Saturday 30 May 2020

Sunny Saturday

A few photos from today whilst returning from a shopping trip plus a few in the village from this afternoon whilst enjoying the sunshine.

Various First vehicles are now relicensed and back in use after a couple of months out of action due to the ongoing situation. Timetable changes begin on June 1st meaning a bit more of the normal fleet will be seen out and about rather than just the Blue E400's. First sighting today to my surprise was former Manchester Volvo B7TL/ALX400 30960 YJ51RDU which has survived the recent cull of this type and was noted in Caister this morning on 8 duties.

Parked up at Caister Road was former Yarmouth Gemini 37043 YJ06XLT now sporting Lowestoft fleet names.

Another ex Leeds Gemini based at Yarmouth is 37022 YJ06XKL, seen above heading out of West Road in Ormesby heading for Lowestoft on the 1 service.

Finally we have 37174 SF07FDE which was heading towards Martham this afternoon, having not managed to photograph it since its arrival i have now got it twice in two days!. The only Blue Enviro 400 noted on the 1's in the village today was 33809 YX63LJU which is pictured below.

Strange how normal vehicles now become different variety after a long spell of having the former Excel Enviros around the town on most routes for the past couple of months!

Stay Safe, Grahame.

Friday 29 May 2020

First Update

With the Covid 19 Lockdown now being eased First will be increasing their frequencies again in June. Various delicensed Buses are now returning to service and we are told that Lowestoft Depot will also be reopening and operational again shortly.

Yarmouth based Gemini 37174 SF07FDE has been reinstated and noted this evening back on the 1 service to Martham. Another Gemini 32348 was noted heading in the opposite direction shortly before, the first time that two Olympia liveried Geminis rather than E400's have been noted in the village at the same time for a couple of months!

We have been told that 5 of the Excel liveried Scanias have returned to Kings Lynn for use in their normal enviroment which means some Blue Enviro 400's will move back to Lowestoft from Yarmouth also.

Thanks to First for the Info and Updates

Stay Safe, Grahame.

Ex Halton Trio Surprise

Regular contributor Christian Newsome has provided a photo of three buses observed in Lowestoft yesterday. A surprising find, they were formerly owned by Halton Transport which ceased trading in January this year

The three buses were sold in an online auction in March and have been identified as Dennis Darts DK03TNL, PX55EGV and PX06 DWD. It is not known who the new owner is and where the vehicles will be used. Their current use appears to be target practice for Gulls!

My thanks to Christian for the information and photo.


Friday Flashback ~ April 2007

Friday Flashback returns revisiting the month of April 2007 which concentrates on the smaller operator.

We start by looking in at Beach Coach Station on the 3rd where we found Belle Coaches LIL9456. Numbered 13 in the fleet it was a Plaxton Paramount bodied Volvo B10M-60. The registration has since been allocated to a Kassbohrer Setra in the fleet.

We move on to the 12th where we observe Sanders' DAF SB220/Ikarus Citi Bus M832RCP arriving at Market Gates with a 785 service from North Norfolk. When I had taken this photo I remember the friendly diver came over to ask if I got a reasonable photo. I showed it to him and gained his approval! Another point of note is that the photo shows the shopping centre had yet to build the extension above the bus terminus.

Gorleston Beach was the scene a day later when R.W.Chenery's Setra 215HR 5092EL visited. Its appearance was thought to have coincided with a performance at the nearby Gorleston Pavilion.

We return to Market Gates for our final photo on the 17th of the month. It shows Ambassdor Travel's Plaxton Paragon bodied Volvo B12M-62 FN52HRG on the 497 service to London. It was new to the operator in November 2002 and in January 2012 it was re-registered KIG1856. It subsequently joined the Isle of Wight fleet of ALS Travel and made a return to its former home town when seen at Beach Coach Station in May 2018


Thursday 28 May 2020

Going Back to 28th May 2014

Another in our series of viewing previous posts from the same date in a different year and this time we go back to 28th May 2014.

