Wednesday 3 May 2017

Ipswich News

It's been some time since I was able to put those two words together but I have enough news about the "not quite finished yet" Suffolk County Town to justify a full post.

Top of the agenda is the arrival of the first E300 that will be operating the Ipswich P&R from July. 67776 SN62 AXU came down from Scotland yesterday. Formerly First Borders, which no longer exists, it is one of what will be eventually 8 vehicles, although I understand at present the 8th is proving a bit elusive. 5 others have arrived at Yarmouth for preparation, and a couple will be used in Great Yarmouth for evaluation, although there is a debate if they will remain at Yarmouth or move to Ipswich in July. I can settle that debate as Chris Speed has confirmed to me that all will be going to Ipswich. For further details on the other vehicles see East Norfolk Bus Blog.

67776 having vinyls removed at Ipswich
 Anyhow as luck would have it I had a business meeting with a well known German supermarket in Ipswich this afternoon so took the opportunity to pop into Ipswich depot and take a look at the E300. I've said this before and I'll say it again - I have never been in a friendlier depot operated by a national company. You cannot just pop in there as everyone is happy and willing to talk. It must be the best part of a year since I was there last yet it could have been yesterday. Great stuff. Just wish more happened there. So I was invited on the E300 to take a look. I confess I don't have much experience of E300's but the ones I have been on are in a different league to the E200's. They are certainly more spacious than the Versas they will replace.

The interior of the E300
The general consensus seems to be thank God they're not Streetlites, and I have to agree. There was concern from opposition Councillors that First would put any old rubbish on the P&R but that has not proved to be the case.  I look forward to sampling them once they are in service. Someone who had driven it said it was lovely to drive, which is important too.

The E300's will have something new on them though - they are all being fitted with state of the art, GPS linked destination screens, which automatically change at terminii. I assume there is a driver override option but it's different, if a tad unnecessary for a P&R. However, it does mean that the current screens will be removed and will be put in 8 of the B7tl's that still have polka dot displays. That will be good. In the meantime 67776 is being de-vinyled and will go up to Simon Morris tomorrow to be painted into P&R colours, which not even the Engineering Manager knew the details of! Ipswich Town blue has been rumoured so we'll just have to wait and see.

The offside still with First Borders X95 branding
My thanks to Barry, Joe, and everyone else at Ipswich depot and I look forward to popping in more regularly over the coming weeks.

The other main news concerning Ipswich, as yet unpublicised, is that Ipswich Buses' 38, the free circular shuttle bus serving Endeavour House and the Town Centre is to be scrapped from the end of June. As yet I don't know if anything is going to replace it, or other routes diverted to cover the Endeavour House section, but it is another indication that all may not be well between Ipswich Buses and the two Councils. As soon as I know anything else I'll of course let you know.

The end for the 38 is nigh


  1. Bit more local news Galloway has on order up to eight scania lavanty tr axels that will displace the older volvos lavantys. Lavanty 348 the 15 reg one has been sold and will departing soon the latest on the take over of Galloways should be end of may

  2. Andrew Kleissner4 May 2017 at 09:39

    This is pure guesswork ... but surely the reason for the cancellation of the 38 is SCC wanting to cease funding it? As I recall, the service was introduced when SCC moved from the Town Centre to Endeavour House - it may even have been part of an agreement with the Council employees' union to ease the move. But any such agreement (if it ever existed) must surely have expired; and many of the staff affected will have moved on or made other transport arrangements. It would be interesting to know who now uses the bus - IBC folk (who are across the road at Grafton House), SCC folk or Joe Public.

    1. It is well used by everyone, and by Council staff to the extent the service is doubled at lunchtime, normally with a big bus supplementing the Solo. It certainly never runs around empty so it's quite a surprise to see it going. Even introducing a 50p flat fare would easily see it pay for itself, or a nominal £2 weekly for Council staff. I'm guessing now but I still think internal politics as alternatives appear not to have been explored.

