dominant company in an area always comes in for some stick, not always justified. 
While we were here, the news filtered through that the 12.35 service to Lowestoft had not called at the rail station, but a prompt investigation revealed that it had needed to visit King's Lynn garage for a bulb to be replaced and by the time it reached Wisbech on the outward, the following service (Y13-XL19) had caught it up. It was because of this that the 12.35 missed the rail station, the next bus serving it instead. 

Richard and his new recruit to the King's Lynn maintenance team ! Frogs like water don't they ? Better put him in charge of the air-con.

Now what happens when you take a photo like this.......
Rosie, you are not smiling...........
Or this......

Gerard, your eyes are closed ..........
The answer is to do a bit of computer wizardry to come up with this ......

Shame that the bus now seems to have a kink in the floor, but at least we are both smiling with eyes open !
I decided to travel back from Queensgate on a scheduled service to save Wayne dropping me off at Walpole. This was the 16.15 departure (K19-XL06) with 33808. We were 6 minutes late from Queensgate and by coincidence caught up Wayne and 33811 returning to Lynn light. This resulted in the two buses following each other until we reached the Thorney bypass where the buses went their separate ways with much tooting of horns. Traffic between Guyhirn and Thorney was very slow and I actually fell asleep - told you the seats were comfy. 
Suddenly approaching Wisbech, the on board announcements came to life, in a queue, we were informed three times that we were approaching Wisbech bus station - the system was then confused by us retracing our steps out of Wisbech bus station, announcing that we were arriving again. After this though it righted itself and we were just 3 minutes late at Walpole. The new vix monitors in the driving cab are very clever and inform the driver how close to schedule the bus is running, without the need for them to check timetables or running boards. A very enjoyable day with a good positive atmosphere amongst all concerned, to whom I express my thanks. 
On the road, the delay I mentioned earlier with 33816 was still evident in a 19 minute late arrival in Lowestoft reports Malcolm. It left westbound 9 late. The Gemini's were working as follows today : 37572 K1-XL07, 37574 Y11-XL17 and 37577 K18-XL05. 37573 was out of traffic at Lynn with an adblue fault. 33423 is still at the temporary compound here and is expected to be repainted shortly, while 33803 managed to fail again today on K3-XL09, its place being taken by 33819. 
It is hoped to have 33822/3 ready for traffic tomorrow and 33817/24 are due for delivery now, again probably tomorrow. 33807 seems to have found an affinity for Great Yarmouth, it is spending its sixth consecutive night there tonight and has since Monday, worked Y13-XL19 every day. 33807/9/10/11 have now all been in action every day since the inaugural day of Enviro working, 30th September.

Now we return to the mystery (or not) of the appearance of that Norwich Gemini at Acle the other morning (see Tuesday's blog). John Hutchinson writes "I can report that Radio Norfolk's intrepid reporter Wally Webb was live on air at Acle on Tuesday morning, chatting to some 'disgruntled' passengers waiting for the 0723 and 0753 services, which are apparently rather crowded from Acle. It appears that the 0723 departed full (a saloon if I was listening correctly) and then, according to Wally, at 0749 a bus pulled up 'Not in service' and the driver then changed the screen to X1 Norwich; this is presumably the one that Graham refers to. One wonders if the company were listening to the broadcast (it was spread over quite a long period of the programme between 7 and 8) and decided to act positively. The recent re-jigging of Anglian services seems to be at the heart of Acle residents' gripes, but that rather got lost in the broadcast amongst the to-ing and fro-ing of the X1 excitement!"

Oh really ? Well here is the official explanation from a rapidly improving Des Speed : "The Norwich vehicle on X1 relief from Acle at approx 07.50 is supplied by Norwich in order to meet passenger levels. It is to run for at least the next month".
Now that doesn't really answer the question does it ? Was it as a result of Radio Norfolk's intervention, or something which had been pre-planned. 
Well I should have asked Norwich supremo Chris Speed today when I saw him, but completely forgot in all the Enviromania. I'm sure he will have something to say, so watch this space. Meanwhile, we will just, like the Acle-ites blame 'Anglian' !
Finally - what a long post this has been - we finish with a photo from Matthew Holland of one of our old B7 Geminis in use in its new environs in Stoke-on-Trent.
37156 outside Stoke-on-Trent railway station on 12th October. Photo copyright : Matthew Holland

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