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01/04/2019

MARCH 2019 REPORT


A rather quiet month was March, but nevertheless a few things to report.

MOTs continued apace with 33806/16/18 being dealt with during the month. 33815's MOT was postponed until April in order to fix a persistent computer fault once and for all.
There were just two appearances by stand in vehicles in March. 
Firstly on 6th Gemini 36202 had a rare run out on the XL. 33818 was grounded with a heat matrix problem, so the 08.40 Norwich - Peterborough commenced its journey with 36202. On arrival at King's Lynn at around 10.30, the oldest trick in the book was used and 33808 which had arrived on the 09.10 from Peterborough was switched with the Gemini and did a second trip to Peterborough at 10.35, while 36202 took its place and went back to Norwich at 10.40. By the time the Gemini arrived back in Norwich, 33818 had been rectified and was able to continue on its duty starting with the 12.40 Norwich - Peterborough.
The other occasion when a Gemini substituted was on the morning of Saturday 9th when 36272 was appropriated to work the 07.35 Norwich - Peterborough due to a fault on 33813. It was removed at King's Lynn and returned light to Norwich.
Most recent addition to the XL fleet between Norwich and Peterborough is 33819 which has yet to receive the latest vinyls. Here it is on the A47 bypass at Walpole Highway on 1st April running as the 11.10 Peterborough - Norwich.

33807 which we last reported as needing a new engine after being removed from service on 21st February, was transported to Norwich on Monday 11th March and was back on the road on Friday 15th.

Other incidents have included a rare Sunday swap when on 3rd March 33805 was poorly and replaced for the last leg of the diagram by 33811 which took the 16.40 Peterborough - Norwich forward from King's Lynn. Next day 33811 itself was removed from the 13.40 ex Norwich at Lynn requiring a new oil cooler and 33803 worked forward.

Punctuality took a turn for the worse as the month wore on with roadworks of varying severity between Thorney and Eye affecting the XL. On Tuesday 12th, 33819 which had left Wisbech 3 late on the 10.40 to Peterborough was seen departing on the 12.30 Wisbech - Norwich 28 late. Monday 18th was a bad day with afternoon services in disarray. The 13.15 Wisbech - Peterborough with 33810 left on time, but was seen returning into the town 22 late, similarly the 13.40 with 33816 returned 17 late and the 14.10 which was 33813 was 16 late coming back eastbound. Delays were similar on 20th with the 13.40 returning 19 late and the 14.10 with 33815 17 minutes behind time. Many buses have taken an alternative route from Thorney leaving westbound via Bukehorn Road and then taking Crowland Road to reach Eye Green (the reverse for eastbound services) and thus avoid the roadworks area. 
33814 between the sites of the two accidents described below between Walsoken and Walton Highway. Seen on 1st April working the 11.40 Peterborough - Norwich.
On Saturday 23rd an accident near Walton Highway resulted in early afternoon delays. 33817 on the 14.05 Wisbech - Norwich came to a halt just before the incident, while 33807 heading west had to take the Wisbech bypass as far as Elme Hall and left the town 15 late at 14.30, while the 14.30 to Norwich (33818) also left via Churchill Road and the bypass. By coincidence another rta a few yards from this location near Princes lorry depot caused a similar situation the following Saturday at around 12.45 with resulting delays. 

Temporary closure of the A17 after a serious accident near Sutton Bridge and consequent diversions via Wisbech resulted in bad congestion on the afternoon of Friday 29th - worst affected were the 17.10 Peterborough - Norwich with 33810 which was 41 late into Wisbech and the 15.40 Norwich - Wisbech which had also run into problems, being seen at Terrington St. John 31 late with 33812.
33811 on the A47 bypass at Walpole Highway, unusually on a late finish turn (see below). Diagram 6005 runs from 06.40 until 22.00, here it is heading for Peterborough on the 10.10 from Norwich 1/4/19.
As the month came to an end, 33811 was still being kept on the early finish turns due to being the subject of tests monitoring axle wear since February 17th, this has meant it has been exempt from working the turns which overnight at Norwich.

01/03/2019

FEBRUARY 2019 REPORT

This week it was officially decided that new buses will be ordered for the XL route, targeted to enter service from September. The existing fleet of Enviro 400s have already gone a year beyond there original expected replacement date and in fact there were discussions as to whether they could remain on the route until 2021, however, new vehicles was the preferred option.
I am told the Enviro 400 body will be retained in the new build but Scania engines will be fitted if space constraints can be overcome. It is thought that the blue Excel livery will be discontinued and the new vehicles will revert to a white livery and be fitted with seat belts.

Can I really have been doing this blog for X years and never have posted a picture taken at Thorney Toll ? Well apparently yes, so to redress the balance here is 33816 on Sunday 17th February passing the outpost working the 10.10 Norwich to Peterborough.