I began with the news that  former First Leicester ALX400 32058 W218XBD should be out on the road in Great Yarmouth for the first time for First Eastern Counties that very day. Sure enough I caught sight of it in the town centre early in the afternoon and photographed it on summer service 3

34186 inside Caister Road during February 2014
The other news from Caister Road was withdrawn Olympian 34186 S686AAE was inside the depot ready to receive the gearbox donated from similar S687AAE and should be back in service the following week.

P109WJO and N962DWJ in Swift's Southtown Yard in December 2013
That day I also posted that two coaches with VOR signs had moved from Swift's Southtown yard, I contacted Kevin Boyne at the company for information as to their current whereabouts. He kindly responded by saying that both the blue liveried Dennis Javelin P109WJO and the Volvo B10M N962DWJ had been disposed of. The former went to 3D Travel of Cleator Moor in Cumbria whilst the latter ended up at P & M Coaches of Wickford in Essex.

I trust you are enjoying these look backs to the past although today's post hasn't been that easy as Blogger has changed the way of doing things making it initially very difficult!


Wednesday 27 May 2020

Doubling Up

Ray Stringer has been in contact and provided a photo of two First vehicles running in tandem on Lowestoft 's Hollow Grove 101 service yesterday

He suggests this is due to social distancing issues requiring more than one vehicle on the route. In fact the reliefs are only operated on some services infrequently during in the day as at present demand is not enough to increase the number of vehicles on the service throughout all of the day. These services are being financially supported by the government

My thanks to Ray for the photo and to First for the additional information.


Service Alterations Registered ~ 27th May 2020

There were no changes to local bus services mentioned in today’s Notices and Proceedings Report published by the East of England Traffic Commissioner. The full report will be available to view here soon.


Monday 25 May 2020

Alfa Travel News

With the coach touring business remaining in paralysis, with no firm indication of a date for easing by the government, there has been some welcome news from the sector.

One of Alfa's latest fleet additions outside the New Beach Hotel on 13th March 2020
Following the news of the Specialist Leisure Group administration and the winding up of the David Urquhart business, Alfa Travel has quickly moved to reassure current and prospective customers.

Alfa, which operates short breaks based in the Great Yarmouth area at the New Beach Hotel, has said 'that our banking partner Lloyds have approved our finance facilities to support us during these unprecedented times and that we are very much looking forward to welcoming you all back as soon as it is safe to do so. We continue to appreciate the support that you are showing by continuing to make bookings for later in the year and 2021'

It is currently working on social distancing plans which will be published in advance of the company  recommencing operations.


Saturday 23 May 2020

Lockdown Lookback Part 4 Shearings

With the sad news that Shearings Group and National Holidays have ceased trading i thought i would post a selection of Shearings vehicles from my collection gained over the past 18 years or so. It was always nice to see different members of the fleet in the town and i always tried to see what was around most weeks when i could in the summer months.

A very earlier digital image to start from 2002, M677KVU was one of a number a Volvo/Vanhool vehicles in the fleet at the time, pictured at Beach Coach Station.

Another from 2002 is W221JBN, another Volvo with Plaxton Panther bodywork, I remember this being a regular visitor to the town.

On to 2008 and Shearings had merged with long standing Leeds based company Wallace Arnold to become WA Shearings. Former Wallace Arnold YC02DFN is parked up at the Coach Station.

WA Shearings Grand Tourer Fleet was painted Gold and GT03BBB is a Jonckheere bodied Volvo B12M, they only had 36 seats with toilet facilities on board. This photo was October 2008.

Another Grand Tourer from 2009 was GT04YYY a Volvo B12 with Plaxton Panther bodywork.

