Search This Blog


Tuesday 29th September 2009 ~ After The Lord Mayor's Show

If after yesterday's excellent Gemini availability, I had thought that this was to become a daily occurrence, I was mistaken. To start with when I wrote last night's effort, I was unaware - due to the shortcomings of mobile phones - that Bruce was trying to get in touch to say 34108 (or 'the big bus' as he affectionately calls it) was back in action on the X1. Michael Bryant had seen it working on the X2 earlier in the day, but it was then employed on the second part of L8 so that 37567 could have a scheduled service. L8 finishes at Yarmouth and so today 34108 came back out of Yarmouth on Y7 which is the turn which has an early finish at King's Lynn.

There was more Gemini X2 activity again today when Michael B says 37569 worked the 12.08 and 15.38 departures from Lowestoft to Norwich via Beccles. With 567 and 569 off the X1 route, something had to give and in addition to 20104 on L8 today we had 20103 working L11. So that's one more B10M than yesterday's recent all time low of one, however, in addition Yarmouth had to find a replacement for 60863 and this they did by using 20107 on Y13 following its holiday on service 1 yesterday. Bruce was pleased naturally !

While the use of Profile 20352 on K3 which is a Lynn internal car line was not surprising today, the use of 20353 on K4 which finishes at Yarmouth certainly was. The cascade process involving 20500/1, the Profiles and the B7 Geminis could be a protracted one it would seem. Both Paragons and Profiles will need repainting prior to changing routes and with 20351 already at Full Circle for this, it would be logical to assume that a B12 will only be released once 20351 arrives fit for duties. On the B7 Gemini front, John W reports that 37158 arrived at Lynn today and was in use on a Hunstanton/Schools turn. Another reliable source says 37160 also made its King's Lynn debut today and indeed had an outing on the 42 to Fairstead, but the 50mph speed limiter on this one is also still in force. Both 37158/160 were parked at Rowan Road this evening. 37159 made its way back to Volvo this morning - presumably for tachograph purposes and maximum speed revision.

37574 had a service at Lynn this morning and was then able to work K5, meaning it has now worked daily for 64 days. The mileage 574 has accumulated in this period is a staggering 23,800 miles. Another interesting comparison can be made between the highest mileage Gemini, 37564 which has now done 113k in 11 months and new Lynn arrival 37158 which since March 2007 (30 months) has done 126k !!


Monday September 28th 2009 ~ Normal or Not ?

It would be nice to say that the X1 returned to normal today, but what is normal ? In some ways today was far from that. The first westbound departure from the coast, Y6 05.50 from Yarmouth was worked by 37572 fresh from its Showbus outing and the following then went past going to Peterborough : 37565, 37567, 37573, 37575, 37574, 37566, 37578, 37563, 37577, 37569, 37576, 37564, 37570 (K19) and 37568 (K1). An amazing tally of fifteen consecutive B9 worked services. Pats on the back all round ! K2 was 20104 and this was the only B10M out today, we then completed the line up with 20353 on K3, 60863 on K4 and 20352 brought out of retirement for K5. Thanks very much to Bruce and Michael Bryant for today's info, I was attending a funeral this afternoon and therefore wasn't available to view things. Partly due no doubt to the improved Gemini situation, Michael B also viewed the Beast 20107 working the 10.40 service 1a from Lowestoft to Martham.


Sunday 27th September 2009 ~ Show That Bus

If you ever see this driver in charge of an X1, I strongly recommend you demand to see his PSV licence ! It actually made me realise, despite the cameras, how isolated the drivers are now from their passengers. Photo by Bruce.
Well here's our old friend 20507 in her new guise alongside the current face of the X1 in the shape of 37572.

A gorgeous day weatherwise for our visit to Showbus at Duxford. The X1 meanwhile behaved itself with a rare day of complete B9 domination. Bruce drove us to the event and a great day it was too, some more pictures can be found at :

The X1 representative was as expected Gemini 37572, but the decison to park it next to First Glasgow's 20507 was a dubious one. It just left several visitors flummoxed as to why they disposed of the Paragons from the X1 to start with. There were a plethora of vehicles on display, many of which exhibited the features sadly lacking on our batch of Geminis.


Saturday 26th September 2009 ~ Transition

The usual line up of B10Ms for schools work at Rowan Road this afternoon along with B7 20352 destined for greater things.
B7 Gemini 37159 is yet to appear on the X1. It is seen here leaving King's Lynn for Hunstanton this afternoon.

Gemini 37573 heads for Lowestoft just after 13.30 today on L12. 573 still carries the 'G Force' advert applied in July following a long period out of service at Volvo.

At one time many of the B10Ms carried rear adverts featuring maps of the then Excel network. With only the X1 and X2 having survived the cull a couple of years ago, it has taken until this week for X1 regular 20104 to lose its advert and 20105 as shown above is the last B10M to carry this.

37572, the Gemini apparently being exhibited at tomorrow's Showbus event at Duxford has had a strange week. On Thursday night it arrived at Yarmouth on K18 which terminates there at 19.20 but was switched to the 19.30 departure back to Peterborough (Y13) replacing 37567. Then today it began the day on K18 again, but was swapped this afternoon at Yarmouth for 37574. It is assumed this was to give the Yarmouth cleaners time to prepare it for tomorrow's event. King's Lynn were actually unaware until today that 37572 was to be exhibited and none too pleased either it would seem, particularly with 572 being a Lynn bus. There were no other swaps today though and it may well end up being the last day a B7 works on the X1 with 20353 once again doing K3. 37159 was earning its keep on Hunstanton services again, but still requires attention before it can do the X1. 37579 was stopped this evening for MOT prep, the last of the King's Lynn B9s to be dealt with. 20103/4/7 have now done X1 work solidly since Tuesday, today 103 - the noisy one - was on K16, 104 was Y10 and 107 K1. Lowestoft's 37565 & 37568 were unusually rostered on K19 and K17, both KL internal diagrams today.


