Sunday, 31 January 2016

E400H City - Copy Or Original?

In 2008 Boris Johnson, the newly elected Mayor for London announced a competition to design a bus to replace the iconic and much loved Routemaster. A joint effort by Capoco Design and architects Foster and Partners won the competition, and after a bidding process Wrightbus were chosen to build the New Bus for London, thereby nicknamed the Borismaster. By the middle of this year 808 of them will have been built, and it's fair to say they have divided opinion. People either love them or hate them. I'm in the love them camp.

The first time I stepped inside a Borismaster I was taken immediately by the obvious effort that had been made to somehow preserve the feeling of travelling on a Routemaster - the seat moquette, the circular soft lighting just like the old lightbulbs but using up to date LED's, the interior colour scheme even circular bell pushes. They feel solid, have lasted the London pace better than I anticipated and I have never had an issue with them.

But now there is a new kid on the block. Alexander Dennis have seen how successful the Borismaster has been, and have created their own version of the E400MMC to challenge the Borismaster. So today I went to London to compare the two. Ended up comparing more than that as it turned out.

After a very impressive journey on an Arriva 04 reg B7tl ALX400 to Bluewater and then a surprisingly acceptable ride on an 11 reg E400 to Woolwich I was pleased to see I could get to Peckham on a route recently converted to MMC operation.

Two of the E400 MMC's on the 177, showing both destinations
It was bloody freezing upstairs. I have always thought those air chill units too noisy and not that effective, except when they're not needed. The MMC's are a huge improvement on the old E400's but nothing has been done to improve the air chill system, and they still dominate proceedings on the upper deck.

However my grumbling was stopped in its tracks when I spotted my target for the day, the E400H City on its first London route - the 78 which operates between Nunhead near Peckham and Shoreditch in the heart of the East End. I have to say if I was Foster and Partners I would be a little miffed. Take a look at these two pics of two offsides.

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Honest Guv we haven't copied anything - we just happened to have an original idea that by pure coincidence looks like something designed by someone else. Yup heard that one before. So what else did ADL copy I mean take inspiration from? Well those of you who have been on a Borismaster will remember the comforting burgandy and gold interiors.

Front upper interior of the E400H City
Yes that burgandy and gold. The only difference is that the plastic is the typical ADL moulded plastic that looks and feels as though it's come off the clearance shelf at Poundland. What about the seat moquette - after all the moquette on the Borismaster was designed to remind us of the original Routemaster moquette, but this the E400h City is a completely different bus isn't it?

Rear upper deck
Ah ok - no that's fair enough, the seats are a different shape after all. Now you will have noticed a major difference between the E400H and the Borismaster - it has one staircase too few, in fact it is defficient in the staircase department to the tune of one (thanks Pete and Dud). The whole idea of two staircases on the Borismaster was to get more people on and off quicker. The MMC clearly doesn't do that. I do like, however, what ADL have done with the rear window - the extra window provides much more light. Which brings us onto the lights. Bog standard E400 strip lighting I'm afraid, none of your LED circular lights as on the Borismaster, but then they wouldn't want to be accused of copying would they!

So come on Steve just show us the bleeping bus I hear you yell! Ok here it is!

Arriva HA2 E400H City LK65 BYY at Shoreditch terminus
And from the rear...

Rear view of the E400H City
So that's the aesthetics, what about the ride? Well it's an E400MMC so the ride is good. Few rattles, quiet engine, fast acceleration - almost too fast for London really especially under electric power as many people are still getting to their seats or coming downstairs - this isn't East Anglia. But the air chill wasn't nearly as intrusive as the standard E400 which is a major plus point. I ended up going on three of them, HA2, 3 and 15 as I just couldn't reach any firm conclusions about them, and I think that's the problem. I'm not sure these vehicles know exactly what they are, or what their purpose is.

They lack all the advantages of a Borismaster, 3 doors, rear platform, 2 staircases. The passenger capacity is no higher than a normal E400MMC. I assume performance is no different to a normal E400MMC so why do they exist? Is it that they are a lot cheaper than the Borismaster (the plastic certainly is) so operators who really want a Borismaster but can't justify the extra expense (or don't need the extra door and staircase) can have something that resembles one? The E400MMC is a perfectly good bus, far better than its predecessor, despite the air chill noise, so if the City version isn't meant to just be a cheap version of the Borismaster, copying just enough to not be sued, then what is it for? Discuss.

