The second of three demonstrating vehicles currently on loan to Harrogate is the new Wrights StreetDeck double deck chassis, which is built at the En Drive plant in Co Antrim Northern Ireland. With the Gemini3 body built nearby at the Ballymena plant, currently both the original and angled Gemini3 bodywork is available on the StreetDeck and the Volvo B5 chassis. The driveline for the StreetDeck features the Daimler OM934 Euro6 (Mercedes Benz) 5.1 litre 4 cyl engine rated at 231ph/1400rpm, with three gearbox options. The Voith Diwa.6 four speed, ZF Ecolife six speed box and the Daimler G90AMT gearbox.
Transdev are now taking SN64CTU (9119 Go-Ahead North East) on another fuel economy and savings test as well as asking for passengers thoughts on the vehicles. This particular vehicle arrived during Thursday January 22nd, 2015 for driver training and testing, which sees plenty of Harrogate drivers taking part in the tests. Again a Guinea pig (got it right this time) is pictured with some friends on one poster within the bus, with a couple of posters asking for passengers views. SN64CTU began her week doing an early doors 36 duty followed by 'Car 13' departure 14:45 to Leeds, 15:45 via Infirmary street to Ripon for 17:45, then the 17:55 to Leeds which arrived at 19:20 and finishing with the 19:30 to Harrogate.
For Today 28-01-15, your author started out early to catch the 07:35 departure to Leeds, starting in Harrogate on the 06:20 to Ripon.
First impressions for the interior of SN64CTU was of a fresh and neat vehicle, with full Go-North East seating, blue cloth covers on Esteban Civic C2 seats which were a dual-purpose thicker base for added comfort, blue and grey overall interior colour. As SN64CTU began her journey to Leeds, it was still dark and the wind and rain also started to fall, which led to the windows steaming up. One way around this would be to have air blowers pointing at the front window, or a demister/heated window. Your author sat on the front nearside seat, with a full front view to watch the cars and street lights wiz by. As the bus meandered through Harrogate's busy streets, plenty of custom was taken for the journey, which allowed the stop/start of a usual bus trip. By Pannel the bus had all the passengers on board for a trip into Leeds, with a good acceleration the Daimler/Mercedes engine and Voith gearbox work well on the straight stretches of the A61. At Harewood Bridge the bus slowed down and then the quick turn of speed saw the Streetdeck climb Harewood bank without much fuss, but the quicker gear change downs slowed progress towards the summit. No-one wanted the Harewood stop and so it was along the 'mad mile' stretch of the A61 and the Leeds Grammar School. The Alwoodly and Moortown sections of the route were nicely negotiated with quite roads until Chapel Allerton, as the traffic increased as the bus approached Leeds city centre. Your author alighted at Vicar Lane in Leeds for a shot of the bus entering the Headrow and then forward to Park Row.
For test bus B the final part of this early morning trip was a return to Harrogate for a break, before taking on the 10:50 Harrogate to Leeds journey. The bus was taken round to the Leeds Bus Station and your author joined the bus at Briggate for the trip back into Harrogate, it was good to hear the drivers views on the Streekdeck. For the CCTV fans out there this bus has 3 cameras in the upper saloon with 6 dotted around the lower saloon. The lower saloon has space for a dedicated wheel chair passenger and a buggy zone, both with flip-up seats. 16 seats were in the low floor section of the bus while 13 seats were sat upon a raised area, which housed the rear axle and the powerpack.
The delayed start for setting of gives some extra 10 seconds for the bus to move off a stop, this feature could add extra time to the diagram car journey, especially at peak times. There was no audible noise when the doors close, unlike the Volvo B5TL, the bell sound was not intrusive either. Having taken residence upon the rear seats near the engine, your author enjoyed the ride home. Again the bus swiftly passed through Chapel Allerton, Moortown and Alwoodly, before the A61 was open for some good acceleration and a smooth trip back to Harrogate, even the lights at Harewood were on green. Quickly the bus passed through Pannel and glided up Humpery Bank and onto towards town. At the bus station myself and the driver chatted some more about the trail, with his views too.
Between the two vehicles tried I have been surprised at how rattle free both vehicles are, windows and grab poles not bothered by the roads, unless there was a large pot hole around. The 5.1 litre engines coped well with the undulating hills of the Leeds-Harrogate-Ripon 36 service, although the Volvo B5TL did have turbo chargers. BX14SYT (the white bus) and SN64CTU (the silver one) have equally good and swift acceleration, but for my money I liked the StreetDeck with its Mercedes engine doing very well. Harrogate have eight buses with Mercedes engines 277-282 the Optare Versa Harrogate Connect saloons, so have experience of this Merc engine. But the Volvo B5TL still gives me reservations with it's smaller engine, although it has a good power rating, it would be interesting how the bus feels after ten years on the service. However I think Transdev can do plenty with either these buses, as they have a good relationship with both Wrights and Volvo.
Up next the ADL E400MMC with its Cummis 6.7 ISBe Euro 6 engine with Voith gearbox.........................
