Friday 31 January 2020

Norwich Driver Training

Not previously mentioned here is the temporary use of First Great Yarmouth's Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TL 32210 LT52WTR on driver training duties in Norwich recently

LiamS has kindly provided a photo of it employed on such work in the city earlier this week

It transpires that the decker was also employed in service this morning being noted on the 23A route to Heartsease

My thanks to Liam for information and photo


Thursday 30 January 2020

Angies Enviro

Noted at Lowestoft Rail Station this morning was ADL Enviro 200 YX68UKT with legal lettering inside for Angies Tours.

The vehicle was listed as new to Celtic Travel, Llanidloes. After a few searches on Google it appears to have been a Dawsons Rental vehicle at some point and was recently noted at Midland Bus Sales in December last year.


Wednesday 29 January 2020

First's £5.3m Investment

Giles Fearnley pays tribute to team's hard work
Today I was fortunate in being invited along to the press launch of First's new £5.3 million excel fleet and how smart they look too (both inside and outside!). The fleet comprises 19 Alexander Dennis E400 Cities on a Scania chassis - a first time for this combination.

Representatives of the various manufacturers and media were were there in attendance including Ray Stenning of Best Impressions who was responsible for the design work. I also met up with fellow blogger Gerard Fletcher of the well known XL Blog

The event began at First's Davey House premises in Norwich where those assembled were given an explanation of how the concept developed which didn't set out to be innovative but it now certainly is. Managing director Steve Wickers introduced David Jordan (Marketing Manager) and Paul Martin (Commercial Manager) to provide details of how the project developed and identified the many features of the new vehicles.

We then had a short presentation by Giles Fearnley, the managing director of First Bus prior to exiting on to Castle Meadow to await the arrival of two of the new fleet. Upon their arrival we then sampled one of the buses for ourselves (36913 YN89XZT) on a run to the Mid Norfolk Railway at Dereham for a lunch break

On arrival we were encouraged to view and take photos of both vehicles and received a souvenir booklet, which featured the history of the route, to mark the launch of the buses into service from Monday 17th February 2020

The interiors also look quite impressive with
the Lazzerini leather seating being very comfortable with plenty of leg room complete with wood effect flooring

Many additions incorporated into the design include coach style seating with USB charging points, phone charging docks and bell pushes at every seat. A thoughtful touch was the retractable hook for coats and/or shopping bags!

A welcome point for me was the interior lighting appeared to be more subdued with the red and burgundy colour scheme fitting in well.

After lunch there was time for more photos - as if we didn't have enough already! My last photo shows representatives of the design, manufacturing and fitting teams including representatives of Best Impressions and Lazzerini with Giles Fearnley and Steve Wickers.

The registrations and fleet numbers are as follows:-
Finally I would like to thank the friendly staff at First Eastern Counties for their hospitality and particularly Chris Limbach for the invitation to attend. My thanks also to Gerard Fletcher for the company and it was good to meet up at last!

The buses are certainly eye catching and no doubt there will be more photos on line once they enter revenue earning service.


Service Alterations Registered ~ 29th January 2020

Today’s Notices and Proceedings Report, published by the East of England Traffic Commissioner, features the cancellation of services operated by Suffolk Norse.

They include the three times a day Monday to Friday 107 service between Lowestoft Bus Station and Gunton St Peter effective from 21st March 2020. Also withdrawn are the 72 and 173 services departing the Turban Centre in Woodbridge to Ipswich Old Cattle Market Bus Station and Hamilton Road, Felixstowe respectively. Both effective from the 4th April 2020

The full report will be available to view here soon.


Withdrawn Pair

Two recently withdrawn ALX400 bodied Volvo B7TLs reside in the yard at Caister Road. Photo: First

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Another One Bites The Dust ~ Updated

A second ex Leicester Citybus has been taken out of service by First with Alexander ALX400 bodied Volvo B7TL 32063 W223XBD being the latest to go.

W223XBD in Church Road, Gorleston on a southbound Bernard Matthews' working in October 2019
32063 arrived at First Great Yarmouth during late February 2014 but didn't enter service until the beginning of March.

Late News:
Similar 32064 W224XBD was also withdrawn overnight

My thanks to First for the information.


New excel Timetable Published

As already highlighted in last week's Services and Alterations Registered, First Eastern Counties is to commence its new Excel service from Sunday 16th February 2020. Further details have also just been published on the operator's website.

The service will be provided by nineteen brand new buses especially built for the service in the form of a unique combination of a Scania Euro VI diesel chassis with stylish, modern bodywork from Alexander Dennis,

The new timetable offers:-
⧫  Fast buses up to every 30 minutes between Dereham and Norwich taking just 35 minutes, with extra journeys at peak times and new evening journeys.
⧫  A combined daytime frequency of three buses per hour between Dereham and Norwich.
⧫  Faster journeys between Kings Lynn or Swaffham direct to/from Norwich via the A47 Dereham bypass, operating up to every hour Monday to Saturday during the day.
⧫  A new Sunday timetable.

