Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Norwich Independents

At Norwich Bus Page, we welcome contributions. These most commonly come in the form of photographs, sightings or other bits and pieces of information. Reader Dave Lawrence has emailed me with a written article which focuses on the independent companies that operate in and around Norwich; so lets forget about First, Anglian and Konect for a while and see what he has to say:

"The amount of independent operators serving Norwich with regular services continues to decline. Besides First providing former Eastern Counties routes, larger local independents Anglian and Konect have been swallowed up by one of the ‘big four’, Go-Ahead. Sanders and Simonds are two of the last remaining larger independents in East Anglia and operate several daily services into Norwich, whilst Norfolk Green has recently been sold to Stagecoach. This leaves literally a handful of traditional operators serving our City. Eagles of Castle Acre visit Norwich once a week on Wednesdays with route 51 from Downham Market and Swaffham, with the service being operated by one of their 11 coaches, between school runs - the operator doesn’t own any service buses. Semmence of Wymondham, owned by Ambassador Travel of Great Yarmouth, run the 10A Mondays to Fridays from East Harling into Norwich twice a day, using either a Volvo coach (to coincide with Norwich City College start/finish times) or a Mercedes-Benz minibus (which are also used on local routes around Wymondham). Semmence also run service 15 from Shipdham on Wednesdays, using a coach. Most vehicles in the Semmence fleet are in a plain white livery.
Semmence & Co. 754 SF53KUV working the 10A to East Harling
 However, we are lucky to still be served by a few well-respected family firms.

Carters of Litcham, established by Gordon and Bessie Carter in 1928, will be a regular sight to visitors of the City on Wednesdays, as their immaculate two-tone green coaches arrive at around 1030, one on route 8 from Litcham, Beetley and Dereham, and the other on route 9 from Tittleshall (home of one of my other favourites, Peelings). You will often find two Mercedes midi-coaches on the two routes, but sometimes a full size Volvo will operate. Carters now run around 11 coaches, mostly on school contracts and private hire work, but provide these Market Day services between school runs (a favourite way of operation for traditional country operators), with three others running to Dereham each week. The company is currently run by father and son team Keith and Graham Carter and still runs from the original premises in Litcham. 

Eastons of Stratton Strawless, established by Alfred Easton in 1953, provide a service into Norwich from Swannington, Reepham and Cawston, Mondays to Saturdays, route 25. A modern Scania OmniLink single decker is used for this (purchased from Beestons and is in a metallic blue livery), supplemented by a Van Hool bodied DAF from the late 1980s (in Eastons old livery of white with orange, red and yellow stripes) at times. The company has moved away from local bus services and school contracts in recent years, to the more lucrative coach holiday market, using a fleet of modern Bova and Volvo coaches in a smart purple livery. Interestingly, a small Albion coach dating from 1952 is available for private hire and is well turned out in a red and cream livery. The company is still owned by the Easton family. However, it has recently been announced that Sanders will commence a new route in February 2014, from Holt to Norwich as the 42, to replace this sole remaining Eastons service. So yet another independent operator will disappear from the local bus scene, but the company will continue to provide luxury coaches for holidays and private hire.

Neaves of Catfield, established by Percy Neave in 1937, currently operate two regular services in Norwich. The 32 operates Mondays to Saturdays between Sprowston, Morrisons Riverside and the City Centre, using an Optare Solo but occasionly a mid-90s Mercedes-Benz minibus. The 36 operates from Happisburgh, Sea Palling, Stalham and Wroxham to Norwich, Mondays to Saturdays, using a Wright Cadet bodied DAF. The current fleet also includes a Mercedes-Benz minicoach and two Plaxton Premiere bodied Volvos on school contracts. The service buses are currently in an overall White livery whilst the coaches are in their former operators colours. An elderly Plaxton Supreme bodied Volvo is stored in the depot. The fleet has slimmed down in the past 15 years through the loss of both stage carriage services and school contracts. I always remember visiting the depot when I was young, to be greeted by a large variety of second hand coaches in their old white, red and grey livery. A few years on, the majority of these were replaced by Leyland National Greenway rebuilds in an overall red livery, which had all left the fleet by the mid-2000s. The late Percy Neave’s daughter Daphne still owns the company."

A big thank you to Dave for taking the time to write and submit this fantastic article. Remember if you have any memories or knowledge of bus services or operators, then don't hesitate to get in contact.

1 comment:

  1. Belle Coaches from Lowestoft operate what they call "Shoppers" into Norwich service 558A Tuesdays only does Lowestoft Beccles to Norwich service 558B Thursdays only is Lound Oulton Beccles to Norwich and 558C Fridays only is Hopton Gunton Beccles to Norwich. All arrive at Ber Street around 11.00am and leave around 4.00pm.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.