Friday 25th September 2009 ~ Profiles On The Wane

The first of the B7 Profiles to leave King's Lynn for pastures new departed today. 20351 had some repairs done and then went off to Full Circle for a repaint into its new livery. 20352 kept 20121 company at Rowan Road all day while 20353 remained in traffic and did K3. 37159 is still the only replacement to have arrived, although another should be arriving tomorrow afternoon. It has been working on Hunstanton services as it still isn't tachograph fitted and has a top speed of 49mph !! B10Ms 20103/4/7 once again plied the X1 route on L10, K4 and Y7 respectively. 20109 still needs some work done on it but should be fit for traffic next week.
There were fifteen B9 Geminis out on the X1 today with just 37566 out of use at Lowestoft, plus long term casualty 37571 of course.
A fire in Peterborough just after lunch delayed K14 with 37570 and this came back 24 minutes late. Otherwise services ran well for a Friday.


Thursday 24th September 2009 ~ Going Spare

An almost unknown phenomenon has occurred over the past couple of days - that of 'spare' buses ! This morning, King's Lynn were for the second consecutive day, able to hold 20121 as emergency cover as well as B7 20352. At Lowestoft five B9s were resident for four diagrams. K1 this morning was 37566 but it then did an X2 turn commencing with the 12.08 ex Lowestoft, reported by Sam and Michael B, so it looks like 37565 (the spare one) did the second part of K1. It seems that the B7 Profiles will finish their X1 duties on internal King's Lynn turns and today 351 was K3 and 353 K5.
Three new advertising campaigns began this week and are featured on several B9s. A second T Mobile ad and two variations of ads for Reed employment agency are joined by one for 'Squares'.
Marcus says that following Tuesday mornings chaos, the Peterborough road closure was postponed and other options are being looked at. Today timekeeping was exceptionally good. B10Ms on the service were 20103 on K16, 20104 on Y7 and 20107 on K4. 37577 had its MOT completed today.


Wednesday 23rd September 2009 ~ Hunky Dorey

Just to prove that not all X1 drivers are shy, Stuart Montgomery sent this photo of one of our regular chauffeurs in charge of 37569. If you've not already done so, check out Stuart's Flickr site at

Normal service resumed today after many months. With 15 Geminis and the three Profiles all available, this in theory left one turn uncovered. Despite this, the old order refused to die and three B10Ms were also in use. 20103 did L10 again, 20104 was out on K4 and 20107 replaced 37565 on Y9 at Lowestoft this afternoon. I hadn't realised that 20104 was at Lynn as it had replaced 107 on L12 yesterday. The upshot of this was that 20352 was spare at Lynn today.

With a little bit of juggling, tomorrow has the potential to be even better from an operating point of view. If 37565 is fit for service, a swap at Yarmouth with 20104 could see just a single B10M required, but as 20103/7 are at Lynn this is unlikely and both will probably work.

The Peterborough roadworks situation was much better today and Y6 arrived at Wisbech on time at 10.21 heading for the coast.

New arrival 37159 is yet to receive a tachograph, hence its absence from the X1. 37158 & 37160 make up the balance of the Lynn allocation and could be here by the weekend. The three Profiles are supposed to leave King's Lynn next week after just a year on the route. 37577 is due for MOT tomorrow and next week 37579 will follow suit completing the MOTs on the Lynn batch. B10M 20109 is now being worked on and workload permitting should be available for traffic by the weekend.

The blog extends its best wishes to Bruce who was grounded with a stomach bug. Hurry up and return to your vantage point Bruce ! Because of Bruce's absence, L11 was not seen today, however, 37575 was in the frame.

The record breaking 37574 notched up 59 continuous days in traffic today, which is remarkable for anything, let alone a B9 ! Richard was quite bemused when I informed him of the fact this evening.


Tuesday 22nd September 2009 ~ Roadworks Riot

Today the situation with the Peterborough roadworks bit hard. Whereas yesterday, 24 minutes was the maximum delay suffered by an X1, today was much worse. Delays started early with K2 07.30 from Peterborough being 9 late at Walpole Highway with 37573, following services were then late as follows (thanks to Bruce for the observations)

K3 08.00 ex P'bo : 20352 22 late
K4 08.30 ex P'bo : 37576 51 late
K5 09.00 ex P'bo : 37575 46 late
Y6 09.30 ex P'bo : 37569 not seen
Y7 10.00 ex P'bo : 37565 23 late on A47 bypass
L8 10.30 ex P'bo : 37572 40 late

Well Bruce's toast got well and truly cold while he waited for that lot. Rob Brooks tipped us off about Y7 taking the Churchill Road and A47 out of Wisbech as Beverley was on board. The severity of the delays was added to by a three vehicle pile up near the Eye Green roundabout.
This all had a knock on effect to later services and to relieve the pressure, Lynn sent out 20353 as K4 10.02 to Lowestoft. 37576 off the original K4 then worked K5 from Lowestoft and the stepping up continued with 37575 switching from K5 to Y6 etc.
As can be seen 576 was back on the road today and 37577 is now stopped for MOT. 37570 also returned to service today with replacement injectors, meaning a massive 15 B9s were available today. B10M appearances were down to a mere two with 20103 on K16 and 20107 on L12.

Sunday Operations - Observers Required !

One of my Yarmouth correspondents got back to me about my claim made in Sunday's blog vis : "The 06.35 King's Lynn to Lowestoft goes empty to Yarmouth on arrival and Lowestoft then provide a replacement to work the 09.48 to Peterborough."

"Not quite so" says our man. "Yarmouth provide the first 3 from the East. Lowestoft provides the 09.48 ex Lowestoft and the line above is returned into the system at 10.48 by the driver that takes it to Lowestoft. The system of arrival at Lowestoft, departure an hour and a bit later happens most of the day, the exception being the 14.30 into Lowestoft is run light to Yarmouth depot and Lowestoft provide a vehicle and driver for the 13.48 departure. The said Lowestoft driver returns to Lowestoft at 21.30 and leaves that vehicle for the 21.48 departure to Lynn"

Now this is very odd, because although I have no doubt that the above is what happens to the drivers, the vehicles clearly have a mind of their own and don't layover as suggested. I reckon that the vehicle taken light to Yarmouth at 14.30 is that off the 06.35 ex King's Lynn. Certainly the 10.48 from Lowestoft is worked by the bus which arrives at 10.30 and so forth. similarly the 14.30 arrival at Lowestoft works the 14.48. I'm off to Showbus this coming weekend, but if anyone is not going and can provide vehicle observations this Sunday, it would be much appreciated. Thanks to our man at Yarmouth for outlining the diagrams here.


