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Paragon on Parade and THAT Gemini again !

Blimey, all of a sudden it's back to a daily blog ! Well almost, Grahame Bessey kindly sent me the photographs below of 20514 at Caister Road garage this morning, having been spruced up a bit with X1 vinyls at Full Circle, in the same style as on the B9s, but with additional emphasis on the Great Yarmouth - Norwich 'shorts'.

So it looks as though the step entrance Paragons will have something of a future on the short X1 runs for the time being.
Yesterday we mentioned Jim Long's sighting of FJ08FYN back in January and Jim tells me that 37562 has now been acquired from Ensign by First and stored at Dagenham pending entry to service ! My contact at 'First' enlarges on this saying that the full list of vehicles bought is as follows :

Enviro 400 SN60CAA (J57156): 
Enviro 200 AY08EKT : 
Enviro 200 EU60LFS (J52083): 
Enviro 200 FJ58YSL : 
Enviro 200 KX57BWF : 
Volvo B9TL FJ08FYN : 
Dart MX56HYP : 
Dart MX56HYO : 
Dart TBC
Enviro 200 YX08HJF : 
Enviro 400 VT59JPT : 

Most of these vehicles are expected to enter service with First Eastern shortly, although final allocations have not been decided as yet. It will be interesting to see if, as Jim suggests, the two Enviro 400s are kept as back up for the X1.

Thanks to Jim and to our man at 'First' for this information.


Sunday 19th May 2013 ~ Here is the (Late) News

37565 arrives in Lowestoft on the 08.35 from King's Lynn on Sunday 19th May. Photo copyright : Grahame Bessey.
My apologies to those of you who have submitted items of late , which I have then failed to include - things are still pretty much the same for me at home, so time is limited.
To begin with I must say sorry to Michael Bryant who kindly phoned me with the fleet numbers of the new buses a few weeks ago (when the new 'First' handbook was released) and which I failed to mention after writing them on a scrap of paper. Jason says "Hey Gerard, those guys at Norwich Bus Page have beaten you to it, what's going on ?". How embarrassing ! Speaking of NBP, the site is run by a group of young guys who are very keen and who make regular updates. Read all about them here :

Oh and those new numbers, well the Enviro 400s are going to be 33803 - 33824 inclusive. So let's have a look now at some of the features which First South East & Midlands have ordered for the new fleet. The external livery will be in three colours, but the internal scheme will be the corporate one. Interior handrails and poles will be in gold finish and the fleet will carry an updated CCTV system and GPS, while passengers will be able to access wi-fi. Drivers will have air conditioning and passenger communication throughout the buses will be possible through 12 speakers. Seating will be to Esteban Civic V3 specifications in leather. Externally the buses will be fitted with front axle wheel embellishers and offside and nearside advertisement frames. The heating system will be blown air with hopper type opening windows and the buses will have a 500 mile range fuel tank.
First are still optimistic that delivery will commence as previously reported in the late August/September window, but there is a possibility that the additional specifications required may mean a delay until the last week of September /October. My thanks go to my source at First for confirming these details.

Now I mentioned earlier that I had forgotten to include a few things of late and while checking emails, came across one from January when Jim Long wrote to say "I don't get many chances to comment on the X1 living in Ipswich, but Beestons of Hadleigh now have the loanee Volvo FJ08FYN aka  37562. I spotted her bombing along the A1071 towards Ipswich on the old Eastern Counties 205. This is an hourly service these days,usually operated by Scania Deckers, so a pleasant change to see a Gemini in this area, the first I think".
Well better late than never, here is Jim's picture of the former X1 regular :

