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Monday, 18 September 2017

Class 68 Farewell - The Sequal

A week after retiring from public service in East Anglia the Class 68 locos took their final bow on Saturday when they hauled a special excursion from Norwich to Ely and Liverpool St to raise money for East Anglia Children's Hospice. Tim was on board - of course - and sent in this report and pics.

The EACH Express 2 Tour

After last weeks allegedly insane day out with the Class 68's I had opted to spend another whole day with these machines. This time it was for a really good cause in the form of a Rail Tour organised by Greater Anglia and ably supported by Direct Rail Services. The charity in question was East Anglia's Children's Hospices and the money raised  going towards a new place for the children called The Nook.
 
 I began the day at Lowestoft boarding a Class 153 to Norwich, where around 09.55 our transport for the day arrived. We were being treated to the pioneer of the class 68001 with the newest one 68034 and 8 yes 8 Mk3 coaches which is (nearly) a full Intercity rake including a DVT !
 
 
 
 
  The first leg took us to Ely albeit at a not too fast speed and I did see that all along the route there were pictures being taken even at Shippea Hill !  There we had about half an hour to get some snaps before we returned into a medium monsoon, which set the tone for the rest of the day weather wise, sun,rain,sun,rain! 
 
 
 
 
Back at Norwich it was another quick scramble for snaps and food this time before we rumbled slowly out of the station until they opened up the big Cats and then you realise what power there is. 
 
As with last years tour that used Class 37's we caused a bit of a stir as we raced through various stations with people wondering what all the cameras were for and why didn't that train stop ? As we got to Liverpool St again heads turned and I was asked a couple of time "is that a special train" 
 
 
 
 
  A quick look around was all we had time for because at 16.24 we set off and the DRS crew were hoping as they had done the maths to do "Norwich in 90" but alas a crawl at Stratford and slowing for Ipswich tunnel put paid to that, but it still was a non stop run achieved in 105 minutes which I think they were proud of. All the way back you could hear the power being laid down and it was smooth too. There was a raffle for one of the headboards, a trip round Crown Point Depot and 2 First Class tickets....but your correspondent won the same as usual lol. 
 
 Arriving back in Norwich we congratulated the crew and learned that the day had raised about £12,500 for the charity which was a nice end to a long day.
 
 
 
Cheers, Tim, and don't think this is the end of your reporting career! Glad it all went well and a decent amount was raised.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Day Trip To Yorkshire

Having thoroughly enjoyed my few hours in Leeds a few weeks ago, and also being castigated for getting there too late to sample some of the finer bus services there, thanks to a seat sale on Virgin Trains East Coast I made a return visit yesterday for some unfinished business.

The day started the night before, wondering if Storm Aileen would allow me to travel at all. Thankfully Aileen wreaked her vengeance on lines I wasn't travelling on, and so I got to Norwich in plenty of time to catch the train to Peterborough, which yesterday was East Midlands Trains 158774.

158774 unusually on Platform 1 at Norwich
Now the sharp eyed among you will notice the number 7 located bottom right hand corner. I hadn't the foggiest what it denoted so I asked the great and good of the railway world who couldn't come up with an answer either. However, the affable Conductor on board knew. The 7 denotes it's the end with the disabled toilet. The other end displays a 2, signifying cycle storage etc. He explained it's to help platform staff quickly identify which end is which to aid boarding passengers with specific needs. Clever, simple and very subtle. Why 7 and 2 I'll never know though!

I like the 158's, always have and we sped through Thetford Forest, mercifully still standing, and across the Cambridgeshire Fens. A change at Peterborough and a 20 minute wait for my first real treat of the day. In 1978 I caught my first HST up the ECML. 39 years later and I caught my next one. Not the first time back up the ECML by any means, but the HST's have just avoided me. So this was rather special.

43315 at Peterborough
I've been on other HST's of course, Great Western and East Midlands but it was good to add VTEC to the list. A lovely fast, smooth journey and I was soon in Leeds. A spot of lunch, a leisurely stroll down to the bus and coach station, and my first journey on Harrogate Bus Company's flagship 36. The route runs between Leeds and Ripon via Harrogate and Transdev, who run Harrogate Bus Company have put a lot of effort into branding, marketing and plugging the service. The buses - Volvo B5's on a Gemini 3 body are high spec to the extreme. The seating upstairs is 2 + 1 with sumptuous business class style seats, that have seat back tables, arm rests and magazine holders, as well as USB sockets and free WiFi.

The luxurious seats on the Transdev 36
The seat back tables, complete with drinks holder
So I settled in, waiting to enjoy the Yorkshire countryside. Then the bus started to move. How can I explain it -let's try this...

You have gone to a really posh restaurant. The chairs are plush, the tablecloths highly starched and pristine. Silver cutlery is laid exquisitely with matching candelabra and freshly cut, delicately perfumed flowers. The decor is perfect, with Gainsborough prints on the walls, soft gentle music. The Sommelier shows you a wine list the like of which you haven't seen before. then the chief waiter approaches with a silver serving dish, and with a triumphant, Basil Fawlty like flourish, takes the lid off to reveal a McDonald's Happy Meal, a small Coke and a broken toy because the supplilers couldn't be bothered to deliver the fillet steak or lobster, That is the 36.

The Gemini 3 bodies are shocking. Disgraceful. Embarrassing. Utterly appalling. I took a 30 second video which needs no description. Just listen.


The bus industry needs people like Alex Hornby at Transdev, who have the vision and ambition to make bus travel different and downright revolutionary. What it doesn't need are manufacturers that, to put it buntly, just can't be assed to deliver a decent, durable product. If I was Wrightbus I'd have been downright ashamed that my name was on that body. Why is it that Gemini bodies have got worse with each version, not better? Why does MMC stand for Mainly More Crap? Why has every single British manufacturer bottled out of building a new bus for the X1? Yet our glorious PM goes to ADL praising buses we are exporting to Mexico, as if they didn't have enough problems, buses that are illegal on our roads! Alex, you have my full and utmost respect, because you must be banging your had against a brick wall You have a superb product, but not the quality of tools you deserve.

So, rant over, back to the route, which crosses some truly outstanding scenery heading into Harrogate, where I got off to take a look around. A neat bus station, which is adjacent to the rail station, and a conveniently placed walkway from the nearby shopping centre to a multistory car park which provided a perfect spot to get my new header pic.

