Friday, 31 October 2014

Ipswich interrupted - Again!

After having my plans for a photoshoot in Ipswich on Monday hijacked by Carters providing a rather interesting Olympian I returned today to try again, and had my plans hijacked by Carters providing a rather interesting Olympian. This time an ex Dublin Bus example.

Carters 456 Volvo Olympian R156 LHK at Old Cattle Market
New to Dublin Bus in 1998 as RV388 reg 98-D-20388 this Alexander (Belfast) bodied Olympian was bought by Carters in 2010 and has obviously been extremely well cared for. It took some finding but here is a pic of her in Fingal Flyer livery, courtesy of Irish Coaches on Flickr whose photopage you can access by clicking here.

98-D-20388 in Fingal,Flyer livery in 2007
Now you might be wondering why I'm concentrating so much on this Olympian. I like Olympians - that's hardly a shock revelation but why is this one attracting so much column space? I'll tell you. It is STUNNING! I travelled on her for nearly two hours to Manningtree and back, this time with a far nicer and more chatty driver than Monday's effort, and I reached the conclusion after a lot of thought that yes, this WAS the best bus I have been on this year so far. I doubt she rattled less when she left the factory, no sign of rust or internal fatigue and the seats? Oh my those seats were just sumptuous for standard old fashioned bus seats.

The smart interior of R156 LHK
But it doesn't matter if I like it or not, a good bus isn't a great bus unless the driver likes it too. The driver was overflowing in his praise for his vehicle and that sealed it for me - the best bus I have ridden on this year.

Carters 456 sitting at Maningtree
So for the third time I got back to Ipswich intent on getting some of the ex Essex Volvos on camera and for the third time Carters said oh no you don't! Not sure who told them Olympians are my weakness but when I heard the unmistakeable sound of a Cummins Olympian engine I knew they had gone for the jugular. Arriving at OCM was 427, Leyland Olympian G727 XDL.

Carters 427 at OCM next to Trident 451
H727 XDL started life at Southern Vectis before going to Wilts and Dorset and finally Damory Coaches of Blandford Forum in Dorset before moving to Carters, where she is normally used for school work and private hire including weddings. Here she is heading for Bournmouth in her Wilts and Dorset days, when she was registered TIL 6727. The pic is by Andrew Stopfoid, whose Flickr page you can access here.

Wilts and Dorset 727 heading for Bournemouth in October 2008
Now the interior shouldn't be underestimated on this now classic vehicle. The majority of the ceiling is carpeted, for example, in the same moquette as the seats, which believe me are extremely comfortable but maybe not what you'd want to see the morning after a heavy night out!

The erm striking moquette on the seats of Carters 427
I couldn't travel on her too far as the 94C basically doesn't meet anything coming the other way so it was only 5 mins, but that was enough to show me the Cummins engine still had all the acceleration powers I loved when driving them myself, and despite being 25 years old she still rattled far less than a Plaxton President half her age. Did her driver share my enthusiasm? "I'd be over the moon if we had a fleet of these" just about sums it up. Thank you Carters for making my week. Think I need to get down to Capel St Mary for a natter! Btw was back on my not so good phone cam for the last pic as my camera's battery had run out, so not quite as good as it might have been,.

I did get some pics of the Volvos I was after, and an extremely rare working by another operator, but that will have to wait for another post. Today rightly belongs to the senior citizens, who prove there's nowt can beat experience and top quality build.

427 pulls into the stand before setting off for Manningtree

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Privileged Post: Borderbus E300 Repaint

From now if I am lucky to come across something, or be told something before it is out in the public domain I will call it a "Privileged Post", as opposed to the normal "E" word, which is full of self boasting and I refuse to use!

I received a tip off that Borderbus's E300, which I knew was being repainted this week while the schools were off, was back at Ellough in her new colours. Since due to other committments it will be sometime before I get the chance to get up  that part of the world I emailed Andrew Pursey hoping he might be able to supply me with an official pic to use. Within 3 mins he had replied, saying although he was off this week (and sitting on his laptop obviously) Dave Marshall had taken a couple of pics and would forward them to me. 2 mins later I had the pics. Beat that! My thanks to both Tim for the tip off, and Andrew and Dave at Borderbus. 5 mins from request sent to pic on hard drive - now that's service for you. Anyway I hope you'll agree with me that the E300 looks pretty good. Although she will be used predominantly on school work she will also make appearances on the 146 so keep your eyes peeled.

Borderbus E300 KX54 NKH fresh out of the paintshop
Looking smart. That livery is really growing on me and suits the E300 no end!
After a quick Google search I found a pic of her while in service for Premiere travel of Nottingham who sadly ceased trading in January last year.

KX54 NKH while with Premiere Travel.  pic by Daniel Mears

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The End Of The Line?

On Monday in my review of the first year of the blog (click here if you haven't seen it) I proudly reposted what I considered to be just about my pic of the year featuring 47501 steaming out of Yarmouth pulling the Intercity set towards Norwich. So it was pretty sad to read on the Anglian Gen Yahoo group the same evening that 47501 was being towed to Dereham for road transport to presumably Crewe suffering from what has been described as "serious wheel set problems". Speculation is, taking into account her age and the introduction of the new Class 68's, that this could be her final journey, and she won't be repaired.

As luck would have it I had already planned to be in Norwich yesterday so it was easy to jump on a bus to Dereham and take some last pics of the old girl on another very sunny day which is great for the time of year but plays havoc with photography!

47501 sits rather forlornly at Dereham awaiting road transport to Crewe
A rather poignant "Stop" sign by the stricken loco
Here's another pic from that great day I spent with Harry in Yarmouth in July watching 47501 do the Summer drags to Norwich.