Since my last report, things have run fairly smoothly. 37573 returned from bodywork repairs at Full Circle and has at last had its 'Hobbit' ad removed and replaced. It was back in traffic on tuesday and now 37566 has gone to Full Circle, again for attention to its bodywork. 37578 at last returned to service on Wednesday, but it was in trouble on Friday with a coolant leak bringing it to a halt at Swaffham while working the Y13-XL19 08.15 Lowestoft - Peterborough. Fitters attended and made a quick repair. Elsewhere, the use of the designated fleet on the X2 hasn't seen the Palatines completely ousted yet. Malcolm reports 34156 operating the 15.08 Lowestoft - Norwich on Monday and next day it was viewed on the 12.40 from Norwich. 34155 was out on Wednesday working the 14.48 to Norwich and on Thursday 34156 was back in action on the 09.48 ex Norwich.
37156 arrived in Lowestoft on Tuesday morning on the 09.05 X1 from Peterborough, but hadn't left as planned on the 13.55 return by the time the following service (Y6-XL12) had arrived.
Wednesday 15th saw roadworks between Wisbech and Guyhirn and almost all daytime servicestook the diversion via North Brink and Wisbech St. Mary. This diversion was also in use briefly on Thursday after an accident blocked the road outside Wisbech Tesco. A few lunchtime services took the diversion westbound, but K15-XL02 with 37579 was not seen in either direction on the usual route. Thursday also saw a higher than average number of bus swaps, K5-XL11 began with 37566, then 37157 worked forward from Lynn to Lowestoft at 10.32 and finally 37574 took over for the 17.15 King's Lynn - Peterborough. There was much evening disruption to the bus service after a car and lorry were involved in a fatal crash near Dereham in the late afternoon.
Friday saw nearly all the X2 services running late and these included 34155 on the 15.28 to Norwich which departed 20 minutes in arrears. On the X1 , 37160 arrived 13 late into Lowestoft on Y9-XL15.
The weekend seemed to pass without incident which is always good to report.
37157 sharing a coke with Laura !


New Weekday Timetable from 28th May 2013

Here is an abbreviated version of the new X1 timetable, excluding the Norwich - Yarmouth /Gorleston 'shorts' for weekdays commencing Tuesday 28th May . The timetable is almost unchanged east of King's Lynn, but the western section has been retimed incorporating  (by coincidence I am sure) some suggestions which were made in this blog.
Services are now booked to run to Peterborough bus station where they unload and load in one visit before stopping at the rail station on the way back eastbound. Click on the timetables to enlarge :


May 10th 2013 ~ Ten Days in May

37159 at Vancouver Avenue on the evening of 6th May.
The title of this blog entry is my way of saying not a lot has been going on - well if it has, I've not heard about it ! Looking back through my X1 diary I have made a few notes though.....
37578 failed as we mentioned in our last report, on the last day of April with loss of gears/data link fault and so far has not been in traffic up to 11th May. On Thursday 2nd, 37567 broke down at Peterborough before working the 21.10 to King's Lynn with a coolant leak, however, this minor ailment cured, it was out again after a day off for repairs.
Photo : Jo Watson NBP

Photo : Jo Watson NBP
Timekeeping had been pretty good to start the month, but a close eye was kept on proceedings on
Friday 3rd, the day when many folks were getting away for the Bank Holiday weekend. Most services ran pretty close to time, but noted running late from my office window were L11-XL17 with 37160 which was 13 late westbound and 21 late returning to Lowestoft. Y13-XL19 was seen westbound, due past me at 12.20, 37574 sidled by at 12.37. K14-XL01 following it was 37573 running just 10 late, but K15-XL02 didn't appear until 13.43, 23 minutes late with 37579. afternoon services then improved with the exception of K17 operated by 37563 which was 13 x 21 late through Wisbech at 14.33 & 16.11. At the east end, 37157 on Y9-XL15 was 15 late arriving at Lowestoft. Both Yarmouth's Paragon coaches were in use on X1 shorts and thanks to Jo for the pictures taken at North Burlingham (20515) and Acle (20514).
Why have one picture of 37159 when you can have two ? Kieran Smith took this nice study at Dereham on Saturday 4th, I think Coca Cola are having a blitz on the X1s. Firstly it was diet coke, then vanilla coke and now coke zero !