I got off an E400H City in North Peckham and jumped straight on a Borismaster operating one of the latest routes to be converted to the vehicles, the 168 which runs between North Peckham and Hampstead Heath, which is quite a trek.

LT550 in front of LT547 at North Peckham
I have always liked Borismasters. They feel better than anything else, have managed to recreate the retro feeling required by Boris Johnson (and many others), and as far as I'm concerned are the best bus around, in urban areas at least, as I've never been on one out of town, which is a shame as I can't really complete my assessment of them until I have. Are they better than the E400H City's? Yes. Does that make the Enviro a bad bus? Not in the slightest.

However since I had the opportunity the ultimate comparison had to be made, and I rode one of the heritage Routemasters on the 15 between Trafalgar Square and Tower Hill.

RM 324 in front of two imposters by Charing X Station
I have to be honest here - it wasn't great. Bumpy to the point I couldn't type on the phone, rattly and jerky. The seat was uncomfortable but at least it was the warmest bus I'd been on all day. But there was one glaring obscenity. Unless my ears deceived me it had been fitted with a Dennis Dart engine. I know some have. I wish to make this clear - a Routemaster with a Dart engine is not a Routemaster - it is a crime scene!

So to sum up. The E400H City is a good bus but I have no idea why it's been built as the standard E400H does everything the City does anyway and is proving popular. The Borismaster reigns supreme but the original Routemaster I'm afraid is now well past its best and as for the Dart engine...

But it wasn't the worst bus I went on today. That award goes to a 15 reg, yes 15, Volvo B5LH Gemini 3 on the 6 which rattled and banged appallingly for a bus less than a year old. Perhaps Wright should put the same build quality into them as they do the Borismaster, but at least it backed up my Scottish conclusions of November. All in all a really good day.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Service News And Kent Obs

It is a nervous time for rural bus routes again, with Councils having to cut yet more services. I say rural routes but don't be surprised if town and city routes suffer too, as I understand at least one local county council is thinking of cutting Concessionary Pass rebates to operators. If this happens the local bus map could look more spartan than the rail map did after the Beeching cuts.

With this in mind on VOSA this week Suffolk Norse have cancelled just about all their services in the Ipswich area. The 179 from St Augustines - Newbourn, the 173 from Woodbridge - Trimley St Martin, the 163 from Levington - Ipswich, and the 72 between Woodbridge and Ipswich have all been cancelled effective March 26th. Now this could just be a tender change and Suffolk Norse have decided to pull out of service work, concentrating on school/swimming contracts etc, but we shall see.

I'm grateful to Trevor Arbon, who alerted me to the fact last week that Galloway had cancelled the 482 between Frramlingham and Diss. Thankfully this appears to be just a tender change as Simonds are taking the service over from March 29th although no tenders have been published.

Also on VOSA this week Norfolk Norse are amending the route and timetable of the weekly 143 from Bury St Edmunds - Norwich, and First Norwich are operating the Norfolk Showground - Norwich City College service 100 on exam days 9 - 11th Feb, 26th May, 7th and 9th of June only.

Yesterday I braved the wind and rain and popped into Chatham for a couple of hours to see what was going on. Arriva are the main operator but my friends at Nu-Venture have a number of routes there too. I spotted a couple of "Nu" arrivals yesterday.

First up is ex Stagecoach London ALX400 Trident V364 OWC. This vehicle was last seen with Geldards of Leeds.

Nu-Venture Trident V364 OWC at Chatham
Tucked in behind you can see another ALX400 Trident V142 MEV. Still carrying fleet number ALX5 from it's days at Sullivan Buses of Potters Bar this bus was also new to Selkent, which became Stagecoach London in 1993. Many of this batch are dotted around the country.

Nu-Venture Trdent V142MEV at Chatham
I also saw what looked to be an ex Metroline President but wasn't quick enough with my camera. I hope to pop into Nu-Venture in the next couple of days for more details.

I won't do too much on Arriva in this post but I am reliably informed that this is an incredibly rare working. Normally decker operated the 700 from Medway to Bluewater gets very busy. So when I saw an E200 pull onto the stop at 1530 yesterday it caught my eye. When the driver who took it over had an incredulous look on his face and checked the carline number at least 5 times my instincts were confirmed. I'm glad I wasn't waiting at Bluewater for the return journey. I imagine it was rather cramped. I did catch it for a 10 min ride just to see what another 09 reg E200 was like and it wasn't too bad. However not as good as the other 09 reg E200 I'm familiar with!

More to come as week goes on.

