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January 29th 2020 - All is Revealed !

Today, myself and Roy Northcott who does the East Norfolk Bus Blog were invited to attend the press launch of the new Excel fleet. Representatives from several of the manufacturers who have contributed to the project as well as the bus industry hierarchy and various other interested parties were also in attendance.
After our arrival at Davey House in Norwich, First Eastern Counties Steve Wickers (Managing Director), David Jordan (Marketing Manager) and Paul Martin (Commercial Manager) gave us an explanation of the host of features offered by the new buses. We were then addressed by Giles Fearnley MD of First Bus UK.

It was soon time to sample one of the new fleet for ourselves and we boarded bus number 36913 which along with 36910 arrived in Castle Meadow to take us to our lunch venue in Dereham at the Mid Norfolk Railway. Here guests were invited to examine the new vehicles and were issued with a commemorative booklet to mark the forthcoming launch into public service on February 17th. 

After lunch we headed back to the city, this time on 36910. The buses are certainly most impressive with a return to a 9 litre engine, Lazzerini leather seating throughout, table or airline seating upstairs, USB and wireless charging points, phone holders and bell pushes at every seat and a generous amount of legroom. The area masking the stairs has a mural on each bus, each depicting different landmarks to be found on the route.
 The mechanical design of the buses was completely bespoke, with a great deal of engineering and ingenuity to marry the Alexander Dennis E400City body with the Scania N250UD Euro VI diesel chassis. The first time this combination has been achieved. The red and burgundy livery with gold highlights was chosen as it respected the historical colour associated with 'Eastern Counties'. 
Interior design also includes wood effect flooring and a host of other features from 'Best Impressions'. The 19 new buses represent a £5.3M investment and are sure to be a huge success, in the process turning heads along the Norwich to Peterborough corridor. 
 I'd like to thank everyone at First Eastern Counties for welcoming us to the event and it was great to catch up with some familiar faces as well as several new ones. It was also great to meet Giles Fearnley who was familiar with this blog and said to me "So you really do exist" !! A very nice man indeed. 
My personal thanks go to David Jordan for inviting me and also to fellow enthusiast Zak Nelson who I caught up with at Dereham. There will be more news in future days including a look at the forthcoming new timetable, but in the meantime, here are a few photographs from the event .....
First Eastern Counties MD, Steve Wickers introduces the event

Paul Martin and David Jordan explain how the new Excel project finally came to fruition

Giles Fearnley, MD of First Bus UK pays tribute to the First Eastern team

The attractive upper deck interior of 36913

Two old bloggers (!) Myself and Roy Northcott enjoying the ambience

Stair area detail, upper deck

Upper deck information display 

The new buses on arrival at Dereham MNR

Giles Fearnley inspects 36913

Giles Fearnley stands proudly in front of the state of the art buses

Best thing was, the weather was super for January !

Side detail of 36910, the new buses will only carry advertising on this side.

The new fleet have a variety of messages on the back designed to attract the disgruntled motorist !

36913 advertises its 'at seat' entertainment

Fast frequent and direct, these new buses certainly catch the eye as we witnessed from passers by

The new vehicles are slightly longer than the existing fleet 

Some of the fittings, equipment and design team with Giles Fearnley and Steve Wickers

Back at Castle Meadow after a perfect demonstration of the new buses capabilities

Of course the new buses will mean a cascading programme which will see some of these fine old Tridents retired from work in the city