Sunday 30 November 2014

Weekly News Round Up 30/11/14

You wouldn't believe the amount of material for this round up I can't publish today - either because it's unconfirmed rumour or I have been asked to keep quiet for a bit, but suffice to say over the next few weeks many eyebrows will be raised and boredom is certainly not going to be an issue.


As usual First take the bulk of the column inches today due to activity just about everywhere. At Ipswich branding has begun on the 66, and will soon begin on the 53 too. I showed  pic in my post from Ipswich on Wednesday (click here to see it) of freshly painted 32488 in the depot getting her "Superoute 66" branding. So almost inevitibly when Bryan Dickson saw her today she was operating on the 75 to Felixstowe!

Superoute 66 branded 32488 on the erm 75!    Pic (c) Bryan Dickson
Just before I was about to post this Round Up I was alerted by Sam Larke of Norwich Buses that Chris Speed had posted a pic on Facebook (which I don't touch with a bargepole) of one of the E200's in 53 branding. The pic was actually taken by Paulo at Ipswich so thanks everyone concerned for getting the pic out in the public domain - I suspect knowing us bloggers would pounce on it like a pack of hyenas! That bloody frog appears to be back!

The new 53 branding on 44517

Ex Colchester Volvo B7rle 66976 has arrived at Ipswich, and I believe has already departed for Rotherham, and the final transfer will be the long awaited 69006 from Norwich which is due on Monday, but then someone or other has said it's been coming every week since August so seeing will be believing! Scania 65675 has gone to Colchester, and eventually 65670 and 69433 will go the same way.

Over at Yarmouth all the new Streetlites are now in service, and the reception seems to be pretty positive. I'm neither here nor there on them - they don't blow me over with their quality - the retarder sounds like a 1980 Metrobus -  but there are worse buses that size on the market too. However, I can foresee a major problem which could see them either constantly over the pits having everything tightened up or re-gluing, or rattling like a 1930's football crowd within six months and this time it is not the fault of First, nor Wright. The blame will lay firmly and squarely at the feet of Norfolk County Council. Quite simply the roads these buses will be going over day in day out are nothing short of scandalous. I went on a 2 to James Paget for the first time on Tuesday and was appalled at the state of some of the roads. I couldn't blame any operating company for refusing to operate along those roads until a decent surface was provided.

New Streetlite 47503 on the 5 to Burgh Castle on Friday
As reported earlier in the week Lowestoft have gained the use of Yarmouth's ex Jersey Dart 43862 and Plaxton Dart 42921 is on loan to cover extra Bernard Matthews work. Interestingly the demand for extra buses at Bernie's was so great today that a Kings Lynn X1 E400 was used on an early morning BM contract Saturday. I would kill for a pic of that if anyone has one as the headline is screaming at me!

Some of Norwich's new Streetlites are set to make their debut tomorrow (Monday) but it would appear NOT on the 39 as intended. Local media reported on Friday that they would instead be used on the 14 between Wymondham and Wroxham, which is actually more appealing to me and I hope to have a report and pics in the next couple of days. This is one of the times I can't publish what is going to happen but expect some interesting news in the coming days and weeks. As soon as I'm given clearance to publish I will so keep checking back.


I have now been given clearance to reveal to merry-go-round of transfers about to take place although specific vehicles involved have yet to be confirmed. Basically Yarmouth's ex Jersey Darts will transfer to Lowestoft. Lowestoft's E200's in turn will transfer to Norwich and will replace the Solo's on the 39 as the Streetlites have turned out to be a little too big for the route. As I get individual vehicle details I will, of course let you know!


One Streetlite that won't be out tomorrow is 47511 - which was captured today at Heysham Docks by the wonderful Malcolm Jones. Many thanks for sending me the pic, Malcolm, and copyright of this pic remains with him.

47511 at Heysham Docks.   pic (c) Malcolm Jones

In other Norwich news Plaxton President 33060 has returned in the new generic corporate livery. It has had its extremely temporary red vinyls removed and the new black and white ones applied that I am reliably assured are the right ones!

Norwich Trident 33060 LN51 LJU in her new colours

Can't really call this news but as this is always the most read post of the week I thought this deserved to be included. I was well chuffed to receive an email from Dave Marshall, Chief Engineer at Borderbus, formally of Anglian, who sent me two pics he took of the first gas bus to come out of the factory in Portugal prior to coming over here. Unfortunately I don't know which fleet number this ended up becoming but what the heck - amazing pics, Dave, and I would guess extremely rare. Thanks for sending them to me and thus sharing them with everyone else. I must insist that these pics remain copyright to Dave.

