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Christmas 2019

The sun is setting on the reign of the 2013 Scarborough built Enviro 400s on the XL route. 33803 which was the first of the fleet is seen at Walton Highway on Christmas Eve
Well where are the new buses they cried ? First are going to great lengths to keep them under wraps. At least one has paid a visit to King's Lynn depot and has the appropriate vinyls fitted, but the shutters have been down when these visits have occurred up to now. You can learn a little more about them here :

.... but that's not all, some of the features of the new fleet are a closely guarded secret and will be - well let's just say different !

A new timetable is planned for February with a non-public launch at the end of January.

In the meantime, I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and all the best for 2020.

33803 departs from King's Lynn working the 11.10 to Norwich on Saturday 21st December


December 6th 2019 ~ Update

As things stand, the first three new buses are undergoing commisioning locally, with buses expected to arrive at First from around 15th December. A launch at the East of England Showground is pencilled in for late January and then the new fleet should be all ready for a new timetable in February.

The existing fleet will be phased out of service as new buses arrive. Since the last report there have been occasional appearances by Geminis from the Norwich end when Enviros were not available. I hope to give a more detailed report on the last few months before Christmas, time permitting. 

33822 at Lowestoft on November 28th. Photo copyright Matthew Holland


August 2019 Update

33810 gets away from Peterborough Rail Station on 1st May on the 09.40 Peterborough - Norwich.  Photo : Ash Hammond
At last an update for you, things having been a little busy here so far this Summer. The new buses are now expected to arrive in November and various rumours are circulating about them. Livery options considered appear to have initially been white, but more recently green has been suggested. Following the announcement that First are to progressively sell off their bus division, rumours also suggest that the new arrivals will be simply branded 'Eastern Counties' - now there's a blast from the past. I am told that buses of this type are currently being used on the route to Glasgow Airport, but that these are rather sumptuous inside with tables upstairs, something we don't expect on the XL batch. Air conditioning, rather than air chill - I'm not sure what the difference is - will be fitted however, but a change of plan means that once again seatbelts will not.
On the road, the existing fleet have coped very well with the very hot conditions of late July which is a blessing, as spare buses have been few and far between. The MOT programme is now almost completed with just 33819 left to be done.
On Sunday 9th June, the hourly XL services pass near Walton Highway with 33813 bound for Norwich and 33818 heading to Peterborough.

The main vehicle news in the period under review involves 33812 which was involved in a collision on the A47 at Necton on Thursday 23rd May. Damage to the front of the bus was quite severe and once repaired spent a further period out of action while its MOT was completed. Eventually it returned to traffic on the afternoon of July 22nd. Coincidentally, 33815 was taken out of traffic on 22nd requiring a new back axle and it has been undergoing this at Great Yarmouth, while 33803 seems to have become excessively noisy in recent weeks and was the only failure in traffic noted during the period on the evening of July 7th.
Gemini 36199 standing in for an Enviro on Saturday 1st June working the 14.10 Norwich - Peterborough on the A47 Terrington bypass.

In the interim, there was assistance provided by Norwich Gemini's, firstly 36199 on 1st & 3rd June, then 36172 which arrived on the evening of June 7th and performed faultlessly until June 22nd. After a brief return to Norwich, 36172 again deputised from 28th June to 4th July.
36172 was a regular sight from my window at work during June, here it is on 28th working the 08.40 Norwich - Peterborough on which it had replaced 33814 at King's Lynn.
 For the remaining dates, King's Lynn was left with a single spare Enviro and multiple changeovers were necessary to keep up with servicing requirements.

It was nice to here from Jamie Vendy that he has taken former X1 coach 20120 into preservation having purchased it from Lynx where until recently it had been used for schools work. It certainly looks splendid.
20120 looking very smart. Photo : Jamie Vendy
Back on 1st March 2008, 20120 was in its last days working on the X1, seen here heading eastbound away from the Hardwick Roundabout.