Arriva 4054 E200 GN09AXG on the 700 to Bluewater

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Bargain Hunt On The Buses

For reasons I cannot fathom I have been accused of sometimes being an old cynic. No idea where people get that idea from but sometimes it is impossible not to be tempted.

So to use the common brackets of "you coudn't make it up" here is today's offering. Yesterday Konect had a fares "revision". By the way who do operators think they are kidding with the word "revision"? Has anyone known fares to go down except for special promotions? Just be honest and say that despite inflation and nterest rates still at rock bottom (not to mention pay rises) and fuel cheaper than it has been for years you're putting fares up. Don't try and cover it in sugar and insult the intelligence of the customer.

Anyway I digress. I'm grateful to Steve who I met at the opening of the First Travel Centre in Norwich yesterday for alerting me to this anomally, and if you buy Anywhere tickets from Konect take note, and if you don't and know someone who does alert them to this.

Konect have put the price of an Anywhere Day Ticket from £7 to £9, a whopping 28.5%. Why they think that necessary I have no idea but it's hardly going to encourage sales. The thing is this though - Anglian haven't put up ther fares yet - I'm told that will coincide with the latest service cuts on Feb 22nd - ironic eh - so until then there is a fares anomaly between the two companies. If you buy an annual Anywhere ticket from Konect it will cost you £80 more than it will from Anglian - FOR THE SAME TICKET! Let's go compare shall we - no I'm not going to sing!


Day       £9
Weekly  £28
Monthly £98
Annual   £980


Day        £7
Weekly  £28
Monthly £90
Annual   £900

Interestingly weeklys are the same but a big discount on all others, so if you or anyone you know buys these tickets get them from Anglian for the next few weeks. If I was a real cynic I'd say this rather sums up things at Go-Ahead right now (right hand/left hand ass/elbow etc). But as I'm not I won't!!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Class 374 First Pics

On my way back down to Kent last Monday I distracted myself by taking a few pics. I've been taking pics of trains for as long as I can remember and I still don't know why they are so photogenic!

Highlight of the day was undoubtedly walking onto the platform at St Pancras International and realising the Eurostar next to the Southeastern platforms looked a little different.

The new Eurostar coach
It was one of the new Class 374 Siemens e320 units, purchased by Eurostar to operate away from the traditional Paris/Brussels destinations, with Holland and Germany key targets. Indeed it is planned to start a service to Amterdam service in December this year, for which the 374's will be used, as their traction can adapt for German and Dutch voltage. The units still haven't been officially launched, but are being used on services for testing and evaluation.

Power unit (37)4018
Named the e320 - e represents Eurostar and 320 the aim to operate them at 320kph (200mph) the trains are variants of Siemens Velaro, which in turn was developed from the ICE 3 frst used by Deutsche Bahn in 2000. The French objected to a German company being selected to build the trains, believing Alstom should have been chosen instead, but the Courts backed the original decision.

The imposing front of the new class 374
The arrival of the 374's does not mean the end of the original Eurostar units - the 373's. It just signifies Eurostar's intention on expanding the International High Speed network, particulary as Deutsche Bahn are intending to run their own services through the Channel Tunnel, subject to an operator licence being granted.

The old and the new together at St Pancras - note the repainted 373 on adjacent platform
I guess this means I'll have to brave the elements at Medway Bridge again and catch one of these newbies in motion. Let's see what the weather does this week. To fnish wth, however, some rather slower old plodders spotted at Ipswich earlier that morning, a couple of Class 86 locos.

86632 and 86627 together at Ipswich, with a Class 90 behind.

Friday, 22 January 2016

This Just Has To Be Said Part Two

Ths will mean nothing to you if you didn't read part one I published on Christmas Day, so if you missed it click here.

So the ship set sail Wednesday morning. 29 days after being told he had 3 or 4 days at the most my Dad departed this life. It was peaceful and quiet at the end, which says nothing of the immense fight he put up, which had the experts scratching their heads as to why he was still here. But this is not so much about Dad, or even those he has left behind, but the extraordinary care, kindness and love shown by the doctors and nurses at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. I said in part one how they took to Dad, and that continued and grew. Monday morning Mum walked into Dad's side room to find one of the young nurses holding Dad's hand, stroking his forehead and talking quietly to him - just as Mum had been doing for the last few weeks. Tuesday night there was always a nurse with him, and although we got there a bit too late another nurse was holding his hand when he took his final breath.

