Bumper Special: Reliable, friendly, local red buses for West Norfolk

Lynx is a West Norfolk based independent bus company which began running buses in January 2015. Now, a little over 12 months into operation, Norwich Buses Blog looks back at the company's highlights from the business' first year.
The smart company logo seen on the side of a Tempo, with 30 P330RVG in the background
Lynx's first route started on Monday 26th January 2015, although preparation for service began much earlier, when the company's directors purchased 12m Optare Tempo YJ55BJE in May 2014. At the time, there was no guarantee that the company would operate buses, but if need-be the Tempo could always have been sold on. Two months later, a second Tempo was purchased, this being a rare 10.6m example, YJ05JWZ. This was notably pictured new as YJ54BTZ, one of two Tempo demonstrators when the model was launched as a replacement for the Excel in 2005. The decision was made to launch a new bus company in summer 2014, and having already collected two Tempos, bosses decided to keep with the type and approach Marchants Coaches for the purchase of YJ55BKK/U, as well as a further pair which will enter the picture later on. Towards the end of 2014, a further vehicle was acquired in P330RVG, a former Eastern Counties Volvo B10M coach, which was new to Eastern Counties' King's Lynn depot for use on the Excel network, including the predecessor to the X1, the X94.
Short wheelbase Tempo 1 YJ05JWZ seen before repaint, next to Julian and Andy's own Leyland National
Photo: Copyright (C) Julian Patterson
With a depot sourced, buses bought, and a route planned, all that was needed to do was produce and apply the brand to the fleet. Speaking to editor Sam Larke in February 2016, company director Julian Patterson recalled considering a number of livery designs with swirls, swoops and stripes, but in the end it was decided that to use just one colour would be far more striking in terms of standing out against other buses in the area. Julian wanted the fleet to wear a bright shade of red, and with director Andy Warnes being a fan of Volkswagen cars, it was decided to use Volkswagens 'mars red' colour. The buses were painted at Full Circle in Banham, and the logos etc were designed and applied by Nervous Graphics, whose previous clients included Konectbus, Norse and Norfolk Green. The Tempos were allocated fleet numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5, with numbers 3 and 6 reserved for two planned acquisitions.
30 P330RVG and one of the former Marchants Tempos seen at Full Circle in Banham, where buses are painted.
Photo: Copyright (C) Julian Patterson
In January, the company began a service operating hourly between King's Lynn and Hunstanton via Dersingham, Snettisham and Heacham. It was given service number 35, which was the number that Eastern Counties used to operate along the same corridor until the mid-1970s. Competing with Stagecoach Norfolk Green on a corridor which already had three well-established bus routes along it at the time did not seem to be too much too soon for Lynx, who acquired two more Tempos from Marchants (YJ55BKG/V) and also increased the frequency of the service from hourly to half-hourly in May. Earlier planning had meant that these Tempos could take fleet numbers 3 and 6, which had been reserved for the pair in January to allow the first few members of the fleet to be numbered in alphabetical order.

Following this success, it was no surprise when, in the autumn of 2015, it was confirmed that Lynx had won the Norfolk County Council tender to operate the 'Coasthopper' service through the winter timetable period, after Stagecoach had decided it would not be commercially viable to operate it. Although I could attempt to describe the consequent events, this description from Flickr's Return2LayerRoad sums it up perfectly: "It seems that little regard has been paid to the requirements of the travelling public, but it would take too long to explain all of the intrigue which has surrounded the implementation of the Coasthopper Winter 2015/6 timetable as from today Monday 12th October. However, it would be fair to say that Lynx have been let down by the regulatory system in that they were awarded the winter period contract by NCC and took on additional staff and vehicles, only to find that Stagecoach could suddenly operate the route commercially using several buses when they had previously suggested they needed a subsidy from NCC to operate one." 
Lynx 7 YJ58CEY in the dark blue base colour of its former owner at Burnham Market
Photo: Copyright (C) Kieran Smith
Lynx operated the Coasthopper as service 36, from October 12th to 20th November, using predominantly four short Tempos which were bought from Diamond Buses specifically for use on the service. These were 7-10 YJ58CEY, PF10MDX/Y,MHM which, because of the short amount of time Lynx had to prepare the buses, adorned Coasthopper logos (a trademark of Norfolk County Council) on the base colour of their former owner's livery. Speaking to Julian on Saturday, I learnt that actually neither number 9 or 10 made appearances on the Coasthopper route, because there were enough surplus red Tempos to mean only two of the blue ones needed to see use.

