It has been a fairly quiet start to the new year with just the latest service cuts by Anglian, fare rises farce across Go-Ahead and a few new second hand vehicles floating around to rave about. So today when First gave the green light to announce their latest venture competing with the floundering Angian Bus it was seized upon with an almost pirhana like fervour among the enthusiast media.
From April 4th First are starting a new Service 40 from Norwich to Poringland via Framingham Earl. It will be known as the Charcoal Line. That's not quite technically accurate as really it should be called the RAF Blue Line as I'll explain. Due to Suffolk Council reducing payments on Concessionary passes even further it was decided that First's service 53 from Ipswich to Chantry should be scrapped. Don't be surprised to see the bus wars in Ipswich scaled down considerably by both sides in the coming months as traditional operating territories are ressurected. However this releases 3 Enviro200's that are used on the route. It is these vehicles that will be used on the 40, staying in Ipswich Grey, which is officially RAF Blue, but is now Charcoal!
First have a good record taking on Anglian over the last couple of years. Mind you so might the 3rd Lowestoft Brownies if they put their mind to it, such has been the staggering arrogance and mismanagement at Anglian. First easily saw off the challenge of the 164 between Saxmundham and Ipswich in 2013, the 99 in Kessingland has forced the withdrawal of the 62 and reduction of the 61 to half hourly. The X1 has swatted Anglian's 7 away like a fly, and now they are attacking Anglian's main source of revenue, the Poringland area. And they have found an attractive option for the good people of Poringland, who at the moment have the choice of the 87 or (X)88.
The 87 goes a long way round via Stoke Holy Cross and Trowse. The X88 goes a quicker way but is normally pretty full by time it reaches Poringland meaning customers have to stand or squash up. The 88 again goes a longer way round on most journeys via Arminghall and Trowse. First's new 40 will run every 30 mins from Poringland to Norwich the same way as the X88, so it will be a fast service to Norwich which starts at Poringland meaning seats available. Good thinking. Obviously First have yet to announce full details but I fully expect financial incentives to lure passengers over as well.
I'm not surprised by this. I'm just surprised it has taken so long. I know that there has been a lot of dissatisfaction in the Poringland area recently, and on Feb 22nd when the latest Anglian service "revisions" come in there will be even less fast journeys to Poringland especially in the evening peak. It will be very interesting to see how late in the evening the 40 runs and if there is going to be a Sunday service. I will update when I know the details.
In other news the tenders for Community Transport in Suffolk have been announced, with the new contracts starting in June. I'm pleased my local operator has retained the contract, and it looks like business as usual. Again I have to see the fine print and digest any implications but I'm glad the jobs of the drivers I rely on so much, and the excellent and friendly girls on the phones have been preserved.
Sorry for lack of posts at the moment - I'm back down in Kent at the weekend for quite a few days but hopefuly after memorial services etc have been held life can start to return to normal. However rest assured if anything important happens it will be reported here!