Doctors and nurses are tough people - if you're dealing with the kind of things they do you have to be. The cardiac ward sees a lot of people, and a lot of deaths. You harden up to that sort of thing or it goes home with you and you never get it out of your head. I lost count at the number of nurses, male and female who shed tears this week. People who see people dying and distraught relatives day in day out were crying at the fight Dad put up, that he never complained, in fact he had to be convinced he was in need of pain relief most of the time, and the kindness and love of these people was such we now regard them as family. Even today, 48 hours later when we had to go back to the ward to get some paperwork signed there were hugs and more tears from staff we didn't see Wednesday. We may have lost a dad and husband, but my word we have gained friends and seen a side to humanity it is all too easy to forget exists.

And so I want to do something, both in Dad's memory, and for those wonderful people at the William Harvey. I normally go on a trip in May and this year I have decided to do a sponsored circum-navigation of Great Britain by bus - local bus as much as I can. What I am raising money for will be decided nearer the time, but certainly some comfortable chairs for relatives sitting at bedsides overnight is needed - we sat for 18 hours Monday into Tuesday on the only seats in existence harder than Anglian Scanias or First B7l's. There is never too much equipment in a hospital but equally these days there is never enough money to get it.

I'm going to be here in Kent for a bit yet, although I will be popping back up for a couple of pre-arranged appointments, one of which I'm quite excited about. In the meantime I'll finally have time to do what I wanted to do down here, and there is a lot to be interested in I can tell you.

Once again many thanks to all of you who have sent messages of condolence and support - I'm truly blessed with a great circle of mates.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

More Anglian Woes

I have been keeping very quiet recently about developments at Anglian Bus. The majority of the staff are doing their utmost to keep wheels turning and passengers boarding. However the burden on their shoulders keeps growing and growing. Unreliable and poorly maintained fleet for a start. Not that I'm blaming the fitters there. Vehicles have been brought in that are wholly unsuitable for the area, and money is just not being spent to bring the fleet up to scratch. Therefore bodge job follows bodge job, driver concerns are fobbed off, and as a result fitters are spending most of their time changing buses over and not fixing them. And services are cancelled.

Despite draconian cuts in November which cut the Peak Vehicle Requirement by a third there are still services being cancelled. but it doesn't stop there. There have been more changes of management in the last 6 months at Anglian than there have been in the Football League. No one knows what to do, what anyone else is doing, or how to stop the rot. This ultimately leads to one main victim - the passenger, and this is set to continue with the latest timetable changes effective from 22nd February.

In April last year passengers wishing to travel from Halesworth, Wenhaston and Blythburgh to Lowestoft were dealt a blow when Anglian cut the 62. Passengers from Halesworth had to travel either via Beccles on the 60H and change to the 60, with passengers from Wenhaston and Blythburgh needing to travel via Southwold on the 88A/61. Then in November the 60 was scrapped between Beccles and Lowestoft leaving the only option via Southwold.

And so it came to pass that the latest Anglian management decided that November's changes to the 7/61 weren't working. The fact that anyone with half a brain could have worked out that forcing people to change at Lowestoft to get to Lowestoft College and Great Yarmouth would convince passengers to get on a more frequent, reliable and cheaper service (First) is beside the point. So from Feburary 22nd the 61 will once again run through from Southwold to Great Yarmouth, and I assume Norwich although the timetables make no reference to that so who knows! Both directions in the 61 timetable refer to Market Gates Stand A, but if that's the case firstly a 22 min layover will block the stand and secondly the problem of making passengers change will just be shifted from Lowestoft to Yarmouth.

The current 20 min frequency between Lowestoft and Kessingland (remember it was a 10 min frequency a few weeks ago) is being reduced to every 30 mins and apart for the 61B school journey Kessingland Beach is losing its service altogether. But here is the coup de grace. Timings from Southwold have changed dramatically and the 61 no longer connects with the 88A. It doesn't just not connect it doesn't connect spectacularly! If you are travelling from Lowestoft you will arrive at Southwold at 9 mins past the hour. The 88A leaves for Halesworth on the hour so a wait of 51 mins. Brilliant. Going the other way the 88A gets in at 45 mins past and the 61 leaves at 30 mins past, so a wait of 45 mins. And with that departure time at 30 mins past we have the clue as to why this change has happened.

The Borderbus 146 leaves Southwold at 35 mins past the hour, so clearly running 5 mins in front of the 146 is more important to Anglian than maintaining a decent connection for regular - and there are plenty of them - passengers. Nice one Anglian.

