Entering service in 2009, Go North East's "Fast Cats" brand promoted the two express services X35/X36. The two services interworked to provide quick links, with service X35 from Hartlepool to Sunderland then continuing as service X36 towards Newcastle.
▸ Livery: the "Fast Cats" livery was basic, comprising the typical characteristics seen on most Go North East brands at the time: a logo, generally centred between the two wheel arches; and route branding, primarily written along both sides of the vehicles' cant rail.
As garish as it was, the brand's pink and luminous green colour palette provided contrast against the jet black base livery that it wore. "Fast Cats" shared this black base colour with the "Loop" brand, which was onto its second livery at the time. The logo was written in a thick outline typeface, whereby the word 'Fast' was presented in a vivid pink colour, and 'Cats' in a luminous lime green. An outline illustration of two cheetahs was fittingly placed next to the logo, with their footprints flowing towards the back of the vehicle. Emphasising the concept of speed, which cheetahs are renowned for, the illustrations and brand's name all conveyed the message to passengers that the routes were of an express standard.
Initially, route branding was applied for both services: X35 along the roadside cant rail and X36 along the kerbside. Later service changes in 2016 saw the X36 become a 'standard' route, resulting in the vinyls for both services being stripped off. While the X35 retained the "Fast Cats" brand in its 'stripped' livery variant, as well as the allocated Wright Solar vehicles, it was renumbered X5 shortly thereafter.
▸ Routes: for the first seven years as an active brand, "Fast Cats" encompassed the two express services X35/X36, until the X36 became a 'standard' route in 2017. Service X35 journeyed between Hartlepool and Sunderland, while the X36 covered Sunderland to Newcastle. Altogether, the two combined travelled a total distance of around 32 miles.
In 2016, service X36 was abruptly removed from the brand to become a 'standard' route. It would later be completely withdrawn, albeit long after the "Fast Cats" brand's discontinuation, leading to only one Go North East route serving between Sunderland and Newcastle: "Fab Fifty Six" service 56, creating competition between them and Stagecoach with its express X24. Service X35 was renumbered to X5 shortly before the brand's withdrawal in order to prepare for the upcoming "Wear Xpress" brand that would replace it.
▸ Discontinuation: early 2017 saw new Wright StreetLite DF/Wright StreetLite Max Micro-Hybrid buses be delivered to upgrade "Durham Diamond" services 16/16A, allowing the brand's formerly used Mercedes Citaro vehicles to be displaced. The Citaros were then sent down to Bus & Coach World, Blackburn for extensive refurbishment ahead of their allocation to the new X5 service that the X35 would be renumbered to. Merged with "Wear Tees Express" service X7, in addition to the newly-introduced X6, the three routes were combined to form the "Wear Xpress" brand in a bid to promote Go North East's direct journeys between Hartlepool and Sunderland. "Fast Cats" was officially discontinued when the Citaros for the X5 returned from refurbishment. The majority of the brand's Wright Solar vehicles were repainted into the 2016 corporate livery, while the rest gained a dark blue base colour for the forthcoming "Blue Arrow" identity for new services 11/11A/11X.
Two drawings can be seen below: 5205 and 5204, depicting the branded variant and 2016 'stripped' variant of "Fast Cats" respectively.
Date last modified: 25th October 2021
▸ "Wear Xpress" — succeeded this brand [coming soon]
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