Monday 27 May 2019

Here Are The News!

In recent weeks I've been travelling on or observing new things. So I thought it about time I put them altogether in a single post. I'll do it in chronological order. which just so happens means I start with the worst and finish with something I liked!

We start with the hideousness that are Great Northern's new Class 717 Siemens trains which are being introduced on the Moorgate to Hertford, Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth routes. They replace the long serving Class 313's who really have reached the end of their days. But, and this is a big but, are the 717's an improvement? After 40 years of the 313's what will make the journeys for Hertfordshire commuters that much better? Well there are no loos, no 1st Class which means no possible escape from those dreadful seats, the same as on the Thameslink 700's. There are information signs and more standing room for even more sardines, air conditioning. hard to find power points but no usb sockets, and a door opening siren that sounds like a 3yo impersonating a fire engine. They are also very grey.

The new Great Northern 717 at Alexandra Palace

Those seats, an utter insult

The Class 313 being replaced

If I was a Great Northern commuter, these new trains would make me seek alternative ways or routes to travel. Hertfordshire is spoiled for choice with not just Great Northern lines but the West Coast mainline and even the Metropolitan Line, also going through Moorgate with considerably more comfortable trains. To pay thousands a year in fares to be treated to that sort of comfort level is an insult. Oh - to those screaming for nationalisation - it was the Department of Transport who specified the trains, not Great Northern. I will not be rushing back to them.

On the same day I also tried out Great Western Railway's smart looking Class 387 Electrostars, the last batch of Electrostars to be built. A much nicer interior and atmosphere, and the Electrostars accelerate impressively fast on the overhead lines, much faster than their 3rd rail counterparts. Again the seats were hard, but not as woeful as the 717's. But it's worth noting that after the original 357's on C2C, of which more later, the 375/6/7/8's for Southeastern, and the early 377's for Southern, the seats on Electrostars have been getting increasingly worse too. Why is this? I have yet to get a satisfactory answer. Anyhow, impressive trains that would be brilliant with better seating.

The GWR Electrostar at Paddington

Interior of the 387

Moving to the road now, and a couple of weeks ago en route to Kent to collect Mother for her annual State Visit, I popped into the oasis of buses that is Ensignbus in Purfleet. This had been planned for sometime, and I was lucky enough to get a long chat with Paul Dickson, whose official title I don't know (except "Teapot"), but he does about everything there is to do with timetabling, planning, operating the Twitter feed, traffic busting, and organising the Running Day. A lovely bloke, great conversationalist, and vital component in Ensign's engine room.

I then went to see Ross Newman, Operations Director, who I knew had a new toy, two new toys to be precise. By pure coincidence Ensign had taken delivery of two brand new BCI Enterprises from China the day before. They were originally bound for Reading Buses who developed cold feet and cancelled them. Ensign said they'd have them, and Ross was eager to take me for a spin in one of them. You will know I am a fan of the Enterprise, but this one blew me away. To get such power from a Euro 6 engine is astonishing. Quiet, smooth, no rattles, and then the seats. Oh my word the seats. If you are sitting anywhere for a long period of time comfort is important. You don't want to get off with muscles aching, a numb backside, and feeling every second you've spent on board. Without a shred of doubt the seats on that BCI are the most comfortable bus seats I've ever sat on. My back had been playing up and when I sat down it positively purred. The lumber support is magnificent. So much so I forgot to note the lack of hand rails, the usb chargers, the phone holders and the tables! The Enterprises are going to be used, as far as I know, on a new London - Southend Airport shuttle starting soon. The night time services will connect with the first and last flights in and out of Southend Airport that do not have rail connections. Since the service will call at Lakeside I have a feeling Bluewater and Upminster have just lost out when I need somewhere to park for my London trips!

The new Enterprise, still to receive number plates and fleet number
They don't look much but those seats are incredible!