Elsewhere on the 61 the ill thought out experiment of running round Mariner's Compass in Gorleston looks to have come to an end - ill thought out as buses were running the opposite way to the more regular First service 8 so no one bothered to cross the road - however there is no indication as to which route the 61 is taking between James Paget and Gorleston High St. Less running time is allowed so don't be surprised to see another route change there too.

There are also changes to the 88/88X which basically involve fewer faster services from Norwich in the afternoon and fewer services Norwich bound from Bungay also in the afternoon.

So I guess the question is are these changes going to improve things for Anglian and have those responsible for the new timetables justified their wages? Erm..........

PS Many thanks to all those who have sent messages of support regarding my dad, who sadly passed away yesterday morning (20th). I'm still going to be in Kent for a bit, but hope to get material for a few posts next week.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

HS1 Captured

Still stuck down in Kent but today I finally got to get close to the bridge I can see from my old bedroom and find out what it's like to have a Eurostar hammering by at close quarters. I was delighted to discover a decent viewing place that afforded a brilliant view. What wasn't good though was the distinct lack of use HS1 gets. I have no idea how much the line cost in total but surely there should be more than 3 trains an hour. Why has no one suggested extending it to Manston airport in Kent, for example and turning that into London's third airport. Got to be cheaper than a third runway at Heathrow. If it doesn't link up with HS2 someone needs shooting.

Anyway despite the coldest wind of the winter blowing straight at me I persevered and waited for the trains to arrive. Firstly a Southeastern Javelin went by at 125mph impressively quietly. I decided to video rather than try photography.

That was fast enough, but I have seen Eurostar trains go over that bridge in a flash and wanted to capture that. I'm quite pleased with the result and knowing trains in East Anglia aren't the fastest in the country thought those of you who haven't witnessed a Eurostar at speed might like to see it. A reminder they are 18 coaches long. No idea of the fleet number for pretty obvious reasons! More on the North Kent scene the longer I'm down here!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

STEVE Awards 2015

Happy New Year everyone from gloomy Kent, and as the New Year's honours list has caused a bit of controversy I'll do my bit to add to the mix by announcing this year's STEVE awards, which I started last year as I thought as I am very quick to criticise operators it would only be fair to recognise the ones, and individuals who get it right. Not your usual awards categories but something a bit different.

This year has been tough. Finding positives within the transport industry has not been easy, and I can't see it gettng easier. I can't bring myself to honour operators who have made cuts, as ultimately it is the travelling public who have suffered, and rightly or wrongly I do see myself as a mouthpiece for the travelling public. So deciding on this year's awards has been a difficut process and one company has done rather well as it has bucked the trend in the face of mass cuts elsewhere.

Driver Of The Year

This year the Driver Of The Year award goes to Malcolm Pearson of BorderBus. Malcolm was unlucky not to win the award last year, but you only have to see the way people's faces light up when they see who's driving to realise this guy has something that little extra. Quite simply the public adore him and on top of that he knows how to handle a bus. Totally deserved.

Journey Of The Year

This was no contest, however, the logistics of presenting the award meant I had to find another candidate. Without a shadow of a doubt my journey of the year came in May, on the Isle of Harris, between Leverburgh and Tarbot, which was so spectacular I didn't get a single picture on it! A rollercoaster of a ride through one of the most amazing landscapes I've ever seen. Astonishing but too far to go and present an award so an alternative had to be found. Trouble is I couldn't think of another journey that had me grinning from ear to ear from start to finish. And then I remembered a journey on one of Carter's Olympians, only to discover it was in 2014 - where has this year gone! But hang on, no one said it had to be a bus journey, and a few weeks ago I was like a 6yo nose pressed against the window on the most glorious journey from Edinburgh to Aberdeen on a Scotrail Class 170 with wall to wall sunshine and amazing scenery. That I think has to be my Journey Of The Year

Dundee from the rail bridge crossing the Tay Estuary in November 2015

Best Allocation Of The Year

No contest, no contest whatsoever. Step forwatd Abelio and the Short Set. We were all sad to see the 47's go but the sheer presence and soundtrack of the 37's makes this one a no brainer. Long may they last.

37425 sits at Brundall Gardens on the first day of 37 operation

Most Successful Route Of The Year

It has not been a good year for bus routes. Cuts everywhere, especially in my neck of the woods. Anglian have axed more routes than they've got left, in particular the 62 which I used regularly, and First have halved the frequency on the 64/65. The X1 has done well, but until the route is joined back together after the Postwick roadworks are complete - if it is - then I don't consider it a whole route. The 99 has seen numbers soar since fares were slashed to a pound - a lesson for everyone there I feel - but only one route has seen two timetable changes with journeys added, and another one in the pipeline, with passenger numbers setting records month after month. Therefore the winner of Most Successful Route |Of The Year is BorderBus's 146 between Norwich and Southwold.