2009/10 saw a new fleet of Setra Kassbohrer Coaches introduced into the fleet, BK09LUZ is pictured at the Holiday Inn in Ipswich (Jim Long Collection)

Finally, BJ16KXR a 2016 Mercedes Benz Tourismo Grand Tourer pictured opposite the companies Carlton Hotel in 2019.

I hope you enjoyed a selection of the different vehicles that were part of the Shearings fleet over the years i have been photographing them.

Stay Safe, Grahame.

SLG Administration

Unfortunately the owner of coach holiday operator Shearings has collapsed into administration, with 2,460 immediate job losses and thousands of holiday cancellations.

A trio of Shearings in December 2018
Specialist Leisure Group (SLG), which also owns National Holidays and hotel chain Bay Hotels, has said all tours and hotel breaks in the UK and abroad have been cancelled and would not be rescheduled.

A couple o f National Holdays' KassbohrerSetras
seen at Beach Coach Station in April 2019
Both coach operators Shearings Holidays and National Holidaya ran tours based in Great Yarmouth mainly centred on the Carlton Hotel which is part of the Bay Hotel chain.

The administration means that the familiar and regular appearances of the two operators‘ coaches will cease to be seen in the town. It also signifies the closure of the resort's Carlton Hotel

The collapse will adversely affect tourism in the Great Yarmouth area from a business and employment point of view.

Look out for a post from Grahame soon showing some of the vehicles operated


Friday 22 May 2020

Flashback Friday ~ February 2007

Yes Friday is here again and time for another Flashback Friday when we we look back to the month of February 2007.

We begin with a photo of Amza Travel's SC Coachbuilders bodied TransBus Dart FJ53VDL. New to the Blofield operator in January 2004, it passed to Swift Taxis in December 2009 along with the acquisition of the business. Swift sold it on to Shropshire Bus & Coach of Wems in Shropshire in early 2013.

Our next picture is one of First Eastern Counties' Puddlejumpers as they were affectionately known as. Here is LDZ9126 a Wright Handybus Dennis Dart new to London Buses in September 1992. It was transferred from First CentreWest to First Eastern Counties in June 2000. JDZ9126 is pictured in Lowestoft's Gordon Road on 3rd February on the 105 to the Rock Estate. Its final journey was to Carlton dealers Wigley in August 2007.

The third contribution is a scene from Deneside in Central Great Yarmouth on the 20th of February. It shows First 's Leyland Olympian 30105 K489EUX being pursued by Park & Ride branded 32484 AU53HKB. The former was one of 10 ex-China Motor Bus LM class tri-axle Olympians which later returned to the UK in 2000. The latter is now with First Essex.

Our final photo is of Ambassador Travel's Volvo B10M-60 G107HNG. It was acquired new in August 1989 becoming their 107 and is seen at Market Gates on 21st February on an ASDA shuttle service


Thursday 21 May 2020

First Great Yamouth Update

The latest news from First's Caister Road depot includes the appearance of yet another Ipswich Reds TransBus bodied Volvo B7TL in the workshop. This time it is AU53HJY's engine receiving attention.

Dart SLF 42956 WX06OMO has also recently moved into the works after being in the rear yard since mid March. It developed an electrical fault whilst in use in Lowestoft and was towed to Caister Road earlier in the month

Work on replacing the rear axle of Gemini 37572 AU58ECW has been completed and the vehicle is awaiting collection by First Norwich

Two more buses recently departed for Ensign are Darts 42484/5 SN03WLW/WMX. They had arrived from First Essex in October 2019 to provide assistance for the traditional increase in Bernard Matthews contract work in the lead up to Christmas last year.

Their departure leaves only three withdrawn vehicles in the rear yard - Ipswich accident victim 32494 AU53HKM and long withdrawn 30886 W741DWX and 66341 MV02VCT

My thanks to First for the initial photo and information


Wednesday 20 May 2020

Lowestoft Yesterday

With the car in for its long delayed service, I had a few hours kicking around in sunny Lowestoft during yesterday morning.

