|a side view showing the route branding above the windows|
|First's new Network Norwich logo on the front of the bus|
It's unlikely that anyone reading this was unaware of First's new Charcoal Line service which started today. The 40 operates between St Stephen's Street in Norwich to Upgate in Poringland at a frequency of every thirty minutes throughout the day using two ex-Ipswich Enviro200s in the form of 44517 YX09ACY and 44518 YX09ACZ. They are the first two vehicles to wear a brand new style of branding for First in Norwich, which will eventually be rolled out across the whole fleet, according to First Eastern Counties Buses Blog, with the Pink Line StreetDecks next in line. The main difference between the old and new branding is the lack of greyscale 'NORWICH' vinyl with the landmarks of the city inside the letters. The word 'network' now appears above the white 'Norwich' vinyl which sits above the doors, drivers window and on the front of the bus whereas on the old branding it was just the word Norwich in all capital letters. The two Charcoal buses also feature the words "Charcoal Line" with the route number and destinations clearly displayed above the windows. All of these vinyls go towards the end result of a smart and modern looking bus, which also boasts leather seats and free WiFi.
|44518 outside Poringland church|
After I'd finished photogaphing the two buses, I rode on 44517 up to Norwich and 44518 back. Loadings were healthy for the first day and passengers seemed pleased that First were back in the area, having previously operated route 58 before Anglian took it over as the 588. One man offered his congratulations at the driver whilst another passenger explained to his children that the bus wasn't yellow because it was a First bus. 44517 was a bit vibraty (if that's even a word) when we were stopped at traffic lights but the rest of the journey was smooth however 44518 definitely gave the better of rides. First have also made use of the interior space with posters and adverts about the new Charcoal Line stretching from front to back above passengers heads, with information about the other colours they can catch once they reach Norwich, and how much tickets cost.
In response to Firsts sudden presence in the area, Anglian have reinstated their ten-trip tickets between Poringland and Norwich only, and have increased the amount of posters and adverts on their website and social media about their 87/88/X88 services but the general consensus amongst enthusiasts and professionals alike is that it may not be enough.