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.