Tuesday 8 April 2014

Special Guest Post

I was delighted to receive an email from fellow enthusiast Kieran Smith this evening, reporting hiis day sampling the X1 today. When I asked if I could publish his report he immediately offered to tidy it up and include some pics. Many thanks. Kieran - I think it is an extremely thorough report and you are far from alone in your conclusions. Kieran also wishes me to emphasise that the views are Kieran's alone and do not reflect on any group or organisation he is a member of. All pics are copyright to Kieran also. (except my one obviously!)

A bit late to the game, I must say, however; today I set out with the intention of seeing what all the fuss of these new X1 buses is about. My only previous experiences of an X1 journey have so far been a Volvo B9TL in June 2013 on a one-way trip to Lowestoft, and a return to Great Yarmouth in August 2013 on a Volvo Olympian/Alexander Royale and one of my personal favourites, 20514 on the return journey. 
Venturing into Norwich on board First's 33149, I used my fairly priced day ticket to head out to Dereham. 

Arriving at Norwich just in time to catch 33821, I boarded and caught the first glimpse of the eyesore which is the luggage rack placed immediately behind the stairs. This makes the downstairs of the bus appear cluttered and packed, contrasting with the bright interior of Norfolk Green's Alexander Dennis Enviro400s, on which I travel regularly. With the whole upper deck to myself, I set about picking apart the good and bad features of the upper deck. Some quirky and somewhat sexist adverts for the service were displayed and brightened up the upper deck, however, with one held in solely by the lower part of the frame I was surprised it was not hanging out. I was also shocked at the deep rumble which the vehicle produced when the driver is not accelerating. Leaving the departure stand the abundance of rattles and squeaks stunned me, as these are not experienced on similar vehicles operating in Norwich which are up to two years older. The main culprit for these noises was the air conditioning unit and the joints of the handrails which let out creaks at the slightest shake of the bus.

The onboard announcements are useful, and with a voice uncannily similar tone to that of Apple's latest "Siri" feature. The first announcement made me jump as I forgot about this feature, however, my ears soon adjusted to the volume of it. As the bus picks up at all stops in Dereham and Toftwood, the journey along Norwich Road and Crown Road was rather unpleasant with an announcement every few hundred yards. On 33821, the announcement were otherwise flawless, other than the scrolling parts which are a distraction to some of the amazing views which can be seen; let alone a real eyesore to passengers who may be trying to relax on the journey. Arriving in Dereham, I ended up queuing in a row of buses waiting to use the bus stop at Dereham Market Place, a problem which is regularly occurring and which I feel should be addressed in some manner by the local authorities... a large bus stop maybe?
33821 in Dereham
As my journeys were for no particular reason other than enjoyment, I planned to catch the other X1 bus which was heading the queue, however, the long wait meant it pulled away for Lowestoft just as the doors of 33821 opened. Instead, I waited for the next bus, which happened to be 33808 running with a total delay of around six minutes - not bad if you ask me! My initial recognition as I boarded the bus was the fact the next stop screen was jammed on an earlier stop before my boarding point. This remained like this for the entirety of my journey back towards Norwich, meaning there were no announcements and the bus was apparently stationary in Dereham whilst reaching speeds of up to 50mph along the A47. My original intention was to stay on this bus all the way to Acle, where my ticket validity terminates, however, on arrival at Norwich I was tempted by the sight of Great Yarmouth based 60813 preparing for a "short" run to Great Yarmouth. With the inability to resist my temptation I dismounted and waited the short while for the beautiful bus to pull round to Stand D. The driver was one of the friendliest drivers from First I have met, and his prompt departure meant we left bang on time. I found this vehicle quieter and a more enjoyable ride, and would choose this over an Enviro any day. With no idea where I was getting off, I followed the crown of bus pass equipped gentlemen and soon found my bearings. A sprint across the road and I was back on board another Enviro400, with a working next stop system. I pondered over the though of 20514 and 20515 as I saw them heading towards Yarmouth on X1 shorts, wishing I was on board one of those.
33808 at Norwich
I just happened to be in Yarmouth when 60813 left for Norwich today so seems a good place to put the pic!

Back in Norwich, I had a nice ride on 36168 to Riverside. These are my personal favorites in Norwich with an almost silent ride and the most comfortable bus seats I have ever experienced. Any passenger who was lucky enough to ride on these buses when one of the batch had a brief spell on X1s last year may agree with me in saying that these vehicles would have been a better choice for the service.
Norwich B9 36168 complete with new Wilco ad
I must give First my respect for their investment on the route, however, I personally feel that these new buses are a disaster and their feel of luxury has long gone since their early days, and I also believe the route of the X1 is too complicated to be branded as "EXPRESS", with the route through estates in Great Yarmouth and the route on the way to Dereham being very complicated. My personal opinion is that First should continue X1 shorts to Dereham, operating via Easton, Hockering and Norwich Road with standard X1s operating direct into Dereham and turning off of the A47 near the Tesco store in Dereham. I must also give my dues to First for being able to complete seven bus journeys across Norwich for just £3.60, top noch!


  1. I spotted the Wright Renown on the X1 short as I was travelling in the opposite direction that day.

    Often wondered why an express route calls at the housing estates, bit like that for the X2 near Lowestoft.

  2. The Lowestoft - Yarmouth route annoys me no end. 3 different routes - 1/1A, 7 and X1. They all take roughly the same time the 1/!A going round the coast to Hopton then apart from a little wiggle by the sea in Gorleston fairly direct from JPH. The 7 goes round Gunton Estate for ages then the most direct from Pleasurewood Hills and the X1 is the fastest to JPH then blows it by going round the houses in Gorleston. Why can't someone actually provide a service - even if it is only hourly that goes FAST from Lowestoft to Yarmouth even bypassing Gorleston to provide fast links to JPH from both Yarmouth and Lowestoft. Yet again in an effort to net as many potential passengers as possibvle, companies are actually losing them by not providing faster journey times.