With the garage in close proximity to First's Gas Works Road depot, I had my first opportunity to witness events there since lockdown. There were many buses to be seen and the site was a scene of intense activity with many vehicles being worked on. The initial photo show the south side of the depot with varying bus types present.

The second shows two Great Yarmouth stalwarts guarding the entrance to the depot in the form of Volvo B7TLs 30959 YJ51RCO and 32206 LT52WTM - the latter a Plaxton President the former an Alexander ALX400 version.

A recent chat with a First Great Yarmouth contact suggests that the 51 plated versions still have many more days of use left in them and two other examples (30960/1 YJ41RDU/V) were observed in the side yard with the photo taken from over the top of the fence!

After taking many photos I made my way to the bus station on Gordon Road with the workings dominated by current and former Excel vehicles interspersed with a few Darts and the odd StreetLite. The fourth photo illustrates that point with Scania 36910 YN69XZP heading for Great Yarmouth and Norwich on the X1, though incorrectly showing X11!

The more observant amongst you will have noticed the decker to the left of the photo - it was Gemini bodied Volvo B9TL 36215 BJ12VWX which recently returned to use at Lowestoft after some attention at Great Yarmouth. It spent most of the time laying over whilst I was there and when it did move it wasn't in public service

The StreetLite mentioned was First Great Yarmouth's 47502 SN62CPV which was employed on 101  to Hollow Grove and 122 Oulton services during the morning

My last picture shows another Excel Scania - this time 36916 YN69XZW on Gordon Road on the X1 to Great Yarmouth. Finally, my thanks to the many drivers for their friendly waves.


Service Alterations Registered ~ 20th May 2020

There were no changes to local bus services included in today’s Notices and Proceedings Report published by the East of England Traffic Commissioner. The full report will be available to view here soon.


Monday 18 May 2020

New Arrival at PTS Group

On Saturday Norfolk independent PTS Group received an addition to the fleet at their Hoveton depot.

It was a Van Hool bodied DAF SB3000 which was new to Paul S Winson of Loughborough, Leicestershire in August 1995. The operator is to retain its cherished plate of N3PSW

My thanks to Mathew Wright for the photo and information


Sunday 17 May 2020

Unusual Rail Replacement Bus

This weekend saw rail replacement services in operation on the East Suffolk line due to signalling equipment renewal.

One of the results of this was the appearance of an Ipswich Buses saloon at Lowestoft Station earlier this evening. The interloper was Mercedes Benz Citaro 154 BF65HVU reports Andy Swan. He also provides a photo of it with Felixstowe Travel's Volvo B8RLE M80FXO sitting outside the station

My thanks to Andy for the report and photo


Friday 15 May 2020

32059 Returns

Great Yarmouth heritage liveried Volvo B7TL 32059 W219XBD has returned to active duties at Caister Road. The double decker is the only survivor of the seven acquired from Leicester CityBus during 2014.

My thanks to First for the information and photo.


Flashback Friday ~ January 2007

We move on a couple of months from last weeks Flashback Friday to January 2007 and some interesting highlights

We start with long disappeared local operator Swift Taxis which used a yard on Southtown Road to stable their coaches and buses in between duties. This photo shows Volvo B10M-62 117 M735KJU and BMC Falcon 110 BX55OFN parked under the canopies of a garage that previously occupied the site. The former was new to Monetgrange of Nottingham (Dunn-Line) in March 1995 and later passed to GHA Coaches of Corwen. The latter was purchased new by the operator in February 2006 and ran the last operated 206 service from Great Yarmouth to Blofield in December 2012 (Last 206 - 19th December 2012)

Next up is a picture of two First Eastern Counties vehicles at Market Gates in Great Yarmouth. Volvo B7TL 32483 AU53HKA, in blue Norwich Park & Ride livery, works a southbound 1 service to Lowestoft whilst Volvo B12M-62 20507 AO02RCY takes on passengers for the X1 service to Peterborough

