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Sunday, 15 October 2017

Wow!

A few days ago I published a post in an effort to explain why the amount of published news has waned in recent months. I'm pleased to say the majority, especially other bloggers agreed with me. However, some thought I was having a rant against operators. One gentleman called the post "utter drivel", saying there were still lots of pretty buses to take pictures of, which wasn't really the point, and when I responded someone else called me a 5yo. I'm told I was an utterly adorable (and much better looking) 5yo so I don't mind that really!

But then in came a comment for moderation that took my breath away. I didn't publish it as I wanted everyone to see it and discuss. Here it is, from a regular contributor calling himself (I assume) "Smurf".

The answer is simple Steve. Start running your own bus company; and you can make the news, and make sure there is no shortage of it too! After all as you keep telling us none of the rest of them know how to do it! There must be a few ££s lying around from all those savings on fares down the years!

You could, I suppose, cast a glance in the direction of First Essex, which does seem to be run for the benefit of itself and its bus enthusiasts. It looks lovely on paper. Not much use though to the passengers who don't have any alternative (who never know what, if, or when anything is going to turn up); but after all they're trying to use it for work and necessity rather than as a free hobby.

From what I can see most of the bus industry is trying with a fair degree of success in meeting the needs of the passengers better than ever. At, sadly, the expense of the hobbyists. I appreciate you'd like to see it the other way around. Sadly the rest of us might not be inclined to like it so much. 


So I'll answer Smurf's points.

Firstly I'd LOVE to have the money to run my own company, but I doubt that will ever happen. If I did, though, it certainly wouldn't be to create news, but yes, to try and drag East Anglia kicking and screaming into the 21st century, and take inspiration and advice from various operators and people in the industry I have the utmost respect for, who I'll mention later. 

I save very little on fares these days as due to the vast majority of services in my area being scrapped if I have to drive 6 miles to a bus stop I may as well drive all the way. Anyway that is my business and no one else's.

Having been sarcastic in saying "After all as you keep telling us none of the rest of them know how to do it" Smurf then goes on to criticise First Essex saying it is run for themselves and enthusiasts at the expense of passengers. But then he contradicts himself again! "From what I can see most of the bus industry is trying with a fair degree of success in meeting the needs of the passengers better than ever." Except First Essex I presume? And no, I wouldn't like to see it the other way round, because if the passengers had a decent service, coverage and frequencies there would be plenty for the enthusiast, like erm, there was 4 or 5 years ago when there were, erm, more buses and services.....

Finally it is clear Mr/Mrs Smurf is not an enthusiast. That's fine,, nor am I sometimes  - in fact I've always said I'm passenger first, enthusiast second, and if I had any buses round here that would still be the case - but just occasionally I will talk from the enthusiasts point of view. I feel I do my best to interact with operators and managers to clarify things. However to describe it as a "free hobby" shows ignorance of breathtaking proportions. I doubt few hobbyists spend more pursuing their hobby as transport enthusiasts do, have you seen how much rail tours cost?  Then if you are going to an event there is the cost. I was hoping to go to the 2017 Bus & Coach event in Birmingham last week but just plain couldn't afford it. Same with Showbus, same with Old Oak Common depot open day. That isn't free. I spend a fortune in petrol driving to locations to get pics and vids to share with everyone, hopefully from different locations to the majority of enthusiasts. Of course reading this blog and writing sarcastic comments is totally free!

So to recap what I was trying to say in the first post;

Fact: There are fewer buses on the roads of East Anglia compared with 5 years ago, and fewer types.
Fact: There are fewer routes served by buses than there were 5 years ago.
Fact: On the majority of routes there have been cuts in the last 5 years.

That is going to mean there is going to be less to write about. If the Football League was reduced from 92 clubs to 45 there would be less football news. It goes without saying. If there were only 200 MP's there would be fewer to interview. Not rocket science.

When Greater Anglia replaces its entire fleet of 10 different types of train (not including short set) next year will I still enjoy travelling by train - of course I will. Will there be less to write about - of course there will. I was on Thameslink yesterday when a couple of months ago you could have had a 319, or 377/87's in 4 different liveries, or a new 700. I could have written about different journeys on different stock. Now it's all 700's. One journey is all it needs and I'm done! Less to write about. Not criticism but fact.

It is also true other areas of the country are way in front of East Anglia when it comes to trying to lure people out of their cars. Transdev, led by Alex Hornby are going mad in Yorkshire, with luxury seating (2+1 upstairs), seat back tables, every bus with WiFi/charging facilities etc, interurban routes that find the quickest way around traffic using smart technology and much increased frequencies. It's not their fault new buses rattle! Doesn't assist them but certainly not their fault.

In Reading there are double deck gas buses, many hybrids (how many hybrids in East Anglia?) and the inspirational leadership of  Martijn Gilbert and John Bickerton is an example many could follow. I have regular Twitter chats with them and have learned a lot. Certainly their staff facilities and interaction seem second to none. Must get down there for a visit.