Harrogate is served by two main operators - Harrogate Bus Company and Connexions, who seem to have mainly old Scanias - I saw but wasn't quick enough to photo ex First Essex 65574 S574 TPW, still happily plying her trade oop North. Anyway, after a break I resumed my journey to Ripon on another 36, which mercifully wasn't quite as bad as the first but still fell in the bracket of  "not what you'd expect from a 2yo bus" and lost myself in yet more gorgeous landscape until we arrived in the small town of Ripon.

Transdev 3620 BL65 YYT at Ripon Bus Station
One thing I must mention are the destination screens. They are quite superb, giving info I haven't seen before, such as this...

Very clever
I like that - saves the driver getting repetitive questions and unnecessary running for passengers. As I said, everything about the 36 is extremely impressive except the bus itself. I got back to Harrogate and decided to travel back to Leeds on a longer route via Wetherby on one of the B5's predecessors, a Volvo B9tl Gemini 2. This had the same, impressive layout upstairs as the B5's, and I found the seats, if anything even more comfortable.

Yes the interior of a Volvo B9tl!
This route - the 70 - is simply a must for any fan of bus travel. The route meanders over spectacular Yorkshire landscape and charming little villages. You get to see sights like this.



Now I'll admit at this point I didn't expect the route to be quite so long. The 36 takes around 25 minutes to get from Leeds to Harrogate. The 70 a trifle longer - 110 mins to be precise and I had a train at Leeds to catch. This would have been fine if I hadn't been handed a good photo op at one of the villages/ I got the photo op because the B9 (far nicer and quieter than the B5's btw) had overheated.

Harrogate Bus Co 3613 BF62 UXZ somewhere!

The driver, a nice bloke called Steve, kept us all informed what was going on and eventually it was decided to limp the bus to Seacroft, a shopping centre still some way from Leeds. It was looking increasingly likely I was going to be spending the night on Peterborough Station when a First bus came in, which happily was going to Leeds Station - via every housing estate in Yorkshire. I made the train with 3 minutes to spare. Nope, never panicked once! A thankfully uneventful journey back to Norwich, although it must be said the Electric Virgin set I came back on wasn't nearly as nice as the HST. 

A truly interesting day which covered most emotions. Alex Hornby tells me improvements are being made to the 36 in October, with some more new buses - not sure what right now - and the rattling on the B5's is going to be rectified. Good luck with that, Alex, and I mean it. Transdev are pioneers in bus travel, we need more like them. I will return to see if the improvements have the impact the vision behind the 36 deserves. 

 Incidentally Chris Speed -  2 + 1seating on the new X1's? 20 min service where needed in West? Just saying.....




Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Class 68 Short Set - A Joint Farewell

You don't have to be mad to do this hobby, but if you're not you won't get the unique experiences. I mean you have to be asking for committal to spend consecutive nights on stations as I did in June, but I think Tim eclipsed me on the last day of Class 68 operation on 8th September. He had mentioned to me that he was intending to stay on the set from start to finish of its diagram. Yeah, right, I thought, not a chance!. Well he did. Not sure if that's dedication or total insanity. So I told him the least he could do is write a post about his day, and I'm happy to say he did, so here is Tim's report and pics from the day, and finally a compilation of videos I took over the last couple of weeks, including its final arrival at Lowestoft with various nutters I mean enthusiasts on board, and empty departure to Norwich depot.

"The Long Goodbye"

Now you know when an idea seems good on paper? Well this was me on Friday the 8th. For 14 months the Wherry Lines have been treated to a second Loco Hauled Short set comprising of 3 Mk 2 coaches and 2 Class 68 Loco's of which you have seen lots on this blog .
Now Friday was the last day of service for this combination so I thought I'd get a last ride but not just one - I did the whole day! So after catching the 05.42 from Lowestoft to Norwich I boarded the 68 set on the 06.52 to Gt Yarmouth seemingly alone, but joined by 2 other hardy souls and David the nicest guard you could meet.


A quick photo call at Yarmouth and back to Norwich followed by a quick return to Yarmouth.


This time the return to Norwich gave me the chance to experience the crossover with the Class 37's at Acle. By this time a lot of other enthusiasts had woken up and were joining and leaping off at various stations to get pictures, but not me - I had vowed to ride each trip!


The scenery on both Wherry lines is quite spectacular, I find especially the long straight along the New Cut from Reedham to Haddiscoe which always seems to have the biggest skies you could ever see.
By the 10.05 run to Lowestoft the train was really filling up not just with enthusiasts but all manner of people showing what a really well used service it is.The day wound on to-ing and fro-ing between Yarmouth and Lowestoft including the extra journeys at 12.05 and 14.05. I met up after dinner with Matt Holland from the East Anglian Transport Museum who was also determined to be there at the last. Around that time the heavens opened like a mini monsoon which meant you couldn't see much. 

We had a treat on the 20.40 to Yarmouth, as we were routed into Platform 1, which will disappear as part of the forthcoming signalling programme - cue furious scribbling in notebooks!

Platform 1 at Great Yarmouth
Back at Norwich we had another treat of the Steam kind, pulling into the low level was 60009 Union of South Africa ready for a tour on the Saturday.



Then it all seemed too quick to be on the 22.05 as it left Norwich on the very last run. I was sad yes, tired absolutely because I had got up at 4am and was now feeling it. As we pulled into Lowestoft there were some enthusiasts, bloggers (yes I was one of them SW) and Community Rail people to welcome us all of the same mind. We were saying goodbye to something unique and when you have followed these loco's since they came here all 17 of them that have worked the set you do feel a pang of regret or two. 
We watched as 68001 revved up and the driver gave us the final "tones" to say goodbye and that was that. We'll miss the big Cat purr as we called it , as it was a unique time for these lines as it still will be until 2019 with the Class 37's continuing until the introduction of the new rolling stock. 

Thanks, Tim, and if you decide to do the final week of the 37's I just might join you! 


Monday, 11 September 2017

Konect Expand Services

I was delighted to be contacted by a reader, advising me of forthcoming changes to Konect services. It's nice to be able to report positive changes, and that some areas currently without a bus service will soon have one again. I'll publish the email without revealing the identity of the sender.

Hi Steve,

Just thought you may be interested in some of the Konectbus changes from  September 17th - a few of which may be right up you street for some scrutiny or praise on the blog! I've kind of analysed them below:

5A (Eaton-Norwich-Brundall-Blofield-Blofield Heath)
A new Sunday service is to be introduced, twice daily in each direction but only between Norwich and Blofield (Not through to Blofield Heath). The Eaton end is still served by Simonds 121 on Sundays. As far as Norwich routes go the 5A is pretty rural, so in my eyes quite a nice thing to see being implemented. 