The 13th of January saw a visit to Ipswich where I found this trio of vehicles laying over at the Old Cattle Market Bus Station. On the left is Carters' P693RWU whilst on the right is Beestons' Mercedes Benz Vario O814 KV51KZF. Providing the filling in the sandwich is Beestons' Plaxton Pointer Dart EIG1355 which was sold on during Spring 2009. P693RWU was new to Armchair of Brentford in May 1997 whilst the Vario began its career with Central Parking of Heathrow in November 2001

Whilst in Ipswich that day I looked in the rear yard of First's Star Lane depot and found driver trainer 62705 G105HNP present. The Leyland Lynx arrived at First Eastern Counties from First Wyvern having been new to Midland Red West in April 1990. Noted to the left of the photo is 48092 M592ANG which has seen better days. Its final journey to Barnsley dealers PVS was not too far off.

The penultimate picture is of Amza Travel's Dennis Javelin R334RCJ awaiting its next duty at Market Gates. It was was acquired by Swift Taxis in December 2009 following the acquisition of  the South Burlingham based operator. Swift later held an auction in August 2011 with R334RCJ being sold to Tees Valley Coaches. There it received a much needed refresh and had a re-body and repaint which meant it finally lost the mountains logo which had been applied since new with Whittle in 1997. Unfortunately in December 2012 Tees Valley went into administration and R334RCJ was later found in Wales with Wilkins Coaches.

The final photo is of First Eastern Counties Volvo B6 48014 L104WYS picking up passengers at Market Gates for a Barrack Estate service. New to First Glasgow (Kelvin Central) in March 1994 it subsequently moved to First Eastern Counties before making its last journey to Carlton dealer Wigley in September 2007


Thursday 14 May 2020

Konnectbus Latest Changes

Mark Cockrell has made me aware of forthcoming changes to some services currently provided by Konectbus. Most are the result of the award of new contracts by Norfolk County Council and adversely affect Konectbus routes. The changes take place in two phases -  from 28th June 2020 and from 26th July 2020

Whilst the majority of the alterations will not impact directly on our local services in the east Norfolk/Suffolk area, they are provided here for the sake of completeness.

Route 5A: Blofield Heath - Brundall - Norwich
This is being withdrawn from 29th June 2020 with a revised 5C being introduced by First serving Pilson Green, South Walsham, Panxworth and Blofield Heath. Blofield and Brundall will be covered by First's service 16.

Route 7: Toftwood - Dereham - Costessey P&R (for Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital)
Due to low demand, this route is being withdrawn from Monday 29th June 2020.

Route 33: Harvey Lane - Norwich
Route withdrawn from from Monday 29th June 2020 with First's revised route 5C serving Harvey Lane more regularly.

Route 37A: East Harling - Mulbarton - Norwich
This will be operated by Coach Services under Norfolk County Council contract from Sunday 26th July 2020.

Route 50/50A: Mousehold Heath - Norwich - Eaton Park/Cringleford
These routes will be provided by First under contract to Norfolk County Council from 27th July 2020.

Route 521: Airport Park & Ride - University of East Anglia - Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital
This new service was due to commence on 5th April 2020 but was subsequently suspended and now withdrawn until further notice.

The impact of these changes on the Konectbus operation appears to be quite dramatic. However, the operator has been successful in winning new contracts and retaining others - details to follow soon.

My thanks to Mark for the heads up


Wednesday 13 May 2020

Lowestoft StreetLite

With the First Lowestoft depot at Gasworks Road being temporarily closed and all operations presently transferred to Great Yarmouth's Caister Road depot, almost anything could turn up on Lowestoft Town services these days.

This morning two First Great Yarmouth based StreetLites were seen in use in the Suffolk town with Andy Swan capturing 47501 SN64CPU on the 101 route this morning. My thanks to Andy for the report and photo