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Wednesday April 23rd 2014 ~ Now You See It, Now You Don't.

In all the years I have written this blog, I am now finding it more difficult than ever to know what to write, such is the reliability of the Enviro 400s. It is difficult to compare this honeymoon period with that of the 375xx series of Geminis when they were new, due to the fact that only 17 of them were supplied and the coaches made up the balance of vehicles until the five B7 Geminis were transferred from Norwich.
As always there are plenty of stories which are classified as "unbloggable" (if that's a word ?), but I try to keep the blog accurate without being too controversial.
Let's firstly look at what has happened since my last blog a week ago. I reported the return of 33809 from bodywork repairs and it duly re-entered traffic after a safety service on Wednesday 16th when it recommenced work on K4-XL10. Today (23rd) 33810 has arrived at  'Full Circle' in similar fashion, again for bodywork repairs. With 33813 undergoing MOT work and 33816 out of traffic with engine derate and an exhaust problem, this has meant the appearance once again after Easter of 33423 which worked its old favourite diagram , K3 (XL09) on Tuesday and Wednesday. Roy from East Norfolk Bus Blog kindly sent this picture taken on Tuesday  while 33423 was working the 13.00 Lowestoft - Peterborough :
Photo copyright : East Norfolk Bus Blog
33820 which had been out of traffic, again with an exhaust issue, returned to traffic on Saturday and with the lighter vehicle requirements over Easter (Good Friday, Easter Sunday & Easter Monday all being Sunday service), most of the Enviros managed at least one day off over the holiday. Lone exception was 33811 which has been out daily since 31st March.
Peter writes "Hey G, did you know that 'First' are going to use one of the X1 Enviros as an exhibit at the Sacrewell Farm bus rally coming up in July ?" . Well no, I didn't actually, so thanks for keeping me and our readers informed. Peter adds that it is hoped to used the Enviro as a shuttle bus at some point during the day too. Whilst on the subject of events in the Peterborough area, the Fenland Vintage Vehicle event on May 17th should be using the two Stagecoach FLFs on a Thorney to Whittlesey shuttle service, so a good excuse to use the X1 to get over there if you are planning to go.
Richard Adderson has been in touch and says "Thought I'd send you a couple of pictures taken back on April 9th, as I don't recall seeing many Swaffham pictures on the blog (you're right there Richard !). This is 33820 which was running about 15 minutes late on the 13.05 from Peterborough (Y13-XL19).
33820 at Swaffham . Copyright : Richard Adderson
Well I liked the picture so much Richard, I've used it as a new masthead for the blog - that picture with the sugar beet was getting a bit out of season. Richard continues "The second picture taken earlier at King's Lynn depicts 33823 when it had its destination blind fault working K19-XL06 14.43 King's Lynn - Peterborough. 33820 shouldn't have been there at the same time, but because of its late running got in the picture too :
Photo copyright : Richard Adderson
"The main reason I have sent you the above picture" continues Richard, "is to appeal to your knowledge as a prolific bus photographer. You'll see that the destination on the Norfolk Green bus on the left has not registered on the picture and this seems to happen whenever I snap a bus with this type of display and indeed on dmus too. Is there anything I can do to avoid this and do you know the cause, or is it just a quirk of my camera ?".
Well I think I was once told that the dot matrix system is a continual flashing display - so if in the fraction of a second you take the picture, the display is blank, it comes out as such. The system flashes at such a rapid rate as to be invisible to the human eye - now am I correct here or have I dreamed the whole thing ? Do let me know if you have the answer.
Andy Gibbs sent a nice email to say he really enjoys the blog and that he plans to travel up from London later in the year to traverse the entire X1 route. In his capacity as safety manager for Transport for London, he is used to frequent services, though probably not of over 100 miles. Let me know when you are this way Andy.
Back to recent events now and the holiday weekend was marred by an accident at Middleton on the Thursday before Easter. This closed the A47 for several hours and delays of up to 50 minutes accumulated. Good Friday's heavy traffic also caused delays to some services.
Roadworks in Station Square at Lowestoft have also been the cause of disruption. Malcolm's log for Tuesday shows many delays and this evening congestion affected the 17.05 & 17.50 departures westbound from Lowestoft. The latter left over 30 minutes late and ran light to Acle before taking on passengers again. It caught up the 17.05 at Easton and passengers were transferred to the 17.50 with the 17.05 then running light to King's Lynn.
Wisbech remains congested at peak times due to the closure of town bridge. Peter says "On Thursday 17th, was following the 16.15 from Peterborough which diverted down Weasenham Lane to avoid the queues on the normal route. Commendable attempt by the driver, but then unfortunately, a lorry had broken down at the Churchill Road junction meaning that 33818 became delayed there instead !

Finally building work at Peterborough railway station means the exit for the X1 is now (temporarily) very tight. Unfortunately today 33822 working K14-XL01 13.45 departure to Lowestoft collided with a protruding scaffolding pole and broke a window, 33821 replaced it at King's Lynn.


