First day of new Norwich Park and Ride

It was a busy but extremely smooth running first day for the new
Norwich Park and Ride operation.
Today was the day we've all been waiting for since Norwich Buses Blog revealed that Konectbus had won the contract to operate services from all six Norwich Park and Ride sites. Since that day, the blog has kept you up-to-date on all things new which has lead to a bit of excitement about the first day of operation.

I headed out for the day on on the brand new buses, and small handful of existing fleet numbers, to test out and catch on camera the first day's working. From my first sighting of one of the buses on the road I was stunned, they look fantastic from the outside and are a definite improvement on what was previously working the services. My first journey was to Sprowston site on the 502, worked by 624 SN65OAC. Instantly I was impressed - by the inside just as much as I was by the outside - they are certainly the best Alexander Dennis Enviro400s I have been on when new. Seating is perfect with firm but very comfortable Esteban Civic seating, complete with smart leather headrests.

The excellent new next stop screens in action, and all working
perfectly from my experiences today.
The new buses have next stop audio announcements, again the best I have experienced yet. Unlike most of the voices I have heard, the Konectbus Park and Ride buses use a clear and well spoken female voice rather than the ubiquitous male voice, also present on Apple's "Siri" technology. They work perfectly too, announcing the stop one hundred yards beforehand and re-announcing it once the bus pulls into the stop itself. The announcement system is integrated with two screens, one on the upper deck and one in the lower saloon, with a handy basic route map, the screens are integrated with the push bells and display a red banner announcing the vehicle will come to a stop. Again, the screens work perfectly and update appropriately. On all the journeys I made during the day, the GPS controlled system never once confused itself at tight bends, one way systems or roundabouts.

Konectbus had an eye for perfection today. Attendants were on hand at the bus station, drivers were geared up with information and a McKenna Brothers (The destination display suppliers) support van and staff member was present to lend a hand using the new and much more complex control screens. As seen in the photographs through this report, the eighteen brand new buses are fitted with a separate route number display, produced by Brightec, which allows colour branding to be used. The main city Park and Ride services take advantage of this, with Postwick displaying red, Thickthorn and Airport displaying pink and Harford and Sprowston displaying blue.

Working lunchtime reliefs on the 510/511 was 623 SN65OAB.
I next headed to the Norfolk and Norwich hospital to pay a look in to non-city services 510 (Costessey Park and Ride to the hospital) and 511 (Costessey Park and Ride to University of East Anglia). Research from Konectbus proved that Costessey Park and Ride was used predominantly by passengers for Norwich Research Park and the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and the University of East Anglia. As a result, this lead to the decision being made to use Costessey as a feeder site between the two. New services 510 and 511 are interworked, with buses alternating between the two. Today's working were undertaken by Mercedes Benz Citaro 800 BD57WDA and a standard Konectbus liveried sister - further 623 SN65OAB was used on the lunch time reliefs of the 510 and 511, which I took a ride on from the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital to Costessey. Special fares apply on the 510 and 511, charged at £1 for a single or £1 for a return after 09:30, excluding UEA pass holders who pay £1 for a return all day. Concession passes are accepted on these two services for free travel, and the Norfolk and Waveney NHS trust funds free staff travel for those with a valid identification badge for the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

636 SN65OAV at Norwich Airport Park and Ride terminus.
Returning back into Norwich, I headed for Norwich Airport on the 501 - very much the flagship of the new Park and Ride network with the most frequent service at the two most popular sites. Work at the terminal building, as with many of the others, is currently underway to re-open the undercover waiting areas and toilet facilities. This leg of the day was  636 SN65OAV. At the Airport site, two buses are parked up - 627 SN65OAG and 622 SN65OAA were both on the scene during my visit. There are number of interworkings between each park and ride service, some of which are very clever and well thought through by Konectbus.

It is worth noting that, despite some disbelief from my original report, Konectbus now own the lease on the sites and Norwich Bus Station - with relevant staff now transferring over to Konectbus. Fifteen former Norse drivers now make up part of the thirty-eight strong team of drivers on the Park and Ride service. In more numbers, Konectbus have spent a grand total of £3.3 million on the fleet of eighteen brand new buses - not including the four which are repainted. I would personally class the operation as one of the biggest moves from a local operator in at least a decade.

638 SN65OAX picked up the day's workings on the 512 today.
During the day, I managed to photograph each and every route - see more photographs over on Flickr. The finalé of photographs was on a small adventure over to County Hall to see a departure on service 512. The bus working the service today was 638 SN65OAX, which - due to the aforementioned handy interworkings - spent the middle chuck of its day in use on service 503. The 512 replaces First service 600, which was contracted to be operated from Norfolk County Council.

An excellent day I have indeed, and unfortunately one I will be unable to replicate for many years to come. Konectbus can only be credited for the hard work they have put in to make today's operation so successful. Special mentions must go to David Jordan, Steven Royal and David Smith for their input - as well as all the drivers, controlling staff and office staff who contributed towards the running and formation of the service.

Footnotes: Konectbus liveried 602 SN10CFF was in use on the 501 today. 539 SN65OAY is as yet undelivered and 633 SN65OAP entered service devoid of any fleetnames.


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About Kieran Smith

Norwich Buses Blog was founded in December 2013 by Sam Larke after he left another popular blog, Norwich Bus Page. Since it's launch, the site has grown dramatically, especially whilst written solely by Kieran Smith during 2015. The blog is now in it's third year and we look forward to more success and growth in the future. If you think you'd make a good writer for Norwich Buses Blog, please do get in touch via email: samuel.larke@gmail.com
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