Out on the road, the most notable event so far this year has been the reliability of 33806. In what is possibly a record for the fleet, this bus managed 46 continuous days in traffic between 2nd January and 16th February.  After a day off resting in Norwich on Sunday 17th, the bus returned to work on the 18th and has been out every day since. This remarkable statistic is all the more unusual in that buses requiring safety services are often off the road for an entire day and 33806 has managed to undergo these and still spend part of the days in question in traffic. The other factor which means this sort of thing is uncommon is that on Sundays there are only seven XL diagrams, so by the law of averages it is rare to get a bus in use for six consecutive Sundays, a feat which 33806 managed !



After all the excitement with Gemini substitutions in January, there were none whatsoever in February. MOTs have continued with 33805 and 33813 being dealt with.

33807 photographed by Zak Nelson before it misbehaved, here it is working through the frost at Easton on 31st January. 

Unscheduled stoppages have been scarce in February, though on the evening of 21st, 33807 was taken out of service smoking badly and after diagnosis it was decided that it needs a new engine. It was still at King's Lynn at the end of the month awaiting transfer to Norwich where the replacement engine will be fitted. This coincided with MOT preparation on 33813 meaning that normally a Norwich based Gemini would be called upon to act as a spare maintenance changeover bus, however, a backlog of maintenance at Norwich meant this was not possible, so it was fortunate that no breakdowns were recorded in this period. Other issues have involved 33811 (axle) and 33812 (gear selector).
In fact the only hiccup during the lack of spare buses was down to staffing issues when on Monday 25th, no driver was available to work the 07.30 King's Lynn - Peterborough and this and its return working as far as Lynn were cancelled. I had two texts from friends, one of whom was waiting at King's Lynn South Gates and the other at Walsoken Lynn Road for this bus, I'm sure they think I am personally responsible !! It is in fact an extremely rare occurrence and on average happens just once a year, but there you are.



Timekeeping has been good during February which of course in the last week included temperatures more akin to Summer than Winter ! Low points were on Tuesday 12th when the 09.10 Peterborough - Norwich with 33811 was 23 late into Wisbech - the delay was remedied by replacing it with 33807 at King's Lynn which departed on time. On the afternoon of Thursday 21st an incident on Guyhirn bank saw services diverted via Wisbech St. Mary commencing westbound with the 14.40 departure from Wisbech. Finally on 26th 33814 on the 08.00 King's Lynn - Peterborough ran via Terrington and Walpole instead of the A47 due to an obstruction. All in all another good month for the relaxed timetable !

Before I sign off, a word about my colleague and fellow XL watcher Bruce Billingham. He has had a spell of bad health recently, including some major maintenance at Addenbrookes Hospital, but is now thankfully on the mend. He assures me that 'normal' service will be resumed shortly, so drivers watch out ;)

Well wouldn't you know it, you wait almost eleven years for a picture at Thorney Toll and then two come along at once !  Well having seen 33816 earlier, it would have been rude not to take advantage of snapping 33817 heading east on Sunday 17th February. 


01/02/2019

JANUARY 2019 REPORT


Hello again. It's been a long time. I thought I'd do some monthly updates in 2019 as we approach the time when the current XL fleet of Enviro 400s near the end of their time on the route. Last year 33818 was reallocated to King's Lynn when the new timetable began last February and subsequently, following the loss of 33804 in the accident near Thorney Toll last June, 33819 has also joined the King's Lynn fleet as a replacement.

Gemini 36200 running spot on time despite foggy and icy conditions on January 31st as the 11.40 Peterborough - Norwich

2019 dawned with a shortage of vehicles as 33817 needed a replacement engine and 33807 had a car run into the back of it just before Christmas and was away at Full Circle for repairs. Norwich helped out by initially loaning Gemini 36180 (the usual replacement under these circumstances). 36180 returned to Norwich on 4th January with a problem and on Saturday 5th 36271 replaced it, working diagram 21 which starts and ends at Norwich. It was running a few minutes late when I saw it on the 16.15 Wisbech - Peterborough probably because of its speed limiter being set at 49mph. On Monday 7th January 36180 returned onto the route and 33817 left King's Lynn for its engine fault. 36180 remained on the XL until 15th, but on 16th 36199 appeared on diagram 21. Next day 36200 was out and this then worked until 21st. No sooner had it been returned following the repairs to 33817 which returned to traffic on 18th and 33807 on 22nd, then 33819 was grounded at Norwich on 24th with a fuel tank problem, so 36200 was back on XLs on 25th and was still deputising on 31st, before 33819 returned on 1st February.
MOTs have restarted and 33803 was off the road between 20th & 25th followed by 33814 from 27th to 30th. Next to be prepared for MOT is 33805.
Timekeeping has been exceptional since the revamped timetable last year and on the western section, almost everything has run to time except when traffic conditions have dictated otherwise.
Finally this time, a belated thanks to Matthew Holland who supplied me with pictures for use in the blog