The first MAN Ecocity Gas Bus out of the factory   pic (c) Dave Marshall
pic (c) Dave Marshall

Sunday Services

Not something that normally makes the news but there are a couple of changes coming up in Ipswich. The Sunday 116 service to Debenham has been scrapped due to lack of use - that was well predicted in certain corners, but the 65A to Woodbridge has been extended to Melton, and an extra two journeys added to give 5 in total. A shame it couldn't be extended even further to Wickham Market and Rendlesham but hopefully that will come in future months. Any improvements to Sunday services are to be encouraged and applauded, but the public have a responsibility to use the services when they are provided. I fear it maybe some time before Debenham gets another chance.

And Finally

A bit of a rant now. I have defended Greater Anglian to the hilt in recent months. Indeed it's possible they might be getting an award from this humble publication but things are getting worse. I follow GA on Twitter and right now there can't be many more unreliable services in the country than the Ipswich/Felixstowe line, which I have a vested interest in as I used to live by the line. The excuse normally given is freight congestion, and that is believable to an extent, but only allocating one unit to that line doesn't help much. Having worked on the railway I know all about units and crew displacement etc, but I also know there are normally spare crews sitting around too and at least one spare unit at Ipswich during the day.

I also appreciate that most of the line is single which makes passing difficult. But there simply doesn't seem to be any contingency plan in place apart from a Panther Travel coach outside Ipswich Station that will operate journeys if required. Not much help if the problem is the Felixstowe end.  So why doesn't someone step in and operate a fast bus service from Ipswich to Felixstowe via the A14 running in competition with the trains. As long as it proved to be totally 100% reliable and ran at the right times it might just catch on, especially if it carried on to the Town centre. OK those rail passengers travelling further than Ipswich wouldn't benefit financially unless they had a bus pass, but for those commuting between the towns it could be a more attractive option if it took far less time than the current service buses. If it proved really successful maybe it could even extend to Colchester running fast down the A12. Woah now there's a thought! Once again I am available for consultancy work!

The ususal fare on the Felixstowe Branch, a Class 153 - 153314 leaves Ipswich sidings


  1. Thanks for another amazing round up I really enjoyed reading it.

  2. Your thoughts on Graham Newmans comments that the traffic problems in Ipswich have been "greatly exaggerated"? The 118 from Fram took 25 mins to get dwn Museum street Friday meaning the 5.15 to Stradbroke didn't leave til 5.45.. Understand that Ipswich was gridlocked and that there were problems in Commercial Rd.

  3. Reading the IB twitter feed frequently,hold ups are a frequent occurrence and yet the bus companies are getting the blame from passengers which is usually hugely unfair.

    1. No the traffic probs in Ipswich are not exaggerated. It can take one badly parked vehicle, or indeed an unreliable First B7rle - no names mentioned 66986 - and the entire town becomes blocked. Neverending roadworks over the last couple of years, though seems like decades, although called improvements never seem to improve things either.

      I have spoken recently to both men ultimately responsible for buses in Ipswich and they are agreed that the state of the traffic is prohibitive in planning and operating future services as well as existing ones. I would suggest Mr Newman travels a bit more by bus and gets his head out of the traffic free clouds. I would also suggest more traffic wardens employed at potential blackspots at strategic times to keep traffic moving rather than just nicking some old dear whose ticket expired 5 mins previously.

  4. I though the problem is that there just aren't any spare serviceable diesel units in the national rail network? For the DTp planners it's the "forgotten railway".

    Haven't the East Anglian towns, bisected by rivers, always had horrendous problems because of the limited number of routes in and out? Add to it the increase in port traffic, trunk road problems, utility works and the horrors of traffic control systems (well, just traffic lights, even worse in my experience when "co-ordinated"), and the buses haven't got a hope. And as for the state of the roads, I feel safer walking on the pavements (and no, not because of the traffic).

    I wonder if EC/EN still suffer from getting stung when they tried "Green Line" type fast inter-urban routes in the 1980s and early 1990s. I still think they are a great idea, witness Stagecoach X4/X5, as well as the X1 (well, in parts). I know about the logistics, but to me it's incomprehensible that the Essex X30 doesn't go on to Cambridge (linking the Unis), even via Stortford and the South Cambs growth areas, in the future. Avoid the M11 disaster though! And something linking the FEx and Berkshire ops might, I think, be made to work, even though competing with Arriva. Similarly, Felix, Ips, Colchester and perhaps Stansted, Cambridge too. But it doesn't fit the "local" ethos. Probably sensibly, I have to admit as there isn't the sort of passenger crossover, I'd expect. I glanced last week as the results so far from the Essex bus survey, and apart from the unsurprising level of apathy, what stood out is just how limited and local most people's public transport travel is; and not, at least in this neck of the woods, because of the lack of opportunity (as you know).

