Monday 16 May 2016

Coastcropper Update

My word where have the last few days gone! Sorry for the lack of posts but I have been dealing with bureaucracy and that has proved rather exhausting. And screenshotting some superb images including the famous (Flying Scotsman), the unusual (Class 66 on a nuclear flask run) and the downright foolhardy (bloke sat a few inches from speeding freight train). Check them out on my Screenshot Flickr page, the link to which is in the sidebar.

I was delighted to receive an email last week from the David Bailey of bus photography, David Bell (even initials and first name are the same). He had read my post on the new E200MMC's not being suitable for the whole Coasthopper route (see here) and decided to see for himself. David also kindly sent in some pictures for me to share with you. I will quote parts of his email interspersed with his pictures.

Hi Steve

I was very interested to read your post on the new Coasthopper Enviro 200MMCs. I decided to have a ride on one last week especially after I had been told that they were only operating as far as Wells-next-the-sea. Sure enough when we reached Wells we picked up some passengers on the quayside but then instead of turning right into Station Road to access The Buttlands the bus continued straight on down Polka Road and past the site of the old railway station before proceeding to The Buttlands via Church Street, Two Furlong Hill and Mill Road so that it was facing the correct way to return to Hunstanton. Any passengers wanting to travel further east towards Sheringham and Cromer had to disembark and cross the road to where one of the traditional Coasthopper Solos was waiting. The only ride on the new buses the passengers who joined at the Quayside got was a circular tour of Wells!
Stagecoach Norfolk 37437 E200MMC SN16 ORG     pic (c) David Bell
Apparently there are some new Solo SRs on order for the Wells-Cromer section although even on the Hunstanton-Wells section there are some narrow spots for example in Old Hunstanton and on the approach to Burnham Market from Burnham Deepdale. At other places along the road the bus was constantly throwing up small stones from the side of the road which were peppering the underside of the bodywork.

Still plying its trade Optare Solo 47903 YK08 EUC     pic (c) David Bell
Interestingly during the hiatus over who was operating the winter service last October Lynx operated short Tempos along the whole length of the route without any problems though they took the precaution of only using their most experienced drivers on the Wells-Cromer section. I think the livery on the new buses is superb both inside and out - just a shame they will not be seen east of Wells.
37436 SN16 ORF     pic (c) David Bell
 And what did David think of the overall E200MMC experience?

Yes I liked the new Enviro 200 MMCs both inside and out and enjoyed my ride from Hunstanton to Wells although as I say it was a bit offputting to constantly hear small stones rattling into the nearside wheel arch on the coast road. 
Many thanks again, David for getting in touch and it will be interesting to see how use of the MMC's develops, and what happens with the Wells - Cromer section.
37434 SN16 OPZ arrives in Hunstanton    pic (c) David Bell
I am hoping tomorrow to try out the very latest double decker to hit the streets of the UK - a world's first so look out for a very special post to follow.


  1. Andrew Kleissner16 May 2016 at 17:53

    I don't know how many people make the through journey east and west of Wells. But, if there are, what are the fare implications? Do they get charged twice (in which case my sympathy goes out to any folk who paid good money just to take a tour of Wells!) or are the fares predicated on it being a through route, with transfers?

    1. Andrew Kleissner16 May 2016 at 18:00

      To partly answer my question, I've discovered the timetable and it says that "To comply with drivers' hours regulations, Coasthopper connects at Hunstanton and Wells. The connection is guaranteed, through fares are available and passengers can stay on the bus which operates through". However no such assurance is given at Wells, where a large "C" on the timetable simply tells passengers that they have to change buses.

    2. I hope you can get through fares! Though it raises an interesting point: operators don't publish their fare tables amongst all the (confusing) marketing bumph on fares that populates their websites. I know of one that does (with the multiples applicable to returns and seasons), so it can be done. Passengers are not stupid. And ignorance is not bliss.

    3. Andrew Kleissner17 May 2016 at 08:38

      Ipswich Buses aren't too bad: although what they don't tell you is how the "short hop" tickets work! In practice these are influenced by whether there is competition on the route from First. Although full-price singles have edged up in price over the years, transfers have been at £2 for ever!

      Many years ago I lived in London and the (then) 140 bus to Heathrow passed our house. It was a long route and usually ran in two overlapping sections. Were transfers available? Not on your life!

  2. To be fair, vehicle changes at Wells was not unusual before the new E200MMCs came in so not sure how much of a change it actually was. Last time I caught the Coasthopper (which was a year ago now) we alighted at Wells to catch the bus to Fakenham to turn around and find our bus had turned into the bus to Fakenham whilst the bus parked in front was going to Cromer with all passengers changing, both were Solos and given that there were a couple of passengers who didn't get off it looked like a scheduled normal occurance. Whether or not there is any issues on the far end changing buses in Wells isn't a new issue.

    Also the short Tempos owned by Lynx are a bit shorter than the new E200MMCs will be, may not be much depending on what length the Coasthoppers are but it will be at least 0.5m added to which I think E200s have a slightly longer wheelbase than Tempos which affects their manoeuvrability in tight spaces.

  3. I believe width is also an issue - the previous dedicated Solos were slimlines (according to the former MD - the model is suffixed "SL" if that is a clue). I'm guessing that the Tempo is certainly no wider than 2.5m, whereas the E200MMC is 2.55m

    1. Andrew Kleissner17 May 2016 at 23:51

      An RT (or equivalent) would only have been about 2.3m!

  4. Bus Services Bill (England only) Queens speech is introducing the ability for bus services to be Franchised in England where there is an elected mayor, Detail will not be clear until the bill is published

  5. Stagecoach and Lynx have both operated full length buses all the way along the Coasthopper, and it is definitely possible to fit an E200MMC all the way round to Cromer when the roads are empty. I am told that the real issue is the potential risk of oncoming traffic restricting the amount of space a bus can use to manoeuvre round bends, and in these situations it is much more practical to have a shorter, narrower bus than a longer one.

    1. So in other words they are too big. If they cannot handle oncoming traffic on a popular holiday route then they are unsuitable. It's a bit like the long wheel Scania decker I drove for Grey Green in the late 80's. It drove beautifully right up to the point it had passengers on the top deck when it would start swaying alarmingly. So a perfectly good bus except in normal working conditions!

  6. On the subject of fare tables, there's one local to me that uses them on their website!