    2. Good for us lazy bus spotters who can't be arsed to walk between bus stations!!!

    3. That made me laugh out loud! For future reference from Tower Ramparts (Sailmakers) - OCM you'll need the 63/4/5 or 75/6/7 from main road or 60/61 from inside, or the other way the 12 or other IB services terminatng at TR or First 87/88/89 from the bus station. Bound to have missed some so don't shoot me!

  3. As far as I know the Woodbrige Open Topper Tour has been axed as well

    1. Well spotted! Just gone back on Vosa and seen the cancellation. The website hasn't been updated - still using my pic though - but I have asked Ipswich Buses for clarification. Awaiting reply.

    2. Reply received - no Woodbridge tour this year.

  4. The pre Christmas shopping excursions were scrapped and nothing up about day excursions for 2017 either. Open top tour operations were due to be announced in first quarter. It's now May so that don't look encouraging. A company in turmoil and for a number of reasons. No MD and bickering councils being two of them.

  5. Andrew Kleissner5 May 2017 at 15:42

    An application has been approved by the Traffic Commissioners for Ipswich and Felixstowe open top tours to start on 25/26th July - and for Woodbridge ones to cease.

  6. Bus companies are all a mixed bag, and over time go up and down like yo yos. Arriva Shires are going through a rough patch. It's not just Ipswich buses, even with the investment that Arriva put in by contrast, and their commercial strength. Ipswich Buses are a hangover from the past, marooned,I fear.

    Eastern Counties though look to be sailing serenely with the purpose of a strong swimmer. I've liked the look of their apparent strategy to concentrate on the areas where bus use has the potential to grow for a few years now; whilst neighbours First Essex aren't going anywhere and still look to be becalmed and flailing like a drowning man. They're looking to me like another First Borders case (low morale, lack of investment, muddled network too spread out for its own good and too few passengers; and increasing competition from rail the icing on the cake), but seemingly without anyone to put them out of their misery. The price isn't right, (which of course was part of the Ipswich Bus problem too). I suspect the obvious candidates have enough headaches of their own at the moment, though why Stagecoach went north into Norfolk rather than south into Essex was a mystery to me. Opportunism, perhaps. I suspect the key is to ditch the sinking Chelmsford operation (at the moment looking like a bigger Braintree disaster) to invest properly in the old Thamesway/Hadleigh and district ops (which could become part of the ratbag of First South, including Berkshire and Dorset, both of whom seem to be doing quite well after earlier problems), and Colchester (which could surely merge with Ipswich under the Eastern Counties umbrella, benefiting both).

    Of course I could be completely wrong. Perhaps the financials due in the next few months might cast of bit of light. Though I, for one, won't be holding my breath for a miracle. Nor for, does it look like it, a miracle recovery for Ipswich Buses. Both sadly, look like they will limp on.

    1. Bus services have to be looked at as a Network. Start axing the least profitable routes and what you end up with is the rest of the routes becoming unprofitable. This approach has been tried in many parts of the UK and it usually ends in failure.

  7. Citymapper launches 'smart buses' in London in bid to reinvent bus service

    Not local but I think is of interest and could work for rural town services

    Citymapper will this week trial a smartbus which they hope will help revolutionise London’s bus service to respond in real time to passengers’ needs.

    This Tuesday and Wednesday, the app firm's first three smartbuses will appear on “the Circulator” – a route that makes an anticlockwise ring in central London, starting at Southwark and passing Blackfriars station, Somerset House, and South Bank.

    The small, bright green buses are part of Citymapper’s newly announced Project Grasshopper, in which the firm is trying to learn more about buses by running its own test route.

    Like ordinary London buses, Citymapper’s buses will run on a fixed route with scheduled stops – but the project is based around a few key differences compared to the capital's familiar network of large red vehicles. The firm has developed a software system, meaning its vehicles have tracking software which can count passengers and provide the driver with an app.

    “We’ve taken systems that haven’t traditionally talked to each other and integrated them,” said Citymapper in a statement on its website. Using a tool from the firm’s distinctive green-branded app, the technologists also say they can improve existing routes and identify new and better ones.