Saturday 4th was a busy day with rumours of heavy delays, however, I was not around to monitor things and all I can say is that 37579 was removed from L8 - XL14 before departing from King's Lynn to Peterborough at 18.50 due to a brakes issue and 37156 took over, freshly washed and cleaned having come in on Y7-XL13. Des reports an unfortunate incident, when at 15.40 in Great Yarmouth, two Mothers with baby buggies boarded. Later in the queue were two disabled passengers with wheelchairs who were unable to join as they have no priority if the available space has already been filled - "not a pleasant discussion" comments Des.
Going back to the delays mentioned earlier, Tony writes "Bob and myself had an interesting return trip from Peterborough.We were in good time for the 09.44 at Queensgate, but it arrived 15 minutes late with 37564 (This had replaced 37576 at King's Lynn - G). We were then involved in a minor RTA at the Soke Parkway/Paston Parkway intersection with the result that, after details had been exchanged with the other driver, we waited at Thorney Chip Shop for the following 10.14 ex Peterborough to which we were transferred. 37564 then went 'not in service' directly to Vancouver Avenue to have it's minor wounds seen to. The 10.14 was operated by 37568 and was then covering for two services which meant that, by the time we got to Lynn we were both full to the gunwales and about 10 down. Lynn decided to send 37568 forward direct to Norwich and passengers for destinations before then were disembarked and invited to await another bus. What this was I do not know as we had an important engagement to attend and for which we were already late. 
We arrived for our return journey for the 14.15 ex Lynn. This turned up over 20 down with 37157 and, by the time we got to Thorney Chip Shop, we had been caught up by the following 14.45 ex Lynn with 37570  We were all transferred to the latter working to enable 37157 to turn and resume it's eastbound schedule.
The First guys were very good though". Ah well that explains things, thanks to Tony & Bob for the info.
Sunday's 'Great Eastern Run' caused a few morning delays and Bruce reports 37569 on XL07 09.50 King's Lynn to Peterborough passing Walpole 13 late and returning 14 late. 37567 on the 10.10 ex Peterborough was just 11 late at this point, but Malcolm says it was 34 late arriving at Lowestoft. Back at Walpole the 10.50 from Lynn (a rare working by 37156 on a Sunday) was 16 late. A surplus of B7s at the eastern end also saw XL09 operated by 37159.
Bank Holiday Monday evening traffic on the A47 was very slow westbound. An accident near Norwich between a car and a motorbike made things worse. I noted the 18.50 King's Lynn to Peterborough with 37567 in a slow moving queue near Eau Brink at 19.58, running about 57 minutes late. The following 19.50 service was then passed at the Saddlebow roundabout only about 3 minutes late.
It was back to a full timetable on Tuesday and only two services ran appreciably late, L12 with 37576 was 14 late on the 11.48 ex Wisbech westbound and it came back 18 late. K14-XL01 and 37569 was 18 late westbound, but had reduced the arrears to 13 minutes on the 13.35 Peterborough - Lowestoft. Peter and a couple of fellow passengers at Peterborough rail station were not amused by a 'no show' of the 17.35 to King's Lynn (it should have been 37159) and they had to wait a further 30 minutes for 37564 on K4-XL10, which arrived bang on time.

