Monday 9 December 2019

Stadlers At A Virtual Standstill

I was hoping this post would be a retrospective look at the introduction of the new Stadler Class 755's onto the Ipswich - Cambridge and Lowestoft routes, including arguably the happiest passenger I've ever seen, However all is not well.

There is a crisis. In fact, if you will allow me to quote Blackadder; "This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you got a moment, it's a twelve-storey crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour portage, and an enormous sign on the roof, saying 'This Is a Large Crisis'"

It would appear that there is an issue with the new trains having an adverse effect on the track circuits (signals), and rather more worryingly, level crossing sensors. I understand there was a very near miss near Norwich where barriers thought the train had past and raised before it had, causing the train to miss a car by around a quarter of a second. Obviously safety has to take priority over everything else, so draconian speed restrictions have been put in place, along with, I'm told, prohibitions on Stadlers going on several routes until the cause of this has been identified and fixed.

As I type there are no trains running on the Ipswich - Felixstowe/Peterborough routes, a limited service on Ipswich - Cambridge, and there have also been suspensions on the Marks Tey - Sudbury branch. In addition to that there are no trains running Cromer - Sheringham, and less than 50% service on the rest of the route. There are numerous cancellations on Norwich - Great Yarmouth/Lowestoft routes, and all Norwich - Cambridge services are terminating at Ely. Slippery rails are causing issues on the East Suffolk Line. There has been no announcement as to when these measures will end.

Apart from replacement buses there seems to be no contingency whatsoever. You'd have thought the short set would have been rushed back, as it's hardly the height of the charter season, an emergency recall of the 153's, even the 170's yet to be refurbished by Transport for Wales - after all this IS an unforeseen and quite drastic development. But so far nothing, and that does not look good to the customer standing in the freezing cold waiting for, hopefully, a bus to turn up.

So I feel it would be inappropriate to wax lyrical about new introductions on routes that have had them taken away just as quickly! I may go out to see if there are any replacement buses around - I know Ensign have sent a couple to Norwich today - so watch this space for updates.

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Scania E400 Citis for Excel

After more than a year since I was told (and asked not to publish), First Eastern Counties have finally revealed that the new buses for their flagship Norwich - Peterborough XL route are to be E400 Citis built on a Scania chassis, the first time this combination has been put together, hence the secrecy, and not MMC bodies as was widely speculated. 

In an announcement on their website, First proudly boast that all buses will have coach style seats, free WiFi (with hopefully more data allowance than the current ridiculously small amount), USB charging at all seats, seat back phone docks with wireless charging, and bus stopping buttons at every seat. They hint at other features which are still to be revealed. You can read the full announcement here.

I have no pics as present, although a few are doing the rounds on Facebook, but can say the livery is similar to the new red livery being rolled out around the country. What distinguishing extras the excels will have is to be seen. I just hope the Scania chassis proves to be sturdier than the ADL chassis. I've been on a couple of 2yo Citis in London recently and the body noise was horrific - even a driver said it gave him migraines. So when First say "build quality, ergonomics and style are all integral to the Alexander Dennis bodywork" you'll have to excuse me for sitting firmly on the fence for a few months! 

There will no doubt questions as to what's happening to the current fleet on the XL. As far as I know they will be transferred to Lowestoft for use on the X2, with the current X2 Volvo B9's going to Norwich for the Orange Line, amongst others which should see the end for the final Presidents there. 

The new buses are scheduled for entry into service "Spring 2020", which could mean anything between February and May, I guess. The obvious direct contrast will be the new Optare Metrodeckers being built for Greenline 702, which will enter service at roughly the same time. I want to be pleasantly surprised. Time will tell.

Sunday 1 December 2019

The Sun Sets on Greater Anglia's Scuds

Part of my focus on the transition from the old fleet at Greater Anglia to the new, is reporting the final days of the old fleet. Yesterday was a significant day, in that it was the final day of the single coach Class 153 units, nicknamed Scuds. I have had the kind of affection for these units as you would a guide dog puppy, or that kitten in a litter with the extra spirit. Although not particularly nice if they are packed, from the outside they look like real life dinky toys, and any driver you care to talk to will tell you how reliable they have been over the years. And many years it has been.

Converted from Class 155's in 1991-2 the five units (originally seven until 2004) have been operating on all of Anglia's diesel lines, particularly the Ipswich - Felixstowe/Cambridge and Norwich to Great Yarmouth/Lowestoft/Sheringham routes. I doubt regulars on those will especially mourn their departure, but I'll certainly miss seeing them moving around the network.

They were all named - 155306 Edith Cavell, 309 Gerard Fiennes, 314 Delia Smith, 322 Benjamin Britten and 335 Michael Palin. As yet it is unknown if those names will be transferred to new units.
In the last couple of full days' operations I managed to photo all 5 units, and yesterday, for 4 of them their final day (306 didn't go out), I saw the very last one to operate a service in East Anglia leave Darsham and disappear into the gloom.

153306 at Ely, 28/11/19, on an Ipswich to Peterborough service
153309 at Ipswich, 29/11/19, having just arrived from Cambridge
153314 in the setting sun at Felixstowe, 29/11/19

153322 on the final Scud service, 1907 Lowestoft - Ipswich, 30/11/19 at Darsham

153335 at Lowestoft, 29/11/19 about to head to Norwich
All 5 units are going to be refurbished and have accessible toilets fitted prior to entering service in Wales. It will seem strange not seeing them around here anymore. Anyway time moves on, and another route, this time the Lowestoft to Ipswich line is about to see its first Stadlers. A report on that, and a belated report on the introduction on the Ipswich - Cambridge route last week, where I saw arguably the happiest passenger ever.

I'll leave you with the video I took at Darsham last night, of 153322, the final scud on the final service in East Anglia. I then dashed to Diss to watch it go ECS to Norwich, but that didn't quite go to plan, and it's a very short fly pass!