Monday 14 May 2018

You Don't Know What You're Doing!

We will start today's effort with a short resume of my youth. When I was 6 my Mother encouraged me to learn how to read train timetables, and assist her in organising days out. At the same time my Gran got me to understand the Underground map and tell her which line we needed to get to wherever we were going. I will always be grateful to them for that.

When I was 12 I would spend hours in my room, poring over bus timetables to create days out for myself. Mum was happy to let me loose on the world as long as I left her a complete itinerary of where I was going to be and when, and a promise to let her know if anything went wrong resulting in having to amend things. No internet, no mobile phones, just 10p in my pocket for a phone box and a bucket load of trust. I have been organising such days out ever since, for myself and others.

Last week I decided to follow Mr Anon's advice and get off my "lazy ass", and check out the new services in North Norfolk ending up in Kings Lynn. Thus I spent a lot of the previous night scanning timetables to find the best route to take (anything but the XL). I wanted to go via Fakenham to take in First's new X29 from Norwich, which they have introduced following Stagecoach's withdrawal. The idea was to go from Norwich to Fakenham to Wells to Hunstanton to Kings Lynn. Just one problem. The X29 arrives in Fakenham 5 mins AFTER the Coasthopper to Wells departs. No worries, I thought, I'll get the X44 to Cromer, then Coasthopper right round the coast, changing at Wells to Kings Lynn then come back via Fakenham. After all the X29 used to combine with the X8 to provide a Norwich - Fakenham - Kings Lynn service so it's bound to connect. Not so. The X8 is now the 49, operated by Lynx and has been reduced to a two hourly service, except in the afternoon where there is a gap from Kings Lynn between 1400 and 1635. Obviously the 1400 is too early if I want to observe operations in Kings Lynn so the 1635 it is. Unfortunately there is also a 2h12m gap in the X29 from Fakenham and yes, te 1635 from Kings Lynn arrives in the middle of it, meaning a 56 min wait for a connection that used to be a through service. Ahhh I hear you ask, why don't you go Norwich - Fakenham - Kings Lynn as they wouldn't be daft enough to lose the connection at Fakenham would they? Well, if you get the 0950 X29 from Norwich to Fakenham you arrive at 1108, and the next 49 to Kings Lynn is at.....1300! The 1100 departure leaves before the bus the route used to connect with as a through service. Great isn't it!

And it's all my fault! Apparently I'm not good enough to work out these things according to a highly experienced young man who called me out on Twitter, saying it wasn't difficult to arrange a day up there. I should also have caught an earlier bus if I waned to make connections - I was catching the first available bus having driven 20 miles to the stop as it is the closest route to still have evening buses should I wish to stay out later but hey what do I know - and that because he has two part time jobs in the industry and I don't that made him better than me. My nose is still greatly out of joint so I thought I'd share with you one of my pathetic efforts of a day out a few weeks ago. Btw I aborted my trip to Norfolk but have arranged to pay a visit to Lynx in a couple of weeks so I hope it will be worth the wait. I just won't attempt to go via Fakenham!

So, having taken dear Mother back to Kent I stayed overnight, left the car at Bluewater, and started on a circular trip of great proportions. First was a 96 to Woolwich, a perfectly acceptable Gemini2 Volvo B5LH. At Woolwich I started my circle on a 54 to Elmers End.

Leg one a relatively rattle free E400
I actually changed at Beckenham onto a 194 to Croydon. Another Gemini 2 that went via everywhere and had seriously hard seats. Will avoid them in the future.

The Gemini 2 and its unpleasant seats
Despite Croydon trams having been around for 18 years now I still find them a bit of a novelty, and views like this seem continental!

A tram crossing the road in Croydon
After a spot of lunch in Croydon it was time for one of the main events of the day. TfL are looking to increase the number of limited stop services over the next couple of years, but for now the X26 from Croydon to Heathrow is one of the very few existing ones. Its roots lay in the old Greenline 726 which I remember running from Dartford to Heathrow but I'm sure the route used to be even longer.

Today the route is operated by a fleet of single door Gemini 2 bodied B9's, although they have been tuned so low they are barely recognisable as B9's. This is the only TfL decker route operated by single doors. It also boasts usb chargers, although you need to make sure you bring the right lead....! As a route it's not the prettiest I've been on, although the non stop section between Kingston and Heathrow is a joy compared to the stopping services I've been on in the past. The Heathrow perimeter road from the top deck of a bus is to be highly recommended, and I managed to snap this one coming in.