47501 switches tracks at Yarmouth to go round the Intercity set
And here she is at Lowestoft as part of the Short Set on 15th May this year

At Lowestoft at front of the Short Set
And so after more than 40 years of sterling service it might be time for this superb machine to take her leave. We all hope she'll be repaired, or bought for preservation, but if not, and this is the end of the line then on behalf of all tramsport enthusuasts I say thanks, old girl for the memories and for bringing a smile to many a face over the years, none the least mine and Harry's on that gloriously hot and sunny day in July.

One last sight of her in Dereham, dignity intact.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Ipswich Interrupted

Yesterday saw me in Ipswich with the intention of getting pics of as many of the recent transfers from Colchester as possible. It didn't work out that way. After a decent ride in on Volvo B7rle 66985, complete with excellent WiFi I got to Old Cattle Market to be faced with the first interruption to my plans. However, as interruptions go this was unexpected and rather good. Carters recent acquistion 915 was sitting gleaming in her all red paint job. A classic 1997 Volvo Olympian R915 RYO.

Carters 915 Volvo Olympian R915 RYO sits in extremely bright sunshine at OCM Ipswich
 915 started her life as London General NV115 working routes in South London before moving North to Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire with fleet number 16874, although it seems she occasionally crossed the border into Yorkshire too. Here she is in Doncaster in April 2009. Note the roof fleet numbers

Stagecoach 16874 in Doncaster in April 2009  pic by emdjt42
After Stagecoach she moved to Classic Bus North West, based in Blackpool, and saw regular service along the Golden Mile before Carters bought her this year.

So having seen her I wanted to ride her and was not disappointed when she operated the 1220 service 92 to Manningtree via the glorious Constable country which looked just stunning in the Autumn sunshine. A great ride, no rattles to speak of, comfy traditional bus seats and quiet. However, and this is a rarity for me, the sun wasn't shining in the driver's cab. I seldom criticise individual drivers but this guy was an exception. Surly, unfriendly,and decidedly bad tempered. At Manningtree I asked if there was time to take a quick pic. He gave me 10 seconds, and as I dashed out to take it he closed the doors and made as if to drive off leaving me there. He did let me back on but barely had my foot made contact with the platfrom than he was off. I did note we then waited time at Brantham for 2 mins, which was approx 3 mins down the road. Impressed by the bus, Carters, but highly unimpressed by the driver, who is the sort who gives other, decent drivers a bad name.

Anyway having arrived back at Ipswich I thought I'd nip round First's depot to get an update on the various comings and goings. I only intended to be a few mins before getting the pics I originally set out to do, but I sort of got chatting to Barry, and the best part of two hours later came out blinking not quite sure if it was still the same day! But I got the info i needed, and I think I remember most of it but my God you need decent powers of recall at the moment. I reported on the transfers yesterday in the round up, but to add to that I can tell you that ex P&R B7rle 69427 has returned from Rotherham - I saw her but wasn't quick enough to get a pic. B7tl 32653, which has been of the road having an engine rebuild is now back but has gone up to Rotherham for refurb. Coming back this week will be 69423/4, and ex Essex B7rle 66983 will be going up. Still to come from Essex are 66980 and I think 66975, although I'm not 100% on the last one - might be 76, but whichever it is they are both VOR at the moment. When they arrive that will mean 69431/3 will go the other way. 69006 will be the last transfer in, this time from Norwich, but she will not be transferred until on loan B7tl 30888 is returned to Yarmouth, which will see another President going to Norwich. Keeping up? The last vehicle to be repainted at Ipswich will be what was the first to gain leather seating back in the early Summer 69005, together with 69428, which is being held back because the ex Essex B7rle's still in Barbie livery will go first.

Well I say 69428 will be held back. A fraction of her has been done already, as the following pic shows. Here she is sporting a dark grey eye and nothing else. I believe the eye was going to be replaced so this will become a collectors item!

69428 complete with RAF Blue left eye!
 Returning at the back end of last week was the first 05 reg decker to be refurished, 32655. She was still having her vinyls applied this afternoon so a decent pic wasn't easy but here she is.

32655 having her decorations applied. Incidentallyif you have just noticed what i did I have brought it to their attention.
Closest to the camera is Scania L94 65588. Her MOT is due up soon but it is likely she will get a stay of execution, be given an MOT and sent to Essex to help out there. The fate of remaining Scania 65679 isn't clear yet.

So to recap the only members of the fleet at Ipswich pre refurbishment programme still to be done are 69005/428 and deckers 32488/91/4/656.  Phew! Once again my thanks to Barry and the staff for being so darn friendly and accommodating. Barry has also agreed to a future interview for a feature about how the engineering side operates and organises things so buses stay on the road. Something to look forward to.

Now one thing for your attention Ladies and Gentlemen. A vinyl has been applied to VA479, and I would like your views. I would think the idea is that this will be applied to all the eventual heritage liveried buses around the region when they appear. As I understand it opinions are being sought, so anyone wishing to express theirs will be welcomed. I'm sorry it's only a close up. When I go back to Ipswich later in the week to get the pics I meant to take yesterday I'll try and get a wider angled shot so you can make a better judgement, but for now here is the close up.

Seen on the offside of VA479. All opinoins welcomed.

 And finally today in a fanfare of extreme understatement the real time information boards at Old Cattle Market have been switched on. I have seen no hint of formal announcement, but they were up and running today, and not before time either. Enjoy the sun everyone.

