The day started the night before, wondering if Storm Aileen would allow me to travel at all. Thankfully Aileen wreaked her vengeance on lines I wasn't travelling on, and so I got to Norwich in plenty of time to catch the train to Peterborough, which yesterday was East Midlands Trains 158774.
|158774 unusually on Platform 1 at Norwich|
I like the 158's, always have and we sped through Thetford Forest, mercifully still standing, and across the Cambridgeshire Fens. A change at Peterborough and a 20 minute wait for my first real treat of the day. In 1978 I caught my first HST up the ECML. 39 years later and I caught my next one. Not the first time back up the ECML by any means, but the HST's have just avoided me. So this was rather special.
|43315 at Peterborough|
|The luxurious seats on the Transdev 36|
|The seat back tables, complete with drinks holder|
You have gone to a really posh restaurant. The chairs are plush, the tablecloths highly starched and pristine. Silver cutlery is laid exquisitely with matching candelabra and freshly cut, delicately perfumed flowers. The decor is perfect, with Gainsborough prints on the walls, soft gentle music. The Sommelier shows you a wine list the like of which you haven't seen before. then the chief waiter approaches with a silver serving dish, and with a triumphant, Basil Fawlty like flourish, takes the lid off to reveal a McDonald's Happy Meal, a small Coke and a broken toy because the supplilers couldn't be bothered to deliver the fillet steak or lobster, That is the 36.
The Gemini 3 bodies are shocking. Disgraceful. Embarrassing. Utterly appalling. I took a 30 second video which needs no description. Just listen.
The bus industry needs people like Alex Hornby at Transdev, who have the vision and ambition to make bus travel different and downright revolutionary. What it doesn't need are manufacturers that, to put it buntly, just can't be assed to deliver a decent, durable product. If I was Wrightbus I'd have been downright ashamed that my name was on that body. Why is it that Gemini bodies have got worse with each version, not better? Why does MMC stand for Mainly More Crap? Why has every single British manufacturer bottled out of building a new bus for the X1? Yet our glorious PM goes to ADL praising buses we are exporting to Mexico, as if they didn't have enough problems, buses that are illegal on our roads! Alex, you have my full and utmost respect, because you must be banging your had against a brick wall You have a superb product, but not the quality of tools you deserve.
So, rant over, back to the route, which crosses some truly outstanding scenery heading into Harrogate, where I got off to take a look around. A neat bus station, which is adjacent to the rail station, and a conveniently placed walkway from the nearby shopping centre to a multistory car park which provided a perfect spot to get my new header pic.
Harrogate is served by two main operators - Harrogate Bus Company and Connexions, who seem to have mainly old Scanias - I saw but wasn't quick enough to photo ex First Essex 65574 S574 TPW, still happily plying her trade oop North. Anyway, after a break I resumed my journey to Ripon on another 36, which mercifully wasn't quite as bad as the first but still fell in the bracket of "not what you'd expect from a 2yo bus" and lost myself in yet more gorgeous landscape until we arrived in the small town of Ripon.
|Transdev 3620 BL65 YYT at Ripon Bus Station|
|Yes the interior of a Volvo B9tl!|
Now I'll admit at this point I didn't expect the route to be quite so long. The 36 takes around 25 minutes to get from Leeds to Harrogate. The 70 a trifle longer - 110 mins to be precise and I had a train at Leeds to catch. This would have been fine if I hadn't been handed a good photo op at one of the villages/ I got the photo op because the B9 (far nicer and quieter than the B5's btw) had overheated.