BB62 BUS on the 146 at St Stephen's St Norwich

The STEVE Award For Cleanliness

There were a few contenders for this award, won last year by Ipswich Buses. First's Freshstart procedure saw a huge improvement in the exterior presentation of buses in Ipswich which was then rolled out across Eastern Counties. All works fine until the wash breaks down. Also I have noticed that the front top deck windows on First's deckers are in a terrible state - as if they never get washed by broom or bus wash. This needs to improve. Anglian? Moving swiftly on. Konect are slightly better but there have still been too many times where rear number plates have been unreadable. However I clearly remember looking out of Wilko's window in St Stephen's St inNorwich and getting indignant because I hadn't been told of a new arrival at BorderBus, only to discover it wasn't a new arrival but just a very clean bus in comparison to every other bus on the road. BorderBus do not have a bus wash. They have staff who take a huge pride in the turnout of their vehicles, and so again this was a fairly easy award to decide on.

Friendliest Depot Of The Year

It must be said that First Yarmouth came close here, but once again, and sorry if this is getting repetitive, BorderBus go that extra mile. I have been lucky enough to be invited round many depots and companies this year, but only one has invited me to watch and photograph a safety inspection, including the pits, take part in a road test and a new vehicle appraisal. It's also true to say no one else has given me a lift in a Porche Carrera convertible either! It is always a pleasure to visit BorderBus and I have a feeling I might be up there a fair bit this year too.

Best Value For Money Award

This is the only award to be retained from last year, and this year I'm going to make sure I actually present it! Megabus are peerless in this department, and when in November I did Norwich - London - Edinburgh - London - Norwich for £4.50 the award was sewn up once and for all. Outstanding.

A rare Volvo B11R Plaxton Interdeck on the now withdrawn M37 at Norwich

Bus Of The Year

Those of you who read my ultimate vehicle comparison in November will probably guess that this award is not going to a new vehicle. The fact that a 7yo Gemini beat anything new on the market doesn't say a great deal for the new buses around. It would go to the Borismaster but since it is not possible to ride them outside a city setting an all round verdict cannot be reached. So I have unaminously decided to give the award to a bus that returned to the area this year, has been a shelter from the elements, and a meeting place for gatherngs of fellow anora enthusiasts. This bus is also the only bus I know to have its own Twitter account and was the star attraction at Old Buckenham this year. So the Bus Of The Year award goes to Chris Speed and Danny Beales' Great Yarmouth Transport AEC Swift WEX685M. Showbus next year guys?

WEX685M on her home seafront in typical Summer weather
Best Customer Service Award

Finally probably the most deserved award of all. This award goes to three people who several times a week have to put up with me demanding minibuses here there and everywhere at all hours. They move mountains to accommodate me and never a word of complaint or negativity. It is extremely rare I can't get what I want and without these girls my life would be so much harder. So to Kerry, Charlotte and Gemma at Suffolk Links in Leiston my heartfelt thanks, and here's to me finding more places for you to take me in 2016.

And that's just about it. My thanks to everyone in the industry from Managing Directors to drivers to fitters to anyone who has welcomed me into their world this year. To all those who contribute to the blog, to my fellow bloggers Roy, Grahame, Zak, Harry, Clive and Cameron thanks for your comradeship. To everyone who reads and comments on the blog you are why I do it. To my many readers around the world thank you and Lord knows why I'm so popular in Russia and Ukraine but it's nice you take an interest. I've also recently had a lot of views from Brunei, so if there are any Sultans wishing to invest in the blog please get in touch!

However I must single out two people who have kept me going this year. When I quit the blog in September Chris Speed broke into a ridiculously intense Health & Safety course to persuade me to keep going. That meant a helluva lot so thank you Chris. I still want those 64/65 changes we discussed implemented though!

Secondly to a gentleman who has become a true friend this year. Apart from reporting sightings, sending videos and pictures and sharing gossip, Tim Miller took me to the Norwich Running Day, the Old Buckenham Rally and the washout at Great Yarmouth. He also got me to Norwich for the 0445 Megabus to London in November and offered to drive me to Kent Christmas Day if needed. Tim it is my privilege to know you, and I hope one day to be able to repay you in more than Whoppers!

Here's to a positive, successful, expansive, happy, friendly and passenger focused 2016.