Wednesday 26 July 2017

News, News & More News

First of all can I thank everyone who contributed to the discussions following last week's news post. The most comments ever for a post and all of them polite, even when disagreeing. It was a joy to watch them all come in and read them prior to publishing. Some valid points made from all sides of many arguments.

So it's only right that I start today's post with news relating to a fair chunk of those comments, Ipswich Buses. Quite a few people mentioned IB's fleet, the ex Carters fleet in particular, someone even saying he had heard they were going to be replaced with Scanias. Well it turns out he was right, and then some. I was informed today that Ipswich Buses are getting fourteen 61 plate ex London Scanias. I don't know full details yet, but obviously 14 buses will cover far more than the ex Carters fleet. What remains to be seen is what IB will be doing with them. I assume, like the Borderbus Scanias they will be converted to single door, and I can only hope for the sake of the passengers on the 93 to Colchester, that they have padding put in the seats. IB are normally pretty good with their choice of seats, so if anyone within IB reading this can confirm I'll be grateful. When I get more details obviously I'll publish them.

It turns out all my Star Trek references to the BCI First trialed on the X1 were wrong. The tri axle version, which First are due to trial in August is the Enterprise, the two axle version being the Excellence, which has got to be the most risky name for a bus ever, and asking for trouble! Anyway, a closely guarded secret was that Borderbus, never shy of trying out a demonstrator, were getting one this week, and it duly arrived yesterday when I was in Sussex! So this morning I was over the depot pretty early (for me) only to discover it was already out on the road. A quick chat with everyone, of which more later, and I rendezvoused with the Excellence at Kessingland.

Ensignbus BCI Excellence 144 LX17 DZE at Wangford
 I was hoping the vehicle Borderbus were given was a different one to that First had, and so it was. This meant I could compare the two. I was also lucky enough to have a vastly experienced driver of 37 years driving and instructing who has torn the other demonstrators to bits, so I knew he would pull no punches. Exactly what I needed as it's ok for me to say what a great bus, no rattles blah blah but the most important person on board is the driver (certainly was when I was driving) and what they think matters. Jed thought for a moment when I asked him what his initial opinion was, then said "I wouldn't mind a fleet of them". That is high praise indeed, and I have to say the ride impressed me once again. The pot holed roads between Wangford and Southwold can shake you to bits on an E200, but the Excellence glided over them as if they weren't there. Good stuff. On arrival at Southwold Jed took me through the points he'd noted that he thought could be improved.

The bright upper deck of the Excellence
Firstly the handbrake. A very minor point, but on most buses you put the hand brake on, then have to lift the neck up to release it. On the Excellence you have to lift the neck up to engage it too, and that takes some getting use to. The interior mirror is far too big for it's position, and actually creates a blind spot out of the windscreen. Jed thought positioning the mirror higher above the windscreen would make things easier.

The enormous  interior mirror
Only half the cab window opens - the rear half - which makes adjusting the offside wing mirror awkward. Jed isn't a short chap by any means and he had trouble. Allowing the front half to open too would solve that problem.

His biggest gripe though was the bell, which was exactly the same noise as the indicators  That is very confusing if the bell is pressed while indicating. I was convinced the example First had, had a normal bell, and Cameron, who was with me on it, has confirmed that. That really needs to be changed, as it will confuse passengers too..

The only other problem Jed had was with the low ceilings. For a 14'6 bus the ceilings do seem low, and neither of us could work out why, unless it's not 14'6 of course!

But one thing Jed was impressed with was the positioning of the hazard warning lights switch - on the end of the indicator stalk.

Original placing of hazard warning lights
Believe me if that's all Jed could find to criticise then we have a very, very good bus. He said the braking was extremely good, and acceleration matched an E200, yes 200. It felt solid, and the more he drove it the more he liked it. I must mention the interior lights, that come on very slowly but have a trick. The lights above the door and luggage rack are blue to reduce reflection in the windscreen, but as the doors open they change to white, then back to blue when the doors close. Very well thought out that.

Oh just one more thing - the wheelchair arm is positively lethal! It seems to stick out further into the gangway than others and the height of it is such if someone was thrown forward, especially a male, then any future prospects of fatherhood could be seriously impaired. I'll try and get a pic while the Excellence is here, and no one knows how long that will be, could be a week, could be all Summer!

So in conclusion overall I was just as impressed with the Exellence second time round as I was first time, and just those small details to sort out. Do that, and BCI might be tempted to change the name from Excellence to Perfection!

The rear
While I was at Borderbus I had a chat with supremo Andrew Pursey who confirmed Borderbus are making no service alterations this Autumn. The 146 is growing patronage steadily, and it wouldn't surprise me if by this time next year some of the E200's are gone and replaced with deckers. In a world of cuts it's so good to see a route bucking the trend. There is also a big waiting list for the Sir John Leman High School buses, with some 650 pupils a day conveyed to and from the school.