The real time destination boards at Old Cattle Market

Monday, 27 October 2014

SB&TP - The First Year

Just over a year ago I was doing what I did most evenings, that being perusing the various bus blogs covering the area - both the Ipswich ones, Roy's, the Norwich one that existed at the time, Andy's and the X1 blog. I always got a buzz when I read a new post, or saw a pic of a bus I'd recently been on. I had sent some pics in the various blogs and enjoyed seeing them published - still do! I was particularly impressed by the efforts of the younger bloggers, and still am even if they have the tendency to be annoyingly normal teenagers at times. It was them that gave me the crazy thought that if this technology had been around when I was their age I'm pretty sure that a certain friend of mine who I know reads this blog and I would have had a blog on Maidstone & District that would have been gargantuan in size and detail!

And so I thought why not give it a go and include railways too when I can, although obviously for me getting around by bus is a lot cheaper, not to mention essential and so gets priority. Ergo on 21st October last year SB&TP launched itself into cyberspace. The very first post outlining the aspirations of the blog can been seen by clicking here. Having just read it back I wouldn't change a word of it, especially one part, which I'll come back to later.

Throughout this post I'll be posting fav pics I've taken over the last year. and we'll start with a pic of one of two fully electric buses Red Arrow had at their Waterloo Garage. Although I thought the ride they gave was hideous I was still lucky to be allowed to wander round the garage taking pics of anything I wanted.

One of the Chinese Build Your Dreams electric buses at Waterloo Garage on 18th Feb
I'm a bit of an all or nothing person. If I do something I want it to be good. Half measures don't appeal to me except in the case of housework, but I had no idea just how time consuming this blogging business would become. Because I have decided against small posts covering one item - my choice and not criticing that type of post as if everyone had the same style it would be boring - they can take hours to write and quite often come in at 1200 - 1500 words long. Then there is gathering the information. I deliberately decided to cover a wide area, basically because no one else really did, and I started out with no contacts. So I found that news gathering isn't what it's cracked up to be and therefore thought I'd do more on my experiences as a passenger. No one else writes about ride quality, punctuality, or the convenience of services on the whole, challenging the operating companies. I knew such a stance might not be popular and a few members of the establishment treated my arrival with some resitance. Can't say I blame them really as let's face it, a new bloke turns up on the scene and starts criticising left right and centre. Not what they were used to. I have tried, however to be fair and I think that is recognised now.

A real surprise when I went to Braintree was First 68000, used as a Staff Bus. Seen on Nov 7th 2013

I have been to places I would normally never go in search of something to write about, and have had some great experiences. Thanks to Megabus I hope to go to even more places over the next year as I fear if I spend too much time around here, Norwich in particular I stand a real chance of going colour blind! But one day that stands out took place in mid July, when I spent an extremely hot day in the compnay of Harry Stanley from Norfolk Scene observing the first day of the Summer drags from norwich to Great Yarmouth. Little did we know that it would be just about the only day they ran this year without a major hitch, and in the process I took what for me is just about my favourite picture of the year. I can understand why so many people stand on freezing cold platforms taking pictures of trains as we all feel like Hollywood directors trying to get that perfect shot. trains are so photogenic, and when they are moving it's even better.

47501 pulls the IC set out of Yarmouth on 12th July this year
I'm grateful for my hobby. Due to my eye problems I could easily go very stale and unmotivated, and it gets me out of the flat doing something that I have always enjoyed. I've had memories brought back and stayed in touch with an industry I love, and will always have in my blood. but most of all I have met new people. People who talk my language and share my passion. The next generation of enthusiasts, enthusiasts who have done so much within the industry now enjoying it rather than running it. Managers doing the running now, when profits and shareholders seem to mean more than passengers and services, and drivers and other staff willing to have a natter and go that extra mile - literally in some cases. Of course it doesn't always go smoothly - I fell out with my kids sometimes, and I have some amazing bust ups witrh my best friend, however we always made/make up and it's the same here. Whenever two passionate people disagree it's always going to be entertaining, but as long as they make up and shake hands that's all that matters. There's not a single person I've met that I regret meeting, and that says a lot for the enthusiast community.

The Scania E300 gas bus demonstrator Anglian had on loan in February, with the most apt registration.
And now this blog, which only started out as my random jottings has reached the stage where I'm being invited for meetings with people I'd have only dreamt about this time last year. Meeting the three guys last week has not only proved there are many different ways to skin a cat, but that the hard work has been well and truly worth it. I've got out, made friends, and learned how to do something I really had no idea about when I started. Now to push on, go to more new places, meet even more new people, put more noses out of joint by saying it as I see it, and who knows where we will be thistime next year.

Of course what motivates me to get my backside out of bed everyday is the knowledge that there are people appreciating what I do by reading the blog. That's actually pretty humbling, and to see viewing figures grow week in week out never fails to give me a thrill - the blog's readership has grown by a thurd in the last two months alone. So thank you everyone for giving me a purpose in life again. It's a gift I'll take good care of. 

Plenty of memories wrtapped up in this bus,

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Weekly News Round Up 26/10/14

I had an extra hour to do this post last night, which was useful as it's been one helluva week. Three top interviews, which meant actually putting a shirt and tie on - the amount of people who didn't recognise me was just hilarious! Anyway I haven't been neglecting other duties except I didn't get to Ipswich this week. I will be early next week as the last few days have gone crazy with transfers and it's been hard to keep up, so I'll start the round up with what's gone on there.