It shouldn't be too long now before we see the vehicles in the flesh!


Monday 27 January 2020

Southtown Diversion

Local road users will be aware of the many roadworks being carried out in the Great Yarmouth / Lowestoft area with temporary alterations to many bus services.

First Gemini 36188 BN12JYL prepares to turn off William Adams Way after doubling back via Harfreys Roundabout
The most significantly affected are all northbound services using Southtown Road in Great Yarmouth due to flood protection work on Bollard Quay. From 13th January 2020, until further notice, (the road sign says 1st September 2020!) buses from Gorleston towards Great Yarmouth are being diverted via William Adams Way, Suffolk Road and Boundary Road. Whereas those towards Gorleston continue to  operate via the usual route albeit on the other side of the road!

Borderbus Enviro200 BB14BUS turning onto Suffolk Road on the 580 to Great Yarmouth

First's ALX400 32204 LT52WTK continues to Great Yarmouth along Suffolk Road on the 8 route

The sole surviving member of the ex 03 registered Essex Dart SLFs, SN03WMM, turns into Boundary Road

The X1 was also affected with LK58EDJ on Boundary Road about to regain its usual route onto Southtown Road
In recent days there has been other works disrupting services including Regent Street resurfacing, night works on the A47 at Hopton and overnight closures of Lowestoft's bascule bridge.

For the moment the Southtown diversion appears to be working ok with some slight delays to bus services. All photos were taken on Thursday 23rd January


Sunday 26 January 2020

Arrivals Keep Coming

Another arrival to report at Great Yarmouth this afternoon is another Yorkshire Gemini making the trip south.

37060 YJ06XMM has become the latest to join the Caister Road Exiles.

Another recent arrival, 37021 YJ06XKK is seen above at The Green in Ormesby St Margaret this afternoon working the 1 service out to Martham.

Thanks to First for the quick message and photo.


Saturday 25 January 2020

Another First Move

Another movement to report for First is that Volvo B7TL/ALX400 32475 AU53HJJ has returned to Eastern Counties,coming back to Ipswich after a spell in Essex. It was latterly based at Colchester.

32475 seen above en route back to Ipswich earlier today.

Many Thanks to Joe Thorpe for the info and Photo,


Friday 24 January 2020

More First Activity

Further activity at First's Caister Road depot yesterday with the first involving the visit by the grim reaper in the form of Alpha Recovery to take away Volvo B7 61148 MV02VBU.

Another withdrawal to report is that of Volvo B7TL/ Alexander ALX 400 30948 YJ51RRV with gearbox failure. It is seen here yesterday in the rear yard of the depot.

Regarding the loans to Lowestoft ALX 400 30960 YJ51RDU has already returned being replaced by former First Cymru Dennis Dart SLF 42955 WX06OMM last night

My thanks to First for the information and photos


Dolphin Travel's Smurf

Jackie McVay has provided photos of Dolphin Autos 'new' Optare Solo complete with fleet names and other embellishments!

It has been sign written and personalised by Jackie who is also known as Smurf and hence the reason for the reference to the blue, human-like creatures featuring in a Belgian comic.

The thirty one seat CN07KZR was new to Bebb of Llantwit Fardre, Glamorgan in July 2007 and acquired by Dolphin last month. There is the possibility that more buses may also be purchased.

My thanks to Jackie for the photos

Thursday 23 January 2020

Another arrival from Yorkshire

Another addition to the First Eastern Counties fleet arrived at Great Yarmouth late yesterday afternoon. Volvo B7TL/Wright Gemini 37061 YJ06XMO.

It was collected from Halifax and came via a brief stay in Essex. Its pictured above in the workshop at Caister Road being prepared for service.

Many thanks to First for the info and photo.


More Withdrawals

Last night I received news from Caister Road concerning the first withdrawal of one of the seven ex First Leicester Citybus ALX400s which moved to Great Yarmouth in early 2014.

32061 W221XBD outside Caister Road depot in March 2014 having recently moved from First Leicester
The Volvo B7TL was 32061 W221XBD. It gained notoriety by being featured in the June 2014 issue of Buses Magazine when the Comments feature accused the operator of 'Shooting themselves in the foot' by using car related advertising for Wilco Fast Fit.

The decker is now parked in the rear yard with other withdrawn vehicles which last night contained recently decommissioned Dennis Dart SLFs 42483 SN03WLK, 42484 SN03WLW and 42486 SN03WMX plus ALX400 30886 W741DWX and Volvo B7L 66341 MV02VCT. Also there awaiting parts was Gemini 37570 AU58ECT

One saloon missing from the back yard was 61148 MV02VBU which had been moved inside the depot building. The former Network Norwich branded Volvo B7 was noted withdrawn at First Norwich in early January last year prior to transfer to Great Yarmouth for storage. It is expected to make its last journey later today.