Nottingham pioneered electric buses outside London, Ensignbus under the Newmans decided to look abroad for decent buses and have brought the BCI Excellence and Enterprise to everyone's attention. Stagecoach in East Kent, under Matthew Arnold among others have tried bringing minibuses back to encourage patronage, and Arriva have even tried Uber style on demand services in certain areas. East Anglia has none of this. Not critcism but fact. So there is less to write about. If I want to talk about new innovations I have to travel a long way.

So Mr "utter drivel" you keep taking pictures of your pretty buses - I'm pleased that you still get great pleasure from your hobby, but this blog is more than pretty buses. Smurf, I'm grateful for your contributions but I'm not always going to speak from your viewpoint. Of course I'm always happy for guest posts so if anyone would like to write one, whether you agree with me or not then please email me. I'll be delighted to hear from you.

Finally some news!!! Thanks to Andrew Kleissner's heads up I can reveal that Ipswich buses are to slash the frequency of the 98 between Ipswich and Shotley to 1 journey a day in each direction. That's from 4 a day from Shotley and 6 a day from Ipswich. Happy days!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

What Has Happened To Our Hobby?

Last week I mentioned there was little news to report at present and I'd discuss why that was. It's not going to make pleasant reading, but then the truth sometimes hurts.

There is, to be frank, not much news because there is far less going on. Let's start with buses and what's around. When I started blogging there were a multitude of different buses to spot and/or ride on. Let's take Great Yarmouth as a focal point. First's fleet comprised of Plaxton Darts, Wright Renown Volvos, President Volvo B7tl's, B12 coaches and 2 types of Olympian. Then Anglian had the gas buses, Optare Versas and Excels, Scania Omnicities and Omnilinks, original Streetlites, Loylne Tridents and ALX400 Tridents. Sanders would use anything on the 6, from DAFs to B7rle's. There were Summer Routemasters, coach operated weekly services, and the Gemini B9's on the X1. It was a good place to be, and everyone was interested in the news, particularly involving the Olympians, whose days were already numbered. Now Anglian have all but gone completely, the Ollies, Renowns, Routemasters, older Darts and B12 coaches have gone. First's fleet now comprises of ALX400 B7's, a couple of Presidents, ex Leeds B9's, short Darts and plastic Streetlites. Nothing there to whet the appetite. Sanders only use B7rle's, and all those weekly services have gone. I haven't been to Yarmouth once this Summer for buses.

Ipswich is no better. Where you used to be able to see Floline Scanias, Renown Volvos, Olympians of many types thanks to First, Carters and Ipswich Buses, B6's, step entrance Darts, Volvo Citibuses from Colchester, now it's all ALX400's, B7rle's, E200's and Scania Omnicities. Like Yarmouth there are no buses of character left. DDA and moulded plastic saw to that.

Added to that is the loss of so many routes and services and you have far fewer buses on the road anyway. I haven't done exact research but I'm willing to bet there are at least 50% fewer buses on the roads of Norfolk and Suffolk than there were 5 years ago. That means less news, which means fewer posts. The time was you could go to Norwich and know you would see something interesting. No longer. Where other parts of the country are getting gas double deckers, or electric buses, or business class interiors, or community seating areas, or 94 seater Aussie monsters, here we get overexcited at the prospect of an 8yo ex London Scania coming back from repaint. Hardly inspiring stuff.

For the next year at least the trains are relatively interesting. We are lucky to have the short set still clagging around for at least another 15 months. Then we have class 153/156/170 diesel units and Class 317/321/360/387 electric units, not forgetting the Class 90 hauled Intercity sets. Add freights, test trains, rail head treatment trains and charters, not to mention Flying Scotsman coming to the area in a couple of weeks, and railways are far more interesting than roads at present. But it won't last.

By 2019 Greater Anglia will have replaced their entire fleet with two types of new train After the initial novelty has worn off interest will wane considerably, but at least they will be brand new trains, not 8yo cast offs. But it means there will be less to write about on the railways too. Long live test trains, charters and freight that isn't Class 66 hauled!

This has also taken its toll on the amount of blogs in the area. There used to be loads. Now there are basically two. Last week Zak Nelson decided enough was enough and closed Norwich Bus Page after reaching an impressive 1 million views. My best wishes for the future, Zak, and stay in touch. Sam Larke tried to restart Norwich Buses Blog over the Summer but a combination of no news and working the Holt shuttle put paid to that. Clive has had an awful year which has seen Ipswich Bus Blog silent, not that anything has been missed. It's myself and East Norfolk Bus Blog left, and even Roy is struggling to find news.

So my apologies for the reduction in posts, but there truly is less to write about than there was even a year ago. You will find more and more posts devoted to other regions and that is really a shame. East Anglia needs a mighty kick in the pants to get it going again. Trouble is no one can afford the boots strong enough to deliver it.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

X1 Enviro In Essex

With new buses expected on the X1 next year, if a suitable vehicle can finally be found, there has been speculation as to where the current fleet of Enviro 400's will go. There maybe a clue this week with Kings Lynn based 33808 YX63 LJO spending the week at Chelmsford, operating the X30 between Stanstead Airport - Chelmsford - Southend. The route has been suffering overcrowding problems since E200 MMC's replaced coaches on the route. thus the decker is being evaluated for suitability.

