Wednesday 16 July 2014

First v Ipswich Buses Refurbishment Comparison Special

Yesterday I went to Ipswich intending to get my first pics of the newly repainted and refurbished First B7rle's. However it turned into something more than that. After abandoning a very hot, crowded and screaming kid ridden 65589 at Melton I then caught soon to depart for Colchester 69532 and realised that I could leave at Tesco, and catch Ipswich Buses new service 4 into town. I did, on one of IB's refurbished Darts, then caught First's 53 to Chantry on 66981 so had the opportunity to compare both refurbishments. It's probably best if I divide this into separate categories


Everyone is getting used to IB's new livery, and I have always liked it. The Darts look as good as anything else in the livery and the route branding is subtle and not in your face.

IB87 stands at Tesco on the new extended 4. Sorry another crap pic
First's new livery for Ipswich could well be an accquired taste. I did a small survey of staff and a few passengers yesterday and general concensus seems to be - those that were printable - that no one quite understands why First chose that dark charcoal green at the front. Ipswich Town blue or Eastern Counties red would at least have had some relevance. However I will give it time to get used to it, but I can't help thinking that if it looks dark and dirgy on a bright Summer's day what will it look like on a dark, January evening.


This is where you have to feel sorry for First. In all my years both as passneger, driver and enthusiast I have never known bus interiors as consistently well turned out as those of Ipswich Buses. They also look clean, smell clean and can't be faulted. There is absolutely nothing wrong either with the interior on the B7's although some of the floor trim looks grubby already. IB's seats look nicer than First's, but in this case my bottom gets the casting vote and the most comfortable seats are on the B7's.

Ride Quality

I don't like Darts. I've never liked Darts. I like Darts as much as I like E200's. Even those Millenium Darts with the better soundtrack as IB87 has are still Darts. That gives First a head start ion this category. However I was in for a surprise. The team at Hogwarts have waved a few wands, recited a couple of incantations and concocted a few potions and as I type IB87 is virtually rattle free, There must have been an awful lot of tightening up as the last time I went on one of those I was shaken out of my seat. However I fear the roads around Bixley and particularly Broke Hall will ensure that it will be rattling again before long. Get the roads resurfaced and the buses will last longer.

The B7 has had no such attention, and although 66981 didn't rattle much anyway there was no obvious change to the ride quality. However the meatier engine noise and solid feel to the bus make it honours even in this category.

On Board WiFi

IB's WiFi is the best I've used - including Megabus. I had forgotten to test it and was already by the university campus by time I remembered. Less than a minute later I was online and everything worked.

66981 isn't fitted with WiFi yet. I just hope it's a different system to the X1 whch I find very long winded and tiresome.


I feel that both companies deserve credit here. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the fact I'm not sure about First's new colours is neither here nor there. One driver said the new colour would have suited the rear of the vehicle better but I'm not sure I agree. I would like to know, though, the thought process behind the choice of that colour. The leather seats look good on both vehicles, but I agree with the IB driver who was lamenting a leather driver's seat - that will get hot and sweaty this time of year and cold in the winter.

The 4 isn't direct competition to the 66, but an additional service that will benefit different people. I quite like the route, although I'm not sure it should run circular around the Town Centre. I know most routes do, but it is awkward for shoppers having to board to go back at different points to alighting.

If you live in Ipswich you are lucky as far as buses are concerned. Both First and IB are doing their utmost to improve their vehicles and they are succeeding. I can't even say new vehicles would be better as if recent experience is anything to go by I'm not suire they would be. It's too early to judge the legacy of all these refurbishments, but they are giving it a go - First in particular - and maybe we need to wait 6 months before drawing any firm conclusions.

One last thing - while at Chantry I saw a 4 branded Dart operating on the 13. That is why I am against bus branding! Sorry no more pics but my camera was seriously misbehaving yesterday and they are rubbish!

1 comment:

  1. Yet to return to my home town to properly sample the latest refurbished buses (although I did sample an IB E200 a few months back and it was absolutely fine). What it seems to show is that this 'bus war' is less a war and more a ramping up of standards (and hopefully better route coverage) for bus passengers in Ipswich. Let's wish both First and IB well in their endeavours - the former seems to be genuinely taking a far more professional approach than was the case just a few years ago - when the refurbishments and repaints are complete, the fleet will be almost unrecognisable.