    1. One problem that is just not tackled is that last buses leave far too early for people to have a really decent day out by bus. The reason for this is obvious - it's so most shifts can run 7-7 so unlike 30 years ago the same drivers are driving in the morning and evening peaks. I am often asked, for example why I don't cover Essex more. The thing is I'd love to, but I just cannot get to Essex and back in a day with enough time there to do something useful. By time I get there I have to start back or I won't get home.

      Maybe if re-regulation comes back that issue might be addressed, but it goes certainly part of the way in explaining why most bus journeys are of the shorter variety,

    2. Essex and Herts do run evening inter-urbans on a 2 hour frequency, evening and Sundays, though as ever rurals stop after 7 (departures if you're very lucky!) Frankly the evening take-up looks sparse, though Sunday daytime traffic looks like it's improving a bit. Herts are now proposing cutting subsidies for both (though from 7.30pm not 6.30pm weekdays if that's an improvement!). The Essex bus review survey I mentioned found eves and Suns the least concern to all groups of passengers (except in Canvey Island for some reason). The only exception seems to be where there's significant uni/student traffic, which I guess helps Norwich a bit too. That was why I am surprised perhaps that First's Essex incarnation don't perhaps try to capture a bit more of it? They do in parts of the south of the area, though, and a give a nod in Colchester. It looks to me as though commercial evening services are retrenching too, and as for more public money where's that coming from then, with cuts now into the 2020s and more of us living longer and demanding more welfare correspondingly? Volunteer drivers are great, but my experience is that they (understandably) don't want to give up their Sundays and evenings. They have families too.

    3. The reason the public are so apathetic about Sunday services is few of them can remember far enough back when decent Sunday bus service was the norm and not the exception. Quite ironic that when I used to go out on a Sunday as a boy I was bored to tears as there was nothing open! How the roles have reversed. I do remember, though clearly seeing my first V reg Bristol VR at 8pm on a Sunday evening passing throguh my village and excitedly phoning my best mate up to give him the news when I got home.

      As for volunteer drivers I don't think there would be so much of a problem as those who have nothing to do evenings and weekends might be grateful for the chance to get out doing something. It won't happen anyway.

  5. I was speechless when I read it. A really unhelpful statement because its the bus companies Tha get it in the neck. He would do more good finding out why all these so called improvements are running months behind and probly over budget. On another note,the suffolk links dial a ride has changed here.Altered the boundaries and now it will take me to Halesworth station? instead of Saxmundham.Just wondered if anyone elses area has changed?

    1. The Hoxon area has changed -men aing it will take me further west, though to nowhere useful, but apart from that nothing has changed. I just wish SCC would consider employing volunteer drivers to cover evenings and Sundays so those who want/need to stay out a bit later can still use the services. For example next week I have another hospital trip to Sussex - Greater Anglia/Network Rail permitting - but there is absoiutely nothing apart from a taxi to call on to get home from Saxmundham. Again maybe re-regulation will help in that respect as the extra funds may well be there to extend the hours of that extremely useful service.

  6. I think Cretingham (me) comes under Hoxne. They have extended the booking hours. Was 10-1 but according to my bus stop, you can now book btw 8.30-2.30.Totally agree about evenings and sundays. Im sure if funds were available, there would be volunteers.

    1. It has been 8.30 - 2.30 for as long as I have been using it,and the lovely Margaret on the phone is always cheerful and extremely helpful. However the other ones I use - Pathfinder and Loes have booking hours 8.15 - 4.00 and I must mention Charlotte and Kerry who find gaps for me at the most unlikely times.

  7. Ah ok. My bus stop obvisiously not been updated as often as it should have been though they have put the latest update on.until recently,it was telling me 10-1 which appears to have been wrong. Have never used it so far because of the 118,but maybe there will come a time where I will need it. Sundays would be useful :)

  8. Hi steve just to let you know that Alexander Dennis dart yx14 rxb is here on demo for a few days

  9. Hi yx14 yxb is on demo with galloway should have put it in

  10. Galloway update national express fleet number 303 is out of service with fire damage may not be coming back keep you updated

  11. Hi steve another galloway update the demo Alexander e200 bus should be on the 118 ipswich fram services tomorrow and on Wednesday the Diss fram services