Well by now Transdev in Harrogate have had some time with the Test Buses, taking them straight into service on the 36 service. Test Bus A arrived in January 2015 fresh from its six month stay in the Republic of Ireland city of Dublin. The Volvo B5TL with the classic Gemini3 front end, was very swift and agile around the more hilly enviros of the route. But the 5.1 litre engine was getting the power from the turbo charger units fitted to the engine, which was ok. But what would happen if these units failed mid service, leaving passengers frustrated on a very slow bus, a few complaints would surely follow.
The Volvo B5TL/Gemini3 combination is also considered to be some 1000kgs lighter, mainly because of shallower upper saloon windows with thin plastic seats provided in this particular vehicle. The engine is also now Euro6 standard, which means its wholly better for the environment with the fitting of both SCR and ERG emission reduction elements. This increases the engine weight, which again is lowered by installing smaller capacity engines, such as the Volvo D5K unit. Using the popular ZF Ecolife 6 speed gearbox provide some very good acceleration and hill climbing power for the B5TL, which came in useful at Harewood bank, Wormold Green and Wikefield bank. The Volvo was overall a swift bus, but the Wrights Gemini3 body is now getting dated, but the square shaped new front end has not proved popular so far. Plus recently Stagecoach have currently in build/on delivery a batch of eighteen Volvo B5TLs with ADL E400MMC bodies, which are heading for Scottish service. So if Transdev favour the Volvo at least it can have the stylish ADL bodywork.
Next to arrive was the fully Go-Ahead spec integral Wrights StreetDeck double deck chassis and bodywork which replaces the VDL SB250LC/Wrights low height combination 2DL vehicle. For this new vehicle Wrights teamed up with Daimler/Mercedes Benz for the engine while Wrights built the chassis and other parts for this new bus. A brand new Gemini3 fronted StreetDeck which was on display at the 2014 Euro Bus Expo in the NEC, Birmingham. Entered service in mid January 2014 for Arriva East Midlands along side new ADL E400s, making a striking difference to the ADL buses.
The example at Harrogate was already prepped for service with Go-Ahead features including cloth covered seats, which were very comfortable, better then the ones on the B5TL. The Mercedes Benz OM934 5.1 litre engine performed well, but the Voith 4 speed DWIA gearbox let the side down, with quick gear changes up and down. Another feature which was unusual is the delay start function on the StreetDeck, where the driver had to wait for the gearbox to select a low gear, so the bus could move off from a stop or after pausing in traffic. Again overall the StreetDeck coped well with the undulating twists & turns of the A61 along the 36 route, along with the hilly sections of the route.
Both the Volvo B5TL and the StreetDeck are well suited to the city/town parts of the 36, they were limited along the interurban/countryside elements of the 36. The B5TL could get up to 50mph, while the StreetDeck managed slightly above 40mph, which is not good on a major service. The only difference to the Gemini front ends are that version 3 has a squat upperdeck windscreen and Day Running Lights under the main set of lights.
Then the third vehicle in the trial/evaluation of the 36 arrived in the shape of the redesigned Enviro 400 built by ADL. Which seemed to draw in more feed back from the drivers and passengers during its stay at Harrogate. Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) took over from the ill-fated Trans-Bus group set up during the early part of the 21st century. Soon ADL began re-building its reputation and the Enviro range of vehicles were quickly embraced by various operators, including Stagecoach. It was during 2011 that ADL took on a brief set out by operators, to refresh and if possible improve elements of the trend setting E400 double decker bodywork. By 2014 prototypes for the new E400MMC were starting to make there way around selected operators around the country. Go-Ahead Oxford, Reading Transport and Stagecoach Manchester have already placed production examples into service.
Transdev in Harrogate were given YY64GWX, fresh from its stint at Trent-Barton, arriving on February 10th and into service on February 11th 2015. Transdev published the times for the ADL from the off, with an early start for the bus. Compared to the StreetDeck and Volvo, the twitter and other social media was alive with comments about the ADL.
Your author managed to talk to a few of the Transdev drivers, with some interesting views put across for all three vehicles, generally the ADL was better for the drivers regarding the spacious cab area in the E400MMC, the others were smaller but did the job. Passengers were talking about the ADL, with its 36 style seating and four tables, which would have worked with the addition of power sockets for Laptops, phones and tablets. The glazed staircase on the Volvo worked well in daylight, providing extra light without using interior lighting, this did get mixed reviews. I must admit that not many of the drivers favoured the StreetDeck, I hazard a guess that the start delay functions did not win many over.
On the subject of the engines the ADL used the Cummins 6.7 litre ISBe with 250ph@2100rpm, while the StreetDeck using the Mercedes OM934 5.1 litre with 231hp@2200rpm and the Volvo B5TL using the D5K engine with 240ph@1900rpm. Which gives the Volvo B5TL a slight edge over the ADL with power ratio, but the Cummins engine is bigger with more horse-power compared to either the Volvo D5K or the Mercedes OM934. The Cummins and Volvo engines were coupled to the ZF 6 speed Ecolife gearbox, I think the Mercedes engine was coupled to the 4 speed Voith gearbox.
Above all three of the upper saloon seating arrangements are shown with the B5Tl, StreetDeck and the ADL. There is not much to separate the first two styles as they are virtually the same, apart from the better Go-Ahead standard seating in the StreetDeck. Its the e-leather seats inside the ADL, which drew more comments and as can be seen the tables. Bare in mind that the ADL YY64GWX was exhibited at the NEC in 2014, hence the tables and additional blue lighting setting. Personally I did like the seating arrangement in the E400MMC, as before the addition of 4G WiFi, power sockets and Transdev Harrogate could be on to a winner. Its worked on the high specification Arriva Sapphire services around the UK, so why not the 36.
Consider this even though I'm just an interested party/bus enthusiast and photographer, I have seen the 36 grow from using former National Bus Company vehicles with dual-purpose seating. To branded saloons with dual-purpose seating updated every two to three years, with Blazefield and then the 'Twin Decks' in 2003/4 for the ultimate 36 experience. With better legroom upperdeck leather seats and fine cloth seats in the lower saloon. To the Best Impressions livery revamp and then the extensive refurbishment/overhaul programme of 2010-12.
So fellow 36 passengers, the time has come to enter another new era for the 36 service, so if you have any views/opinions pass them on to Transdev in Harrogate so they know what you want on the bus.
Here for what its worth are my views as seen in the above blog, but here in the order are the top three buses for the 36
1:- ADL E400MMC
2:- Volvo B5TL
3:- Wrights StreetDeck.
I have to thank everyone at Transdev in Harrogate for releasing the details of each car/diagram of the Test Buses while they were in service. Also all the drivers, which have allowed me to photograph their offices, had time to chat and always friendly.
And as always time will tell as to what vehicles Transdev have or will order for the 36.
No doubt I will follow each new vehicle for the 36 when they arrive, plus write up a blog about which ever new Euro6 chassis/bodywork combination gets the nod form Transdev.
Here are my personal views on bus activity in my area and beyond