Monday 28 July 2014

X1 And Long Distance Routes - A Lament

It is a sad day. 48 hours ago you could see a bus at Lowestoft showing a destination 121 miles away. Today the furthest destination you can see is that on the X2 to Norwich. It appears the Eastern section of the X1 has been domesticated and as such leaving Lowestoft it can't even show Norwich on the destination but Great Yarmouth with connection for Norwich. So actually the X1 has been split into 3. Now this is not a criticism of First - although I'm not a fan of the split in anycase - but the ridiculous regulations and red tape coming over from Brussels that is blighting our transport system. And one of the biggest changes has been the death of the long distance bus route. Oh they can exist but each section has to be separately defined and shown. That may please the bureaucrats in their air conditioned offices but it is extremely confusing for passengers. Let me give you a couple of examples.

When I was a boy one of my favourite routes was East Kent's 550 from Dover to Hastings. A lovely route on the top deck of a Bristol right along the coast. There was at least one driver change en route, sometimes two. When Stagecoach took over East Kent they went even further and extended the route to Eastbourne and Brighton. Took ages but one bus, one route, one destination. They also had routes from Ramsgate to Medway. Another route ran from Sevenoaks to Folkestone. One bus, one destination. To do that journey today you have to do it in 4 stages using 3 different companies.

Today I caught for the first time in ages the 62 from Halesworth to Lowestoft. The service starts in Beccles, and continunes to Yarmouth and eventually Norwich. But who would know from this destination?

Anglian 103 with a fine driver at Halesworth
Now look at the destination - it doesn't even mention that it goes to Lowestoft. At Wrentham, which is only 3 miles from Kessingland not even the timetable at the bus stop says it carries on to Lowestoft and Yarmouth. Small wonder no one gets on it. One long route, 3 route numbers and 3 destination screens. Why? (Yes I know between Beccles and Kessingland it is Council sponsored but the passengers don't care less about that.) The domestic and EEC rules apply to drivers hours and other things that should have no impact whatsoever on passengers. The passenger getting on a bus will not give a monkey's if the driver is using a tacho or not. They want clear, concise information, and forcing companies to split their routes up is now bordering on the ludicrous. They allow through fares but not through destinations. Why? When is common sense going to actually make its way into things?

And so to the X1. Or what remains of it. I listened to a woman at Lowestoft this morning on the phone having great problems getting information about the X1 and how to change at Norwich. Even after asking a driver she still thought that it was only a driver change at Norwich and she stayed on the bus for Kings Lynn. Trouble is there is absolutely no indication that you can still get to Kings Lynn, The Timetable on the stand only has it going to Yarmouth, and even the destination screen seems to indicate you have to change at Yarmouth.

No mention that the Western part of the route still exists, let alone that you stay on for Norwich
We need long bus routes again. We need convenience and easy to understand information for passengers. We were told this is only a temporary split of the X1 so I cannot say as a route it's dead. But if this evidence is anything to go by it's certainly in a coma and as usual it's the passengers who will be suffering. A route that was proudly the longest in the country now lies in pieces. As I said, a sad day.


  1. Brussels gets blamed for everything, doesn't it? Rightly though, in this case? Or could it be self-inflicted with our own Traffic Commissioners, with their ridiculous "no more than 1 minute early or five minutes late" mandatory licensing condition, with the threat of the disciplinary sword of Damocles having over the operators. So your separate routes into bite size pieces. Who can enlighten us? I'm thinking the licensing regime is a millstone, sinking the bus industry.

  2. That could well have somethng but if you take Anglian's 7/61/62 an incident on the Acle straight could quite easily impact on someone going from Halesworth to Beccles, so I'm not sure the time limits argument works there. If that was the case it would be separate buses on the different sections. I think the best idea is all drivers, regardless of if they drive long distance coaches or Beccles Town service, should all use tachos. Then only one set of rules and conditions applies and everyone knows where they stand. 4.5 hours is plenty enough for anyone to drive without a break and it's about time this two tier system was put to bed.