Monday 21st September 2009 ~ Bruce Bypassed

The half hourly service through Walpole Highway monitored ever vigilantly by Bruce, fell apart this morning. First absentee was K5 09.05 from Peterborough which passed my workplace just outside Wisbech 3 late, but then went direct to Lynn as the previous service, K4 with 37565, was running 25 late and presumably picked up all the awaiting passengers in these rural parts. The road closure at Eye is assumed to be the cause of K4s late running. 565 made up time well and was only 2 late this evening incidentally.

Y9 06.45 from James Paget Hospital, due off Lynn precisely three hours later also failed to appear and it looks like 37575 took a short cut as it was only ten late when seen by Bruce on the return. The fun continued with L10 passing the Highway with 20121 a mere 8 late. Now 121 is hardly a regular these days and Andy James reports it working its usual Hunstanton schools contract this morning before being pressed into frontline duty. Bruce joined Andy at Lynn bus station to see 121 returning from Peterborough at 12.54 where it was replaced by 20352, the coach which had earlier come in from Lowestoft on this turn and which was now deemed fit to continue.
37577 was off the road at Lynn today which doesn't bode well as it was only serviced last week after its long lay off. 37570 also remained at Lynn awaiting parts.
Michael F had a trip out today and says "I travelled on K15 09.25 Lowestoft X1 this morning to Norwich 37573... and passed the following travelling eastwards 20107(The Beast!) on K16/ 37574 K17/ 37569 K18 / 37579 K19/ Triaxle 30104 working the 10:10 Norwich to Yarmouth / 37564 K1/ 20351 K2/ 20353 K3 and later saw 37565 & 20106 all heading for Lowestoft.Travelling back to Lowestoft on the 12:38 X2 34111 I passed 20104 working the 12:08 Lowestoft to Norwich X2 service". Reports like this are much appreciated, particularly from the eastern end which sometimes gets a little neglected in the blog. Only B10M out today not mentioned thus far was 20103 which performed on Y13.

Sunday 20th September 2009 ~ Did Somebody Know ?

With toned down wheel hubs, Lowestoft's 37564 was as befits the most reliable B9, in service this afternoon.
Until the last timetable change, Yarmouth and King's Lynn garages were entirely responsible for providing the vehicles for the Sunday X1. Since then though, Lowestoft has had a single turn. The 06.35 King's Lynn to Lowestoft goes empty to Yarmouth on arrival and Lowestoft then provide a replacement to work the 09.48 to Peterborough. With 37574 looking for an opportunity to extend its record of 55 continuous days service and with it ending up at Lowestoft last night, the 09.48 was the turn to watch, but unfortunately this ended up with 37573. The chance then seemed to have gone, but as luck would have it, 37578 on the 17.10 from Peterborough which is in to Lowestoft at 21.30 was unable to return to King's Lynn on the final westbound service from the coast at 21.48. Almost as if someone was in the know, none other than 37574 was produced to work this last turn of the day, so 56 days it is now and the record continues.
There were two coaches out today, both Profiles with 20352 on Y4 07.30 ex Yarmouth etc and 20353 with Y5 08.30 from the resort. Following Sam's revelation that Lowestoft's 37564 has lost its wheel adornments, tonight 37569 and 20107 were both similarly noted in King's Lynn garage.


Saturday 19th September 2009 ~ No More Cider Anymore !

This rather colourful advert depicting Norfolk town signs can be seen on the back of 37572/8.
37572 passed the 100k milestone yesterday. It is the only B9 without advertising and this on only one side. It is seen at Tilney on K3 12.55 from Lowestoft this afternoon.

The past and possibly the future ? 20123, 20131 and 37159 at Rowan Road this afternoon.
Doesn't have the same ring as 'No More Heroes' does it ? Anyway 34108 made a surprise outing on Y6 this morning, the 05.50 from Yarmouth. However, similarly to 20107 on this turn yesterday morning, it came off at King's Lynn due to an unspecified defect. This time 20106 was provided to do the trip to Peterborough and back. 34108 then resumed the turn at 11.02. Michael B rang this afternoon to say he'd viewed 34108 leaving Norwich on the 15.55 to Peterborough, but it had him fooled for a moment as it has had the overall rear ad for Thatchers Cider removed. Strange, because I'm pretty certain it was in situ on Thursday.
The timetable was adhered to quite well today, but K17 13.45 Lynn to Peterborough with 37564 was 20 late going west, but just 7 late returning.
Today's vehicles on X1 through Lynn were : 37563-569, 37572-75, 37577-79, 34108, 20103/6/7 & 20351/2/3. 563 did K14 to Lowestoft but was swapped there for 37574.
37577 retains adverts for Harry Potter and Cadburys Twisted after its long stay at Volvo.

Friday 18th September 2009 ~ There Goes That Bus Again

37570 seemed OK yesterday when photographed on K15 12.45 Lynn to Peterborough, but today it lost all its injectors.
20107 and genial chauffeur at Wisbech tonight before departure to Lowestoft at 20.00. Photo by Rob Brooks