Snapped from the X26 on the Heathrow Perimeter Rd
Heathrow Bus Station seems well organised, with free loos, and it wasn't long before I was on the bus to terminal 5, a First Berkshire Volvo 7900, by far the worst bus of the day. 

Just a horrible bus!
However, the route to Terminal 5 is good, and once again good views of the airport are available. At Terminal 5 I waited in the gloom for the number 8 to Windsor, thankfully this time a Mercesdes Citaro.

The First Berkshire Citaro at Heathrow Terminal 5
I had made good time (for an amateur), and so had time to kill in Windsor as I had requested a particular vehicle on my 702 journey to Victoria. The ever helpful Martijn Gilbert of Reading Buses (who today has announced his departure to Go North East) obliged and, as promised, the on loan Optare Metrodecker turned up. Would it be as good as I remembered and give the BcI Exvellence a run for its money?

The Optare Metrodecker at Windsor
Well yes it did and more. I fell in love with this bus all over again. Bright and airy, quiet and non rattly I would happily travel anywhere on the Metrodecker, and it's up there with the BCI. A word for Bill, our driver who on arrival at Victoria after an exemplary journey was really friendly and chatty, happy to talk about the bus and the other demonstrators (hated the Streetdeck), and insisted he walk my way to the shops! Hope we meet again soon, Bill!

A 148 Borismaster from Victoria to Westminster, then a E400 MMC 53 and I was back at Woolwich.

The Borismaster on the 148

Back at Woolwich after the 53
Another MMC on the 96 took me back to Bluewater which left just the 100 mile drive home. Already planning the next one, and hopefully I won't need to consult any schoolchildren, even if they do have 2 part time jobs in the industry!


  1. To try to get to North Norfolk by bus was pretty much doomed to fail. The services are so Spartan and few provide connections and late and early running is a further risk.

    The Greenline 726 used to run Windsor to Gravesend

    1. That's it! Sort of knew the Gravesend bit but wasn't sure about the Western end. Cheers

  2. Hi Steve, were you planning to start/finish your proposed trip to King's Lynn via Fakenham at Norwich?

    1. Yes, but starting after 0930.

    2. What is the latest time you can be back in Norwich?

  3. Any time as long as I am no later than the last X2 (which I thought of in advance as the last 88 is 1815 and last 146 at 1720). Good luck trying to make me look an idiot!

  4. Is 1936hrs in Norwich too late for the last X2? It certainly isn't my intention to make you look an idiot!

  5. No that's cool. Oh did I mention I try to avoid the X1 (XL) as much as I can as I can't stand those E400's!

  6. A possible Monday to Friday route starting from Norwich after 0930hrs to include Coasthopper, Coastliner, 100 minutes in King’s Lynn and a ride home on the X29 would be,

    0935hrs Norwich to Cromer 1044hrs X44 (toilet/coffee stop)
    1117hrs Cromer to Wells 1219hrs CH4 Coasthopper
    1228hrs Wells to Fakenham 1255hrs 36
    1300hrs Fakenham to King’s Lynn 1350hrs 49
    1530hrs King’s Lynn to Wells 1722hrs 36 Coastliner
    1728hrs Wells to Fakenham 1755hrs 36
    1830hrs Fakenham to Norwich 1936hrs X29

    1. I like it. Didn't think of Wells back to Fakenham which really you shouldn't have to do just to do two halves of a route that used to be one! Thanks for your efforts - whoever you are! I will do that journey.

    2. Not trying to put a spanner in the works...but what happens if CH4 (or any close connections) run late?

    3. The First Fakenham connection looks very risky at 5 minutes

  7. Fortunately the 36 changes to the 49 at that point so that isn't as bad.

  8. Haven't Lynx kept the timings of the Fakenham to Kings Lynn more or less the same but reduced to two hourly? The X29 although claimed to be hourly has large gaps in the service . The timetable seems to be written around the Bernard Matthews contract.

    1. Oh yes, don't get me wrong I'm not blaming Lynx here - the X29 timetable is woeful!

    2. Hi Steve, glad you liked my itinerary. If you do decide to try it I would suggest avoiding any school holiday period as the Coast Road gets choked and delays ensue. Although apart from the connection between CH4 and 36 to Fakenham all the other connections have ample time or are worked by the same bus.