X6 (Attleborough-Norwich)
The service is being extended to Sprowston Tesco, operating via Thorpe/Yarmouth Road for the rail station, Harvey Lane, Plumstead Road and Woodside Road. The key point here is Harvey Lane, which has not been served since service cuts a few years ago. It was previously served by Anglianbus 124, later the Konectbus 51. This extension will run Monday-Friday only, but puts Konectbus on a new area of the map, plus a new direct link from Attleborough to Norwich Rail Station by bus.

9 (Silfield-Wymondham-N&N Hospital)
Glad to say more good news here Steve! The service is being extended to Attleborough, thus giving the town a new direct link to the N&N Hospital. Besides the changes, service 9 runs via the village of Little Melton, otherwise entirely unserved by a bus. Konectbus offer a through ticket from the village to Norwich by using the connecting 3/4 at the hospital - clever idea and well used I believe!

5B (Norwich-Dussindale-Thorpe End-Salhouse-Rackheath-Wroxham-Horning-Hoveton)
A Sunday extension is to be introduced to Stalham, a quite far out large village otherwise without a Sunday bus service. First gave up on them a couple of years ago and Sanders only do a Monday-Saturday link. This will also mean Hoveton will have a Sunday bus link. It's a twice daily service again, but this is always a good starting ground to see if it is viable to continue running. There is also a couple of evening extensions in Salhouse and Rackheath to provide an improved evening services to the two villages, some 5C journeys are extended also to the villages. 

...and I'm told the drivers are apparently listened to, as there are timing changes to the 3/4/6/8, where the buses without fail run five minutes late. You were a driver, so I am certain you know how annoying this is, I'm sure you agree it's nice to see the drivers suggestions put into place.

And finally! On St Stephens Street many of the bays we use are being shifted about to ease congestion and stop us getting wedged in!!

This is indeed all good news, thanks for getting in touch, and let's hope this is just the start of seeing recent cuts being reversed, with priority given to those without a bus service rather than just trying to poach customers by duplicating other operator's routes. I hope all these changes prove successful. For further details see the Konect website.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Star Trek II - The REAL Enterprise

A couple of months ago I gave a glowing review to what I believed was the BCI Enterprise (see here) only to discover all my Star Trek references were in vain as it's actually the Excellence. However, in that post I said that First were going to try it's big tri axle brother. This week they are, and it's really called the Enterprise. So my apologies for a second stream of Star Trek puns and references!

I was meant to do this a couple of days ago, and traversed the Norfolk galaxy to Kings Lynn to catch the Enterprise back to Norwich only to be thwarted by the Enterprise not being on the road despite information it was (someone owes me lunch). However today I was not to be outdone and spent another light year (trust me it feels like it) on one of the X1 E400's to Kings Lynn. A very quick lunch, and I got back to the bus station bang on time to catch the 98 seater giant arrive.

Ensignbus 404 BCI Enterprise LX66 GXF at Kings Lynn Bus Station
It is big. Very big. 98 seats big to be precise. The top deck goes on for a very long time.

Top deck of the Enterprise
Now first things first. If I was buying one and 94 seats would do I'd take a row out the top deck to give more legroom and make it feel slightly less budget airline. But the seats are comfortable, although Ensign have told me some are being replaced as deemed not good enough. I was surprised not to find power sockets, USB chargers or WiFi on board, but I imagine if that was wanted it could be provided. It's funny how little things stand out. I started the journey near the back, but at Swaffham the front seats were vacated so I moved up. One of my regular complaints is the lack of bell pushes at the front of the bus, indeed on a lot of buses the front most bell push is by the stairs. Not so the Enterprise, as seen here.

A bell push at the very front!
Yes there's one the other side too. You will notice the seat belts too. This means the Enterprise is a truly dual purpose vehicle, able to be used on private hire and contract work too. That, as it turns out is highly appropriate. Because the Enterprise feels more like a coach than a bus.

The big and jaw droppingly powerful 8.9L Cummins engine is deathly quiet, and although you hear the bumps in the road you don't feel them. The ride is sensational, and I started comparing the Enterprise with not an E400MMC or Streetdeck, but a Plaxton Interdeck coach. It's that good. No rattles but a really annoying squeak from the driver's seat, which I'm sure a liberal dose of WD 40 would cure. The air chill wasn't exactly working overtime so it was rather hot but that in no way detracted from the ride. The power of this bus is extraordinary considering its size, and the top speed impressive. Ross Newman of Ensign told me I'd like it and he wasn't wrong. I would let several other buses go so I could ride one of these.

The Enterprise at Norwich Bus Station
I only have one real issue, and I think it's quite an important one. I noticed the bell pushes have "stop" in Braille on them, clearly catering to the blind. Unfortunately the bell is exactly the same tone as the indicators, so press the bell while the bus is indicating and you won't know you've pressed it if you can't see the "bus stopping" signs. I'm quite surprised this isn't covered in DDA regs and is something that needs to be addressed. As a Borderbus driver said to me when a similar issue with the Excellence was identified - "I'm having to take my eyes off the road to see if anyone has pressed the bell, as I can only tell by the light on the dashboard". It's such an easy remedy and one that needs to be done.

But that aside I got off at Norwich a very happy bunny. I'll certainly ride the Enterprise again before it goes - it's at Kings Lynn next week too - as it's right up there with the best buses I've ever ridden. It's not cheap, but cheaper than a Borismaster to put things in perspective. But I'll leave the last word to the driver. I always ask the drivers their opinion as they are the ones who really matter, and I don't think I can put it any better.

"The difference in acceleration out of places like Hockering (compared with the E400's) is phenomenal, and this is exactly the sort of thing this route (X1) needs."  I just hope everything can be put in place with after care etc to give that driver his wish. It's a bus, Jim, but not as we know it! If all is done correctly it could prove to be a real star!

Parked up at Norwich

Friday, 1 September 2017

Victory For 113/114 Passengers

A few weeks ago it was announced that the 113/114 between Diss and Ipswich was being revised. That word always means bad news and so it proved. A truncated service, with fewer through journeys to Ipswich and the villages of Stoke Ash and Thwaite were to lose their bus service completely.

But I'm delighted to report that Suffolk County Council have had second thoughts after listening to the concerns of local residents, and have decided to keep the old timetable, thus reprieving Stoke Ash and Thwaite. Due to Traffic Commissioner red tape the new timetable will operate for a week, but the service will revert to the old timetable from September 11th.