As far as I'm aware the only return from Rotherham this week was Volvo B7tl 32655 which arrived last night. That's the easy bit. I don't know if anything else went away but Volvo B7rle 66979 arrived from Essex and promptly carried on straight up to Rotherham. Also arriving from Essex this week were Volvo B7rle's 66977/8/82/3/4. Presumably 66980 will be arriving at some point as well as 69006 from Norwich eventually. Going the other way were bum numbing Scanias 65672/3/4, Scania 65589 has gone there on loan, and 65670/5 will be going soon. Now obviously for taking all those B7rle's from them and giving them all the Scanias there had to be a price to pay and that price is 4 of the ex P&R Volvo's. Joining 69421/30 which have been at Colchester for sometime will be 69429/31/2/3. A shame, but having ridden on 66978 yesterday I think Ipswich have got the better deal. Just keep those E200's far away from me on the 53! I can also reveal that Ipswich will be using the new ticket machines from today, following Kings Lynn who are already using them. Just make sure the tickets have food vouchers on the back - they come in very useful!!

New arrival 66978 KX05 MHE at Wickham Market yesterday. Btw the destination display WAS working, my camera didn't capture it.
Now at Norwich and a red letter week it has been. Well purple letter actually - no I won't start all that again but just as there was much excitement when the first Ipswich repaint arrived and entered service - anyone remember what it was - nope me neither though 66981 rings a bell - there was equal if not more excitement when Plaxton President Trident 33163 started her new polished life in earnest this week. I was in Norwich Friday lunchtime and not only got my own pics at last of her but also had a ride on her, which only proved that the interiors and ride quality are exactly the same as before. So it looks good from the outside. Although.........

I swear it's not my camera making that panel behind the emergency door look dirty.

Here she is showing her better side in Anglia Square.Note the poppy in the top deck windscreen


Scania Omnicity 462, the only remaining 03 registered example has returned from Scania after having structural work completed and is back in service. Another Streetlite has got a defective destination screen, making the running total 3 vehicles with no screens and one with an incomplete screen.


As promised last week here is the latest from Galloway, with thanks to David  Green for the continued updates. The latest MCV Evolution to enter service has been given fleet number 337. unfortunately I don't have the reg but David tells me it is still in all white. Dart 188 has been sold but is still in service. It has also lost the reg 1440 PP and reverted to its original reg of R558 UOT. Ex Ipswich Solo 333 now carries the 1440 PP registration.

The Dart has been sold to the same company that took all the Beavers. Joining it for spares will be long withdrawn ex Anglian Beaver 3577 PP. Gaining that cherished registration is Wright Cadet 227 AY05KVF. Finally Daf Ikarus coach 207 5611 PP has been withdrawn which marks the end of the former London coaches at Galloway.

Galloway 188 before withdrawal,   Pic by Ian reproduced under CCL
And Finally

One of my hidden talents is I'm a part time (extremely), freelance organist, doing the odd wedding and funeral. I had a wedding today back in my old stamping ground of Wickham Market - hence the aforementioned trip on 66978 - and I was surprised to see all the guests for the service trooping in some 45 mins early. The Groom explained that they had all come by bus, which had to turn round and go to pick the bride up. Intrigued I went outside to see what they had travelled in, and this is what I saw. Lesson of the day: ALWAYS have your camera on you!

One of the First Yarmouth Routemasters on wedding duty at Wickham Market yesterday
I hope you have all enjoyed the Anniversary Special posts this week featuring interviews with three top managers from the region. If you haven't you'll find the links somewhere to the right of this post. Tomorrow, to conclude the first anniversary week of SB&TP I'll do a review of those interviews, and the first year of publication, featuring some of my favourite pics and experiences over the last year. Check in tomorrow for that.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Anniversary Special: Interview With Andrew Pursey

It's fair to say I would ideally have entitled this post "And now for something completely different", because this is one of the most different, and pleasantly difficult posts I've ever had to write.

I was looking forward to meeting Andrew Pursey, who it is fair to say I'm a bit of a fan of. It is he who purchased the MAN Ecocity Gas Buses for Anglian, which earns him a place in my own personal Hall of Fame anyway, started a new route in the village I lived in at the time before it was summarily, and in my view in a rather kneejerk way, zapped the moment he left Anglian, and was responsible for building Anglian Bus into a company of the size and stature that a major company like Go-Ahead would want to purchase. That is quite a legacy, and over the last 6 months or so his new company Borderbus have quietly yet effectively slotted themselves into the local bus scene.

And so at 1350 I caught one of their smart E200's on the 146 from Norwich. By lucky chance that one runs into the depot (until November when it won't), so I was taken by one of the area's friendliest drivers, Malcolm, up to Ellough, and taken straight through to meet the man himself.

BB62 BUS at St Stephen's St a couple of weeks ago
As I walked into the building I could sense something and couldn't quite put my finger on it. It took a bit of time before it hit me what it was. It was contentment. Peace and tranquility, almost relaxation. Not something I have experienced many times at a bus depot in the 35 years I've been involved one way or another with them. Let me explain why this Utopian state exists.

When Andrew Pursey left Anglian after a year of working with Go-Ahead he had no intention whatsoever of starting another company. Life was his to enjoy, and enjoy it he did. Right until, as he told me, the kids went back to school and he was left twiddling his thumbs. After all "there are only so many times you can mow the lawn". And so proving that once transport is in your blood it never leaves it Borderbus was created and a couple of buses purchased for Sir John Leman High School work in Beccles. Or rather three buses purchased, as was explained: If you need two buses, only have two buses and one of them breaks down you're a bit buggered so the third was bought as cover. The strategy paid off, work increased, and now Borderbus carry over 400 children a day in 6 Plaxton President Volvo B7tl's to and from John Leman, with vehicles dedicated to the school and even advertising school events.