Tuesday 15th April 2014 ~ Normality Resumes

Well I'm now beginning to catch up with things after my holiday. Huge thanks to all who kept me informed of goings on in my absence, you know who you are !
It would be fair to say that in the intervening period between the last posting and this, the most notable event took place today. Having arrived late last week, for a suspension fault to be rectified at King's Lynn, Enviro 33423 saw its first run to Peterborough sporting the First Great Yarmouth colours today. 33813 working the 07.45 Lowestoft - Peterborough (L12-XL18) was required at Vancouver Avenue for attention and 33423 took over briefly for the Peterborough leg, before 33813 resumed its turn.
Here she is with Gareth at the wheel passing near my work premises in Wisbech :

Despite there being plenty of prophets of doom regarding the new fleet, they seem to be coping well with the intensive work schedule given to them and this surely must reflect on the care given to them by Richard Tucker and his engineering team. Various issues have cropped up revolving around issues as diverse as sourcing replacement seats and malfunctioning air cooling systems, but none of these have been sufficiently serious to disrupt the service. The only reason 33423 appeared today was because of servicing commitments combined with the absence of 33809 which had only just returned from bodywork repairs at Full Circle following an incident on 2nd April.
 I had an email from one of my correspondents saying that he had seen less than flattering reports in some bus blogs about the comfort and overall experience of travelling on the X1 Enviros. He says "I trust you more to give a balanced account if they are in trouble. Each time I use them I find no cause for complaint ". Well it would seem that the majority of X1 passengers I have spoken to agree with this, although Victor Meldrew did contact me during my holiday to say he was sitting near a particularly rattly part of 33814 last Thursday, but let's face it, he will moan about anything ! I hasten to add that I base my observations on a sample of the general public, rather than bus enthusiasts. Certainly the loadings on the western part of the route have increased dramatically since the Enviros arrived. Incidentally, several of the fleet have now exceeded the 60,000 mile mark in just 7 months
First themselves have cause to celebrate and Lucy Wright says "The results of a national bus passenger survey published by independent watchdog, Passenger Focus, have revealed that First’s customers in Norfolk have seen an increase in satisfaction.
89% of First’s customers in Norfolk said that they were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘fairly satisfied’ with the service in the county – a 2% increase since 2011. Passenger Focus’ National Bus Survey is considered the bus industry’s definitive gauge of passenger satisfaction. The survey was carried out between 8 September and 1 December 2013. The survey also noted improvements in punctuality, the cleanliness and appearance of the buses and drivers’ attitudes.
Managing Director of First Eastern Counties, David Squire, said: “We are thrilled with our score which reflects the hard work and commitment of all my colleagues. We’ve got excellent teams in place at our depots who are improving our services and helping to encourage more people to travel with First.”
Laurie Egan, Norfolk County Council's Travel Network Manager added; "We work very closely with bus operators in Norfolk and these are encouraging results which show that initiatives like our Quality Bus Partnership is helping them deliver higher quality, more reliable services which their passengers want. A restructure within First took place in 2013 which gave greater autonomy to the local teams, which is helping the company deliver better services for customers and contributing to the improved Passenger Focus score"
Well nothing like blowing your own trumpet is there, but you have to admit it is impressive. Posing for the camera here are some familiar faces, but being contrary, I'm more interested in what that is behind the Gemini !!

It is also good to report that the timetable has been largely adhered to. Main delays can be attributed to congestion in Wisbech while town bridge is closed and sometimes late afternoon services can suffer because of this. The road is due to reopen sometime next month. Sunday afternoon last saw X1 services being diverted via the A17 and Tilney All Saints following the well publicised accident where a child fell from a private operators moving coach near the Shoreboat roundabout. 
Enviro 33821 has now been in traffic every day since March 7th, but 33820 was stopped today with an exhaust problem. 33823 had a problem with its destination screen last week as seen here in these pictures from John Abbott taken in Peterborough last Wednesday.

                                                    Photos copyright : John Abbott

Brian Coombes wrote to me to say he and his colleague Stuart Ling provide a very important service delivering beer across our region and consequently have regular meetings with the X1. Here's Stuart in his van at Thickthorn with an Enviro !

and here's another one taken on a rather inhospitable day in February in Acle .....

Glad you enjoy following the blog guys and once again my apologies for the infrequent updates of late. I hope to get back to more regular entries from now on.
Finally this time, a picture sent in by Des Speed who says "Thought you'd like this one" :
Some of the former X1 stalwarts at Caister Road garage. Photo : Des Speed


Thursday 3rd April delayed blog ! ~ The Usual Business

Apologies for the long delay in producing another blog, a delay partly because I have been excessively busy (as usual at this time of year) and also because of the lack of important events.
I am about to go on a weeks holiday, so the next entry will probably be around 13th April. MOTs are continuing on the Enviros with 33805/6 having been tested. A couple of slight collisions have resulted in damage to 33816 which was taken off Y13-XL19 on 26th March and did not return to service until 31st. Today (2nd April), 33809 was in a spot of bother whilst working Y9-XL15 and was retired early to be replaced by 33813. The passenger side panels sustained damage and it is due to visit Full Circle for repair tomorrow, with 33806 coming back fixed from the same malady.
Probably the most notable event in the period under review came on 30th March when Yarmouth sent out 33808 to Norwich in the evening for rail replacement work !