I was enthusing about those seats to Ross when he started on a rant about train seats. Ross travels to work on C2C, and asked if I had been on one of the new 379's that C2C recently introduced. I haven't, but get the impression they are similar to Southeastern's 375/9's, which are ghastly to sit on. Like me, Ross cannot understand that as bus seats get better train seats are getting worse. Good for the bus industry though. He said he always tries to get one of the infinitely more comfortable 20yo 357's, which again doesn't say much for progress on our railways.

Which brings me to Saturday, when I had a day out t'Yorkshire. Another bonus I hadn't planned for was London Overground introducing the first of the new Class 710 units on the Barking to Gospel Oak line. Just the 18 months overdue Bombardier have finally sorted the software problems out and the first of the trains entered service on Thursday. So I started the day earlier than planned to try one out.

First impressions are they look good, far better in the flesh than they do in photos. As is the norm with LO all the seats are side facing, which is a shame though understandable. The seats are hard, though not as uncomfortable as a 717, and the interior is, well, sparse to say the least. There are usb sockets but only at the front and rear of each coach, and the ones between coaches you would have to be standing to use them. But as it's only a 35 min journey end to end that's not vitally important. The WiFi worked, the aircon was reasonable, and the ride utterly superb. Savage acceleration when needed, which the very friendly and chatty driver told me he used sparingly in case "there were any old ladies standing up", although I think he did show off a bit on the way back to Blackhorse Rd, where I transferred to the Victoria Line. He also said the driving cabs were brilliant, and indeed they look more like a TGV cab than a 35 min inner city line. I liked the trains, they suit the line well, and I look forward to returning.

The 710 arrives at Barking

The interior

I thought it was to charge phones but whatever!

The charging points between coaches

So onto Kings Cross. I had carefully chosen to book on the 1103 to Leeds, as
I knew it would be one of LNER's much publicised Hitachi Azuma trains. I had booked to return on a classic HST and wanted the comparison. I arrived at Kings Cross early, and took advantage of the time to grab some photo opportunities I may never get again.

Two old ladies together, what service they have given

91119 in Intercity Swallow livery, looks really good

The Azuma rightly deferring to its elder

The Azumas do look the part from the outside

Now a history lesson. On 3rd July 1938 Mallard set the world steam record on the East Coast Main Line near Grantham at 126mph. On 25th May 2019, almost 81 years later, I travelled up the ECML on a brand new train, the most advanced to ever grace the line, at 125mph. Ok. some poetic licence there as Mallard didn't do 126mph in service, but you get my point. Where have we advanced in 81 years in comparison to countries such as Japan, China and France. I can guarantee in 1938 the seats will have been better too. There is no way on this Earth that I will ever travel from London to Inverness or Aberdeen on one of these things. Ever. I would recommend splitting the journey, which may well work out cheaper anyway. Suffer the Azuma to York, only two hours, then get Cross Country to Edinburgh, either a voyager or HST to Edinburgh, then one of Scotrails refurbished HST's to the North of Scotland. Better still get a WCML Pendolino to Glasgow and HST from there.

The Azuma did have a couple of good points - sliding doors are a great improvement, and the reservation indicators were superb and very easy to understand. However...

The WiFi didn't work, one of the toilets was blocked and wouldn't flush, the announcements were far too quiet, the ride itself I found on the rough side, very few seats actually marry up with windows, the power points are impossible to find unless you know they are there, it was hot and stuffy despite the aircon and I heard people questioning if it was actually a new train. That's not a positive start.

The Azuma 800113 at Kings Cross

The interior of Standard class

Those seats are not good - and does there have to be such a big gap between windows?

Arrival at Leeds

We did arrive at Leeds on time though, and I caught a local bus down to the Bus Station, to catch Transdev's flagship 36 to Harrogate. It was a 15 plate Streetdeck, with gorgeous interior, luxury seating and all mod cons. It also rattled considerably less than it did on my last journey on the 36 so well done Transdev for tackling that issue. It was noticed!

We arrived at a busy Harrogate and I set about achieving the main aim of the day - to try out Harrogate bus's new Electric Volvo's. It was worth the travelling.