So from the Excellence to the anything but excellence. Passing Lowestoft Station I spotted ex Norwich Volvo B7l 66348 on the X22, the only bus with harder seats than those Scanias! A hastily taken pic while at traffic lights but rather pleased I hadn't travelled from Norwich on that. I'm told by Grahame Bessey that it is probably on loan from Great Yarmouth to cover Dart 42908 which is away for repaint. Even stranger was seeing a Gemini on the Town Service 106, so why the rattlebucket was on the X22 is anyone's guess.

66348 at Lowestoft Station on the X22
 Last week I promised news on the Class 37 hauled Short Set running between Norwich and Great Yarmouth/Lowestoft, and here it is. The DRS coaches have been temporarily replaced with 3 blue/grey (It's blooming white not grey) coaches making the set look even more retro. I was going to take pics tomorrow, but Tim rang me to say he was at Lowestoft Station so it seemed rude not to return and see it today. And what a sight. Could have been any day in the last 40 years. Long may they stay on the set, and we now need 2 large logo locos (say that after a few sherberts) to put the icing on the cake. It was also good to meet Martin from East Suffolk Lines Rail Partnership. Always good to put a face to a name, especially when they turn out to be a friendly, chatty face!

37422 leads in the new coaches

Bet most of the pax don't realise how lucky they are!
I think the next picture sums it all up. We are truly blessed to have this set in our area, and the memories of those of us of a certain vintage are triggered and re-triggered day after day. What a huge hole will be left when they are gone.

Guess the year anyone?
Yes of course there's a video! Enjoy, and I look forward to all the comments rolling in!


  1. Is the class 37 short set running on the services listed at ?

    1. No David, that's the Class 68 hauled set, which is still here until September 8th at present. The 37's run as follows Mon - Fri
      0755 Lowestoft - Norwich
      0836/1036/1236 Norwich - Great Yarmouth
      0917/1117/1317 Great Yarmouth - Norwich
      1455 Norwich - Lowestoft
      1547 Lowestoft - Norwich
      1736 Norwich - Great Yarmouth
      1817 Great Yarmouth - Norwich
      1900 Norwich - Lowestoft
      1955 Lowestoft - Norwich

    2. Correction it's 0747 Low - Nor

  2. Ipswich free shuttle bus saved

    Ipswich’s free shuttle bus between council offices in Russell Road and the town centre has been saved after the borough agreed to pick up the bill for it.

    The hours of operation will be cut back – and the route will be shorter than at present. But it will provide free transport around the town centre between 11.30am and 2.30pm from Monday to Friday with an Ipswich Buses vehicle.

    A single bus will travel around the town centre in 15 minutes. Instead of going along Tacket Street and Bond Street it will now go up Upper Brook Street in the town centre – a shorter route and one that is likely to be more useful for shoppers.

    Borough leader David Ellesmere said his authority decided to continue with the service, which will be rebranded as Route 37

    The service will continue to be paid for by the parking fees paid by borough employees working at Grafton House and other council offices. It will cost about £16,500 to run it for three hours a day on weekdays on a trial period until March next year and a further £1,500 on promoting it – similar to what the borough pays at present.

  3. The BR livery is definitely blue and grey. As your excellent pictures show when studied closely, there is a white line separating the two colours. And as white only comes in one shade, logically the lighter colour cannot be white. A Wikipedia entry gives the British Standard references - which it says is Pearl Grey (BS 2660-9-095).

    1. Seems to be a bit of a grey area! Sorry couldn't resist it! But yes I see exactly what you mean. Just one point - I had to wear grey socks to school. Had I worn "Pearl Grey" they would have been called white and I'd have found myself writing out spelling lists after school for a hour on a Friday!

      Was it called grey to deflect criticism when the colour faded after a bit or when it went unwashed! I blame my mother because when I was 4 demanding to go on a "blue and white train" as opposed to the plain blue or green suburban stock we normally had she didn't correct me!

      You have to love just how deliciously pedantic the world of railways is!

  4. Always enjoy reading your blog Steve, and have read this article in particular with great interest. In particular Borderbus, I know Andrew has a small company and wants to grow it slowly, I wish he would operate into Lowestoft I think Borderbus has some great potential there with the demise of Anglian and no real opposition at the moment. But I still wish him every success with his bus company.

    1. Many thanks, Chris. Apart from not having room for anymore buses there is one major reason why Andrew has resisted going into Lowestoft - the bridge. As he has told me more than once he wants his buses to run on time and too often the bridge causes extensive delays.