Galloway YJ65 EWF on the 114 at Ipswich     pic dearingbuspix
It certainly makes a pleasant change for the Council to listen to residents and reverse bus cuts decisions. One has to wonder what was unique to this particular situation, after all, many villages have lost their bus service in recent years (mine included), and all protests have fallen on deaf ears. So why have Stoke Ash and Thwaite escaped the axe? I don't believe for a second that the fact Suffolk's Police & Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore lives in Thwaite, and his good lady is a regular passenger on the 113/114 had the slightest influence in the Council's decision to overturn the cuts. Surely not!

I found this story in the East Anglia Daily Times, and you can read the full story here.

Plaxton Interdeck At Freestones

Many thanks to the anonymous contact who alerted me to the news Freestones Coaches have a Volvo B11R Plaxton Elite Interdeck in Megabus livery. With the new Megabus timetable coming into force next week, which sees the two early morning journeys merged into one, it is easy to assume the Interdeck has been brought in for that journey. On Monday while Tornado chasing I popped round to their Norwich yard on the off chance, and as luck would have it was allowed in to take a couple of photos.

YY65 VWU at Freestones Norwich depot
Still carrying Stagecoach fleet number 55021 YY65 VWU was gleaming rather too much in the strong sun, but still managed to look pretty majestic.

The other side!
Now the sharp eyed among you will have noticed something which believe it or not I didn't until Tim pointed it out (I was preoccupied with Tornado is my excuse and I'm sticking to it) in that this coach is left hand drive. That got me wondering how loading/unloading at Norwich and Stratford would be handled so I rang Freestones up to inquire.

They put the phone down on me. I rang back to confirm they had put the phone down on me or we had been cut off and the gentleman confirmed he had put the phone down on me, mumbled something about it being a loan vehicle and put the phone down on me. Not very good, Freestones, and I'm sure Megabus won't like one of their representatives actig in such a rude and unprofessional manner either.

So I'm sorry I don't have any additional details. If any of you would like to try Freestones for yourselves their phone number is 01362 860236. Good luck!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Has Railway Reporting Hit The Buffers?

Actually it hit the buffers sometime ago, and has never recovered. You see, for decades now the Railways have been the butt of many a joke, and the target for unjust criticism. From the fabled curled rather than cured BR ham sandwich, to the outrageous displacement of people because of HS2, to the tortuous conditions borne by commuters on a daily basis the railways are just as much a target for hysterical media reporting as is the weather, any DJ who dared pat a backside in the 1960's, and how many times Wayne Rooney sneezed at halftime. Or not, as the case maybe, but it has become even more ok to ignore facts and replace them with sensationalist headlines.

That would be ok if the media were even handed but they are not, on a grand scale. Let me give you an example. On Saturday, on the M1 near Milton Keynes, a collision between a minibus and two lorries resulted in the deaths of 8 people, a badly injured 5yo girl was left an orphan, and it soon transpired that one of the lorry drivers was over the drink drive limit. A real tragedy, and it deservedly made the headlines, but it didn't take over the rolling news, or have the papers wringing their hands in horror. Now imagine a different scenario with the same outcome. A train, driven by a driver who it transpires was over the drink drive limit, runs into the back of another train, killing 8 people and injuring several others. There would be reporters sent straight to the scene, providing live, rolling coverage. There would be helicopters, rail experts brought in to give instant answers to impossible questions with no facts at hand, and the whole safety of the railway, driver recruiting, braking systems etc etc would be brought into question, despite it being the safest form of travel there is, including walking! The papers would be full of "terrified passengers", and there would be calls for heads to roll nationwide. The train driver's family would have the paparazzi camped outside their houses, and their private lives investigated, and the driver would become a national hate figure.

Later this week the new Queensferry Crossing between Edinburgh and Fife will open with a festival of congratulations and back slapping. Yes it is a truly magnificent structure, and completes a unique trio of bridges to cross the Firth. It is also opening a year late. The reason given is that it was windy for a month. That seems have to have been largely forgotten. Why wasn't the weather factored into the contract. Then, if the weather wasn't bad and the bridge opened early it could be very well publicised. How can one month's bad weather cost a whole year? We'll never know.

Today, after 3 and a half weeks of round the clock work, Waterloo station re-opened all its platforms. A couple of hours late. At 0530 The Sun was screaming headlines about travel chaos, how the project was running late and that the world was effectively ending. They conveniently showed a pic of the concourse at Waterloo full of people, which also showed the famous clock - showing 0550! I'm told the radio stations were no better. As it happens there was little disruption, yes 4 platforms were a few hours late being handed back, but it had little impact on services. To give you some idea of what has been achieved at Waterloo, in all weathers, over the last 3 and a half weeks watch this video. It's quite something. https://twitter.com/networkrailPR/status/90253516934471270

If you are on a bus, and you get delayed because of temporary lights who do you blame? The bus driver? The bus company? The Council? No one ever blames the utility actually digging up the road but certainly no one would blame the bus driver or the company. They have no control over the traffic do they? Now you're on a train and you are delayed due to cows on the line. Automatically everyone blames the operating company, when they have as much control over the infrastructure as bus companies do over the roads. So why does this injustice happen with the railways?

It's actually quite simple when you think about it. Sadly there are many, many people killed on the roads everyday. 8 in one go is newsworthy but it's not earth shattering to anyone except the poor families involved. Trains run late day in day out, we're all used to it so it's not really news on an individual basis. But anyone getting killed on the railway is so, so rare it IS headline news, it DOES make everyone stop and pay attention, so really in that respect the railway is a victim of its own success. If it was regarded as "just another death on the railways" that would be even more worrying.

This August unprecedented upgrade works have been taking place all ove the country, but with London especially affected. Not just Waterloo, but Charing Cross, Waterloo East, London Bridge, Euston and Liverpool St have also been shut. I certainly can't remember so many projects happening at the same time and that's good. The downside is if the line is up people can't travel, and that's when it becomes news, and facts get distorted. Suddenly operators who have been warning passengers for the last year are implementing "emergency timetables" and the network is grinding to a halt. Again it's the unknown factor. Waterloo has never seen anything like the work that's taken place in the last 4 weeks. That makes it news, and papers need to sell, and radio stations need listeners. Because the Waterloo project was publicised so much the vultures were queuing up waiting for it to overrun or fail. Considering they had a derailment during the works it's a stunning achievement to finish within a couple of hours of the target, but negative news sells better than positive news, so that's why The Sun made it all up. That's why saying rail operators had been warning passengers for a year was overlooked. I very much doubt The Sun's leader tomorrow will be "Waterloo Running Normally". It's why they don't bother telling anyone exactly what the works will achieve. If it ain't bad it ain't news.