Just after 08.30 this morning, I pulled the car over on the way to work to have a chat with Bruce about recent events. I told him 37577 was also due back today and that the chances of Scania 65528 appearing on K3 for a fifth consecutive day had receded as a result. At this point 37567 toddled by on K2 07.30 from Peterborough dead on time, but 5 minutes later the conversation was interrupted as Bruce said "So no Scanias today then ?" just as 65528 went past on Y6 05.50 from Yarmouth ! As it happened neither 37567 or 65528 finished their respective turns. 65528 had been a substitute at Lynn for 20107, but this was given the OK to resume the turn at 11.02 to Lowestoft. 567 meanwhile was taken off K2 this afternoon and changed for 37573. As predicted, 37577 was back and worked K5 after a service.
This evening 20106 was on Y7 and 37565 on L8, which was the opposite to what was expected. This may have been pre-arranged in order to get 106 back to Lynn.
After a pretty good day for punctuality, westbound services suffered delays late tonight. 37564 was 13 late on the 20.50 King's Lynn to Peterborough and 37575 on the 21.50 was around 50 late. Rob H says "At 22:25 followed 575 in from Middleton to Hardwick. I got petrol at Tesco, went back up to use flyover at approx 22:35 and found 572 also heading westbound. Any explanation, or just FST?". Incidentally 37572 on K15 was on time, so the cause of the delays had obviously cleared.
Marcus contacted me today and says "For your information there will be a road closure in Peterborough from Monday 21 September for approximately 5 weeks.
This will be Peterborough Road, between Eye village and the 'Somerfield' roundabout. X1 will be diverted via the northern route along A47, which is already affected by the A1073 works". Time will tell if timekeeping is adversely affected.
The good news on the Gemini front suffered a setback today with a Volvo engineer visiting King's Lynn and diagnosing 37570 with all six injectors broken. Such is the shortage of parts, they are being sourced from as far afield as Belgium and even China, I am told.
Michael Bryant reports that 37564 was not the only Gemini out on the X2 yesterday, 37568 also worked on the 12.38 Norwich - Lowestoft having earlier done the first part of K14. This meant the replacement vehicle on X1 must have been 20103 and it was this which failed to appear west of Lynn. It has had a number of recurring faults of late. Today it appeared on the second part of K16 after 34108 had worked the first leg, the 05.37 King's Lynn to Lowestoft.


Thursday 17th September 2009 ~ Geminis Revived

First sign of anything unusual today came early on with Bruce sighting the return to traffic of 37579 working K19. Then this evening 37577 was back at King's Lynn undergoing safety checks, so its return to service must be imminent which will just leave 37571/6 off the road. 20115 was also noted in Norwich by Sam, so its MOT has been completed. Meanwhile news has surfaced of yesterday's L10 mystery. 20351 was indeed as we suspected the vehicle on this turn, but it expired at Guyhirn at about 11.15 with a fuel fault and eventually had to be towed back to Lynn for repairs. 65526 then did the 12.03 to Lowestoft in its place. L10 has actually had a B7 every day so far this week, but what is very odd is that on Monday with 20352 and yesterday with 351, the 10.15 Lynn to Peterborough did not pass Bruce's observatory at Walpole Highway, so may be late running meant the A47 bypass was used ? In the opposite direction, K16 has also become a B7 turn this week.
New arrival 37159 was in disgrace today with a failed brake sensor. Close inspection of the bodywork on this bus reveals it has had a hard life so far with various scrapes and bumps despite only having clocked 116,340 miles. Whilst on mileages, 37572 should become the first Lynn B9 to pass the 100k mark tomorrow afternoon. Gemini 37574 continues to make a name for itself and enjoyed a 53rd consecutive day in traffic and during this period it has amassed over 19,000 miles !!
Once again today K3 was 65528, noted on time both morning and pm and reported by Peter R and Jamie R amongst others. Surely tomorrow it will return to its local work ? 20106 was a minute early on K2 this morning, seen by Rob B and myself and 20104 which did K4 16.45 Lynn to Peterborough was 10 late going over, but 1 early returning. Beast 107 did K18 and because 37564 needed a service, 34108 deputised on L12. 37568 is also due a service and although it started out on K14, this turn failed to materialise at Wisbech for the 12.48 to Peterborough. Whether this was due to a driver shortage or a failure is not known. 37570 did the following turn, K15 and was heavily loaded and ran 14 minutes late to Peterborough.
Sam says "To make a bad day worse, I had to come home on 37564! This worked the 6:38 X2 from Lowestoft this morning and the 16:38 from Norwich. I think it had been serviced during the day as all seatbelts were bucked, looks off now as they haven't bothered to put the front wheelnut rings back on it...6:53 from Lowestoft failed; something about no fitters on duty; must be this new management from Yarmouth thing! Someone sent 34158 to work from Loddon onwards!34186 left for JPH with X9 on the front; 20115 had rocked up to probably going on a short?". for more musings by Sam on the X2 and associated services, check out his blog at :

The vehicle situation should improve dramatically tomorrow with Lynn having 20351, 37577 and 37578 all back in traffic.


Wednesday 16th September 2009 ~ Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

This was Bruce's idea for a headline. "I can't use that" I said, "We've used it before". Incredibly, though, it transpires we haven't ! Things were desperate today though. There were sufficient vehicles as long as everything behaved, but to start with 37159 was not allowed out on the X1 and instead Andy reports it doing Hunstanton duties and the Gaywood Park to East Winch schools contract. This meant that yet again Scania 65528 was the bail out vehicle and as in previous days it did K3. It was a couple of minutes late this morning and 16 late tonight. Fortunately this turn is not involved in the rush hour in Norwich or Yarmouth, so overcrowding is unlikely. The day passed fairly sedately with most services on time, 20103 was 12 late going to Peterborough on K4 this morning, but smart work by the driver saw it cut the loss to just 3 minutes on its return, thanks to Bruce for the info.
What happened to L10 this morning is as yet unknown, but the 10.15 Lynn to Peterborough and return didn't run. Elimination points to 20351 as being the expected vehicle, but tonight the continuation of the turn, the 19.50 Lynn to Peterborough was Scania 65526 which got a rare outing on the X1, in fact, only its second such foray this year. So that's two Scanias and also out along with 20103 were 20104 on Y7, 20106 on L12 confirmed as still on the diagram this evening by Rob B plus the return of 'The Beast', 20107 on L11. 103 which has had a few starting problems of late was replaced at Lowestoft by Gemini 37569.
Sam says "Both Yarmouth coaches were out on short runs today. 20127 left Norwich for the JPH at 17:10 while 20126 was ready to do the 17:40 to Gorleston".


Tuesday 15th September 2009 ~ Blimey That Was Quick !