A fairly quiet month on the XL with no out of course breakdowns in service recorded, not bad for buses in a sixth year of intensive service. Three more MOT tests were conducted in the month on 33807, 33815 and 33809, the latter completed on May 2nd. 
Before this 33809 was in a spot of trouble with binding brakes on the evening of April 5th. It returned after repairs on 11th. 33813 came off service at King's Lynn at lunchtime on April 15th and was diagnosed as needing a replacement engine - a quick despatch to Norwich Vulcan Road saw it returned to Lynn and back on the road on Saturday 20th, there must have been some overtime by the engineers concerned there ! On Thursday 18th a persistent gear fault on 33807 and 33819 being hit by another companies vehicle in Norwich bus station meant everything else had to behave over the Easter weekend which thankfully it did. 
Back at work, 33813 near Walton Highway on April 29th on the 11.40 Peterborough - Norwich

The roadworks between Thorney and Eye continued during April, although by this time all XL drivers had discovered how to avoid them and delays were minimal. Maundy Thursday was as expected the heaviest day for traffic on the A47. Delays at lunchtime peaked at around 25 minutes, with 33816 seen arriving late by that margin in Wisbech on the 12.10 from Peterborough, the previous service with 33803 was similarly delayed. By early evening most services were slightly behind time, but worst noted were the 15.10 from Peterborough which was 38 late at Necton with 33805 and the 16.10 ex Peterborough (33809) was 27 late into King's Lynn. The Tuesday after Easter weekend had potential for chaos, but in the end 20 minutes was the biggest delay. One service, 33815 on the 09.10 from Peterborough, ran via Wisbech St. Mary to avoid congestion on Guyhirn Bank.

Busiest bus in April was 33817 which was in service for all but one day of the month. 

Two services I have not mentioned before are the 07.25 (school days) and 07.40 Dereham - Norwich shorts. During the school term, one of the three Enviro 400s which overnight at Norwich does the school service which is due into Norwich at 08.10 before working the 08.40 to Peterborough, while the 07.40 is normally worked by a Gemini which then continues its duties on the 25 from the University to the Railway Station. In school holidays the 07.40 ex Dereham is worked by the Enviro 400 which has a tight turn round arriving in Norwich at 08.30 and departing westbound at 08.40. On Wednesday 24th April, the 07.25 was unusually worked by Purple Line Volvo B7TL Plaxton President 32201, which has the rather appropriate registration LT52WTF !

It's a few years since we had a report on the X2, a service where the bus diagrams have always seemed fluid, presumably due to congestion en route. Services are now numbered X2, X21 & X22 depending on the route used but things don't seem to have changed a great deal and although the service is normally worked by the Lowestoft based Geminis which had cascaded from the Lowestoft - Peterborough X1, some other types do appear. 

37570 at Gillingham on February 26th. Photo : ZJN Photography

Of the Geminis, 37573 & 37578 are based at Great Yarmouth for use on the X1 while the remainder of 37563 - 37579 are used on the X2. Almost any vehicle based at Lowestoft can sometimes put in an appearance on the X2 group of services. 

From Leeds to Lowestoft ! 36215 formerly in West Yorkshire is a regular on the X2 group of services. Photo : East Norfolk Bus Blog.

During April, Lowestoft's 36215 was a common sight along with Yarmouth allocated 36183 & 36185 and from 26th April 36186 joined them. These Geminis were originally in use in West Yorkshire. The Volvo B7TL Alexander ALX400's also put in occasional appearances, especially heritage liveried 30888.

Resplendent in Lowestoft Heritage colours, 30888 is seen at Corton in May 2017. Photo ZJN Photography.

 In times of shortage, even a single deck ADL Enviro 200 can deputise such as 44531 on the 16.10 Lowestoft - Norwich on Friday 12th April and sister 44532 on the 07.40, 11.10 and 14.00 departures on Wednesday 17th.

44531 on a more usual route, the 99a from Bungay to Southwold seen at Ilketshall St. Lawrence on 11th April. Photo : ZJN Photography

The X1 (and X11) from Norwich - Yarmouth - Lowestoft is still worked by Enviro 400s 33820-33824 based at Lowestoft, but as up to 14 vehicles are required for the weekday service, Great Yarmouth make up the balance. The two Yarmouth Geminis formerly based at King's Lynn 37573 & 37578 are used as are a variety of other types including former demonstrator 37562. Other Geminis noted on the route in April were 37274 & 37275 in pretty much daily use plus 37141 and 32629. Lowestoft loaned 37567/574 helped out for a while in April too. On 11th April, ALX400 30886 was a surprise on the 15.30 X11 out of Norwich. Interestingly the former demonstrator Enviro 400, 33423 now seems restricted to use on services 1 and 1A. 

Apologies for the late report for April, I will try harder next month !



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.



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. 



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