Many more people are displaced by Compulsory Purchase Orders due to new roads/developments than are by new railways, but again because the former is s common and the latter so rare it makes the news.

The sensible rail media are used to this, and report things rationally and accurately, even if some of them are a little uneasy to criticise fearing they might lose contacts. I know how they feel - trying to be balanced when friends are involved is extraordinarily difficult. But you won't find any sensationalism within the rail media, who are by far the best guides to turn to for the facts. But even some of those I don't think have grasped the fact that if the railway wasn't as safe as it is incidents wouldn't be overblown due to their rarity, and the nation as a whole just isn't use to the amount of infrastructure work taking place as there is now. For decades we have complained of under investment. Now we're getting it, and that takes some getting used to, and tolerating.

My thanks and congratulations to all 80,000 engineers involved in the projects over the last month. We will still all complain about late trains, as we do about the weather, and temporary lights, and Wayne Rooney. But hopefully, in time, we'll realise and appreciate the stella points of the railway, even if the sheer success of them means when the exception to the rule happens, the coverage is disproportionate.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Rail Nationalisation - Did It Ever Really Stop?

This is not a normal post, so if you're expecting pretty pictures or news sorry but this won't be your type of post. However, over recent weeks the re-nationalise/don't re-nationalise debate has got a bit lively and I thought I'd explore this topic a bit.

Whisper the word "re-regulisation" in earshot of a bus manager and you get some pretty dirty looks. That would mean all routes, profit and loss making being taken "in house" by the local authorities, who would decide via the tender system who would operate each route. The authorities would determine routes, frequencies, fares, vehicles used etc. The option for operators to start new or competing routes at will would go. It is a touchy subject with passionate supporters of the idea, and just as passionate opponents. One of the main objections I hear is "What do the councils know about running buses?" Of course no one has considered the possibility of Councils recruiting from the bus industry but I digress. Right now the Councils only tender out for loss making routes the operators don't want to run commercially, and that costs money with no return so route after route is being cut. Things really have to change, and fast.

So what about the Railway, the so called privatised railway. Why are there calls to have it re-nationalised? Quite simply infrastructure is too old and unreliable, fares too high, trains overcrowded, and supporters believe total re-nationalisation would solve everything. Those against the idea seem to think it would mean an immediate and unavoidable return to the strike ridden days of British Rail, where the service was equally poor, trains as dirty and overcrowded, and infrastructure poorly funded. So who is right in this argument?

To begin with we have to determine who actually runs our railways, who are the big decision makers. It's Whitehall, specifically the Department of Transport. They own Network Rail, who manage the infrastructure, ie stations, tracks, security, signals etc. The D of T also decides who operates the passenger train services - normally the operator who offers them the most money rather than the best service - determines annual rises in regulated fares, sets service and investment levels, and has the power to strip operators of their franchise. So in a privatised railway the government sort of still run it. Ok that's as clear as mud. But it gets murkier. Because the Government own the network, they then charge the operators, who are already paying them for the honour of running the services, rent on the track too. It's a bit like paying the Government to use your car - a tax, for example, then paying again for every mile you drive on them, like the M6 toll or Dartford Crossing, or congestion charge - ok that's already happening but for train operators it's constant. Plus they are expected to invest in new rolling stock, improve station facilities, get information correct, fly over obstructions, immediately return lost property etc etc. It's surprising anyone would want to do it! Basically the same as the re-regulisation bus companies don't want.

But we haven't reached the murkiest depths yet. There are vast armies of number crunchers, and I mean vast, whose sole job it is to apportion blame in the case of delays, and boy are they thorough. There is something you need to understand about train delays. If your train is delayed by 3 minutes  at say Beccles because someone takes a long time boarding that doesn't seem much. However if it gets to Ipswich 3 minutes late and the Mainline service leaves late as a result that becomes 6 minutes. At Manningtree that can become 9 minutes if the Harwich train is delayed. At Colchester the Walton train is delayed waiting for the mainline train to clear the points, and the stopping London service leaves late too. The snowball gets bigger and bigger. I have seen a 4 minute delay total over 1,400 minutes due to affected services also delayed, and operators are fined up to £120 a minute for delays.

So obviously the operators have similar armies trying to push the delay blame onto Network Rail, who have to compensate the operators for signal and points failures, overrunning engineering works, security breaches, blocked lines and so on. Every second really counts and Lord knows just how much money is spent investigating and dealing with delays. Of course if everything was actually owned by the government this expense would be saved - a delay would be a delay and that would be it. Delay/repay would continue, but with everything coming out of the same coffers.

So let us examine the case for re-nationalisation. One reason is the above, with much money saved from ending the blame wars. I suggest fares would be the second. The current fares structure is a national disgrace. To get the best fares at the moment you need an intimate knowledge of railway geography, and the multitude of operators across the network. I read the other day of a customer looking for a ticket from London to Thirsk in North Yorkshire. The cheapest he found was £110. A bit of searching and he discovered he could get to York, one stop away, for £29 ON THE SAME TRAIN!. I myself have spent hours on websites trying to split fares to get the best bargains and saving a fortune. But I shouldn't have to. When I went from London to Carlisle a couple of months ago the cheapest way was London Midland to Crewe, then Virgin to Carlisle, which was far cheaper than going Virgin all the way. If I didn't know the system as well as I do I'd have ended up paying far too much and that HAS to stop. Having all fares Government controlled should, in theory, solve that problem out as it would be one operator on all services. Yes, slower trains may well still be cheaper but being one operator all journeys and fares would show up on all timetables and the single website. Fares need simplifying radically, a National Railcard available to all for leisure travel needs introducing, which would help fill empty off peak seats, thus reducing the myriad of different railcards available.

We would not return to the 70's. That culture has gone, we have learned, and the public wouldn't tolerate it again. We still have strikes. Lots of them with different operators having different policies. I'm sure the new South Western Trains have their own opinions on the role of the trainmen Stagecoach preserved on the 455/6's, for example. A single operator could have a national policy regarding industrial relations. Oh, and the BTP could be preserved and brought back in Scotland, assuming Scotland wanted to be part of it. If not let Scotland run their own lines with cross border services guaranteed of course.