A mobile school noticeboard. That is flash!!
Of course one man can't do it all on his own, and Andrew brought along Dave Marshall, former Chief Engineer at Anglian to do the maintainence side of things. Borderbus's vehicles have turned out to be incredibly reliable, which means Dave is another smiling chap, although I suspect the reliabilty is down to his hard work in the first place. Drivers wanting to work with Andrew again followed, and a team was formed.

The first public service arrived in April with the contract won to operate the 521 between Halesworth and Aldeburgh, sponsored by Suffolk County Council. After much thought and evaluation it was decided to get a little E200, brand new at a cost of £114,000. Ouch. But apparently the little bus (should be called Bertie after the bus in Thomas the Tank Engine) hasn't missed a beat. Part of the contract was to employ the former Nightingale's drivers on the route and that too has proved to be a great success.

The success of the school work meant that Andrew could indulge himself, and look at starting a commercial route up. It was decided to run the 146 from Southwold to Norwich, deliberately targeting the more senior passengers, as their peak travelling time fell quite nicely in the gap between school runs. I was pretty quick to criticse the lack of afternoon runs during school term when I saw the timetable but now I know the audience Andrew is targeting it actually makes sense. The more extended timetable operated in the Summer proved such a success that new journeys are being introduced from November, and thanks to another achool contract an Enviro 300 has been acquired, which will occasionally see 146 work too.

The fleet of Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7tl's for Sir John Leman High School
And that's just about it! No stress, no unhappiness, no huge turnover of staff - in fact the majority of staff have been working together for over 20 years and it truly has that family feeling. There is no pressure to expand either, in fact Andrew rather determinedly stated that he has no intention whatsoever to ever have a fleet of more than 20 buses. Obviously he won't look a gift horse in the mouth if one presents itself, but if Borderbus stays the same for the next 5 years you get the impression that everyone will be happy as Larry. It's as though they have done their time in the rat race, and management and drivers are now just taking it easy, relaxing after a hard career. And that is what has made this post so hard, yet enjoyable to write.There is so little to write about because the company is ticking over with no fuss, no bother, no targets or quotas set by up high to achieve, no multiple absentees everyday and no pressure to economise, develop or justify every single action. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and hope it won't be the last, although future visits will be for my own pleasure, not to get a good post from!

Dave Marshall cheerfully took me back to Lowestoft in the sparkling company maintainence van, not seeming to notice the horrendous Friday afternnon Lowestoft traffic, just saying how happy he was with life, as everyone seems to be there. What a great way to finish the first anniversary of this blog.

Before I left I told Andrew that this would be a hard post to write and I only had four words in my head to write. Maybe it's right that I finish with those four words, as they came to mind while I was watching and listening to Andrew proudly talk about his company as others would talk about their child's achievements at school.

"He's a happy bunny!"

Friday, 24 October 2014

Anniversary Special: Interview With Chris Speed PartTwo

Welcome to Part Two of my chat with Chris Speed, Business Manager First Eastern Counties, that I had on Tuesday in the Troll Cart in Great Yarmouth. If you missed Part One it can be seen by clicking here. In Part One I mainly concentrated on Norwich. In this part I'll talk about other areas of FEC.

But before that I'll just clear up a rumour. For some months now there have been persistent rumours that First are going to challenge Anglian on the 87/88 to Poringland and Bungay. I asked Chris about that and he confirmed that there were no plans to do so at the present time. It won't stop the rumours going around but you'll hear no more of them here unless things change.

So onto other areas and I'll start at Yarmouth and answer Mick's query on Part One about the Heritage vehicle for Yarmouth. It was originally intended that Ex First Leicester Gemini 32629 would get the livery, but that idea has been discarded purely because it was thought that the livery just wouldn't suit it. So it will eventually go on one of the ex Leicester ALX400's, which will need to go away for DDA upgrades in the near future. One of them will come back in the Yarmouth Blue livery. No idea on timescale but that is what's happening.

Also at Yarmouth when the Streelites arrive in the next couple of weeks it will finally spell the end for the remaining Volvo B10 Wright Renown Saloons. The Jersey Darts, which were thought to be leaving will in fact be remaining. After the repaints at Ipswich are complete ALX400 30888 will return silently to Yarmouth, which will allow another President to go to Norwich, the lucky things! I did enquire how Ipswich could silence 30888 so quick when the likes of 32206/7/629 are all running around with blowing fans, and the simple answer is it's up to the individual depot engineers what they spend their budget on. The fan switches cost around £400 and Ipswich like quiet buses!

Now the Olympians. They are staying indefintitely. Even after 2017 when they can't be used in regular service they will be retained for Bernard Matthews work. Obviously I'm delighted at that news and I'm going to have to work out a way I can still get the occasional journey on them after 2017. I don't know if 34112 will get a reprieve as 34110 is getting. 34113 I think is beyond viable repair now,but overall it is great news. So here is a pic I took this afternoon of one of the Olympians next to the best looking Gemini at present in Yarmouth.

Olympian 34108 passes Volvo B9 Gemini 37578 in Yarmouth this afternoon

Now to Lowestoft, and I'm afraid this is going to be pretty short as we hardly discussed Lowestoft at all. However, the 99 is apparently ticking over quite nicely and the X2 is a pain in the neck due to traffic probs both ends of the route meaning allocations can be a nightmare. In Part One I alluded to something Chris said that I failed completely to pick up on. E400 33423 just happened to be on the stand outside the Troll Cart and I asked if there had been any news regarding the hybrid X1 livery as suggested by myself and Sam Larke. Chris told me the news on that wasn't very positive but nothing definite yet, but it might be an idea for the X2 livery. I'm sorry - my ears should have pricked up like an Alsatian's but failed. X2 LIVERY????? I'll have to get back to you on that one when I've tied Chris to a handrail and forced the information out of him!!

