Wednesday 17 September 2014

A Day Of Firsts

And not a First bus amongst them! I decided to do something a little different today and venture to places hitherto untouched by my presence. I went straight to Norwich on a packed 88 from Halesworth (more later on that) and decided to see what Simmonds had out on the 1 as I have never been on that route before. I was rewarded big time when MCV Volvo B7R  BU14 EGD rolled up at the stop.

Now a few weeks ago I absolutely slated the Volvo 9700 Hybrid that First Essex operate on the 100 Lakeside - Chelmsford route. Hated them. Not this one. Loved it. Quiet, smooth, comfortable. A bit rattly which is always annoying in a new bus but I noticed the roads weren't exactly silky smooth so maybe a little leeway there. Not much mind you as I bet an Olympian wouldn't have rattled/ But anyway why anyone buys an E200 when the B7R is around is anyone's guess.

Simmonds MCV Volvo B7R BU14 EGD loading up at St Stephen's St
 I got off at Long Stratton to catch one back the other way, and instead of another bus got a real surprise when a coach turned up. Van Hool bodied Volvo B10M TVG 397 to be precise. A very comfortable ride back to Norwich ensued and I was so happy I had let the soon to be extremely purple Plaxton President on the 36 go!

Simmonds Volvo B10M TVG 397 on the 1 at St Stephen's St

Speaking of coaches I saw something on arrival at Noriwch earlier that had me scrabbling to get off the bus like a dog desperate to be let out for a wee! Megabus had one of their amazing Volvo B11R Plaxton Elite Interdeck coaches on the M37 to Cardiff this morning and I wanted a pic of it before the lights changed. Seeing me sprint is probably quite a sight but I got there in the nick of time. According to Megabus if demand stays high these may become a regular sight. I hope so.

Megabus 54220 YX63 NHG Volvo B11R Plaxton Elite Interdeck leaving Norwich Bus Station en route to Cardiff
So after lunch and another of my now daily arguments with EE on how my phone's camera is going to be repaired I was at a loose end so decided to something I have never done - and that is go on a bendibus that wasn't in an airport! Yes I know but I never went on a London one and don't use P&R! So I forked out £1.70 to go to Costessey and back. I got on expecting to seriously dislike them but the opposite was the case and I'm kicking myself for not getting on one many years ago. It felt really spacious, two buggy areas would make a huge difference and it's a shame there aren't many routes in this region they would easily fit on. So I arrived at Costessey, promptly had a row with the phone camera that IS working, and then found out something.

Konect 803, Mercedes Citaro bendibus BL57 OXM at Costessey P&R terminus

Now I am well aware the competition the next headline has, but this is well up there.


Now first of all I should mention that my all time favourite characters are Basil Fawlty, Victor Meldrew, Edmund Blackadder (III and IV)  and just a bit of Jim Royle thrown in for good measure. So I like a good moan - what you hadn't noticed? Anyway my intention at Costessey was to stay for a bit and try and get pics of as many of the bendibuses as I could. Fat chance. It seems if you travel between 4 - 6pm on Norwich P&R you have to pay more. If you hold a so called off peak ticket you pay extra to travel at this popular time. Now that is ridiculous in itself, and is hardly going to do anything to encourage people to leave their cars in the middle of nowhere then get on a bus into town. But wait for this - that is regardless of which direction you are travelling in!! So I had to get back on the same bus and go back to town as it was the last off peak bus before I would have had to pay more than the same again. How many do you think were on the bus with me? Go on have a guess!! Really? That many? I had the bus to me, myself and I, and was reliably informed by the driver that I would have had the next 10 to myself too yet Norfolk County Council think you should pay extra to travel on an empty bus. Perhaps that's why it was empty.. As Victor himself would have said - "I don't belieeeeeeeve it"!

Warning To Anglian 

Now back to what I alluded to earlier over the overcrowding on the 88. It is getting to the point something needs to be done or someone else might do it. Since I have been travelling on the route the first bus from Halesworth after 0930 is full by Bungay. Quite often standing by Poringland and lots standing by time it gets to Norwich. It's a decker in school holidays but not schooldays. I mentioned a few days ago that the 1600 is now packed because the 1555 relief bus on schooldays has been scrapped. Today the 1630 had a standing load when it left Norwich, and when I joined the queue for the 1700 which I thought was going to be the last remaining yellow Trident 712 there were pensioners there who had let the 1630 go as it was too full. There were a lot of people waiting. Now normally I am overjoyed to see a gas bus, but not tonight as this is how it looked when we left Norwich.

The 1700 from Norwich to Halesworth today
Where was the Trident? It seems diagrams have been changed and the 1700 is now booked to be a single deck vehicle. This is not good. Now everyone knows that school contracts take precedence over fare paying passengers but why have 711/3/5 been withdrawn in recent months? Why have 3 Konect Tridents gone south last week to Hedingham (I assume as they were spotted heading south on the A12) when buses on a profitable route are getting overcrowded to this extent.

Anglian should take note of this and take action. Yes new deckers are due in January, but Go-Ahead needs to find 5 or 6 deckers PDQ or someone is going to notice this constant overcrowding, and step in to mop up the excess and take quite a few with them. It's not rocket science in this ultra competitive market where poaching other companies' passengers seems to be the norm now. You can say you saw it here first.


  1. Why would you, as an operator, pick an E200 over a B7RLE? Simple answer is cost - even with the cheap option of an MCV body it is at least £10000 difference and whilst Simmonds are reporting surprisingly good fuel consumption figures they are still 2/3 mpg less than I have heard reported about an Enviro 200 and if the route is marginal that is a significant cost saving. Each operator will have a different matrix of decision points and will be shaped by how well their staff interact with different types - the drivers at the company I work for can get amazing mpg figures out of very heavyweight Scanias whilst getting dreadful figures out of lightweight Streetlite & Versa demonstrators but can get good mpg figures out of similar spec Enviro 200s. If you run Volvo coaches then buying Volvos makes sense, if you have heavy cycles with a lot of fairly high-speed running then a heavyweight can offer a better option, for normal bus operators the lighter weight options from ADL, Optare or Wright are more than up for the job and much cheaper at it. I have never been a big fan of ADL products (previous experience of earlier Dennis & Transbus models never filled me with a lot of faith) but the latest models are much better and doing the job as well as anything else going at an affordable price.

  2. You now have me wracking my brains as to which company you work for!! i agree which much of what you say, but rubber seals cost little and would go a long way to helping rattling probs in the new vehicles. The trick with producing a cheap product is fooling those not in the know into thinking that, in fact, it's not dirt cheap. Sadly ADL have to master that technique.