So that's fares and industrial relations but what about the rolling stock? At present all rolling stock is leased and it would need to be explored if that was to continue or the Government bought all the rolling stock from the leasing companies. It would certainly make it easier to transfer rolling stock from one area to another, something which at present takes an extremely long time to organise.

Services could be integrated so longer routes connecting more areas could be introduced without worrying about who would operate them. So in theory Great Yarmouth - Wales services via anywhere could be created. It's an interesting thought.

So that makes re-nationalisation seem like the obvious answer doesn't it. Lessons learned from the past, current standards maintained and improved and everything simplified, but any anti re-nationalisation supporter will come back with a very good and convincing argument, and it boils down to one word - accountability.

If you pay someone to mow your lawn, or decorate the bathroom you are going to make sure you get what you pay for and everything is done properly. If you do it yourself, though, you are far more likely to cut corners or mutter "that'll do"!. This is what happened under nationalisation. There was woeful under funding, particularly in the infrastructure, which we are paying the price for now. Yes - there were notable achievements, the Intercity 125 being arguably the best of them, and some equally notable flops, APT springs to mind, and the ECML was electrified on the cheap, which again we're still paying for with constant OHL issues. As other countries developed high speed rail travel, such as Japan and France our railways stood stock still. If our railways are to be re-nationalised absolute guarantees need to be made to ensure investment and updating of our railway is maintained and increased.

Trouble is the Government can move the goalposts to suit themselves. Yes so called independent watchdogs can be created, but they tend to be as toothless as a 95yo trying to eat an apple. What has the Rail Regulator done with Govia and the ongoing dispute over the role of Conductors? Told them not to be naughty and behave nicely and that's about it. Have Govia ever been threatened with being stripped of their franchise? Of course not, so if nothing is done with a private company you can rest assured even more nothing will be done if it's Government not doing it right. Network Rail are a case in point - if engineering works overrun sure they get fined, which NR, owned by the Government, pay to erm the Government! Who is there to make sure it doesn't happen again? Why do signals and points fail in the same places with monotonous regularity and nothing is done? Who is there to really crack the whip?

It has been suggested that Train Operating Companies be responsible for their own track maintenance, which is just fine if you're talking about Norwich - Lowestoft, but at least 8 different TOCs use the ECML, not to mention several freight operators and excursion companies, so who would be responsible for the track? You think there's buck passing now!

Speaking of Freight would that be nationalised again too? I haven't heard that mentioned. Could we have a nationalised passenger system and privatised freight operators? Who would get priority? Freight would be paying the Government for use of the track so would justifiably demand the slots they wanted.

Privatisation has the advantage that private money can be used alongside public money to fund new projects. this scheme has many opponents, but under a fully natiionalised railway any new projects would be totally reliant on public money and right now we simply haven't got it.

So you can see that the current system doesn't work particularly well, but neither would re-nationalising the industry, so effectively us poor passengers (increasingly poor if fares keep rising at a higher rate than wages) are stuck between a rock and a hard place. It's all well and good TOCs investing in new rolling stock, but if, as with the GEML last year the only infrastructure improvements is cleaned ballast then we will continue to see the likes of Japan, France, even India stretching further ahead of us in rail expansion.

To give a case in point it has been announced this week that £29m is to be spent bringing the signalling on the Wherry Lines between Norwich and Yarmouth/Lowestoft into the 21st Century. Why???? It is the equivalent of turning a cul-de-sac into a dual carriageway. Yarmouth and Lowestoft are dead ends. They have a basic hourly service. There are never, ever any signal failures on those lines. The biggest problem are the swing bridges at Reedham and in particular Somerleyton. Seven signal boxes will go - apart from the two at the swing bridges. How many more years of those seven boxes would £29m pay for? How many improvements to those swing bridges would it pay for? No freight uses those lines so why not use that money, as someone suggested, to part fund the dualing of the Felixstowe branch, which would have far greater benefits. Electrification of the MML has been shelved, not to mention the GWML in Wales. Ely Junction improvements keep getting deferred but hey we can spare £29m to create signal failures on lines that don't have any, making people redundant into the process. Investment is good, but in the name of all that's Holy invest where its desperately needed.

So what's the solution? If I knew that I wouldn't be sitting here writing this. Much brainier people than I have tried and failed to crack this code, and no one has succeeded yet. Our railways need massive, massive investment. Old lines need reopening, current lines upgraded, capacity increased, fares structure radically simplified, TOCs and Network Rail held more to account for poor service. Passenger numbers have doubled in the last 15 years, but seats and capacity haven't. Fares have, though, which means more revenue is coming in. I wonder where it has gone.

When the railway works it's got no peers. It's brilliant. But all too often it doesn't work. Until this is addressed, and the public gain enthusiasm to replace the cynicism then the same old moans will be heard. There's no easy fix, there's no quick fix, but a fix must be found, and the long term future of our railways secured for future generations. Then we will have improved on the generation before us.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Norwich Bus Bash Report

The rain stayed away, the sun shone but not too harshly, and the public turned up in their droves. Thus was the first Norwich Bus Bash a success, and hopefully raised an impressive amount for East Anglian Children's Hospice.

Sometimes when your as involved as I am with the industry, albeit now as a former insider observing from the outside, it's all too easy to be super critical, to want perfection, to yearn for what isn't there rather than appreciating what is, and today was a classic occasion for doing just that. So I'm going to try and be a member of the public, and not an enthusiast. I understand on social media many enthusiasts have suggested how things could have been better, but in all honesty today wasn't for enthusiasts but for non enthusiasts, young and old, particularly young to enjoy riding on old buses, getting a pic of them in the cab of a bus, going through a bus wash etc. I only saw smiles and happy faces so job done!

As usual all the familiar faces were there, most of them friendly, I went with Tim, and on our arrival were met by Take That Superfan Sam Larke of Norwich Buses Blog, with Jamie Glasspoole, and First Eastern Counties Operations Director/Manager/Driver Chris Speed (should have seen his face when someone asked if he was a driver), whose brainchild today's event was. Most of the city centre shuttle buses were operated by the usual suspects, one of which I understand didn't last the pace and failed early on, but I will keep its identity anonymous. But there were some welcome visitors, and due to the higher than expected attendance some of First's own vehicles were pressed into action.

Our first trip was on Eastern Counties' last Greenway National. The Gardner engine boomed out and gave a pleasant ride, although it must be said it didn't enjoy the steep hill towards the end of the trip.