I've been on BYD electric buses in London and have yet to be wowed. Harrogate's electric buses, however, are in a different league. The interiors are superb, comfy seats, usb and even wireless charging, next stop announcements, and huge windows. The ride is smooth, acceleration impressive and they are insanely quiet compared to the BYD's. At traffic lights the lack of idling vibration compared to the diesel version is very pleasing. The driver said he loved them, and they were a joy to drive. All we need now is someone to be brave and put electric buses on longer routes, rather than 30 min round trip local estate routes. That will be interesting. But again my congratulations to Harrogate Bus and Transdev for giving me the all to rare sensation of liking a new bus that isn't Optare or BCI.

The Harrogate Bus electric Volvo 9700
Part of the interior, including wireless charging

The weather was closing in, the traffic had been awful, so I decided to get the train back to Leeds. Northern Rail have recently replaced the infamous Pacers on the Harrogate line with ex Scotrail 3 car 170's, and I was lucky enough to get one of the refurbished units. I would have cheerfully remained on it back to London. The seats were the best train seats I'd sat on all day, it had been recarpeted and power points added. The conductor told me passengers loved them, and so did I. Northern have come in for some stick recently, but credit where it's due, these 170's feel like new trains should, even if they're not new!

The refurbished 170 in Northern livery

One of the 170's still in Scotrail colours

The interior of the refurbished 170

Back at a very wet Leeds it was time to return to London. I had noted earlier that the HST booked to operate the journey had broken down in North Scotland so waited anxiously to see what had replaced it. Luck was in, as in rolled the on loan HST tractor units from East Midlands Trains. It was time to compare the HST to the Azuma. Well, the seats on the Mark III coaches were infinitely more comfortable, I could hear the announcements, I wasn't hot, seats lined up with windows in the main, the power points were easier to find. The WiFi still didn't work but hey ho. It was also a much more pleasant ride, despite some of my fellow passengers not being so enjoyable until they thankfully left us at Doncaster. Given the choice between the new and the old I'll take the old anytime, and it will be interesting to see what the reaction is to the Azumas when they start going long distance. Leeds was just about bearable. Any further and I'll be looking for alternatives.

The EMT HST at Leeds
The much nicer seats on the HST

So what conclusions are there? Well, proof once again that out with the old and in with the new isn't necessarily a good thing. The 717's aren't as nice as the 313's. The Azumas aren't a patch on the HST's. The 710's are decent trains with much more room yet less comfortable than the 172's they replace. But the refurbished 170's are lovely, and I assume the same rules applies to refurbishment as it does new. If the Government is serious about modal shift and getting people out of cars and onto rail they are going completely the wrong way about it. Unless you live by a station on the whole journeys by train take longer than cars and are more expensive than cars. It certainly wouldn't have cost me the best part of £100 in petrol to travel from here to Harrogate. Make trains far less comfy than cars too, and you will not achieve your goal.

Buses, however, outside East Anglia at least, are making an effort. Ironic that they get far less funding than rail does. Electric buse are the future, and we need the Government to invest nationwide in infrastructure to encourage people to use buses instead of cars whenever possible. Plug the green factor to death! (Sorry, pun really wasn't intended but too tired to change it now) Bus operators are finally realising that you need to put the customer first. This has yet to reach the minds of many rail operators, or indeed the Department of Transport.

You will notice from the header picture that the Greater Anglian Flirt went testing to Lowestoft for the first time this week, and I snapped it crossing Reedham Bridge for the first time. I sincerely hope my review of them when they are introduced is more favourable than other new trains around.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Commons Transport Committee Report On Buses Outside London

Today the Transport Select Committee, chaired by Lilian Greenwood MP, one of the few MP's I still have time for, published its report on bus services in England outside London. It makes very interesting, and for me personally, satisfying reading as it says mostly what I have been saying for years. You can tell it's not going to be full of glowing praise for the bus industry from the opening of the Summary:

"The deregulation of bus services outside London in the 1980s was meant to address the steady decline in bus use since the 1950s and bring in a new era of bus travel. In the 1984 Buses White Paper the then Government asserted that:

Without the dead hand of restrictive regulation fares could be reduced now on many bus routes and the operator would still make a profit. New and better services would be provided. More people would travel.