Bearing in mind - and I'm trying desperately not to sound cynical here - the speed at which changes of policy at 'First' take to actually happen as a rule, it came as a big surprise to find that Norwich Volvo B7TL Wright Eclipse Gemini AU07DXW, alias 37159 has arrived at King's Lynn. It was collected from Norwich Volvo this evening and one therefore assumes that certain modifications may have been carried out. If it does actually work an X1 tomorrow, it is likely to knock out Scania 65528 which was deputising for the third consecutive day on K3. We may be jumping the gun here though, so let's not get too enthusiastic. The B9 VOR list at the moment is 37571, back home in Northern Ireland/collision repairs, 37576/7 both Volvo, Norwich awaiting parts, 37578 King's Lynn MOT and 37579 requiring four replacement injectors and pending transfer from King's Lynn to Volvo.
Sam says "The BEAST (20107) worked the 17:38 X2 to Beccles from Norwich and also noted was 65528 on K3 at 11:20 leaving Norwich". Rob Brooks adds "I'm on 37565 Y13 1218 Wisbech - Peterboro arr 1215 dep 1218 ; also seen 37567 at Thorney Toll on L11 1237 to Lowestoft and 37569 K14 13.35 Pb - Low with an Un/id B7 for K16 1435 Pb - Low. A little shunt at Thorney Toll with a lorry, van and car held us up for 10mins or so. New timetables set out at Wisbech, seems they've missed the X1 out!".
Jamie Vendy writes " From Terry on Essex gen : The operation of X22 will be extended to Clacton in November, and no longer run from Colchester. A batch of Volvo coaches are coming for this service, & the existing stock is to be returned to FEC". So little doubt then that the B7 Profiles are indeed to move on following a distinctly undistinguished career on the X1.
A little milestone for Gemini 37567 today as it passed the 100,000 miles mark. As things stand, none of the Lynn based examples have yet reached the 100k, but 37575 looks likely to be first this coming weekend.
Traffic was exceptionally light today and the timetable was therefore pretty much adhered to. Biggest delay I saw followed the shunt described above by Rob which meant 565 was 5 late arriving at Wisbech for the 13.56 to Lowestoft. Andy James witnessed the worst offender timewise today, this being 20106 on K2 which was 21 late from Lynn on the 15.45 to Peterborough and was ironically followed by 65528 on the 16.15 departure running to time.
More B10M workings today were the noisy 20103 on Y7 and 20104 on K4. Finally returning briefly to last night and 104 was poorly for the 20.50 to Peterborough and Rob reports 20106 being used instead.


Monday 14th September 2009 ~ A Masterpiece Of Timing

Today, for once, the X1 timetable seemed to actually work out as forecast. The first turn from Yarmouth (Y6) was the exception, being 13 late with 37568 and 37570 was 7 late on the 12.45 Lynn - Peterborough (K15), but these were the heaviest delays noted. There are just about enough vehicles to cover at present and this morning this required all the allocated buses at King's Lynn to be available. In the event this didn't happen and 37578 was kept in (possibly for servicing) meaning that K3 had 65528 as on Friday. It worked all day and was spot on time departing Wisbech on the 16.48 to Peterborough.
B10Ms in action were 20103 on K4, 20104 on L12 and 20106 on K5.

I promised last week to air your views on my mini rant about the B9s. Here are some of your comments.

Rob Brooks says "You said you'd like to hear our thoughts, so here's mine: Parks Of Hamilton & Tratherns Services (although the same company in essence) both used double deck Neoplan Skyliners on National Express duties from Scotland (Parks) and the deepest darkest south west (Tratherns) recently, until NatEx decided they didnt want double deck coaches on their approved list, so Parks & Tratherns got rid of them, and replaced them with tri-axle 14m B12B(T) Plaxton Panthers. Thinking about it they went at roughly the same time the B9s came on.... It would be great if the same could happen with the X1, I think these coaches seat 65, but knowing what FEC are like they could squeeze them up a bit and get 70"

Bruce adds "Really gonna exercise my thoughts following the invitation in the blog. Will keep the expletives out but this on a morning when so far I have seen 20105,20118,34108 and 37570 and its only 09.30!!!!!!"

Jim Long writes : " Hi Gerard and all. Yes I think you may be right about the choice of bus being used on the X1, but! may I just point out that the B9 is a 9.4litre turbo diesel designed by Renault,and the Volvo is only a 9.6litre turbo,but,designed by Volvo. As I have said to numerous people,why did they drop such a successful engine as the TD100 series ? It beats me, probably unable to get the emissions right, but, one would have thought a few electronic mods coupled to the fuel system, may?? have cured this, but I'm sure they would have looked at that,wouldn't they???
As for coaches,why go back to being overcrowded, unless we get say 25-30 of those I'm sure the route will pay in the long run for them,but, please bare in mind the Volvo coach on offer is now a B9R which is the same engine as the Decker and you have already condemned that as unsuitable, so what's left ? Why not try the Scania Omnidecker or even the latest versions of the Enviro400. Those two may just have the edge over the Gemini engine,but,what ever way we look at this,can you see Fec getting another batch of new buses for this service ? I can't, maybe after 5 years. Mind you, if it were to become Greyhound sponsored route Caetano Levante's may be the answer,and this then would be a flagship in this area.... Regards to all, Jim".

Thanks to those of you who wrote in and if anyone wishes to comment further, please get in touch.


Sunday 13th September 2009 ~ Showbus Countdown

Andrew informs me that Gemini 37572 is scheduled to represent the Eastern B9s at Showbus in a fortnights time. I'm surprised that they are confident enough to predict which bus will be available. 572 may have been chosen because it doesn't carry adverts on one side and shows the route destinations instead.
37574 completed 49 consecutive days in service today, but this is the exception rather than the rule. 20103/4 both worked Monday to Saturday inclusive this week. Profile 20352 was out today as was one other, the remainder of the turns were B9 operated.


Saturday 12th September 2009 ~ A Social Event

20351 on L12 11.15 Lynn - Peterborough overtakes the East Anglian Bus Forum tour this morning
The public queue up to value a rarity ! 37573 on K5 10.32 Lynn to Lowestoft this morning.