These pictures, reproduced under Creative Commons Licence are by Matthew Evans, whose flickr page you can access here.

In foreign climes. 33808 in Southend  Manners Way          pic by Matthew Evans
33808 at Chelmsford Bus Station                pic by Matthew Evans

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Tornado Comes To East Anglia

Due to an abject lack of news at the moment, n which subject look for a new post in the next couple of days, here is a post I've been saving up. Cast your mind back to August Bank Holiday, which was a very warm, sunny if windy day. It also saw Class A1 Pacific 60163 Tornado come to East Anglia on a charter to Great Yarmouth from London. Huge crowds were expected to see one of the newest locos around - Tornado was only built in 2008 - and finding locations for unique pictures was going to be difficult.

However, Tim and I hatched a plan and ventured to a station only reachable by train or boat, and police car as it turned out - Berney Arms. It also took an experienced rail journey planner to realise the only way back to Yarmouth from Berney Arms was via Brundall, so we were fairly confident there wouldn't be many joining us. But I wanted to see Tornado is more than one location, so before meeting up with Tim in Yarmouth, I went to my secret location in Norwich where with just a couple of fishermen for company I waited for Tornado to appear. Lovely scene.

Tornado heading for Norwich
I had hoped to beat Tornado to the Acle Straight but alas hot bank Holidays, great Yamouth and traffic don't make a great combination, and steam beat petrol quite comfortably. So I joined the merry throng at Yarmouth and watched the shunting movements involving a rather smart DB Schenker Class 66 as Tornado was reversed back to Norwich to turn round.




After the hordes had gone and just the Mark I's remained while the two locos played musical tracks at Norwich, Tim and I waited for our train to Berney Arms. Before it arrived, though, the familiar growl of the Class 37 short set was heard, and it set up one of those photos tat just looks timeless in back & white.

Nostalgic eh!
A short ride on one of the tastefully refurbished 170's later and we alighted through the designated door at Berney Arms, my first visit there. The words "middle of nowhere" are overused, but wholly appropriate in this case. I've been to Dovey Junction in North Wales which is also inaccessible by road, but at least that has mountains. Berney Arms has nothing!

I mean nothing!
We weren't alone, 3 others had also got off but I wanted a location where we could see the trains long distance and get the station in view, and a field opposite the station ticked all the boxes. The theory was soon put to the test as the 37's passed through on teir way back to Norwich.

37405 passes Berney Arms
As you can imagine at such a popular bustling location security was high. A Police helicopter was spotted, and ten the amusing sight of a BTP car dodging the cow pats and ditches to make sure no riot was taking place at one of Britain's remotest stations! And even then they only spoke to the people on the station, not Tim and I standing in a cow field!

Please disperse - nothing to see here!
One quirk about Berney Arms is the amount of information there - I know far bigger stations with far less information. Fair play to whoever looks after the station.

The information  board at Berney Arms
And then Tornado came through, firstly being reversed back to Yarmouth, pulled by the 66, and then spectacularly with the full rake of 12 coaches.

Tornado passing through Berney Arms
Sadly the stills from the video haven't turned out great, but you can see all the videos from the day below. Thanks to Tim for the company, and to the brilliant people behind Tornado for making her visit possible. Her older sister, or should that be brother Flying Scotsman is coming later this month and we'll be out trying to avoid the crowds for that too.


Monday, 25 September 2017

Anglian Pull Out Of Great Yarmouth

It was brought to my attention today by a source close to the bus industry (yes I was watching Yes, Prime Minister last night) that Anglianbus are to withdraw their services completely from Great Yarmouth.

From November the 61 will only operate between James Paget Hospital and Kessingland weekdays, and Lowestoft Bus Station and Kessingland Saturdays. 8 journeys in each direction will operate weekdays, with 2 journeys at lunch time only operating between Lowestoft bus Station and Kessingland. The last journey to Kessingland leaves JPH at 1616, and Lowestoft Bus Station at 1648. The last joourney from Kessingland departs at 1513. On Saturdays only 5 return journeys operate, with the first bus from Kessingland to Lowestoft at 0913, and the last bus back from Lowestoft at 1403, yes 1403.

It was only 3 years ago that Anglian had up to 8 buses an hour going through Great Yarmouth. Six were on the 61/7 which ran from Southwold to Norwich, one on the 81 from Diss, plus journeys to Hemsby on the 68. In a few weeks there will be nothing. What was once a great company serving communities all over Suffolk and Norfolk is now a smouldering pile of rubble. I've said before I don't blame local management as they are just puppets strung to the breathtaking incompetence coming from Go Ahead HQ. You have to feel sorry for the staff, drivers, and most of all the passengers who put their faith in Anglian only to see it dumped on from a great height.

What really sums it up is First are not celebrating. A contact told me "We haven't won - Anglian have self destructed". It's a sad day. Maybe it's now time Anglian was just put out of its misery.

In it's heyday. Two Anglian gas buses at Yarmouth - BHS also gone!
To cap a bad weekend for Anglian I understand that Friday night thieves syphoned 1000 litres of diesel from 9 Anglian buses at their Beccles depot. to be honest I didn't know there were that many buses left. There won't be soon.