Before I end up at Ipswich (story of my life) I think I should eat a bit of humble pie here. I was the first blogger to complain about the rattling on the X1 E400's. I lambasted them, and got a fair bit of stick for it. However gradually others started to agree. Well rattle no more. The Chief Engineer who covers Kings Lynn and Yarmouth is apparently an obsessive anti rattler. I want to shake this man's hand. A lot, and I mean a LOT of work has been carried out on the E400's, and while there are still things I dislike intensely about them the rattling is less than it was when they hit the road just over a year ago. That is not to just be applauded but in my view is nothing short of a minor miracle. So hats off to the teams at Kings Lynn and Yarmouth - you have achieved what I thought was impossible.

33804 at Kings Lynn a couple of weeks ago
And now finally to Ipswich. Obviously a lot has happened there recently and I'm losing track myself of what's going on there. However suffice it to say there is a lot of swapping between Ipswich and Colchester happening, with more 05 reg B7rle's coming up from Eseex, who are taking back their quite heinous 6567 series Scanias. There are other movements that Chris has asked me to keep quiet on for now. Despite the news being broken elsewhere I will not reveal anything until the agreed time.

Now the other day I complained about the way the bright shiny wheels of the Ipswich refurbs are no longer bright and shiny, and suggested a jet wash at the fuel pumps to keep them clean. Well it seems I'm not alone as Chris told me that hand washing at Ipswich depot is to be introduced, with wheels kept clean. Effort to inprove washing of top deck windscreens is also going to be stepped up, as they are the windows that people make a beeline for on deckers and dirty ones give a bad impression. Really good to see that issues are being not just recognised but rectified quickly.

One quick word about WiFi. No one has the job of checking them as it can be all done through a laptop, which can see the status of each bus and who is logged on, and in most cases a simple reboot does the trick. 

There was so much more I could have talked about but time just ran out, so I'll have to make sure of a follow up meeting soon. I have to be perfectly honest here - it didn't feel like Manager meeting "journalist" on Tuesday, but two mates with a common interest meeting up for a natter. It was just one of them was being paid!

Now I have been known to show a bit of disdain for other journals who are scared to criticse anyone or anything for fear on losing out on depot visits or contacts. Regular readers will know I have no such qualms and if I think something is wrong I will say so. Therefore pleased be assured that the next paragraph is not artificial in any way, but my true feelings at the moment.

I have criticised First more than any other company in the first year of this blog. That is probably not surprising, giving their ubiquitous nature and therefore it's only to be expected that more things happen. However I can truly say in recent months I have noticed a marked improvement in many areas. There seems to be a real effort to smarten up both buses and image, despite what seems to be considerable finacial restraints and uncertainty about fleet upgrades. The railways are suffering due to past lack of investment and mismanagement, and the current crop of First managers are fighting a similar legacy. There will be no quick fix, but I feel with people like Chris Speed showing the enthusiasm and drive he does, that in 5 years time we might see a massive difference to what we see now. First had to get its act together, and it is, although as with any huge vessels, initial movement may remain imperceivable to some.

Chris, it was a real pleasure having out first really long, decent chat on Tuesday. I hope it was the first of many, and it's good to be able to write so positively about First.

Finally Chris has asked me to pass on a request to all you photographers out there. VA479 at Ipswich is going to be adorned internally with photos of buses in Ipswich past and present, and he would love to hear from anyone interested in having their pic included. You are invited to email Chris at  Expect a deluge, Chris!

The Ipswich Family and blog background pic

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Anniversary Special: Interview With Chris Speed Part One

Tuesday was a busy day for me. No sooner had I left Anglian Bus's depot in Beccles than I caught the 81 to Yarmouth for a meeting with Chris Speed, Business Manager for First Eastern Counties. Chris is truly a man after my own heart as he said he didn't mind where we went for the chat as long as he could see the buses. Suits me, sir, so we headed for the Troll Cart where the conversation was regularly temporarily halted by two pairs of eye swivelling round to see some six wheeled animal going past!

Obviously after the events in Norwich the previous evening the first subject up for discussion was colours. Never have eyes been so rolled as when I mentioned repainted the Purple President making its debut on the Red Line. If you haven't seen my mickey taking post click here. I apologised for laughing so much and to his great credit Chris was highly magnanimous. Obviously there was a logical reason for its appearance being the only bus available and it was only out for 90 mins, but it was still an opportunity not to be missed. I advise all bloggers to take note of what follows as it does rather supply a template for the future. Chris said he had no problem whatsoever with facts being reported - regardless of how they are reported as long as they are facts - things that have happened. It was fact that a Purple bus had made its debut on the Red route and so there were no complaints about it being reported. However, what gets up his nose is when untruths are published, such as buses missing or groups of drivers waiting for absent buses to turn up.

We spoke a lot about Norwich, which is clearly going to be the centre of attention for the next year or so. It is acknowledged all round that the fleet needs updating. The initial repaints are basically a stop gap to smarten everything up until vehicles are eventually replaced, and that led me to enquire as to the cost of a repaint. I quite like the programme Wheeler Dealers, where two guys buy classic vehicles in sorry states,and do them up making a profit. Nearly everything gets a repaint, and the cost always seems to be around the £1500 mark. I suggest that is a bit of a rip off as Chris told me that at Rotherham a single deck repaint costs around £1500 and a double decker £2000. To put that into perspective the original vinyls on Anglian's gas buses cost £2000 a time. So to repaint the entire Norwich fleet wiul cost far less than one brand new bus, and if you look at it that way it doesn't seem too bad.