My thanks to First for the information and the photo of 61148


Wednesday 22 January 2020

Stranger In the Camp!

First Great Yarmouth Heritage liveried Volvo B7TL 32059 W219XBD was observed working Lowestoft area services earlier today. Andy Swan got a shot of it arriving at Lowestoft Railway Station on a return working of the 99

Christian Newsome has also contacted me to say that he saw it being employed on the 99A to Bungay too and provides photographic evidence.

32059 is one of two Great Yarmouth buses currently on loan to First Lowestoft - the other is Volvo B7TL/ Alexander ALX400 30960 YJ51RDU

My thanks to both Andy and Christian for the reports and photos


Service Alterations Registered ~ 22nd January 2020

Some of the changes to local bus services to report from today’s Notices and Proceedings Report published by the East of England Traffic Commissioner.

Alterations mainly affect services operated by First Eastern Counties from 16th February 2020:-
11/11A, 12/12A Norfolk & Norwich Hospital and Sprowston to Wroxham - amendment to route, stopping places and timetable.
Excel (A,B,D) Norwich Bus Station to Dereham Market Place - amendment to route, stop and finish points and timetable.
Excel (A, B,C) Dereham Market Place to Kings Lynn Bus Station - amendment to timetable
Excel (A, B,C) Kings Lynn Bus Station to Wisbech Bus Station - amendment to route, stopping places and timetable.
Excel (A, B,C) Wisbech Bus Station to Peterborough Bus Station - amendment to timetable.
Excel (C) Norwich Bus Station to Swaffham Market Place - registration of a new service.

Jubilee Coaches of Rollesby has been given authorisation to increase the number of vehicles at its Jubilee Farm operating centre on Fleggburgh Road to six.

The public inquiry in Cambridge on 5th December, concerning Suffolk Norse, decided that no action would be taken under Section 17 of the 1981 Public Passenger Vehicles Act. Furthermore David Stuart and Aruna Sampath Kumar Makalandawa were found to be of good repute

The full report will be available to view here soon.


Monday 20 January 2020

Any Ideas?

I received an email from a regular reader of our blog at 2.22pm on Saturday afternoon and wonder whether anyone can shed any light on what was happening here. I have my own theory!

A Sanders Scania Omnidekka similar to the one our correspondent observed
'I was just coming home along Wroxham Road in Norwich (towards the Tesco Extra), and spotted a Sander's Coaches Scania Omnidekka parked up at one of the bus stops (I can't remember which but it's a bit further along to the Golden Plaice fish and chips), full of people but with the destination board blank and no paper, about 10 minutes ago at 14:05. It was going towards the roundabout just ahead after the bus lane ends.

This is obviously highly unusual, as no Sanders Routes go through this area, I thought it was perhaps private but I turned back and the number on the rear destination display said "11"! The driver then closed the doors and pulled off. Unfortunately I was driving the other way so was unable to get a picture, but I'm pretty sure this means that First have for some reason loaned the bus from Sanders, for use on the 11?!

I thought I would inform you of this highly unusual sighting. The only notable points are:
- The front destination display was blank and there was no paper destination
- The bus was completely full of people, top and bottom deck
- The rear destination display clearly displayed "11" '

Can anyone come up with any explanation about this 'unusual' activity? I am guessing that it may be a football special as Norwich were playing at home (and they won!)

My thanks go to all of you who responded to this post, including a certain gentleman from North Carolina USA!. It is indeed one of four regular football specials from the North Norfolk area provided by Sanders. Paul Cox tells me this is known as the 11 Stalham Football Bus. It operates the following route: North Walsham - Stalham - Hoveton - Wroxham - Rackheath - Sprowston - Heartsease - Norwich City Football Club.


Sunday 19 January 2020

Two More For Scrap

Prior to the arrival of the Gemini quintet yesterday, two buses were collected by Alpha Recovery for scrapping.

One was ex Scania demonstrator 65678 YP02ABN, previously with First Essex, which arrived at Caister Road from Norwich in January last year and has stayed in the rear yard ever since. It was noted on Friday inside the depot with a note saying 'scrap do not move'

The second departure was that of Norwich road traffic accident victim, Volvo B7TL 32106 LT02ZCV, which was brought in here In September last for the sourcing of parts

My thanks to First for the information and photo


Saturday 18 January 2020

Gemini Convoy Heading To Yarmouth

Simon Taylor has kindly let us share his photos of a batch of Geminis which are being collected today for Eastern Counties from First Bradford.

