Sunday 14 September 2014

Weekly News Round Up 14/9/14

And so another week has past, and with ShowBus being the new official end of Summer this is the penultimate Summer News Round Up of 2014 with only freezing cold bus stations, railway platforms, and black rear ends of buses due to salt on roads and bus washes failing to look forward to. Oh and maybe daft cartoon characters obscuring views from the top deck again. I'll be playing Scrooge again in Panto with my usual aplomb!

So onto the news/


Nothing to report from Ipswich this week. The remaining E200, 44516 was expected to return but didn't, and to my knowledge nothing else has gone up to Rotherham. So for the first time in this blog's memory pride of place goes to Norwich and the plans for their new livery, or should that be liveries. At this point it should be said that I have never been a fan of route branding. It started down in Kent (in my experience) in the mid 90's and I didn't like it then when a route branded bus was on a different route. It just looks amateurish and confuses the passenger far more than a different livery (if a different livery is so confusing why do buses have all over ads these days - and there were 4 different liveried ALX400's on the 66 in Ipswich the other day). Anyway it seems the idea is to paint the Norwich buses in the same style as the Ipswich ones, except the front colour will be the colour of the route they are on, so red routes will have a red front, green routes green fronts etc. The first bus to be painted is Volvo B7 Plaxton President 33163 of the Purple Line which will have its front end painted purple. This tells me two things. Firstly Norwich will look like a Dulux paint chart and secondly if the first bus to be painted is a President it tells you just how much updating the Norwich fleet is going to get. Probably blown the budget on paint!

I have no idea why companies these days think passengers are so thick. How on earth do they manage in London where everything is red! Actually London is a great example because they DO manage, and extremely well. In the late 80's early 90's buses in London came in all shapes and colours. I myself drove blue and yellow buses in London. Oh yes and Ipswich green and cream ones, white ones, and when Kentish took us over yellow ones too - on the same route. Then there was Metrobus (a different blue and yellow), green ones from Transcity, yellow and red from Citibus plus the red traditional London ones.  That was just in my area. Passengers, particularly tourists, didn't know if they were coming or going as they were all used to red ones. The red system was a simple system - a bus turned up and passengers looked at the destination screen and knew what route it was on and where it was going. Clever eh! Eventually Transport for London realised that actually it worked and from then on all buses on TfL work had to be 80% red again. Of course all over ads are allowed as the Borismasters are showing, but that doesn't matter as passengers are used to checking destination screens. No one misses an 11 if it isn't red because it still says 11 Liverpool St on it.

What would cause confusion though is if all the Borismasters on the 11 had 11 painted all over them like a Banksy mural, then one of them turned up on the 38. (Yes I know different depot it's an example). This is inevitibly what is going to happen in Norwich. Get people used to colour coding and they stop checking destination screens. Then when a Yellow bus turns up on a Purple route they will let it go as not all of them will be monitoring the excellent Norwich Bus Updates on Twitter. It makes me laugh that one of the reasons 33423 is being repainted is because the poor darlings in Gorleston apparently can't tell between a 1 and an X1 and which is going to Norwich, Presumably they can tell between a 1 and an 8 and which one is going to Martham? Or a 2 and a 7? Did they let the Barbie liveried Gemini B7's go by when they were on the X1 because they weren't white like the Excels? No they didn't as they read the destination screens. Of course they are used to blue buses now and have got lazy. That is what happens. Of course it would help if the X1's actually said Norwich on their screens at Gorleston. Ok rant over. Just don't insult the intelligence of passengers when there is a perfectly good tried and trusted way of seeing where a bus is going. Painting by numbers is for kids, and I can just see tourists and foreign students getting hopelessly confused as to whch buses they can use their tickets on. Norwich, instead of getting its own identity will have to be renamed The Rainbow City.