Sam Wickham captured 20106 departing from Dereham this afternoon on L9.
Today the 'Anglia Bus Forum' had a day out visiting Norfolk Green and Konectbus, so Bruce and myself took the opportunity to meet up with various contributors to the blog at King's Lynn bus station around 10.30. Sam, Jamie V and Andy joined us for a chinwag and Suzie Scott presided over things. Around 20 bus enthusiasts left on a Norfolk Green 'Coasthopper' Solo at 11.15 having had time to get photographs of the various arrivals and departures.

37579 remained at King's Lynn garage today and it now requires injectors replacing, something which are in short supply at the moment and the reason for the delay in returning 37576/7 to service. 37573 DID return today though and was on K5. It retains the 'G Force' ad having not worked for about a month.
34108 was a bit of a surprise this morning, Bob saw it going west on his way to King's Lynn and it did L8, however, it was knocked out at Lowestoft by 37566 which came back tonight and indeed had been expected this morning. 20104 was K4 today and 20103 was on Y7, although it required fitters attention at Lynn before working the 11.32 to Lowestoft. One other B10M out was 20106 on L9. The return of 37573 meant 65528 was able to return to town work.

Friday 11th September 2009 ~ Flagship Scania

Looking very smart after a repaint, Scania 65528 heads for Peterborough on the 12.55 from Lowestoft today. It was running 8 minutes late which is good for a Friday.

Scania/Wright 65528 which has been off the road for many months at last returned to service today having had an MOT yesterday. Instead of returning to its town work at Lynn though, it was called upon to work K3 06.45 King's Lynn to Peterborough and it worked this turn all day until it ran out of fuel at Peterborough at 18.00 ! The reason for its appearance was that 37579 was stopped with an oil problem and a technician from Volvo travelled to Lynn today to carry out repairs. This meant the Gemini tally was once again down to 12. With all three B7 Profiles and 65528 in action, the B10M quotient was reduced today with only 20103 on K4, 20104 on L10 and 20106 on K2. Yarmouth's 20126 returned to traffic on Wednesday but has yet to come west on an X1.


Thursday 10th September 2009 ~ Rumours Rumours Everywhere

2007 registered B7 Gemini 37158 at Norwich Thorpe station this morning. Could these be added to the X1 fleet before long ?
It would seem that the planned impending changes to the X1 vehicle allocation are now common knowledge. Two drivers told me independently today confirming what I'd heard at the end of last week. The B7 Profiles are apparently to go to Essex and in return B12 Paragons 20500/1 are supposed to be returning. Very odd considering that they have been repainted and branded for the Colchester to Stansted Airport service only six months back. The B7 Geminis at Norwich in the 37156-60 series are to make up the shortfall, although these will need repainting and other attention if they are to join the X1 fleet. The influx of Tridents at Norwich will presumably cover the deficit here.

I was away today, so once again Bruce has provided the blog details : K1 37566, K2 37572, K3 20351, K4 20353, K5 37579, Y6 37574, Y7 20103, L8 37563, Y9 37564, L10 37567, L11 20352, L12 20106, Y13 37565, K14 37568, K15 37570, K16 20104, K17 37575, K18 37569 and
K19 37578.

The number of substitutes was down today as 37578 was back bringing the Gemini total to 13.

Wednesday 9th September 2009 ~ A Scania returns

Because of the failure of 37578 at Swaffham last night, K3 was Scania 65540 today. 578 cut out and a faulty starter motor was the cause. Today Volvo technicians attended 578 to get it fit for service tomorrow.
20106 was Y7 this morning but 37569 took over at Lowestoft this afternoon. All other turns seemed to stick with their allocated vehicles. 20103 was K4, 20104 L12 and 20107 K16. School buses today were 20105/118/121. Thanks to Bruce for today's sightings as I was out of the area.


Tuesday 8th September 2009 ~ Feedback

Thanks very much to all those of you who responded to my recent assessment of the current state of the X1. I will put together your comments and produce an extra blog item. Anyone else who wishes to have some input, please email me before Saturday. Any First employess who wish to contribute, please be assured that your anonymity is guaranteed.
Sam says he's heard the complete opposite of the B10Ms being replaced which goes to show you never know. I heard only this week that a decision to repaint a couple was only recently shelved.
The weather was very hot today considering it is now September and may have been a contributary factor with a couple of failures.
Mike from Lowestoft was in touch today and says : "On my travels today from Lowestoft to Norwich on the 12.55 departure (forgot to note the number!), - it was 37575 Mike - I passed 20351/37578/37568/20??? (passing too fast along the Acle straight to get the number) - that was the flying 20103 - , 37566/37570/37564 and later saw 37579 in Norwich all heading for Lowestoft. 20351 worked back from Lowestoft but on arrival at 3:30 in Norwich Bus Station it was displaying "Sorry Not In Service" and after unloading its passengers went to one of the parking bays where it was still receiving attention from a fitter in the engine compartment when I departed on the 15:38 X2 service back to Lowestoft. The next arrival on the X1 into Norwich from Lowestoft which I passed on the way out of the city was 37578 which looked pretty full. 37565 has been working on the X2 service today and I saw it doing two round trips this afternoon ".
Thanks very much for that Mike and a postscript to this, 20351 did get back to King's Lynn on K4 but was taken off at 19.27 sounding very unhealthy having arrived late and 'school bus' 20106 did the 19.35 to Lowestoft. This turn goes empty to Yarmouth, so expect 106 to work out on one of the 'Y' turns tomorrow morning. 37578 which you mention as being well patronised was on K5 and is believed to have expired at Swaffham at teatime, certainly an X1 failed here and fitters were summoned. There was no sign of 578 at Lynn by 20.30. More news on this when we get it.
B10Ms filling in today were, as reported above, 20103 on Y7, 20107 on L12, 20104 on K2 and 20105 on K15. The latter was very surprising as K15, like K19 is a solid B9 turn normally. 37566 was sent out by Lowestoft on L8 today, while as Mike reports 565 was on the X2. Sam and Michael Bryant also reported this and it was on the old K19 turn, presumably after servicing. Whilst on the subject of the X2 Michael reports the use of Darts on the service for a couple of days now and Sam adds : "43437 failed on the 16:08 leaving 34109 to work the 16:38 full, then Trident 32863 turned up showing Lowestoft X2 but didn't see it leave in service". On EABG Syd says "60307 and 60309 have been delicensed, they have signs saying 'Do not remove parts' and are officially 'In Store' The operators discs have been removed. 60306 is still in use however and Volvo Olympian 34155 has been transferred to Gt Yarmouth".
Michael Bryant adds that 34157 is now back in service after a four month lay off and 34158 has had its rear repainted and lost the 'Thatchers Cider' all-over ad.
Back to the X1 and a number of Geminis have appeared with an advert for Fifa World Cup Tickets today and 37563/568/570 have been noted so far. The three Hunstanton schools contracts allocated B10Ms had 20106/118/121 today, but with 106 having been purloined to do K4 tonight, it remains to be seen what will get used in its place tomorrow - most likely candidate is 20105, but a lot depends on whether 37578 is fit for service. If it is not don't discount the possible appearance of a Scania on either K3 or K5 as none of the three B9s at Volvo have returned as yet.