One of my better pictures of the year - VA479 at Ipswich Stastion
But what of new buses. Of all news that everyone wants to get out first the knowledge of new buses is right up there, and I'm delighted to reveal. . . . . erm . . . . . . . absolutely nothing! The Streelites are finally due in a couple of weeks and I thought I had been given a scoop from a Norwich driver on Monday who told me about an impending delivery of new vehicles next year. but apparently not, as Chris told me no one has a Scooby what, if anything is coming. The hope is for the already published 50 vehicles, but nothing is confirmed yet. And they could be anything depending on the national budget for new vehicles, and what else might take priority, such as a new Park and Ride contract elsewhere in the country. I do have to say that I find that a strange way to operate, and must make planning impossibly difficult. It is a bit chicken and egg - new buses can generate extra profit but if the profit isn't there already you might not get the new buses. However, if there are new vehicles next year some will be for the Blue Line to the University and will be delivered already with the Blue Line livery. Incidentally the reason the Purple Line is being done first is as the Streetlites form part of the Purple Line, although not painted purple, they will be in new livery, so the Purple Line will be the first to have all repainted vehicles. Except when a Turquoise Line bus goes on it of course!!!

I don't envy Chris his job whatsoever with regard to Norwich. It could easily turn into a damned if he does damned if he doesn't job if the support and investment from up high isn't forthcoming. The danger is that Norwich will become a city of extremely colourful, highly polished turds that will look brilliant if you don't have to get on them. I must add that Chris was extremely disdainful about the Volvo B7l's, Scanias of a similar age, and the quality of the seating in both. Maybe Aberdeen should be quite relieved that they haven't given Chris an open chequebook. Everyone else would love it but I don't think they would!

34111 seen on an X1 in August - I'll have good news about the Olympians in Part Two
In Part Two I'll report on what was discussed about other parts of the region, including wheel cleaning at Ipswich, WiFi issues on X1, just how long will the Ollies stay in service at Yarmouth, and a rather intriguing hint about the X2 that I failed utterly to latch on to!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Anniversary Post: Interview With Philip Eden Part Two

In Part One of my interview with Philip Eden, Operations Manager at Anglian Bus, which can be read by clicking here, I reported on the changes made to the company since Mr Eden arrived some 18 months ago now, and the respomses to specific points made in my recent email. In this second and final part I'll reveal a bit about the future, and current fleet developments.

As mentioned in part one Anglian Bus is now in a period of consolidation after major changes to the operation, and downsizing of the fleet. Apart from a few tinkerings to timetables to aid punctuality there are no major plans for development or expansion in the near future. Indeed Mr Eden took the opportunity to quash a long standing rumour. The name"Go-Ahead East" has been banded around for a few months now, particularly with regard to the X1 corridor. However Mr Eden insisted it was complete twaddle and like a most rumours it was simply that - a rumour. He pointed out that many Go-Ahead companies retained their own identity, such as Brighton & Hove and Metrobus, Chambers and Hedingham, and it would be totally against current policy to merge Anglian and Konect, albeit that they are sister companies. He also confirmed, much to my disappointment that there will be no further gas buses, despite them being 30% more efficient on fuel. A major reason for this is that they have no sell on value, and to be fair that is a valid point as few companies have the infrastructure to accommodate gas buses. How likely is it that one of them will go into private preservation, for example.

Something you don't normally get to see - the gas tank of a gas bus!
Another rumour that had been circulating was the arrival of some Volvo Geminis next year. A good rumour that one because originally that had been the plan. However no more. Instead early next year, probably around February time will be three Scania Omnicity Deckers from Metrobus. As yet no further details are available, ie how old/which part of Metrobus etc. However they will be converted to single door and refurbished like the Konect Geminis were, although it's not known yet who will be carrying out the work. Something I neglected to ask is which livery they would be painted into - the "old" swirly livery or the "new" one as adorned by 229, so if anyone from Anglian is reading this can you let me know please, as well as if you have any plans for WiFi, which is something else I forgot!

The five year lease on the Streetlites runs out in July 2015, and I got the distinct impression that it will not be renewed. However it shoud be remembered that those Streetlites were virtually prototypes, and were the first of their kind in this country, so I guess it was inevitible there would be issues. No idea what might replace them yet.

After the meeting with Mr Eden had concluded Dave Jordan took me to the place many have made a pilgramage to - the graveyard at the bottom of the depot.  I was given the privilage of taking pics too.

A sad sight, but inevitible in the end.
 However it is not all bad news from the graveyard. A lot of these vehicles have become donors and keep other vehicles going. For example in Part One I posted a pic of Optare Excel 229. She is only on the road thanks to 216 giving up many of her components, as seen below.

Optare Excel 216, giving her parts so 229 may live on!
But for me the most impressive news came next. I'm sure most of you remember the Solo that caught fire in spectacular style earlier in the year. 958 AO57EXA combusted quite spectacularly in Filby in May and I got a close up view yesterday which made it all the more remarkable to me that no one got hurt, as the damage is extreme to say the least. However despite that parts of 958 still live on.

There was a pic of the rear of fire hit Solo 958 here, but since Anglian have requested its removal here are some cute puppies!
 It was recently reported that Solo 959 AU08GLY had re-entered service after a long period off the road. Well I am delighted to reveal that 959 now carries the engine of 958, and probably other bits too!  I think that's quite something to be honest, so well done to all concerned. There don't appear to be any pics of her yet complete with new fleet names so here is a classic I found on Flickr which as she was on the 81's yesterday seemed appropriate. Reproduced under CCL you can access John Carter's Flickr page by clicking here.