Wednesday 8th saw Bruce checking things out and only L8-XL14 ran late, 37575 passing by at 11.48, 13 minutes behind time. Thursday was a good day for punctuality and some services made up time, 37567 on L12-XL18 for example was 11 late westbound, but only 4 late returning on the 12.35 from Peterborough. A turn up for the books was 37568 on K18-XL05 which was a minute early passing me on the 14.48 Wisbech to Peterborough. Note to Bruce : See, 37568 does run to time, or even early on occasions !
Late in the afternoon, 37158 working L11-XL17 failed at Yarmouth with an air leak. The driver due to take it from Lowestoft back to Lynn travelled by the 16.55 X2 to meet a relief bus, 37156 I think, at Norwich where L11 continued. 37158 was driven back to King's Lynn after being examined by fitters.
To end this round up, another Friday (10th) where timekeeping was considerably better than the previous week. Just two late runners, these being 37579 on L10-XL16 10.15 King's Lynn to Peterborough which was 12 late and then (you've probably already guessed) the usual culprit, L11-XL17 with 37160 (still roaring) 17 late. This then encountered problems at Thorney when it lost some advertisement sections. It was noted later this evening minus the offside advert and is believed to have run light from Peterborough to Norwich to resume its duty. The week ended with 37578 still off the road for repairs and also absent has been 37573 which was sent to Full Circle for scheduled bodywork repairs on Saturday 4th. It is due back on Monday.
Finally there are some timetable revisions from 26th May, more news nearer the time. Thanks to all who have contributed recently.


Tuesday 30th April 2013 ~ More Diversions

Since my last report on 22nd April, there seems to have been a particularly large number of A47 incidents/accidents which have involved diverting the X1. A hole appeared in the road in Lowestoft on 20th resulting in a diversion for a few days (thanks to Des and Matthew for the info)

There were also a couple of accidents near Dereham during the period under review and more locally to me, the A47 between Wisbech and Guyhirn has been bedevilled by problems. On Wednesday 24th an overturned lorry began the day :  K4-XL10 08.35 from Peterborough came back through Wisbech on time with 37579, but the next service, K5-XL11 got caught up in the aftermath and 37156 arrived in the town at 10.44, 53 minutes late. Before the situation could return to normal, the same section was snarled up by council tree cutting and so the X1 was diverted via North Brink and Wisbech St.Mary for the rest of the day. This didn't hurt timekeeping too much as at 13.24, 37568 on K15-XL02 passed L12-XL18 eastbound with 37571 in Wisbech Old Market, both only about 4 minutes late.
Monday 29th began with a broken down lorry causing delays at Eau Brink, though this only had a minor effect on punctuality. Mid morning, Y9 - XL15 passed through Wisbech westbound 17 late, but otherwise things ran well. On the afternoon of Tuesday 30th, K18-XL05 with 37160 passed me just one minute late at 14.51 to Peterborough, but it was back at 15.05 having run into an A47 queue at the Cromwell Road roundabout and returned into the town, it was glimpsed again at 15.07 in the Old Market using the North Brink diversion, now 17 minutes late. Coming from Peterborough, K14-XL01 was unaffected with 37576 just 2 minutes late, but K15-XL02 (37567) was delayed by the accident and came in 25 late. The obstruction was soon cleared and K16-XL03 (37158)  also arrived via the normal route just 9 late.
37566 at North Burlingham operating Y6-XL12 09.35 Peterborough - Lowestoft on Friday 26th April.  Photo copyright : Joe at Norwich Bus Page.

Des Speed writes of an eventful shift on Monday 22nd, he was at the helm of 37574 on Y7-XL13 15.42 Yarmouth to King's Lynn, where it is the first evening bus to terminate and be garaged. He says "We were on time until we got to Toftwood Hillcrest Avenue at 17.20, here 37566 on Y6-XL12 which should have been 30 minutes ahead of us was waiting accompanied by a paramedic and a pregnant lady passenger. The other passengers transferred into my bus and several of them needed to travel beyond Lynn. As we carried on, it dawned on me that the driver sitting at Toftwood would then take L8-XL14 18.50 King's Lynn to Peterborough and clearly this was not going to happen. With all my through passengers only requiring Wisbech and stops before, I took advantage of a planned long break at Lynn and took them all through to Wisbech returning to Lynn by 19.00 for my 45 minute break. This would mean I would only be 5 late away from Southgates with the 19.40 back eastbound, however, the best laid plans ?
37579 arrived on the 19.40, but we had to go into Vancouver Avenue garage to have part of the offside advert removed as it had worked loose and was flapping about. That done we set off again, only to pull in to the first layby on the A47 as the remainder of the advert had started to detach itself. Decided I would have to return to Lynn, so turned at the North Runcton turn and headed back. Eventually got away from Lynn at 20.04, 24 minutes late. Final arrival in Lowestoft was 4 minutes late at 22.37". What a day for Des then and just to add that 37567 operated Y6-XL12 beyond King's Lynn to avoid a gap in the service.