The vehicles being collected are Volvo B7TL/Wright Geminis
37021 YJ06XKK
37022 YJ06XKL
37023 YJ06XKM
37024 YJ06XKN
37025 YJ06XKO.

I understand they are all for use at Great Yarmouth, subject to confirmation.

Many Thanks to Simon for the photos from Bradford and en route back to Yarmouth at the Farm Shop on the A17.


Revisited Kings Lynn 2005

Been a while since i ventured into my archives of trips gone by, back in the days where i was allowed to venture out on a regular basis with the camera!

Today we are going back to Kings Lynn and a hot day back in August 2005. First and Norfolk Green were doing battle in the town at the time with Norfolk Green still being a popular independent prior to its eventual take over by Stagecoach Group.

First up is former Trent DAF/Optare J315BVO, Norfolk Green ran a few of these in the fleet at the time. Seen here laying over in the Bus Station.

First gained a large batch of Wright bodied Darts from First London around 2001/2 and a few ended up at Kings Lynn after spells in Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Ipswich and Norwich. 499 JDZ2321 is pictured working the local 42 service to Fairsted, it had not received its new national First fleet number which was being rolled out across the fleet at the time.

Norfolk Green were purchasing Alexander Bodied Darts from Stagecoach, 32541 J541GCD was still running in its former owners livery at the time after moving from Stagecoach South.

Former First Essex Olympian 34698 B698BPU ended up at Kings Lynn and from memory was a very brief spell with FEC, pretty sure it didnt run for that long prior to withdrawl, seen above working town route 43.

Finally we have MAN/MCV Evolution Demonstrator AE05DVC which was on loan to Norfolk Green, amazingly the destination screen came out perfectly in the photo which was highly unusual for the type!. It was be used on the 505 Kings Lynn-Spalding route. It ended up with Travel De Courcey in the Midlands.

Hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane, hard to believe it was 15 years ago!


Friday 17 January 2020

Single Decker Demise

Today's news from First's Caister Road Depot regards two single deckers in the form of  Scania L94UB 65673 and Transbus Dart SLF 42483

65673 SN51UYG pictured in Gorleston High Street in April 2019
Scania 65673 SN51UYG has departed the rear yard of the depot on its last journey to Alpha Recovery. It arrived at Great Yarmouth in October 2018 by default from First Essex as the selected bus broke down a couple of days previously! Withdrawal came at the end of December but it returned to service for a short period in January 2019. Further resurrection came in April but it was finally withdrawn in September and has remained out of use ever since.

65673 SN51UYG awaiting its last journey inside the depot yesterday
Recently withdrawn is former First Essex Transbus Dart 42483 SN03WLK. It arrived locally on 10th November 2019 becoming the fourth to arrive from the county in four weeks. It was then admitted to the workshops in early December. Withdrawal came last Friday.

My thanks to First for the information and the depot photo


Thursday 16 January 2020

Jubilee Departure

Rollesby based Jubilee Coaches have sold their Neoplan Transliner reports regular contributor Kevan Portas.

Formerly known as L555 JCR, it has recently been reunited with its earlier registration of V608 VAV and has now been sold to Semmence of Wymondham. The MAN 18.350 was new to Jans of Soham in May 1999 as T50 HAM and arrived at Jubilee Coaches in June 2018.

My thanks to Kevan for the update


Wednesday 15 January 2020

Lowestoft Station This Morning

My thanks to Andy Swan and Tim Miller for letting me know that Freestones Coaches' R25 DDA is again on rail replacement duty today being parked at the stand at the rail station.

The  latter also tells me that Sanders Coaches' Van Hool WH11 CHR and Volvo B12B SGF 965 are both on standby on the nearby car park.

My thanks to both for the information and to Tim for the photo


Service Alterations Registered ~ 15th January 2020

Just a couple of changes to local bus services to report from today’s Notices and Proceedings Report published by the East of England Traffic Commissioner.

They both concern National Express services with the the first being timetable amendment for the 490/491 route between Lowestoft Bus Station and London Victoria via Great Yarmouth and Norwich. The second entry affects the 481 Felixstowe, 484 Clacton on Sea services to the capital which involve amendment to the route, stopping places and timetable change. Both alterations are effective from 10th February 2020.

The full report will be available to view here soon.


Tuesday 14 January 2020

Lowestoft Today

Andy Swan observed a couple of unusual arrivals at Lowestoft Rail Station bus stop earlier today.

This morning he captured a photo of Beulas Cygnus bodied R25 DDA, a recent arrival for the Freestones Coaches fleet, on rail replacement work.

Andy returned later in the day to see an impressive looking Neoplan Starliner leaving the stand at around 16:00. K55 RDO was new to Parry of Cheslyn Hay as OU14 SSJ but now works for RM Buses of Manchester trading as Rhudlan Coaches. It is not known why it was there

My thanks to Andy for the two photos