Wednesday, 18 January 2017

What Went Wrong With The 7?

At last some news to report. Sadly it's not good news as it was announced on Norwich Bus Page yesterday that Konect are cancelling the 7 between Norwich and Great Yarmouth as of March 12th. At the same time the 73 between Wroxham and Yarmouth, and the 72 between Norwich and Yarmouth via Blofield will also bite the dust. So what has gone wrong? Why could the 7 never match the X1? We need to go back in time.

Initially Anglian had the aptly named A47, which provided a useful hourly service between Norwich and Great Yarmouth via Thorpe, Brundall, Blofield and Acle. From my understanding it was pretty well used. Then the X47 came along, which tried to compete with the established X1. Eventually Go Ahead decided to axe the community serving A47, to much chagrin I seem to remember, and throw all their eggs in one basket. The X47 was re-numbered 7, launched in a blaze of erm little vinyls, and proceeded to basically run empty all day between Norwich and Yarmouth. But why?

Now with Konect, Anglian Optare Tempo YJ06 FZK loads up at Market Gates on the A47    pic (c) Brian Kemp
 If you are to compete with an established service it isn't good enough to merely match it, you have to better it. At no point in the last 4 years have any of Go Ahead's attempts to compete with the X1 come close to matching it, let alone bettering it. When the 7 was launched, the X1 was operating a 15 min frequency between Norwich and Yarmouth, with two services an hour on the main Peterborough - Lowestoft run, and the other two services on the X1 "shorts". The Excel services operated by comfortable Volvo B9 Geminis, and the "shorts" operated by either coaches or very comfortable Olympians. The route went the quickest possible way. The 7 tried to keep the link to Norwich Station and Thorpe running a 20 min frequency using hard seated Scania Omnilinks. Trouble s they had annoyed the locals by axing their village links, so loyalty wasn't in abundance. The 7 took longer than the X1, was less frequent than the X1, the buses were less comfortable than the X1, there were less connections in Yarmouth than the X1, the 7 didn't run evenings and Sundays like the X1, yet Anglian expected it to succeed. It didn't.

So Anglian revamped it. The 7 was linked up with the 61, formally 601, to provide through journeys to Lowestoft, Kessingland, Southwold, and even Halesworth. Gas buses were utilised, and parts of Lowestoft without a through service to Norwich gained one. Things were looking up, but still not so much as a dent in the X1's dominance of the Yarmouth - Norwich corridor. I had a theory.

Any excuse! Anglian Gas Bus 100 on the 7 at Norwich with a dancing Streetlite.
 Great Yarmouth is a major holiday resort. So, to a lesser extent is Lowestoft. Anyone with kids will tell you given the choice between a double and single decker which one they will choose. The same old ladies who moan like mad about double deckers in their normal life will fight each other to grab the front seats upstairs while on holiday. No matter how good the gas buses were they weren't going to grab the holidaymakers. And still the 7 didn't run late enough to encourage those going out for the evening to use it.

Then the cuts started. The 62 between Kessingland and Halesworth was scrapped, the 20 minute frequency from Norwich became 30 mins, stopping at Lowestoft, forcing through passengers for Kessingland to change buses that didn't connect, fare promotions in Lowestoft weren't matched, and Anglian lost in a pretty dramatic way. Numerous routes in Gorleston were tried and failed and eventually Konect decided to take over the 7, extending the Postwick Park & Ride services to Yarmouth. Plus points were comfortable deckers with wifi and usb charging points. But only a 30 min frequency, extended journey times by having to serve Postwck P&R site, and still no evening or Sunday service. Who, exactly, was the new 7 trying to attract? At the same time Anglian extended the 61 to Barrack Estate, proudly proclaiming the fact that the recently severed link from the estate to James Paget Hospital had be reinstated.  Hang on though, did they actually stop to think why First had cut that link anyway? The 2 went an interminably long way round between Gorleston and JPH, so very few people used that link anyway. Change at Market Gates and you have a million faster alternative services. Why wasn't the 7 extended to Barrack Estate, in a loop via Yarmouth Seafront, which is crying out for a service, thus providing a direct link to Yarmouth Seafront from Norwich. It gives people a reason to use the service, gives Barrack Estate a direct link to Norwich - I'm sure the demand for that is greater than a bus to the hospital - and with the right publicity and marketing, not to mention promotions with various seafront attractions you might have a chance. Why not link up with the 8 to restore the cross Norwich link lost when the X1 split? But this is Go Ahead.

Konect E400 638 loading up at Market Gates
 So the 7 is going. That's that. If you work at Broadland Business Park and get the 7 from Yarmouth, and I know a few do, then you are basically abandoned. First take note. Another nail in the coffin of Go Ahead which has been a disaster in this region from start to present. Also worth noting is that there was extreme driver resistance when Konect took over the 7 as they expected P&R drivers to suddenly operate normal services taking peasants not car drivers. Go-Ahead not clearing things with drivers before implementing? Who'd have guessed such a thing!

While typing this post it has been on the news that the Supreme Court have clarified who has priority over wheelchair spaces on buses. It's wheelchairs, but if a buggy is occupying it the driver is not legally obliged to ask them to move. Ok that clears that up then. How about a notice that reads as follows:

"This space is reserved for wheelchair users, however if vacant then buggies may be stored until a wheelchair user requires it".

Alternatively: "Mums - get off your fecking phones, get your child out of the buggy and do some parenting!"

It was also revealed yesterday that Abellio have sold 40% of the Greater Anglia franchise to Japanese company Mitsui. This has led to protests from the usual suspects claiming it undermines the franchising process, including politicians from a party who conveniently forget we currently have an un-elected Prime Minister! Abellio, who originally submitted their proposals in partnership with Stagecoach have said they always intended to find another partner. If I was Minister of Transport I would be on my knees BEGGING the Japanese to come and sort our railways out. I read yesterday that in Japan if a train is 10 minutes late it makes the papers! There would be no rain forests left if that happened here. I welcome Japanese involvement in our railways and believe it can only be a good thing. They do not have the typically British "That'll do" attitude.

Finally I have been under the weather for a few weeks now, which is why the number of posts have dropped off. That and nothing to report of course, but hopefully over the coming weeks things will improve.


  1. Are you able to confirm whether or not Anglian will be having cuts alongside Konect?

    1. Nothing as yet on VOSA, which is where the Konect info was originally sourced. If anything is announced I'll report it here.

  2. Excellent post Steve! Hope you feel better soon. Phil

  3. Iagree with your report on he Go Ahead fiasco .WHAT i want to know is why did NCC let konnect mess about with the P and R in the first place

  4. Money. No other reason. NCC couldn't wait to wash their hands of the P&R and let Konect take it on commercially. Thanks very much chaps, it will look as though we are saving the taxpayer millions. Still, could be worse - could be Ipswich P&R!!