LG587 WAH 587S
A variety of First vehicles were in attendance, including Lowestoft Heritage liveried 8, Ipswich's Eastern Counties liveried VA479, recently named "Jim Long", X1 E400 33824, and the still striking E400 from Yarmouth, 33423.

Lowestoft 8 at Roundtree Way

33824 was a static display

33423 in need of a little TLC

Jim Long there in spirit, and in person!
The next trip was on an old friend. Great Yarmouth Transport AEC Swift WEX 685M was reunited with former owner Chris Speed, and operated a couple of trips. A lovely bus, and Chris was clearly chuffed to bits to be driving her again.

Swift 85 reunited with its old dad!
 Hungry work too, as it didn't take Chris and best mate Grahame Bessey of East Norfolk Bus Blog long to get back up to the city joining Tim and myself for lunch. A really good time spent chewing the cud as well as burgers, catching up on the latest news and gossip.

Chris and Grahame went back to Roundtree Way on the Greenway, while Tim and I waited for my main target of the day, Viv Carter's immaculately restored Bristol VR  VEX 294X. It looks simply majestic, sounds as awesome as a Class 37 loco, and gives a ride totally devoid of background noise. I was taken back 35 years in a instant. It was best in show by a country mile and worth the trip to Norwich on its own. Here it is in Castle Meadow

Magnificence! Bristol VR VEX 294X
A bus making its first pulic appearance in new colours was Norwich Volvo B7l 60916, now renamed VW916 (still a Volvo not a VW). Repainted into Eastern Counties Livery and, praise be, re-padded seats it looked very good. I don't know if the rattles have been sorted but I presume not!

VW916 YG02 DKU at Roundtree Way
The workshops were also partially open, and inside was ex Ipswich B7rle 66981, halfway through being repainted into Red Line livery.

66981 being "Redied" up.
There was also the chance to see all of Norwich Network's different colours lined up together for the first time. Sadly not in rainbow order but even so an impressive sight.




So impressive one small boy wanted his photo taken in a driving cab.....

Tim's Mum would be so proud!
And the day was done. Nothing reaches its peak first time round, and I hope this is the first of many Norwich Bus Bashes. What I will say is if you are going to open a depot up it needs to be all or nothing. I know Roundtree Way is operational 7 days a week but so are most depots. The engineering staff in particular seemed to resent the public's presence, and that was a shame. Having most of the other buses parked facing away from the public area was also noted, and it rather showed up less than universal co-operation in making today happen. I hope next year's date is set much earlier, so all departments can come together and work towards making the second Norwich Bus Bash even more of a success than today's was.

Kudos to Chris for making today happen, thanks to those who brought their buses and above all to the public for supporting the event in their hundreds. Good to see all the friends I did, sorry to miss those I didn't see, especially Clive, and catch you all soon.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Norwich Bus Bash

This Sunday sees the inaugural  Norwich Bus Bash organised by First Eastern Counties. The new extended Roundtree Way depot will be opening its doors to the public, including the long awaited "rainbow" line up of all the different coloured routes. you can take a trip through the bus wash, sit in a driver's cab, inspect the workshops and more.

There are frequent free bus trips around the City, including County Hall where you can park, as parking at Roundtree Way is severely limited. My thanks to Chris Speed for the info, and hope to see many of you there.

UPDATE

Due to Norwich City re-arranging their home match against Sunderland to Sunday the plan to serve County Hall has had to be scrapped. Apologies for the false information but I've only just found out. This is also the reason buses to/from Roundtree Way can't serve the Rail Station.


Thursday, 3 August 2017

A Piece Of Konect Humble Pie

A spot of Short Set chasing today,of which more later, but this time I did it by bus, leaving the car at Wangford and catching the 146 into Norwich. Have to say BB60 BUS is in pretty good nick for its type (E200) and age, even though the unusually strong wind threatened to low in the doors at one point. On arrival at Norwich I caught the 5, operated by Konect to Thorpe, and very soon realised i was going to have to eat some words. The 65 plate E400 was immaculate. Clean, quiet, WiFi worked well, and above all not a single rattle. In fact a joy to travel on. Since I'm the first to criticise E400's in rough conditions I had to mention this.

Konect 636 SN65 OAV in St Stephen's St
 After I had completed my Short Set photography and enjyoed an excellent lunch at the Town House in Thorpe I caught another Konect E400 back into the City, this time older 606 SN61 CZW. Again, for its age the condition was remarkable. Yes the blind box door rattled but that was about it. So, not for the only time in this post, well done Konect. Keeping E400's in that condition takes some doing so congratulations to the engineering team. 

I had gone to Thorpe to try and capture the Class 37 Short Set in new locations, especially while the blue and grey (faded white) coaches are still on it. Thorpe provided a couple of locations, the first being the footbridge over the railway to Thorpe lakes. A short wait and the familar rumble was heard, and 37419 appeared.

37419 with the set, having just passed Whitlingham Jct
Here is the full video.


I then moved a couple of hundred yards up the line where there is a gate crossing to Thorpe Sailing Club. Crossing to the Club side I waited and thanks to the strong wind heard the set accelerate from Crown Point  Another good angle and shot of the set ensued, with a smoking 37405 leading the way.

37405 with the blue/grey set
Here is the full video with the 37 pleasingly drowning out the crossing alarm.


Now back to Konect. It is normally very difficult for those under 21 to get a bus driving job for insurance reasons. So when I was chatting to a couple of Konect drivers in St Stephen's St another driver came up who I thought I vaguely recognised. A smiling, jovial young man who was clearly content with life. It was only as he departed to take over his bus I got a glimpse of his name badge. I had known this particular person was driving for Konect but truly didn't realise it was him.

Kieran Smith spent a period of time running the very successful Norwich Buses Blog, and it's fair to say we didn't get on. I mean seriously didn't get on. No one was really at fault, he was obsessed with his blog and I know I was obsessed with mine - so much so it nearly cost me very dear. I don't know how much I've changed since then but seeing Kieran today was like meeting someone for the first time. He has come out of his shell, is clearly living his dream driving for Konect, and any history between us is precisely that. Kieran had already supported me by email over the troubles I had with my anonymous abuser, which I was extremely touched by, but to see this outgoing, joking, happy person was something else. Kieran it was great to meet you, and I'll be over next week to assess your driving skills! But more than that huge credit needs to go to Steve Royal at Konect for giving Kieran the chance at an age the vast majority of companies wouldn't. I could hear the gratitude in his voice, and see the sparkle in his eyes. Top marks, Konect, top marks.