First Ipswich 69007 complete with Ipswich branding at Saxmundham yesterday
Norwich passengers will also be delighted to know that Yarmouth are kindly donating two more of their Presidents to the Norwich cause. 32201 and 32202 will join 32200, 32203 and 32211 in Norwich after the end of the peak season service 3 freed up a couple of buses. Now correct me if I'm wrong but I'm sure we were told the ex Leicester ALX400's would be replacing the Volvo B10 Renowns as Yarmouth wanted to convert the 6 and 7 to decker operation,and end single deck journeys on the 1 and 8. Since their arrival Yarmouth have lost coaches 20514/5 and Presidents 32200/1/2/ to Norwich, Renowns 60807/8 to driver training, Geminis 37562/72 and Dart 42358  to Lowestoft, 34187 has been withdrawn, and 30888 is on loan to Ipswich which has been countered by a single deck loan in return. so they have gained 9 buses including 32629 and lost - 11 buses. Long live the Wright Renowns! And the Ollies, bless them


Unbelievably not reported elsewhere is the announcement on Thursday that the top man at Konect/Anglian, Julian Paterson, is to leave the company in Novemnber. A notice was put up at Konect's depot at Dereham and word spread very quickly. I hope to do a feature on Julian Paterson's career at Konect before he goes as he leaves quite a legacy.

Anglian have reported on their website that the last of the Versas have transfered to Konect. Konect in turn have apologised to passengers on the 53 for buses still in Anglian colours on the route - passengers who are used to, erm, buses in Anglian colours on the route!

I said a couple of weeks ago I would never again catch the 1600 Anglian 88 service to Halesworth again after it was merged with the 1555 departure and now takes 20 mins longer to get to Halesworth. That was confirmed on Monday when Anglian, in their wisdom allocated a single decker for that run. By all accounts it made a tin of sardines look as spacious as the Penthouse Suite at the Savoy. It wasn't a swap either as I had seen the vehicle concerned on the 0800 from Norwich and just assumed it would be swapped over later in the day. I understand it was a decker the rest of the week so maybe a few ears were burning Monday evening

Hmmm now which bit is just slightly out of sync!!! I think it's actually the Scania

I was surprised while in Ipswich to see a Galloway MCV Evolution on the 118's, a route normally exclusively Solo operated with the occasional Beaver. Luckily for me the driver was a friendly chap and was happy to explain the situation. Quite simply passenger numbers have risen to such an extent a bigger vehicle is needed to cater for the students going to Otley College. It apparently caught both the operator and Suffolk County Council by surprise. So if you fancy a ride on a Evolution head over to the 118 during school term and you'll get one. It's a bit big for the route and the driver was saying the extra size meant times were very tight but still good to see.

Galloway's MCV Evolution YJ60 GFA at Old Cattle Market


Norwichbuses blog have this morning reported that a new vehicle to Simmonds, E200 MX11 JYP was operating on the 113 between Ipswich - Diss yesterday. One can only hope it is the beginning of the end for those truly appalling Enterprise Plasmo Plaxton Primo's in which case I might at long last be able to explore that route as I refuse to voluntarily sit on a mobile rattly spin dryer for 90 mins!

On The Railways

First Capital Connect are no more. They have ceased to be and joined the long list of ex rail franchise holders. As of today Go-Via trading as Thameslink and Great Northern take over with what be UK's biggest rail franchise when the Southern network joins it in July next year, although Southern will retain its own branding as Go-Via have been operating that franchise for many years now. Many improvements have been promised. We shall see.

Yesterday saw the last Yarmouth drags of the Summer. Well should have done but 47813 threw a hissy fit so the last two didn't run. I love the 47's, but they are so unreliable now maybe the time has come to retire them gracefully to heritage railways and let the 68's take over. Anyway it does give me the opportunity to post once more one of my fav pics of the Summer. Sorry this week has been such a rant and keep checking in over the coming days.

47501 tugging the IC set in the Yarmouth Sunshine on the first day of the drags in July


  1. In case you missed FEC's press release, I quote it below:

    "A spokeswoman for First added: "We've taken the inspiration for our new bus-look from the multi-coloured swop shop which holds happy memories for our operational teams, and we hope for our customers too. We're really hoping to have Nole Edmund's in attendance for our public launch, and in honour our new mascot is going to be Mr. Blooby. (Editor's note: pronounced with a silent l). First - transforming travel", into a laughing stock.

    Or, did I just dream it?

    1. If Keith Chegwin turns up that's it!! I so nearly mentioned Swap Shop but thought I'd be the only one to remember it. However I can feel a musical montage of buses on wrong routes in the future forming in my mind!

  2. a very good read as usual and nice to see my Galloway get a little mention again. just a note to say we do get an mcv on here occasionally, but thts the first time i have seen tht one on here. normally YJ60 GGY is used. have ridden on it a couple a times and tbh its not too bad. boy are you right about the primos tho. have ridden on one twice and absolutely hate them.