Monday 7th September 2009 ~ B10M Swansong ?

37567 was standing in for a Lynn Gemini today and is seen arriving at Wisbech for the 17.48 departure to Peterborough.
An everyday scene with 20104 loading at Queensgate on L11, the 12.15 to Lowestoft today, but for how much longer ? Photo by Rob B.

20353 running anonymously these days without front fleet number photographed near Queensgate on L10 this morning by Rob Brooks.

Can't say any more yet because I'm sworn to secrecy, but it is looking increasingly likely that the remaining B10Ms will be replaced before too long, so get your photos while you can. Not a surprise really as the contrast between the coaches and the Geminis is quite stark. Today again a dozen B9s were available, but 37566 was kept at Lowestoft and 20104 used instead on L11. L12 had 20105 and K4 20103, while 20107 was on K16 and behaved well enough to be used on the return trip to Peterborough. 20351 was K3 and 20352 Y13 - running 11 late on the last one to P'borough tonight. 20353 was L10.
There was a timekeeping issue early on with 20103 on K4 being 16 late into Wisbech to work the 09.26 to Lowestoft, it was however on time this evening. The previous service, K3 had been 10 late goimg east. On the B9 front, 37569 stood in for a Lynn example on K19 as did 37567 on K5.


Sunday 6th September 2009 ~ Juvenile Delinquents

The X1 was Gemini operated today with one exception, this being 34108 which did the turn which begins at Yarmouth and conveniently finishes at Lowestoft. Tonight as it entered Wisbech it was stoned by three lads, but without damage. Fortunately a motorist following 34108 into Wisbech spotted them and dispersed them (me !).
37563/4/5/8/72/4/5/8/9 were the B9s used today.

Saturday 5th September 2009 ~ Light At The End Of The Tunnel ?

Today there was a glimmer of hope for the operators of the X1 when 13 Geminis were in traffic plus the three Profiles. This just left 34108 on K1, 20103 on Y7 and 20107 on Y9. 107 was in trouble with slipping gears at Toftwood this morning and fitters had to attend. It was roadtested as far as Lynn but performed without fault and was allowed to complete the turn. 20106 began the day on K2 and was replaced about 09.00 at Lynn by 37579.
Lowestoft kept 20105, so the schools buses for next week will be 20106/18/21 as things stand. Timekeeping was OK today but 37572 on K5 slipped down the Wisbech bypass on the 17.15 Lynn - Peterborough to regain lost time. K19 had a Lowestoft B9 for the second consecutive day, yesterday it was 566 and today 567. In addition today 37564 was K17.


Friday 4th September 2009 ~ Changing Times

Grahame reports that the latest fleet list shows 20123/131 as withdrawn, rather than unfit for service. Word is that 20123 is to be looked at next week and if its engine can be made good it will be repaired and returned to traffic as the bodywork is good. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of 20131 which needs a lot of welding and if the engine in 20123 turns out to be dud, then the engine from 131 will be used if compatible. This means it really is the end of the road for dear old 131 which owes First nothing. For the record its last X1 use was on July 15th and its last working of all two days later on Hunstanton schools. Schools contracts resume next week which will deprive the X1 of three B10Ms and the vehicles in the frame are 20105/118/121. 105 is still in use on the X1 and did Y6 all day today sending it through to Lowestoft tonight. The plan is to replace it in the morning with Gemini 37579 off a safety service. 118 was taken off X1 duty this morning - it had done K3 to Peterborough and back - and was replaced by 20352.
Volvo engineers attended to 37572 at King's Lynn today and it should be back functioning tomorrow. A shortage of parts means 37573/6/7 remain at Volvo and it is hoped that at least one will be back on the road by midweek. 37565 returned today on L8 and 37564 which had a day off yesterday came out on Y13 today meaning 20107/127 could be rested until they are next needed.
I don't think the B7s will be around for much longer - the ramp on 20351 which was repaired recently has now failed again and as these take almost 20 minutes to function, they are hardly suitable for a service with a 30 minute frequency. Having said that all three were once again in action today. Royale 34108 did Y7 today and a reduced number of B10Ms were in evidence : 20103 on K4, 20105 on Y6, 20106 on L10 this morning and L11 tonight and 20118 as described earlier. Punctuality suffered as usual on a Friday with afternoon services running up to 20 minutes behind time.

Thursday 3rd September 2009 ~ The Wrong Choice

I am told that the Volvo B9/Wright Gemini is the standard double decker in the 'First' fleet. I'm sure many of you can tell me exactly how many the company own, certainly hundreds. The whole point is though that they are normally employed, typically, on cross-city work or urban short hauls such as Leeds to Bradford. The X1 Lowestoft to Peterborough route is probably the most intensively diagrammed bus worked long distance route in the UK. I'd certainly be interested to hear of any other examples of longer distance routes which demand such prolonged activity of vehicles. Bruce has cited the Oxford to Cambridge link which, although shorter, seems to work very well with a fleet of coaches.