Wednesday, 26 July 2017

News, News & More News

First of all can I thank everyone who contributed to the discussions following last week's news post. The most comments ever for a post and all of them polite, even when disagreeing. It was a joy to watch them all come in and read them prior to publishing. Some valid points made from all sides of many arguments.

So it's only right that I start today's post with news relating to a fair chunk of those comments, Ipswich Buses. Quite a few people mentioned IB's fleet, the ex Carters fleet in particular, someone even saying he had heard they were going to be replaced with Scanias. Well it turns out he was right, and then some. I was informed today that Ipswich Buses are getting fourteen 61 plate ex London Scanias. I don't know full details yet, but obviously 14 buses will cover far more than the ex Carters fleet. What remains to be seen is what IB will be doing with them. I assume, like the Borderbus Scanias they will be converted to single door, and I can only hope for the sake of the passengers on the 93 to Colchester, that they have padding put in the seats. IB are normally pretty good with their choice of seats, so if anyone within IB reading this can confirm I'll be grateful. When I get more details obviously I'll publish them.

It turns out all my Star Trek references to the BCI First trialed on the X1 were wrong. The tri axle version, which First are due to trial in August is the Enterprise, the two axle version being the Excellence, which has got to be the most risky name for a bus ever, and asking for trouble! Anyway, a closely guarded secret was that Borderbus, never shy of trying out a demonstrator, were getting one this week, and it duly arrived yesterday when I was in Sussex! So this morning I was over the depot pretty early (for me) only to discover it was already out on the road. A quick chat with everyone, of which more later, and I rendezvoused with the Excellence at Kessingland.

Ensignbus BCI Excellence 144 LX17 DZE at Wangford
 I was hoping the vehicle Borderbus were given was a different one to that First had, and so it was. This meant I could compare the two. I was also lucky enough to have a vastly experienced driver of 37 years driving and instructing who has torn the other demonstrators to bits, so I knew he would pull no punches. Exactly what I needed as it's ok for me to say what a great bus, no rattles blah blah but the most important person on board is the driver (certainly was when I was driving) and what they think matters. Jed thought for a moment when I asked him what his initial opinion was, then said "I wouldn't mind a fleet of them". That is high praise indeed, and I have to say the ride impressed me once again. The pot holed roads between Wangford and Southwold can shake you to bits on an E200, but the Excellence glided over them as if they weren't there. Good stuff. On arrival at Southwold Jed took me through the points he'd noted that he thought could be improved.

The bright upper deck of the Excellence
Firstly the handbrake. A very minor point, but on most buses you put the hand brake on, then have to lift the neck up to release it. On the Excellence you have to lift the neck up to engage it too, and that takes some getting use to. The interior mirror is far too big for it's position, and actually creates a blind spot out of the windscreen. Jed thought positioning the mirror higher above the windscreen would make things easier.

The enormous  interior mirror
Only half the cab window opens - the rear half - which makes adjusting the offside wing mirror awkward. Jed isn't a short chap by any means and he had trouble. Allowing the front half to open too would solve that problem.

His biggest gripe though was the bell, which was exactly the same noise as the indicators  That is very confusing if the bell is pressed while indicating. I was convinced the example First had, had a normal bell, and Cameron, who was with me on it, has confirmed that. That really needs to be changed, as it will confuse passengers too..

The only other problem Jed had was with the low ceilings. For a 14'6 bus the ceilings do seem low, and neither of us could work out why, unless it's not 14'6 of course!

But one thing Jed was impressed with was the positioning of the hazard warning lights switch - on the end of the indicator stalk.

Original placing of hazard warning lights
Believe me if that's all Jed could find to criticise then we have a very, very good bus. He said the braking was extremely good, and acceleration matched an E200, yes 200. It felt solid, and the more he drove it the more he liked it. I must mention the interior lights, that come on very slowly but have a trick. The lights above the door and luggage rack are blue to reduce reflection in the windscreen, but as the doors open they change to white, then back to blue when the doors close. Very well thought out that.

Oh just one more thing - the wheelchair arm is positively lethal! It seems to stick out further into the gangway than others and the height of it is such if someone was thrown forward, especially a male, then any future prospects of fatherhood could be seriously impaired. I'll try and get a pic while the Excellence is here, and no one knows how long that will be, could be a week, could be all Summer!

So in conclusion overall I was just as impressed with the Exellence second time round as I was first time, and just those small details to sort out. Do that, and BCI might be tempted to change the name from Excellence to Perfection!

The rear
While I was at Borderbus I had a chat with supremo Andrew Pursey who confirmed Borderbus are making no service alterations this Autumn. The 146 is growing patronage steadily, and it wouldn't surprise me if by this time next year some of the E200's are gone and replaced with deckers. In a world of cuts it's so good to see a route bucking the trend. There is also a big waiting list for the Sir John Leman High School buses, with some 650 pupils a day conveyed to and from the school.

So from the Excellence to the anything but excellence. Passing Lowestoft Station I spotted ex Norwich Volvo B7l 66348 on the X22, the only bus with harder seats than those Scanias! A hastily taken pic while at traffic lights but rather pleased I hadn't travelled from Norwich on that. I'm told by Grahame Bessey that it is probably on loan from Great Yarmouth to cover Dart 42908 which is away for repaint. Even stranger was seeing a Gemini on the Town Service 106, so why the rattlebucket was on the X22 is anyone's guess.

66348 at Lowestoft Station on the X22
 Last week I promised news on the Class 37 hauled Short Set running between Norwich and Great Yarmouth/Lowestoft, and here it is. The DRS coaches have been temporarily replaced with 3 blue/grey (It's blooming white not grey) coaches making the set look even more retro. I was going to take pics tomorrow, but Tim rang me to say he was at Lowestoft Station so it seemed rude not to return and see it today. And what a sight. Could have been any day in the last 40 years. Long may they stay on the set, and we now need 2 large logo locos (say that after a few sherberts) to put the icing on the cake. It was also good to meet Martin from East Suffolk Lines Rail Partnership. Always good to put a face to a name, especially when they turn out to be a friendly, chatty face!

37422 leads in the new coaches


Bet most of the pax don't realise how lucky they are!
I think the next picture sums it all up. We are truly blessed to have this set in our area, and the memories of those of us of a certain vintage are triggered and re-triggered day after day. What a huge hole will be left when they are gone.

Guess the year anyone?
Yes of course there's a video! Enjoy, and I look forward to all the comments rolling in!