  3. my galloway route obvisiously, not my galloway .im not tht well off!!!!!!!!

    1. Damn was just preparing my loan application!!!

    2. if it was my galloway, you could be operations manager ;)

  4. Must disagree about the colour thing once again - I was in Nottingham on Friday, and as previously discussed, they use the same system there. Passengers there cope fine when a yellow bus appears on the lime line, or when a plain silver bus appears on navy line.

    As long as passengers keep reading the displays, the whole thing will work really well - it's when people get lazy and just go by the colour alone that the problems begin.

    1. Exactly what I said, Damon - it leads to passenger complacency and then vehicles that in an ideal world wouldn't need repainting get repainted. Why aren't Tube trains painted the colour of their route? Some have handrails in the colour but that's about it. I just think it's totally unnecessary and the money could be better spent updating the seriously uncomfortable and ageing Norwich fleet

  5. Hi Steve,it's all well and good having a soap box,but it beggars belief when they get money put asside for a massive repaint program they are in the wrong for that,what do some of you guys want every opco has to work within a budget and i for one is pleased the buses are being repainted into a modified livery,NOW Steve just because they are carrying out repaints doesn't mean nothing new is to turn up,have you forgot that the Norwich blog has it first hand that new buses a plenty in the new year,so lets take our hats off to this new team of chaps who are trying to change things around,Now going back to colour coding of buses Reading does so does Nottingham albeit a full bodied colour code,never the less people do it and it brighten things up for those guys who consider themselves enthusiast's,i just don't get awhat all the knocking is about,earlier in the year you were full of praise,what's changed.

  6. Because Jim, and please don't take this personally because it isn't aimed specifically at you - it's just you asked the question. I have always said I am a passenger before enthusiast. I don't just turn up in my car somewhere like most enthusiasts do to take a picture of a bus. I spend hours and hours and hours travelling on them. Once you are on a bus it doesn't matter one tiny bit what the paint job is. It's how the darn things ride. (Yes there is the odd exception to every rule) How many times have you been on one of First's Plaxton Presidents recently. Anyone can stand at the roadside and say oh what a pretty bus. If you want to celebrate a fleet of rattly hard seated noisy Plaxton Presidents being repainted then go for it. As Kieran said this week about E400's I think it was (correct me if I'm wrong Kieran) you can polish a turd as much as you like but it is still a turd. Norwich is the biggest City in East Anglia. It deserves an up to date modern fleet of buses. It is going to have a fleet of highly polished turds.

    Where are all those 10 reg B7rle's we were told were offered? The official line is that "we are happy with the poorly seated, rattly riding B7l's we've got". In other words the offer was withdrawn. Yes 50 buses are coming next year we are told but we aren't told what and anyway they aren't replacing anything as they are to expand the network with. I doubt they will be new and shiny. but yes, enthusisasts from far and wide will drive into Norwich to take pics of them and wow at the colourful paintwork. People who have to massage their bums after sitting on them for hours might not be so enthusiastic. I rode on 65670 yesterday. It could have been painted in gold leaf with diamond encrusted wheel arches. It would still have been bloody uncomfortable but at least the photographers would have liked it so that's alright then.

    I acknowledge how hypocritical that sounds after my protestations about 33423 being repainted, but as I said, there are exceptions to every rule.

  7. Yep Steve ridden loads over the years,but since my tripple by pass in 2006 not too many i'm afraid to say,although i have sampled the Counties Presidents ALX400's from W.Yorks,i made a point of sampling each type,i had my favourites just like anyone,but sadly nothing modern by that i mean the Counties E400 or the little Caetano's or Lowestoft's E200's.
    I loved those Yarmouth Tri-axles and the short lived Dominators although the Dominators were to be honest wrecks internally,but it was not what i was looking at,it's the diesel sounds those Gardners and Cummins L10's.
    One bus that really did interest me was the VR with the Leyalnd 680 engine,not the 510 like what was in the Leyland National,Viv Carter had one from Stagecoach at Chichester thirsty machine.
    Yep guilty Steve of using the car,it is for personal reasons as mentioned earlier and neither of us are spring chickens, now both in our 70's,on a light hearted note,i'm my good ladies toy boy,so that may tell you something.

