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xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx June 2009
  Eastern Promise
Eastern Counties are a poor relation in the First Group empire.   Cast-offs and battered old buses are the order of the day.   A visit to Lowestoft is like participating in an edition of Antiques Roadshow.   The First finery includes an ex-Hong Kong tri-axle (above), an Olympian that started life with London Buslines in the middle of the last century (above left) and a miraculous Northern Counties bodied Olympian (middle left) that was one of the first new purchases by Bee Line in Berkshire.   However this does not entirely reflect life in East Anglia these days, as First has invested in 17 new Wright bodied Volvos to updated the X1 Peterborough to Lowestoft service.   This service started in the early 1990's on an infrequent basis but as with many other rural routes, passenger numbers have increased due to free pensioner bus passes.   The best places to see the route are the towns and villages served in the mid-section such as Kings Lynn (left and below left), East Dereham (below middle) and Swaffham (below right).  The Barbie boys do believe in Eastern Promise after all.


xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx All Lowestoft photos taken in July 2008 and X1 photos in April 2009.   Click to enlarge.

  Photo Facts (Anti-clockwise from Top Right)
  • First imported 10 tri-axle Alexander bodied Olympians from their Hong Kong subsidiary in 2000.   They started life in Glasgow but have migrated south to East Anglia, where 30097 (K481EUX) was photographed at the temporary bus station in Lowestoft in July 2008.
  • First still operate many vehicles inherited from their predecessors such as 34876 (F176LBL), a Northern Counties bodied Olympian seen in Lowestoft in July 2008.   This bus was ordered by Bee Line in Berkshire in 1988, and was one of the few new vehicles bought by this operator before it was absorbed into the First empire.
  • In the 1980's after de-regulation lots of smaller operators gained routes in the London tender process.   One such was Len Wright who under the name of London Buslines bought 10 Alexander bodied Olympians for the Hounslow area.   Subsequently this company was bought by Centrewest who in turn were swallowed up by First.   This goes some way to explain why 20 year old 34950 (G50XLO) can still be found performing duties in Lowestoft in July 2008.
  • Kings Lynn is the halfway point of the trunk First Eastern Counties X1 route from Peterborough to Lowestoft via Norwich.   It may have narrow streets and a notorious one-way system that even confuses satnav's, but its bus station is uncompromising bricks and concrete.   First Eastern Counties 37576 (AU58EDC), a Wright bodied Volvo, is seen there during a driver change-over in April 2009.
  • Passing Kings Lynn railway station is 37564 (AU58ECC) in April 2009.
  • East Dereham lies between Kings Lynn and Norwich and is a typical rural East Anglian village.   37570 (AU58ECT) is seen heading for Lowestoft on a hot lunchtime in April 2009.
  • Also in East Dereham but heading in the opposite direction to Peterborough is 37568 (AU58ECJ) in April 2009.
  • Swaffham on the other hand is a lively market town, where a well loaded 37576 (AU58EDC) can be seen speeding off on a morning journey to Peterborough in April 2009.

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