Today is the day! Summer is here. And this is proved by the start of FirstGreat Yarmouth's summer service 3 which operates between Vauxhall Holiday Park, the town center and Hemsby beach, now via the rail station. The link to the train station has been received positively by the general public, but it reminded me of an article in the most recent addition of Buses Magazine. On the inside cover, it features a photograph of ex-Leicester 32061 W221XBD with her rear wrap advert for Wilco. The article goes on to talk about advertising on buses and how by advertising cheap car servicing and parts, it draws customers away from bus travel. I feel this may be what will happen this summer; with Abellio Greater Anglia's logo on the front of the timetable and bus times to interlink with trains to Norwich, isn't that just encouraging passengers not to use First's X1?
Anyway, I decided to travel to the coast today to photograph the first vehicles to operate the 3 this year. I positioned myself on Trafalgar Road, with St George's Park as a back drop. With the sun positioned in exactly the right place, I eagerly awaited the first bus to pass.
My wait was rewarded with the glorious sight of 33423 SN60CAA cruising towards me. Some may disagree with me here, but I would much rather ride this beauty than a Routemaster!
Between today and the 26th July, the service operates once an hour and therefore only uses two buses. This frequency is increased for the summer season to every half an hour between the 28th July and the 30th August, before returning to hourly from the 1st September until the 20th.
I wanted something a bit different for the second photo, so decided to head down to the sea front via Beach Coach Station. There were only three coaches present as it was quite early in the morning, but nothing noteworthy was there. So after a quick stop at a newsagents for some mango juice and a brisk walk to Britannia Pier, I positioned myself ready for the next bus. A couple of minutes later I noted the recognisable curve of a Gemini roof coming down the road.
37579 AU58EDK in full sunlight heading towards Vauxhall Holiday Park
With both workings now caught on camera I had completed my work for the morning so I jumped on the X1 and headed to Lowestoft to see the first day of operation for the 99. Looking at the timetable, I assumed that one bus would operate the route with a fifteen minute break at the bus station. I also assumed that it would be decker operated and was hoping I would see 37562 FJ08FYN which was due to have her Great Yarmouth vinyls replaced with Lowestoft ones today, along with 42358 EY05FYP.
From what I saw today of the service, First were having a difficult day. It turns out that the 99 is interlinked on a Sunday with the other town routes and because of some delays, the 1200 service departed seven minutes late, with just one passenger (me) on board. The bus had just come off the 123 and was 43866 EG52FGV.
I travelled all the way to Africa Alive and was hoping to get off for a photo but as we were running late I decided not to bother the driver. I got chatting with him a bit further down the road and he explained that the 46 minute round trip doesn't give much leeway for delays. I had to agree, as I was the only passenger for the whole trip which meant we made no stops at all, yet still arrived back in Lowestoft a few minutes late. When I asked him about usage, he said that it's been rather quiet today, but as its a new service that can be expected. I don't think a double decker will be needed for a few months yet, though we'll wait and see what is used on Tuesday. Also noted was 44513 DK57SXG.
These small delays may not seem enough to call it a bad day, but there were also delays on the X2 in the afternoon. I boarded 37570 AU58ECT at 1320 to head back to Norwich and sat at the front on the top deck in case 37562 came passed the other way. Three buses are used on the service on Sundays at an hourly rate, so you can expect to pass one every half an hour en route. After looking at the timetable I expected to see it come the other way in North Cove. It wasn't until Loddon when an X2 passed us, at the time that it was supposed to be heading back towards Norwich from Lowestoft. The second was scheduled to come past at around the same time so I thought it might be that one, but that theory was swiftly blown away when ten seconds later another X2 followed suit. It's not often you see two X2s following each other during the week, let alone a Sunday!
A day of ups and downs but these things happen and I'm sure First did their best to rectify the situation this afternoon. I'll be back in Lowestoft Tuesday afternoon to see the first full 20 minute frequency operation of the 99 and will report back here with some photos! Finally, keep an eye out for part two of Spotted! Colchester and a short report about a reader's visit to Konectbus in March.