[…] bus operators will look keenly to see where and when people want to travel. If one operator fails to provide a service that is wanted, another will.

Successive governments have stuck with deregulation, but the promised benefits have never materialised. Deregulation has, at best, done little more than slow the decline in bus use."

The idea of operators reducing fares on many routes yet still making a (reduced) profit seems laughable and goes against the laws of supply and demand. However, the then Transport Secretary, Nicholas Ridley, seemed to think operators would be happy to reduce their profits for the benefits of passengers. That's like MP's reducing their salaries for the benefit of the taxpayer - never going to happen, and understandably so.

The Committee looked at all aspects of bus travel, from provision of services, funding, accessibility, information and ticketing to preserving rural links, encouraging modal shift and making buses more attractive for young people.

One recommendation you won't be surprised caught my eye was that operators and local authorities work closer together to achieve the best possible service, especially regarding rural communities and new builds. It also recommends that red tape allowing partnerships between Councils and operators be cut. Well I never!

The report points out how funding has been cut and that the reimbursement on Concessionary passes is not doing its stated intention of leaving operators "no better or no worse off". Indeed, reimbursement rates are still calculated on 2005/6 fare levels. No wonder the operators are continually protesting. This is the recommendation:

"At present reimbursement of concessionary fares for bus operators does not meet the principle of “no better and no worse off”. This principal is objectively impossible to test. The reimbursement calculator given to local authorities by the Department for Transport is based on fares in 2005/06. Local authorities, with already stretched resources, often feel compelled to cover the shortfall. This potentially puts bus services at risk. If services are withdrawn it could have a disproportionate effect on vulnerable people, and they may become more isolated. This runs counter to the stated aim of the concessionary fares policy: improving the lives of older and disabled people.

We recommend that the Government review how it finances concessionary bus passes, and the guidance to local authorities on reimbursement of bus operators, with a view to meeting the principle of both local authorities and bus operators being “no better and no worse off”. As a priority, the Government should re-baseline the reimbursement rates on ticket prices for 2017/18 prices; and should continue to re-baseline fares every four years so that the principle of “no better and no worse off” is maintained and the reimbursement rate remains broadly in line with current fares."

Real time information, a national ticketing policy which negates the change/no change, contactless/no contactless anomalies and even integrated ticketing are discussed, as are fares for young people.

But it is the failure of the Department of Transport to deliver adequate leadership and funding that comes in for the most criticism. Neith local authorities or operators are aware of funding amounts from one year to the next, unlike road and rail, and this provides uncertainty in the industry, and for passengers. Local authorities should be able to tackle congestion by parking and moving traffic law enforcement, with the revenue gained used to further tackle congestion. Bidding for grants and additional funding should be made easier and fairer, and an interesting recommendation is that all local authorities should have the power to set up their own municipal bus company.

Another priority is to tackle the concerns of those who DON'T use the bus - again, can't remember where I've heard that before! 

The report doesn't recommend re-regulation, but it makes it abundantly clear that the current system is failing passengers, and there need to be radical changes to encourage more to leave their cars at home and switch to the bus.

Most Government reports are mind numbingly boring but this one isn't. It makes very good reading, and will have a lot of you nodding sagely in agreement. It remains to be seen how the D of T responds, but I commend Lilian and her team on a comprehensive report, taking the passengers' side, and not pulling any punches. 

You can read the report, and I really recommend you do, by clicking here.

Friday 10 May 2019

Has The Phoenix Grown Its Feathers?

I said in my last post that things appeared to be looking up at Konect. That was good news as a monopoly is never good in a privatised industry. Today Konect revealed their proposals for the next round of timetable changes, and from what I can see there's not a single cut with many enhancements and route extensions. I'll reproduce their summary below, then put meat on the bones.

