And so on that momentous day yours truly was out there extra early to sample the Pullman style luxury and reach a conclusion about the new vehicles. Alas this was before the genesis of this esteemed publication so there is no written report of that day. However it started with riding 33804 to Acle, then switching to 33805 to Dereham, followed by 33810 back to Easton for lunch.
|33805 at Dereham on 30th Sept last year - it's first day out|
Then on 8th Jan this year I travelled on 33807 and was horrified at the condition of it after just over 3 months in service. I didn't report it but the next day went on a mission to compare the X1 E400's to those of Konectbus on the 8 between Norwich and Dereham. It proved to be one of my all time popular posts and created no end of controversy and discussion. Again, if you haven't seen the post it can be viewed by clicking here.
Now I was pretty scathing in that post and put a few noses out of joint, but since then a rather large amount of people have started to agree with me. And so on Saturday, as I was going to Kings Lynn already it seemed the right time to repeat that experiment, and so I started by getting Konect's 61 reg E400 604 to Dereham. Very little has changed. There was a little more background noise but no more than you'd expect from another 9 months in service. Incidentally the driver told me the mileage on the clock was 194k, so I had something else to go by when comparing the X1 vehicles which have all done around the 100k mark now.
And then, rather appropriately 33805 came round the corner. I caught that to Kings Lynn then 33817 back to Norwich. Since there was very little to choose between them I'll do a joint review and assessment on how I see the X1 now.
|33804 sits at Kings Lynn Bus Station on Saturday|
The seats seem to have lasted the Summer, but to be honest don't feel as sumptuous as they did this time last year. I don't think my posterior has changed much in that time so I do wonder how they will be in a couple of years time.
The air chill and heating are plain noisy - there's no getting around that, in fact 33805 was pretty cold and I was grateful for my jacket. Acknowledged it's that time of year where temperatures fluctuate like mad so some excuse there.
Now there are two things that I find infuriating in the extreme on the X1, the vision, which I'll get on to in a bit. and the appalling on board announcements. First of all the guy who recorded the announcements (anyone know who it is?) has no idea how to pronounce the names of the places en route. For example since when has Swaffham been pronounced "Swaff-Ham", or Gorleston "Gorles-Tun" and as for Pleasurewood Hills Lord only knows what he's saying. But worse than that he gabbles. I'm still wondering where "Eastwinchurch" is. I was reminded so much of the Scene in Blackadder Goes Forth where the Corporal in charge of the firing squad admits that he is a gabbler with the words "ready, aim, fire" that in an effort to inject a bit of humour into the proceedings I thought I'd post it!
No style, no finesse just about sums up the on board announcements, that also announce you are approaching a stop much too late to react before you whizz past it. I recommend a complete overhaul of that system, with maybe hiring Brian Blessed to record the announcements. No one would miss their stop then!
Now the vision. Unless you are lucky enough to grab a front seat upstairs - and trust me you have to be extraordinarily lucky - if you were thinking of enjoying the Norfolk and Cambridgeshire countryside forget it. Those seats are so high even I can't see over the top of them and those blasted route vinyls are STILL hindering the vision from the side windows. It's even worse now as since nothing operates along the whole route they are also inaccurate, and there's nothing worse than inaccuracy is there Mr A!! When another blogger wrote to First last year saying he could see very little out of the windows First replied saying they were looking for a solution to the problem. I have the solution - as they are now giving false information and therefore are not needed then take them off and improve the "journey experience" for your passengers of all ages and heights.
|33808 at Kings Lynn on Saturday|
So to summarise there are issues with vision, air chill, WiFi and the on board announcements, but the ride quality has improved no end on the vehicles I have travelled on recently. If you get on, put your music on, fall asleep and get off again they are great. If you want a country tour then not so good. I would still rather get on the 1/1A between Yarmouth and Lowestoft and Anglian's 7 between Yarmouth and Norwich unless a Gemini was available on the X1.
So what of the future? The guys I spoke to on Saturday at Kings Lynn said they would like nothing more than for ALL the Geminis to be painted up and put back on the X1 as the E400's are getting increasingly unpopular. Two are already being painted up, plus another E400, and it really wouldn't surprise me to see others follow. Will the E400's last the intended 5 years? When I asked that question on Saturday I got a unanimous and emphatic "no!". Mind you will there still be an X1 in 4 years time? This time next year even? Will the route be joined back together after the Postwick roadworks have finished? Will there be genuine competition or alternatives on the Western side of the route? Who knows, but it will be interestiing watching to find out.
|The good old days? 37576 At Yarmouth showing Peterborough. Look atr the view from upstairs!|