History lesson over, we come to Saturday 13th February 2016. After an invite from Lynx, I headed over to King's Lynn for what I thought would be a depot tour from Julian. I arrived at the town's bus station bang on half-ten, where I was greeted by Julian, who then drove me the short distance to the depot, which is a small area of land rented at the end of a yard owned by a local haulage firm. Seven vehicles were present in total, with the other five out in service on the 35. Julian very kindly moved 5 YJ55BKU forwards to enable me to take a closer look at, and photograph, the other buses present in the yard. Of immediate interest were the company's two coaches. As already mentioned, 30 P330RVG once operated with First Eastern Counties. The other, 31 N175LHU, has been with Lynx for nearly a year, and although I am told it will be repainted into the company's livery as soon as time permits, I admit that the recent application of a logo vinyl on the front does make it's current condition seem more permanent.
Lynx's two B10M coaches; VanHool 31 N175LHU and Plaxton 30 P330RVG
Also of interest were two of the former Diamond Tempos; 8 and 10 were both noted in the yard. Since last photographed, 7 has moved to a secure, off-site location to make more room in the yard, 8 has had a Lynx vinyl applied to the front of the vehicle, 9 has entered service in Lynx livery and 10 has had a small number of parts removed in preparation for repaint, as I believe it is the next in line to receive the Lynx livery.
Lynx 8 PF10MDX now wears a company logo on the front
With everything in the yard on camera, I was then shown around the inside of the garage itself, where a bus very close to many of our hearts was residing. Former Konectbus 152 UFX852S was, to my knowledge, the last original (not including Greenway rebuilds) Leyland National to be used regularly in public service when it left the fleet in May 2014. It is currently being extensively refurbished, and will eventually wear the Lynx livery for use on school work and contracts (and maybe the occasional bit of last-resort service work). Since last photographed in December, time has not allowed much progress to be made, but I can bring you my own photos of the bus since it left Konect for the first time.
Lynx UFX852S
Lynx UFX852S
With depot tour complete, and with a handful of Lynx freebies, I was more than happy with the results of my morning. I did not expect Julian to hand me a Lynx day ticket, offer to drive me all the way to Hunstanton and even stop at points along the route so that I could photograph his buses in more interesting settings than town centres and bus stations! Along the way we enjoyed a chat about the ever changing bus scene in the region, and talked about some of the career paths I could take and opportunities that may come my way as I try to enter the bus industry when I leave school in 2019 (I know!). Our first stop for a photo was, I think, in Dersingham, although I might be completely wrong. At exactly the moment I was told to expect it, 1 YJ05JWZ passed me on it's way back to Lynn.
1 YJ05JWZ pictured in Dersingham... at least I think!
Our next stop was in Heacham, where again, bang on time, 3 YJ55BKG turned up on a Lynn-bound service. In fact, every Lynx bus I saw and rode on Saturday was spot on for timekeeping - I would comfortably have set my watch by them, if I had one. 
Lynx 3 YJ55BKG at Heacham
We then completed the journey to Hunstanton; along the way I was shown the route of the new 36 (Lynn-Hunstanton fast), which I will definitely be riding in the next school-holidays. I completed the journey back to King's Lynn on short-wheelbase 9, which gave a smooth ride and was definitely more comfortable than a Solo or Streetlite of a similar length. All in all I really enjoyed my day with Lynx, I felt really welcome both at the depot, with Julian, and also photographing the buses; all bar one of the drivers gave me a friendly smile and a wave (the other gave a thumbs up!). I've also enjoyed writing this report, and it's not often I put so much effort into a piece of writing, but I feel it reflects the effort that Lynx clearly put into doing what they do - and they seem to be getting it right so far! I wish Lynx all the best of luck with the new 36 and I can't wait to get back up to Lynn again in the near future to snap a few more interesting shots, and meet a few more of the friendly faces behind the wheels of the reliable, friendly, local red buses in West Norfolk.

Thanks to Julian Patterson for kindly allowing me to use some of his photos on Norwich Buses Blog, I'll leave you with just one more, taken on the night that Lynx provided free buses home to various King's Lynn estates for 'Festival Too!' goers.
Lynx 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 at King's Lynn bus station
Photo: Copyright (C) Julian Patterson 

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About Sam Larke

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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2 comments :

  1. Excellent post, and Lynx have always seemed very enthusiast friendly. A breath of fresh air in West Norfolk (as if the North Sea doesn't provide enough) to go with Borderbus in East Suffolk.

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    1. Thanks Steve. I understand the metaphor but it was more than fresh air in 'sunny Hunny' - it was bloody freezing!

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