    1. Thanks for not biting my head off, Jim! The thing is, mate, when I started this monster that's rapidly taking over my life I wanted it to be different, I'm not interested in putting fleetlists up, although I'm eternally grateful to those who do, or reporting a new panel. I noticed that there were no blogs that reported on ride quality, punctuality, timetable clashes, bad connections, extended journey times etc. In other words a blog that took companies to task and spoke out for the passenger.

      It has taken some people time to understand the angle I approach things from, both inside the industry and other enthusiasts, Yes I like a shiney freshly painted bus as much as anyone, but if once the wheels start moving it's hard, loud and rattly then as far as I'm concerned it's a waste of paint. Incidentally yesterday within 5 mins of getting off 65670 I was on 69007 and the difference was something else, but I repeat you can't see the paint job from the inside. To look at a bus is free. To ride it costs mosts people money, and I'm pretty sure that while a myriad of different coloured fronts will be pleasing to the eye, the majority of passengers would rather see that money go on reupholstering the seats to make them more bottom friendly.

      In the early 80's I could tell individual vehicles in the Medway towns before I could see them by engine noise, brake noise or even the handbrake being applied. Nowadays I could tell what type of bus blindfold but an individual? With the exception of IB9 not a chance. Btw M&D had a few Leyland engined Bristols - PKP120-4R if memory serves me correct and 5120 was my joint all time favourite Bristol with a rather fruity and grunty sounding Gardner engined 5857.

      I said my reply wasn't aimed personally at you, Jim and I meant it. My parents are around your age and I wouldn't expect them to spend hours on buses - especially some of the heaps and seats we have to tolerate these days. However I'd give anything to find out how many of all those enthusiasts going to Duxford next week travel regularly on the buses they enthuse about! Bet it's less than you'd think.

  8. The 1 and X1 both have white elephants operating on the service and due to the lack of information on the destination you stand little chance of passengers not getting confused.

  9. Hi Steve

    Cracking round up once again, which has generated a few points from me (as always, apologies in advance for the essay):

    Norwich repaints - you took the words right out of my mouth, that was exactly my thought too when I first heard about it. Granted, on a positive note Norwich is actually getting some attention 3 months earlier than I was expecting, but... well... are they doing the insides of the Presidents too? If so, then your suspicion (and mine) is much more likely to be correct. If not, then it all seems like a bit of a waste of time really, as the Norwich fleet needs more than just a lick of paint.

    Branding - I'm not as, um, against branding as you are I must admit. If done well it can make the branded route/s stand out, and shows that some attention is being paid. However, as I understand it, the 'Norwich Network' has a fair bit of interworking in it, so with that and the mainly ageing yet heavily used fleet (the Presidents are 12-13 years old now, and the B7Ls are about the same) there are many, many opportunities for the branding in Norwich to fall apart.

    Having said that, it appears that 33423 and the 2 Geminis are being repainted for branding reasons, but not necessarily for the poor darlings at the eastern end - if King's Lynn runs short, it would evidently be easier to loan a blue X1 branded vehicle than one with 'Great Yarmouth' on it (yes, if King's Lynn runs short, it will be looking to Yarmouth... that's what I thought too). Granted it would probably be easier for Yarmouth to just loan one that's already blue than painting a few more blue just in case, especially since the eastern half of the route will still be a hotch potch of colours regardless of this, but maybe that's just me.

    Yarmouth - well, if memory serves, it's a tad worse than that. 32203 and 32211 moved to Norwich because the Leicester ALX400s were coming as I recall, so with that in mind Yarmouth's vehicle count is; 14 out (coaches 20514/5 and Presidents 32200-3 and 32211; to Norwich, Geminis 37562/72 and big Jersey Dart 42358; to Lowestoft, Renown 60807/8; driver training, 34187; withdrawn, 30888; Ipswich (loan)) and 9 in (ALX400s 32058-9 and 32061-5, Gemini 32629, and Renown 60622 on loan).

    Overall though, you're quite right. We were told that the ALX400s from Leicester would be replacing the Renowns, so that the 7 and potentially the 6 could be made into decker services. However, we were also told that the Ollies were only resurrected for contract - not service - work, and Danny Beales wrote into the GY Mercury a few weeks ago (dated August 15 if you want to dig it up on Google) stating that Yarmouth would be getting 'new' vehicles in November which makes me wonder about the StreetLites... but yeah - long live the Renowns (and the Ollies) indeed!

