Network Norwich Charcoal Line

Today, as I'm sure you are a little bored of being reminded, was the first day of operation for First's new Charcoal Line service 40 to Poringland. The new service operates every 30 minutes, and offers a more direct bus service to Poringland than the Anglianbus 87, which it competes with.

Although many consider the service to be 'new', First are no strangers to Poringland. In the 2000's, services 58 and 58A provided four buses an hour through the village. Service 58 continued through to Bungay, whilst the 58A terminated here after operating via Stoke Holy Cross - just like the Anglian 87 does today. In 2003, Anglian launched their first commercial service 588, which operated the same route as First's 58 at the time, although continuing to Halesworth after Bungay. Anglian introduced the 587 a little later to compete with the 58A. In April 2009 First abandoned these routes leaving Anglian as the only regular operator through the village, which remained much the same until today.

According to, "on the 25th April 2009, the 58A was the last 'First' bus from Poringland at 1744 hrs. It then became the last 58 to Bungay from the City at 1815, but it actually ran as an 11B, which was the original route number for the service. The driver was David Burdett, a regular Bungay route driver at one time. The bus is a Dennis Dart with a Plaxton Pointer body, fleet number 43446 P446NEX."  A side note reads "David actually got the company to change the bus to this one, as it had a roller blind; the vehicle originally on the service had a computerised screen which couldn't have been flagged up as an 11B".

First's service today is far more appealing to passengers, with the two specially branded 'Charcoal Line' buses boasting free wi-fi, leather seating and air conditioning - a luxury compared to the Scania's and Dart's which were regulars on the route before. The pair are Ipswich exiles, originally new to First Essex, and are 44517 YX09ACY and 44518 YX09ACZ. Both vehicles wear unique rear adverts specifically for service 40. Their sister 44519 YX09ADO is currently on loan to First's Lowestoft operation, where it also wears a charcoal grey front as evidence of it's previous life in Ipswich. Those interested in operational details should note that the route has a PVR of just two buses. (Photo of 44519 courtesy of Grahame Bessey).

Along with the new 'line', a new identity has been created for First's Norwich operations. Previously the 'Norwich Overground' and 'Norwich Network', a new 'Network Norwich' logo was revealed this morning, and Marketing Manager David Jordan is expecting it be rolled out across the fleet over time. However, he suggested that it would be impractical to roll out route-specific branding across the entire coloured fleet; groups of services such as the Purple Line offer far too many destinations to list on the limited space available above the windows of a B7RLE, or between decks on a President.

For now, it looks like we can expect the 'Network Norwich' identity to appear on the new Pink Line buses next, and after that only time will tell what the rest of the fleet will look like.

Also of note to some will be that the Streetdecks which had been delivered last week - 35193/4/6 - are away on loan to the Bristol/Bath area for Rail Replacement, meaning this Friday's launch event for the new buses is likely to be postponed.
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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:
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  1. What is the evening and Sunday frequency of the new service?

    1. After 6 and on Sundays there is no operation on service 40.