    2. I agree entirely with Andrew's point on the bridge, it can be done, not on a massive route scale but on a smaller scale. His buses are so close to Lowestoft an yet so far ha ha

  5. Great blog as always Steve it certainly passes the time on my daily commute from Downham Mkt to London on rock hard seats aboard a class 387!! Borderbus and Lynx are shining lights in an otherwise desperate local bus scene Come to West Norfolk and see what you are missing!! Cheers Andy

    1. Thanks, Andy. Yes, Lynx is on my to do list and I really must do it. I'll try and arrange something. My sympathies with the 387's. The 365's are one of my fav emus even being 25 yesrs old and I don't see the 387's as much of an improvement.

  6. Interesting post. The cab window you mentioned is to be revised for any future Ensign orders according to the chap I was speaking to at First KL last month. If this issue has been identified so early and by a few seperate parties, it is surprising that there is no talk of conversion work taking place on the buses that have already been built. With regards to low ceilings, is it just me or does the top deck floor get higher towards the back?

    Would disagree with your observation that the 146 is "bucking the trend of cuts"; the last service revisions in January saw several journeys slashed and there has since been no growth in terms of the timetable during the week and there has still not been even a minimal evening/Sunday service trialled.

    1. Can't say I went to the rear upstairs this time round but we both had to seriously stoop the further back we went downstairs so it's possible.

      As for Borderbus I was referring to this Autumn when many operators are making cuts. The 146 is stable, with steady passenger growth, and the necessity of deckers on some journeys now. Yes a couple of journeys were cut in January, but then First also reduced journeys on the 99.

      As for Sunday/Evening journeys I don't know how busy the late X21's are but clearly not busy enough to be operated commercially. Southwold had a late bus from Lowestoft on the 61 that wasn't popular so I can't see how an evening 146 would work. Yes I agree that a Sunday service, especially in the Summer would be popular, and I have nagged about that in the past. Same applies to the 580 imho.

  7. Consumer Right Act 2015

    Not many people or bus companies are aware that the Consumer Rights act now applied to bus companiers

    The Act will increase transport operators liability for cancellations and delays to services, giving consumers statutory rights to receive a minimum standard of service, performed on time and for a reasonable price. If the transport operator (deemed a trader under the Act) fails to perform then the consumer has the right to a refund or price reduction.

    The Act prevents transport operators from excluding liability to consumers and outlaws unfair terms which create a significant imbalance in the rights of the consumer against traders. These changes will directly affect transport operators who do not provide clear pricing up front. This may particularly affect private hire vehicles. It will also prevent offering compensation on a sliding scale depending on the length of the delay where this limits liability to less than the ticket price.

  8. Andrew Kleissner31 July 2017 at 14:52

    On a different point: I see that the IBC-funded Ipswich Buses 37 town centre shuttle, replacing the old SCC 38, has started today. It was only announced publicly last week and, as far as I can see it hasn't been mentioned in the Traffic Commissioners' "Proceedings" as I would have expected. Is that because it's a free service?

    1. It should be registered but is not. Chamberrs have done the same with the 89X the registration expired on the 21st July but they are still operating it. Enforcement of the Traffic Commisioners regulations is usually pretty lax.

      I expect they may eventually get around to registering it

      THe Ipswich service is cut back and only operates a few hourts around the middle of the day. It seems a bit pointless. I cannot see it lasting long

  9. I went up to Norwich today on 146 had the joys of one of the scania from London and the excellence on way home .I was more impressed by the 8 year old scania more leg room and space and to be honest seats were good to. The excellence was nice but when I got upstairs at 5.8 even I had to duck my head was thinking of others I may have done over the years of vr MK3 and Olympians that servered my route and not once did I have to duck my head .

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  11. Andrew Kleissner1 August 2017 at 11:29

    I have just seen an identical Excellence here in Cardiff - thanks to you I knew what it was! It's Ensignbus 143 rather than your 144, and it's being used by New Adventure Travel on their X1 service. Hopefully I'll get a ride, but it's a long route which uses a lot of vehicles so my chances are slim!

  12. Regal Busways

    After the changes come in on the 26th August below are the routes they appear to be left with. Its a pretty random colection of minor routes scattered around Essex. How they will operate then who knows. It does not look very viable

    10 Bakers Lane Pleshey Back Lane
    510 Goatswood Lane, Tysea Hill Kelvendon Hatch Primary School
    71 (72) Stondon Massey Worley
    104/106 Langdon Hills Basildon Bus Station
    900 Braintree Freeport Braintree Town Centre
    509 Silver Street, Silver End New ickstones Academuy, Witham
    3 (3A, 3B, 3C) Oxney Green, Chelmsford Southend
    1 (1A, 1B, 1C, 1x) Canvey Island Chelmsford
    B2 Shoeburyness, East Beach Basildon Hospital

  13. UPDATE on Regal operations. Below are the routes they will be operating from later August

    1 Canvey Island to Writtle
    B2 Shoeburyness to Festival Leisure Park
    3 Southend to Chelmsford
    10 Pleshy to West Haningfield
    71/72 Stondon Massey to Worley
    104/106 Langdon Hills to Basildon