What all this is leading up to is I'm afraid, a pronouncement (albeit by me !) that the Geminis are not doing well and that considering we are less than a year into their careers on the X1, I think that only the most optimistic of 'First' managers would have sanctioned their use with what we know now. Yes hindsight is a wonderful thing as we so often hear said, but last October's glittering launch now seems like many moons ago and may be it is time for those in a position of authority to admit that this 'experiment' has been a failure. Although this is very unlikely to happen, the crux of the matter is that a decision then has to be made about where the route goes next. The preferred option of many is a new fleet of suitably equipped coaches, but this would not solve the overcrowding problem which is a feature of the eastern end of the route. Low floor they may not be, but the use of the Alexander Royale 34108 has been popular with enthusiasts and public alike, the comfortable seats are much better than the Geminis and the 10 litre engine means there is no shortage of acceleration. The other obvious change that could be made is to provide a separate express service hourly but just calling at the major towns and leaving an hourly stopping service to cover the other settlements. Many years ago, the services prefixed with an X were exactly that 'Express'. What would the operators of those days made of a supposedly express service serving a community like Toftwood, accessed by narrow roads totally unsuitable for large vehicles and a location already adequately served by an independent operator ? Do let me know your thoughts on this minor rant and I will publish your responses.

Today it looked as though the Gemini count was going to dip below 50% availability at one stage, but repairs were completed on 37570 in time for it to be used on K17. Here is a status report for the B9s today ;

37563 K1

37564 - expected to work L10 but 20103 substituted, so may be it is next for MOT ?

37565 - last reported on MOT at Yarmouth but expected Ok about now

37566 Y7

37567 L8

37568 Y9

37569 L11

37570 K17 (see above)

37571 - long term accident repairs

37572 - King's Lynn garage pending movement to Volvo at Norwich for Injector replacement

37573 - Norwich Volvo Injector repair

37574 K15

37575 Y13

37576 - Norwich Volvo Oil fumes

37577 - Norwich Volvo Injector fault

37578 L12

37579 K19

So ten Geminis were available in the end, but 'First' must be dreading the end of warranty work. Fortunately once again the B7 Profiles came up trumps when they were needed. 20351 was due for a service so did K4 until 16.37 when it retired to the garage. 20352 was active on K5 and 20353 was sent to Lowestoft on K16. The B10M tally was : 20103 L10, 20105 K18, 20106 Y6, 20107 K14 from 15.03, 20118 K3 and 20127 K2. Royale 34108 did K14 until 14.57 but was then taken off at Lynn with 20107 working forward and it then relieved Profile 20351 on K4. The use of 20105 on K18 - a working surely which 20107 was allocated to - confirms that 107 was unwell and this would explain its use on K14 forward to get it back to Lowestoft for attention. Timekeeping was typically 5 minutes late today, but delays in excess of this were few and far between.


Wednesday 2nd September 2009 ~ Trials and Tribulations

37572 was sent out on K15 this morning after attention, but it was removed at Lynn at lunchtime and the 12.45 to Peterborough ran with 20118. 37570 which failed yesterday afternoon spent the day in King's Lynn garage and there was no sign of 37573/6/7 returning from Volvo.
Lowestoft's 37564 was back today and worked L8 throughout. The other three turns originating from Lowestoft had more old fashioned power with L10 being 20105, L11 20127 and L12 Royale 34108. The latter presented a beautiful sight descending from the A47 flyover at walpole according to Bruce who says "That's what the X1 should be like !".
Yarmouth managed to ground 60863 today and instead produced a refreshed 20353 on Y9. Other B10Ms on the road today were 20104 which did the first part of K4 before being replaced by 37568 at Lowestoft, K18 was 20106 and Beast 20107 was on Y7.
Punctuality was an improvement on yesterday, but by teatime services were generally 10 late and K19 was 13 late arriving for the 16.56 Wisbech to Lowestoft with 37579. A quirk generated by 579's recent visit for accident repairs is that its destination displays have been reset to the narrow font used on earlier examples. 579 had carried the larger version from new.


Tuesday September 1st 2009 ~ Troubled Times

Michael F had a day out today and reports : "I had a pleasant journey on 20103 on the 9:55 departure from Lowestoft to Norwich (K16), which, by the time it left Yarmouth was full. Passing westward services were as follows in order K17 20352/K18 60863/K19 37578/K1 37567/K2 20127/K3 20351 followed while observing in Norwich by K4 20107/K5 20118/Y6 37568. So out of the 10 westward services seen only 3 were Geminis! I had a comfortable run back to Lowestoft on 34108 which was back home on the 12:38 X2 today".
Thanks for the comprehensive report Michael and this only leaves turns 7 - 15 which were viewed by Bruce and myself as follows : Y7 37575, L8 37563, Y9 37566, L10 37569, L11 37574, L12 20106, Y13 20104, K14 37570 & K15 37579.
So, from this it would appear that only ten out of seventeen Geminis were in service. There was more to it than this however. Let's start by returning to yesterday then and mention was made of 20352 unexpectedly being on the 16.48 from Lowestoft. This was because in the morning 37572 had failed for the 10.50 Lynn to Peterborough on arrival from Yarmouth with a suspect injector. Tests were carried out today and an oil problem was also found. More tests should be done tomorrow when hopefully it can return to traffic. This morning another Gemini in trouble was the normally ultra reliable 37564 which started out on L12 but was failed at Norwich and sent to Volvo for repairs, but no fault was found. This was the reason for Lynn digging out 20106 for the 11.15 to Peterborough and it carried on for the rest of the day. As if all this wasn't enough there was yet another B9 failure this afternoon when 37570 had to be taken off K14 13.35 Peterborough - Lowestoft with an oil leak and its place was taken by 20105. With 37573/6/7 still at Volvo, the situation tonight was quite acute with in total eight off the road.
The heavy post Bank Holiday traffic coupled with resurfacing work near Tilney meant delays in the middle of the day. Worst affected service was Y13 which was 18 late going to Peterborough and 25 late returning. Neil saw 20118 on K5 tonight along the Guyhirn bank and it looks set for another stint on the X1 tomorrow. 20121/23/31 remain at Rowan Road and 20109 is still awaiting a slot for repairs at Vancouver Avenue. 37578 appeared with a new advert for the film 'White Out' on the passenger side today while a late recipient of the 'Daily Star/Daily Express' ad is 37575. 37568 which had a small rear ad for Flick & Son is now running devoid of a replacement.