Thursday 9 January 2014

E400 Comparison - Konect v Excel

Before I begin this post I must emphasise that I am not affiliated to any bus company and I praise or criticse any company when I see fit. Opinions are mine, and are there to be agreed with or not as anyone sees fit.

Yesterday, after a few weeks avoiding the new X1 Enviros because of interesting activity on the X1 shorts I thought it about time I saw how they were settling in. So as part of my loop yesterday I caught 33807 from Yarmouth to Lowestoft and to say I was surprised is an understatement. The rattling and general noise for a bus 3 months old was abysmal. But rather than jump to conclusions and start criticising First immediately I thought I'd spend today comparing E400's to get a better picture. So I did two round trips from Norwich to Dereham, one on Konect's 8 Service, the other on the X1. I also thought it prudent to travel in from Beccles today so I could sample a couple of the former X1 B9's.

So of course round the corner came ALX400 30900 to kick that idea into touch! But having said that apart from the well documented God awful seats she gave a pretty decent ride, was warm, smooth and very few rattles Not bad for a 15yo vehicle.

So at Norwich I boarded Konect's E400 608 SN61 CZY and settled down for the trip to Dereham, where I immediately caught 607 SN61 CZX back to Norwich. Both gave really impressive rides, were warm and comfortable, texting on my phone was easy, and were quiet - no intrusive heating noises and I was really impressed. Kudos to the driver on the way out who seemed to know First Norwich route 11 better than the First driver, and we pulled back and waited for the First bus to cut across us at a roundabout, turning right from the left hand lane. Quality!

Konect Enviro400 608 SN61 CZY at a wet Dereham

Sister 607 SN61 CZX boarding for the return journey

So after a lunchbreak I did the journey again, this time getting X1 E400 33814 YX63 LKC on the outward journey, and 33806 YX63 LJU on the return. Oh dear. I'm afraid to say yesterday on 33807 was not a one off. In the space of 3 months they are rattling like vehicles 50 times their age. The heaters/air chill are so noisy upstairs it's impossible to hold a decent conversation. The seats are already subsiding so I could feel the frame of the seat which I couldn't when new. Those vinyls on the top deck windows are really restrictive and I know many people have complained about them. The ride is so rough texting is a real challenge and that next stop announcer (who taught him the wrong way to pronounce Gorleston) is enough to have you tearing your hair out. Heaven help anyone who wants to snooze as there is zero chance. The only thing they win on is top speed, which is a bit faster it seems than the Konect ones.

X1 Enviro 400 33814 YX63 LKC  at a sunnier Dereham

Sister 33806 YX63 LJU in a hampering sun at Norwich Bus Station
So what can be drawn from this comparison. Why are Konect's 2yo E400's so much better than the X1's 3 month old vehicles. Did First buy the wrong vehicles for the route? Did they go for cheaper option interiors? They knew the mileage would be demanding. This is their flagship route for heaven's sake - the longest bus route in the country and already they are showing signs of fatigue. Lord knows what they will be like in 6 months. If I had bought a brand new car that had deterioated that much in 3 months I would take it straight back and demand a refund PLUS compensation for the inconvenience.

What I do know is it is not anything to do with the maintenance team at Kings Lynn. I did go back to Beccles on 37565 and it was embarrassingly less rattly,  and also smoother and quieter than its replacements, which is a testament to the team at KL.

The X1 is a fantastic route, great value for money and should have the best vehicles for the job with no corners cut. It is my sad duty to conclude that these E400's are not up to the job and won't last the distance anything like as well as the B9's did.


  1. I'm sorry but I disagree enitrely with that! X1 Enviros are so much more comforatble, warm, smooth, and don't rattle hardly at all. You must have been unlucky with 33807 :L The only reason I would pick konect over First to get to Dereham is it's quicker as it misses out Easton and Hockering...but if I want comfort, First are a heck of a lot more comfy than Konect

  2. In which case I was unlucky with 33814 and 33806 too. Guess I'll keep trying till I find a quiet one.

  3. I was on 33806 today and found no issues whatsoever...other than the locked windows and lack of working airchill system causing a rather uncomfortably warm ride

  4. It was working fine yesterday and annoyingly loud. Although to be fair 33806 was the best of the three. I will make a point over the next couple of weeks of going on as many of them as possible to make sure my evaluations are as accurate as possible. I take no pleasure in my opinions or conclusions but that is how I see things at present. Maybe others would like to contribute to this debate.

    1. Well I guess we all have different opinions on definitions of rattly and noisy :P

  5. Bus enthusiasts can be strange people with such thinking as a bus is only a good bus if its painted in a particular colour or if it a certain marque.
    I do detect the latter in this report and whilst opinions may differ on levels of noise etc etc I must say that my travels on the E400s have not noticed any of the points raised.
    Delivery of the fleet was delayed due to Firsts own specifications - see X1 blog - so it cannot be said they have not got what they wanted.
    Perhaps the operating finances of the X1 route, because of the Konnect and Anglian cherry picking of the route, ruled what buses could be ordered.

  6. Jim, you read my mind, I detected some of the same thing. Probably because I'm guilty of doing the same thing on occasion, but this isn't about me :)

    Anyway, having said that, for my part, I believe E400s in general are pretty well known for being 'built to a price' which can in some circumstances cause 'maintenance issues' shall we say, while Geminis are relatively bombproof in comparison, able to take a fair bit of punishment without too much trouble. However on my travels on the X1 E400s to date I haven't noticed any of the points raised either, so make of that what you will.

  7. LOL I have finely tuned ears! I have always had a thing with rattling - I remember driving pretty new Lynxes for Boro'line in SE London and getting through yards of ticket roll jamming up the cab windows because they rattled so much. I travelled on 33817 yesterday which wasn't too bad but still maintain they rattle far more than i woold expect from a bus costing that much and so new.

  8. I loved the Geminis whilst they were in X1 service, but I love the E400s even more, and congratulations to Firstbus for getting it so right.