37156 departs from its Walton Highway stop on Tuesday 30th April working the 16.15 King's Lynn to Peterborough.

New bus update : The official delivery date is still awaited, but the order for a revised specification has now been made. The original plans for the displaced vehicles are as advertised on the Norwich Bus Page, but are now subject to change following the delay in arrival of the new buses.
Meanwhile, 21 ex Jersey Caetano bodied slimline Darts have been repainted, retrimmed and had assualt screens and Hanover blinds fitted along with additional heating installed. These are due to arrive in the next fortnight for final transfers to be applied, with 11 destined for Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, of the remainder 4 are going to Clacton and 6 to the Midlands. These will no doubt see off some of the older Darts which have served the company well and which have regularly worked X1 shorts and the X2 as well as the odd run to Peterborough in the past :
43466 deputising for a coach seen near Walton Highway on April 3rd 2007.

Vehicle News :  37565 was out every day in April and is now up to 30 days continuous service. 37569 & 37572 went briefly to Volvo for axle modifications last week and 37574 is on MOT this week, expected OK on May 2nd. 37573 suffered ramp failure in Gorleston on Friday morning, but the switch was repaired by Yarmouth fitters. This bus still features an outdated advert for 'The Hobbit' which has been in situ since December 9th, due to a problem with the hoarding fixture.

On the Road. I had a trip to Peterborough on Saturday afternoon. 37160 was my outward vehicle on K1-XL07 with Steve, still making a lot of noise from its screaming fan, but a 7 minute late departure from Walpole saw us arrive at Peterborough rail station at exactly 16.35, 6 minutes late which is the time of departure for Lowestoft. This turn is a B9 in the week, but more often than not, a B7 on Saturdays.
 Coming back on the 19.19 from Queensgate on Y6-XL12 with 37564 driven by Gareth showed what can be done with a clear road throughout. Departure was on time to the second and we took the route via the passport office and Boongate out of the city taking 10"20' to the Eye Green roundabout. With just a 15 second delay by traffic lights in Thorney village, we were still unable to keep the harsh 15 minute timing to the nearby stop where we arrived after 16 minutes & 11 seconds from Queensgate.
The next section to Thorney Toll took 6 minutes 12 seconds and we passed non-stop. The Guyhirn stop was observed in 10 minutes dead from Thorney, whereas the timetable allows 11 minutes, so at this stage we were just half a minute over the booked time from Queensgate.
The final section to Wisbech is booked to be covered in eleven minutes from Guyhirn, which is optimistic to say the least, especially as it now involves negotiating three sets of traffic lights. We were stopped at all three junctions and this lost us another 74 seconds, so our final arrival in Wisbech was in 39 minutes 37 seconds, getting on for 3 minutes over the schedule of 37 minutes. The surprising thing here is that the B9 was being driven as smartly as possible to keep to time and yet this was still not achieved - it is small wonder that the B7's frequently lose time.
 Four minutes are allowed at Wisbech for loading and this meant we were away again back on time at 20.00. Our arrival at Walton Road at 20.04 (also on time) came as a surprise to a couple of joining passengers who had to partake in the time honoured sport of 'running for the bus'. I was back at Walpole on time for my lift home and this was once again a good advert for the X1, however, in my opinion, it might be a good thing to increase the schedule between Wisbech and Peterborough by a couple of minutes to make the timetable more credible.