Please see below *proposed* timetable changes to parts of the Konectbus network for Sunday 7th July 2019. We're pleased to announce significant improvements to our network. Straight8 between Toftwood, Dereham and Norwich will operate up to every 20 minutes in the daytime Mondays to Saturdays, and there will be a later journey back from Norwich to Dereham & Toftwood at 2220. Route X6 will be extended beyond Attleborough to Thetford giving fast bus journey times between Thetford and Norwich via the A11. The 5 series will be enhanced will doubling of daytime frequencies to every 30 minutesbetween Eaton and Norwich, and Rackheath and Norwich. There will be up to 8 buses an hour along Yarmouth Road into Norwich. Park & Ride improvements include; a later bus back to Thickthorn P&R, later buses back to Sprowston P&R and an enhanced evening frequency to Airport P&R. There are other changes which are to reflect requests, improve reliability and better match supply with demand. The routes affected by these changes are listed above with details listed below.

Better still I'll let Konect say it all - I'm sure they won't mind positive publicity for a change!

Route 3 & 6
Thetford - Watton
Ashill - Watton
Watton - Hingham - N&NU Hospital (3) / Wymondham (6) - Norwich
The 6 journeys which start and finish in Ashill will be extended back/to Necton via Holme Hale.
The 1400 and 1500 6 from Watton to Norwich will operate via Hethersett Academy, New Cringleford and Cringleford replacing route 9A.
The 1515 and 1615 6 from Norwich to Watton will operate 10 minutes later at 1525 and 1625.
There will be a new route 3 0835 journey from Watton to Thetford via the villages on Saturdays. This bus will become the 0920 X6 Thetford to Norwich fast journey. There will be a return route 3 1515 journey from Thetford to Watton; the bus will have previously operated the 1420 X6 journey from Norwich to Thetford.

Route 5
Postwick P&R - Norwich

Minor timetable changes at peak to allow for traffic congestion. Saturday afternoon buses from Postwick P&R to operate via the A47 and Bracondale due to continuing traffic problems at the end of NCFC home football matches.

Route 5A/5C
Blofield Heath - Norwich - Eaton (5A)
Little Plumstead - Norwich (5C)

Eaton to Norwich will be served by route 5B (Stalham - Wroxham - Norwich) with an improved frequency of every 30 minutes through most of the day.

There will be a new Mondays to Saturdays evening journey from Norwich to the Plumsteads at 1930.

Blofield Heath and Plumsteads to Norwich routes will stay the same with revised times. Most journeys will continue to Mulbarton replacing route 37A which will offer through journey facilities (including to retail outlets on Hall Road such as Asda, and Mulbarton to the Rail Station) and improved reliability.

The East Harling to Norwich route 37A journeys will be included in the revised route 5B timetable.

Route 5B
Stalham - Wroxham - Norwich

Additional journeys will operate between Rackheath Industrial Estate and Norwich via Green Lane West and the normal 5B route. These additional journeys will operate between 0900 and 1700 giving Rackheath to Norwich a bus every 30 minutes.

There will be minor timetable adjustments to the Wroxham and Stalham end of the route to improve punctuality.

The 2030 from Norwich to Salhouse will be extended to Wroxham.

All buses will continue to Eaton village & Greenways replacing route 5A and doubling the frequency to every 30 minutes for most of the day.

Route X6
Attleborough - Norwich

Most journeys wil be extended beyond Attleborough from/to Thetford offering fast journeys between Thetford and Norwich!

There will be an additional route X6 journey from Great Ellingham (0710), Attleborough (0715) to Norwich via Thickthorn P&R (0740).

The section of route between Sprowston, Harvey Lane and Norwich will be replaced by new route 33.

Toftwood - Dereham - Norwich

The Mondays to Saturdays timetable will be increased to every 20 minutes for most of the day! Plus there will be a later journey on Mondays to Saturdays from Norwich to Dereham and Toftwood departing the Rail Station at 2210 and the Bus Station at 2220.