  10. Excellent comment, Tinker and I can't disagree with much there. I'm all for branding if it's the only route a company has, for example, but that rarely happens. It just looks so wrong when a branded bus goes on the wrong route. It happened tonight in norwich with a turquoise branded bus on a yellow route shock horror. If that happens after painting it will look awful.

    I also bet my life ten times over that even with the two Geminis and 33423 painted into X1 blue there will be plenty of corporate liveried Geminis still on the X1, so the confused passengers will still be confused.

    1. Well, not so much that it's the only route, but that if there is going to be branding, make it reasonably sure that buses won't end up on the 'wrong' route. Don't get me wrong, I understand why it happens (at least in Norwich), the point I'm getting at is that when it happens it just looks - for want of a better word - lazy. I agree by the way; while it doesn't look great when branded vehicles end up on the wrong route now, after painting it will look awful as it will stand out so much more.

      I'll take that bet by the way, because it's going to happen - as will the blued up Geminis ending up on 'alternative' routes. With the greatest respect in the world, Yarmouth are clearly incapable of making the 8 all decker for whatever reason, so I am lacking in confidence in them making the X1 all blue. Frankly I'm surprised there haven't been singles on the X1 since it went every 20 minutes.

  11. As a passenger:
    1. Reliability, at least when it's under their control.
    2. Comfort
    3. Convenience
    4. Price/value for money.
    5. Courtesy and accurate and up to date information which I need not what the company thinks I should have (the stuff that gets lumped in with customer service). I suspect like most passengers I do consider myself to have a reasonable level of intelligence and basic literacy and numeracy skills, and don't appreciate being treated like a child.
    6. Appearance. Have the Norwich Network got the rest of it right yet? I'm not convinced from my, admittedly limited, experience. I do have more experience of Essex, and they haven't got the hang of stage 1 yet!

    1. With regards to the Norwich Network, in my relatively limited experience of it my opinion is as follows:

      They're lacking on 1 and 2, seeming to have particular ongoing issues in Norwich with 1 (getting buses out first thing, driver changeovers in the city centre etc). 3 depends on the particular route (for evening running, Sunday running etc). They're actually doing OK with 4 - within the city zone they're great value for money, so much so fares can jump quite a bit if you're just outside the city zone.

      5... hmm, it depends - there's been a couple of '(time/service number) is not running, service will restart at (location/time)' Anglian style tweets over the last week or so. That tends to be the exception rather than the rule though sadly, the usual routine is 'nothing has been reported, if you wish to complain please send us an email'. On the other hand, if you phone them I've found them to be pretty good, although on the occasions I've needed to phone them I've been greeted with a 20 minute phone queue each time which isn't ideal. All in all, the jury is out on this one.

      As for 6 (which sort of links in with 2); well, if my maths is correct, around 3/4 or more of the Norwich fleet is Presidents and B7Ls, all of which are at least 12 years old, and look and sound it. The rest consists of about 17 Geminis and half a dozen Solos - the Geminis are in decent nick (37562 is 6 years old, while the others are 3 years old now). The Solos though... also 12 years old, and in similar condition to the Presidents and B7Ls with similarly uncomfortable concrete seats.

    2. Pretty well sums up my experience in Essex too, tinker. I'm not surprised. The sad thing is I'm sure the management are aware of it all. They have initiatives to deal with most of them. But they're not joined up. They tackle one thing, and make another worse.

      Here's a thought "total customer experience": as an experiment take one of your underperforming routes. It's all about profitability, in the end. So look at everything, with the objective of making the route more profitable - i.e. getting more passengers by making things better for the customer experience, and test it by the increased patronage. Look at everything from the passenger perspective. Find out what works. The best combination for the particular route. They're not all the same. And spend money where necessary to increase income, not throw it around like a piece of modern art, hoping for the best. And chuck the rulebook. OK it's not as colourful, but might it be more effective than just a paint job? I know there must be a better phrase than tcs. Sorry. Makes me sound like some horrid management consultant.

  12. And the one I forgot: don't confuse the customers (passengers). Irritation easily turns to annoyance, even anger. Why does every modern business forget it? We should never be asking "what the heck are they playing at?". It's not hard, is it?