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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.

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