Additional city centre bus stops will be added on Prince of Wales Road (outside Budgens) and Red Lion Street (opposite Debenhams). Tha latter is hoped will appease those visiting the Theatre Royal.

The section off route between Riverside and Thorpe Road will be withdrawn due to lack of use. Buses will terminate/commence at the Rail Station bus stops on Thorpe Road.

All buses departing Norwich from 1850 onwards will call at Thickthorn Park & Ride replacing the late evening route 501 journeys.

Route X11
Sutton - Stalham - Wroxham - Norwich

Route X11 is a new fast journey to/from Norwich replacing similar route 502 journey. These express commuter journeys will no longer call at Sprowston P&R, but will stop on Sprowston Road at Blue Boar and at the Brickmakers. Mondays to Fridays only.

Route 33
Norwich - Harvey Lane - Plumstead Road - Norwich

Replaces route X6 between Sprowston and Norwich via Harvey Lane. This will provide new links between Thorpe Road and Plumstead Road surgery, and Plumstead Road area with Anglia Square and Magdalen Street area. Mondays to Fridays only.

Route 50 & 50A
Eaton Park/Cringleford - Norwich - Mousehold Heath

In the mornings buses heading to Mousehold Heath will omit Anglia Square, and in the afternoons buses from Mousehold Heath will omit Anglia Square. This change, and other timing changes, will improve reliability on this route

Route 501 (Park & Ride)
Airport P&R - Norwich - Thickthorn P&R

The evening Mondays to Saturdays timetable towards Airport P&R will increase to every 20 minutes until 2030. Departure times from Norwich Bus Station to the Airport P&R after 1830 will be at 1850, 1910, 1930, 1950, 2010 and 2030. The 2010 and 2030 departures from Norwich will extend beyond the Airport P&R to Sprowston P&R

For full details of other minor adjustments and links to timetables see here.

Konect are asking for comments on the proposals which should be submitted by May 21st.
I only have one - the 1520 X6 from Thetford to Norwich should also run on Saturdays to give customers from  Norwich the opportunity to visit Thetford. 1320 seems too early for a last bus back.

Apart from that I am heartened and impressed with the proposals. They are bringing new links, later journeys on key routes and congestion avoiding measures. It would seem real thought has gone into it, and I haven't been able to say that much over recent years. I hope fervently the changes are a success, but what I am now interested in is how the fleet is going to change. Konect have taken the fleet list down from their website for reasons unknown, but if Go Ahead are serious about resurrecting Konect from the utter disaster that was the management of Anglian, as well as giving up on routes like the 2 and 7 then they need to prove it by investing in quality new buses, not the constant stream of London and Southampton cast offs we have become used to. That will send signals to passengers, staff, and indeed other operators that they really are intent on coming back from the doldrums. I hope they do, and if I see any of these signs I will support them all the way. These proposals are a very positive start.

Saturday 4 May 2019

Norwich In 90? Not Anymore

Hello all. I've been waiting for something good to report. Sadly nothing has warranted a post so it's back to the moaning. In this case a comparison between today and the glory days of, erm, earlier this year!

Let me explain the circumstances. A very dear friend of mine, all 90 years of her moved from Wickham Market to Halesworth last weekend to be closer to her family. That left another dear friend, a mere spring chicken of 85 pining for her best friend, so yours truly has taken it upon himself to ferry the two between each other so their friendship can endure. On Thursday I took said youngster over to Halesworth for 10am, intending to pick her up at 3pm. I had to go to Norwich so decided to do it by bus from Halesworth, instead of driving to Ditchingham as normal, to see how easy it would be now Konect have deserted Suffolk, to be replaced by a very limited First replacement. Remember I needed to be back for 3pm. Halesworth to Norwich is around 25 miles, not much in East Anglian terms.

