Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Norfolk Coasthopper update

It was back in 1996 that the then Norfolk Green bus company based in King's Lynn, renamed the coastal route from King's Lynn to Cromer as the 'Coasthopper'. A fleet of small Mercedes-Benz midibuses were introduced and ran the service via Hunstanton, Burnham Market, Wells-next-the-Sea, Blakeney, Weybourne and Sheringham.

With route number 36 displayed, one the midibuses prepared to depart from King's Lynn bus station in the early days of the service.

The route was later given a makeover in the late 2000s with the addition some new 09-registered Optare Solos were introduced. At the same time a bright new blue, green and yellow livery that reflected the areas through which the route ran was applied to the buses.

One of the 2009 Optare Solos 47906 passed the RSPB reserve between Cley-next-the-Sea and Salthouse in early May 2016 on the eastern section of the route bound for Cromer. The type of electronic blind display used made it awkward to read clearly the destination when on the move. Note the message below the windscreen, it read "Tony, Tom & Bob too.....", a nod to three of the regular drivers who began on the route back in 1996. Most of the Norfolk Green fleet bore similar messages in recognition of local heroes and villains throughout the North Norfolk area. Stagecoach appear to have discontinued this nice little bit of local history.

Positive marketing of the route saw passenger numbers grow especially during the summer seasonal months, whereby many buses carried standing loads at times and required larger single-decks be employed to ease these loadings.

One or two larger buses received the Coasthopper livery one being fleet number 131 an Irisbus Agoralines illustrated here at King's Lynn bus station in July 2012, as a healthy loading of shoppers and holidaymakers boarded bound for Hunstanton.

In recent years Norfolk Green was taken over by Stagecoach who retained this popular route and have indeed raised the profile by the introduction of a fleet of sixteen brand new single-deck buses during 2016. These came in two batches, the first of nine ADL E20D Enviro200 MMCs took up service in May, followed by six Optare Solo SRs in late September early October. The former are fleet numbers 37431-37439 (SN16 OPV/W/X/Z, ORC/F/G/H/J), the latter 48031-48036 (YJ66 ARZ, ASO/U/V/X/Z), most based in King's Lynn, but a small number work from an outstation at Egmore between Fakenham and Wells-next-the-Sea.
At the same time the buses were treated to a bright stunning Stenning livery, that is Ray Stenning of Best Impressions, and they certainly do just that, by portraying a good impression through the countryside. Clear blinds are used that show the route number as 'CH'.

The nine new ADL E20D Enviro200 MMCs were introduced onto the route during early May and fleet number 37435 sprakled in the spring sunshine as it headed east towards Wells near to the Overy Marshes on a morning journey.

Later the same day and during the afternoon, number 37436 was bound for Hunstanton at the same location.

The rear offside aspect on number 37436 as it headed towards Burnham Overy Staithe.

However, between the arrival of the ADLs and the Optare Solos there were frequent appearances of larger single-decks over the whole route including the more trickey and narrower eastern section between Wells-next-the-Sea and Cromer. Instances such as Optare Tempo 25122 (upper) as it departed from Cromer and Optare Versa 25248 (lower) as it passed by the RSPB reserves to the east of Cley-next-the-Sea, both in the nationwide corporate Stagecoach livery.

But in late September the six new Optare Solo SRs were taken into the fleet and by early October all were placed into service.

Fleet number 48033 passed by one of the many windmills scattered throughout East Anglia, this one at the east end of the delightful village of Weybourne.

Solo SR 48034 illustrated the nearside as it departed to Wells-next-the-Sea from the western edge of Cromer at the eastern end of the route.

The offside rear aspect is illustrated as 48032 glided through the meandering bends of the coastal A149 road at Cley-next-the-Sea and although in bright sunshine, threatening skies ahead was a portent to inclement weather.

And finally. All the buses sport the new livery to complement the sea, the sands and the land, plus each featured the main elements of the route on the rear panel.