Solo 958 (then 358) with Scania 416 at Yarmouth.  Pic John Carter
 As a foot note after being driven back to Beccles by Dave Jordan I promptly left my camera on Scania 451, which I had to myself between Beccles and Yarmouth. I realised fairly soon what I'd done and reported it to Anglian stating route, time and vehicle. I'm pleased to say I got a call this morning saying they've got it and I'll be reunited with my camera tomorrow. Cheers guys - top service.

My thanks go to Philip Eden and Dave Jordan for their time and hospitality in making my visit so productive and enjoyable, for the transport to and from the depot, and for the invitation to contact them for clarification as and when required.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Anniversary Post: Interview With Philip Eden Part One

Last week I sent an email to Anglian. Some of you may have seen it as I originally published it as an open letter, however after a rethink I took it down to give Anglian the right of reply privately. Reply they did, and in a way I totally unexpected - an invite to go to the depot at Ellough and discuss the issues I had raised in my email. Due to logistics and my lack of personal transport it was even arranged for me to be picked up from my flat to be taken there.

And so bang on 1030 this morning, Dave Jordan, Commercial Officer at Anglian drew up in a company vehicle to take me to the depot. Sadly not a gas bus so my dream pic of a gas bus outside my flat was not to happen! Now unlike most bloggers this was my first time to Anglian's depot, and my initial surprise was the size of it. Quite frankly it's huge, and despite recent reports half of it has not been sold. Some has been resurfaced with potholes filled in. But it could easily accommodate 500 buses size wise if not facilities wise.

And then the time came to meet Philip Eden, Operations Manager at Anglian. A big man with a big smile and firm handshake we quickly got down to business, with Dave Jordan staying with us.

The first thing Mr Eden did was give me a brief precis of his time at Anglian, decisions he felt  he had to make in order to reshape and redirect the company. The fleet has been reduced from 91 to 50, including those transferred to Konect, and the compnay is now in a period of consolidation, while still fine tuning timetables etc to ensure smooth running.

Basically there are three stages that needed to be addressed. Two have been achieved and the third is about to begin in earnest. First of all the operations had to be sorted. This saw the route re-numbering and linking of routes last year, new timetables, new driver diagrams etc. The next challenge was vehicle reliability, which wasn't good. Vehicle reliability is now at an all time high and it must be said I have never had an Anglian journey lost or disrupted due to mechanical breakdown. The third stage is exterior appearance and cosmetic improvements. As Mr Eden said it's pointless having a sparkling, pristine vehicle if it's breaking down all the time, and it's hard to argue with that. Vehicles have been rebranded, and soon the matter of scratches, scrapes, gaffer tape around bumpers etc will be attacked.

Syd Eade sent me this great pic of Optare Excel 229 X229WRA in Beccles yesterday.  Cheers, Syd.  pic (c) Syd Eade
And so on to specifics in my email. I mentioned that the Scanias in particular have pretty uncomfotable seats. Although sympathetic there's going to be no change there. The 7/61 is regarded as the Golden Goose and will get the premium vehicles. The 07/58 reg Scanias I singled out are ex demonstrators and have bog standard Scania seats. These will remain.

The heating on Scania Omni City decker (ok?) 551 is being fixed so it will not be a fridge all winter again. I really hope so!

The cleaning regime at Anglian has been overhauled, and so there shouldn't be a problem there, although the specific incident I mentioned in the email wasn't mentioned. To be honest cleanliness isn't a huge problem, which makes things stick out more when they do occur.

Now one of the major points I made was destination screens, or rather 3 vehicles with broken or defective ones. Streetlite 353 is soon to be fixed, however Scania decker 552 will need to be repaired by Scania, as the fault lies deep in the bowels of the system. The solo only showing 6 Beccles wasn't really discussed. However the reason why they have been running around like that for so long was discussed, and a pretty decent explanation was provided. It transpired that the older Scania Omnicitys have all had to go to Scania for some urgent structual repairs. All Omnicitys built at that time will need this work done, but it is time consuming, and has meant that Anglian have been rather short of vehicles. Now the Scanias are returning - 462 was back on the road for the first time today minus any fleetnames - there will be the spare capacity to take the vehicles with defective screens off the road and have them repaired. Fair enough.

We then moved onto future plans, involving both routes and fleet. In the next post I'll reveal what was said, what is actually coming to Anglian early next year (NOT Volvo Geminis), adaptation for existing vehicles and how a phoenix has risen from the ashes.

The last remainng Anglian ex Brighton & Hove Trident 712 at Halesworth earlier in the year,

Monday, 20 October 2014

NURSE - Please Help!!

As regular readers will know I don't normally do short, one item posts these days, but there are exceptions to every rule and this is one. I had to go to Norwich today and hoped I might just see freshly painted PURPLE - remember that colour - it's important - Route President 33163, as featured in yesterday's round up out on the road. Luckily I didn't. Yes you read correctly - I did say luckily, because it has emerged that indeed the Ribena (that's the ORIGINAL) bus made it's debut on the streets of Norwich on - drum roll please - the RED Route! I promise you had I seen that you wouldn't be reading this now as I'd have laughed so hard I would have needed serious medical treatment. So here is Steve's guide to the difference between Red and Purple.

This is Purple.

It's a nice colour, related to Royalty and is actually one of my favourite colours. It is the colour that 33163 now sports on its front end.

This is Red

Commonly seen as a sign of danger, the colour of formerly successful football teams, and a route that isn't Purple.

Now when the repainting scheme for Norwich was announced I did predict on these very pages that it would lead to the wrong colour bus on routes but not in my wildest, most negatively pessimistic dreams did I think it would be the very first journey. Oh god that's priceless - NURSE!!