There was a 1034 to Bungay, where I would now have to change for a bus to Norwich. In these days of "guaranteed connections" where the bus simply changes route number, to have to wait 20 minutes for a connection on what had been a through route for decades is a rude wake up call. Anyway the 99A turned up, ironically with a former Anglian driver at the wheel, and off to Bungay we trundled.

First 44533 at Halesworth
So, you would reasonably expect that to make up for a new change of buses at Bungay the 99A would connect with the fast X41 to Norwich. Actually no, as that departs 5 minutes before the 99A gets in. I kid you not. How can we fight for an integrated transport system when buses from the same company can't integrate with each other. So a 20 min wait it was for the slower 41, and instead of the leather seated, free WiFi B9's on the X41 up turned this!

First B7tl 32214 at Bungay
It still looks as though it's waiting for its top coat of paint. In all honesty I've been on worst Presidents, but hard seats and rattly ride made the journey seem longer than it really was. Which was still 50 minutes. We arrived in Norwich at 1205, 91 minutes after leaving Halesworth, a journey that used to take 54 minutes.

I only had to nip to the bank in Norwich. To get back to Halesworth for 3pm I would in Anglian days have caught the 1400 88, arriving in Halesworth at 1504. Not now. To go back the way I'd come and be back in Halesworth for 3pm I'd need to stay on the President, go straight back to Bungay, and arrive in Halesworth at 1323. The next connecting bus would leave Norwich at 1445, the connection arriving in Halesworth at 1603, having picked up the notorious angels at Bungay High on the way.

This meant having to find an alternative. After a rushed lunch I hot footed it to Norwich Bus Station and caught the 1315 X2 to Beccles. I maintain these nearly 11yo B9's are still the best buses around our area by some margin.

First B9 37576 on the X2 at Beccles
A walk to the Old Market was next, to catch the twice a day Border4bus service 522 to Halesworth. I had half hour to wait, which was annoying, but the next (slower) service from Norwich would only leave me 7 minutes to make the connection, and as you never know what the A146 is going to throw up the risk of missing the last bus of the day at 1415 is just not worth taking. So the gloriously scenic 522 it was, on a baby E200, Incidentally the Borderbus operated 146 from Norwich to Beccles departs at 1310, meaning an even longer wait at Beccles.

Borderbus BB07 BUS at Beccles Old Market.
We got back to Halesworth at 1450, a journey time of 95 minutes, perfect timing for me, although I had 65 minutes less time in Norwich than I would have done a year ago. It also proves more expensive for the fare payer, having to pay separately for the 522. I have to say had the weather been like it was today the journey would have put me off buses for life, so no one express surprise when First start moaning about low patronage. Give the people something reliable and conveniently timed to patronise and they just might!

This got me thinking. I ask Suffolk and Norfolk Councils this - is there any reason why services you fund shouldn't accept the tickets of any operator, so passengers can use alternative routes and operators in these days of ever more service cuts? Simply give all the services you fund a prefix number, eg 8, so for example the 522 would become 822, and evening 40's become 840. That would make identification easy, and would not only help and encourage bus use, but might just sting the operators to take integrated ticketing seriously, because it has to happen if the industry is to survive.

I have had some positive news this evening regarding Konect. It would appear changes in the management structure are reaping rewards. Vehicle reliability has improved beyond measure it seems, and a new cleaning manager has transformed the appearance of the interiors. Nothing will undo the monumental cock up that was made of Anglian, but if a phoenix can rise from the ashes that will be good for passengers. No one operator should have a monopoly in a privatised industry, as East Suffolk is finding out. Different if everything is regulated as that operator is held accountable, but when little things like 40 min gaps in the service from Poringland to Norwich start creeping in - between 0820 - 0900 to be precise, then it's only a matter of time before the rot sets in. The same old story, once the opposition has been seen off services start getting scaled back. So I genuinely hope Konect come back strongly, as we know First aren't eager to resurrect or develop anything, so it will takes others to give them a run for their money.

Thanks to those who have contacted me - it really is appreciated. Back when I have something to say!