The interior of SN64CTU is neat and airy, with proper nice cloth Esteban Civic V2 seats, with good leg room and space for the buggies and wheelchairs. Top picture shows the bus returning to Harrogate on Tues 27-01-15, the next shot sees SN64CTU entering Headrow, Leeds heading for Park Row the peak-time stopping point. The next shot shows the lower saloon seating arrangement, while above the neat and tidy upper saloon, with straight nine rise staircase.
I extend my thanks to Transdev Harrogate for the information on the trial bus working diagrams and a Big thanks to the drivers who have to put with my photographing their offices, thank you Ladies and Gentlemen.
Remember in 2010 when two demonstrator Hybrid double deckers visited Harrogate for a week or so just to evaluate the type, on the 36 service. In the end Transdev decided to invest in an expensive overhaul programme of the 3601-12 & 3614 Volvo B7TLs based in Harrogate, along with X1-12 & 14VTD cherished plates. While on Halloween in 2013 fifteen new Volvo B9TLs/Wrights Gemini2 deckers were placed into service on the Burnley & Pendle Witch Way X43 service.
It now looks like Transdev Harrogate are getting an opportunity to evaluate three current models on the market, starting with the Euro6 standard Volvo B5TL with Wrights Gemini3 interim bodywork. The B5TL replaces the B9TL, with the claims of a loss of 1000kgs in overall weight. Volvo use their own D5K, 4cyl 5.1 litre engine rated at 240hp@1900rpm, with both SCR and EGR emission control technology. The ZF gearbox is six speed automatic, with neutral bus stopping. This is coupled with a ZF drop centre rear axle. The steering is ZF hydraulic power assisted, with an electronic powered pump, the steering wheel and also be adjusted aswell.
On Tuesday January 13th 2015, your author ventured out into the cold and crisp day for a photograph of the bus. But as all best laid plans had to wait until after dark and an evening trip on the new bus on the flagship/trunk route 36. First impressions of the vehicle in all over white livery is of a shallow low height bus with odd glazed staircase and round rear end profile, no doubt copying the New Routemaster bus currently passing the 300 mark in London. This vehicle still has its bilingual signs from its six months stay in Dublin, with Dublin Bus. It was DM1 (141D19194) in that fleet, arriving in March 2014 but entering service on 12th June 2014, it was being evaluated on all aspects of fleet operation especially for fuel economy. Upon arriving at Harrogate's Starbeck depot the bus gained a Birmingham registration BX14SYT. The bus was prepped for service before Monday January 12th 2015, no doubt the Transdev engineers were gathering essential information about the vehicle. Upon entering the bus passengers are greeted with a small poster with "Welcome Aboard Transdev Harrogate 36 this is Test Bus A" accompanied by a picture of a guinne pig?, answers on a postcard please. The two tone grey interior leads you to an eight rise staircase with the interesting glazed area, which is not much use on a dark evening. For the journey to Ripon, your author travelled on the upper saloon just behind the staircase. The seats were very basic thin plastic Esteban Civic backs with thin upholstered backs and bases, in a blue colour with multi coloured flashes/stripes. The upper saloon windows are shallower, to reduce sun glare and accommodate the air-cool system, which was blowing warm for the time of year. Engine noise was not intrusive as the bus travelled along, through Harrogate, into Killinghall and on towards Ripley and the open countryside of the A61 Ripon Road. Front vision looks good, but again with darkness, there was not much to see apart from the city lights of Ripon. The upper saloon front windows have opening hoppers and four CCTV cameras, the information screen incorporated the "Bus Stopping" sign. The bell also was not intrusive, as we journeyed along the A61, fairly well along the straight parts of the road, even well on the twisty bends which are a major feature on this part of the road. As the bus entered Wormold Green there was a definite change down of the gears as the Volvo B5TL climbed the hill towards Ripon, even another change for the hill summit. But as the bus turned the corner the gear changes were quick and the acceleration swift and effective. While travelling along I noticed that the familiar rattles of windows and grab rails was very quite, considering the bus has worked for six months in Dublin, all most on a par with the ADL E400MMC. Strip lights were used in the upper saloon which gave plenty of light for the journey to Ripon, seat spacing gave good leg room, with general ride of reasonable standard, comfortable and smooth. A few minutes break at Ripon Bus Station allowed time for a few shots and a chat with the driver, who was driving the Volvo B5TL for the first time. Then the bus headed back to Harrogate without much fuss.
At Harrogate there was a driver change, which allowed your author to take a few interior shots of the bus as seen above. The lower saloon and upper saloon looking towards the rear of the bus. 45 seats are in the upper saloon, with 27 seats in the lower saloon and the wheelchair bay, with three CCTV cameras. The trip out to Leeds saw the bus venture towards Pannal and a hill start at the lights at Spacey Houses, with smooth acceleration heading out towards Buttersyke Roundabout and again the open road of the A61 towards Leeds. As the turbo kicked in given a good turn of speed along the straight parts before the change down and reduced speed for Harewood Bridge, which has been 20mph for several years following a serious accident. Then Harewood bank beckoned, the gearbox changed down towards the summit of this long rise up, but the Volvo D5K engine took this in its stride. Before long the bus was again at reasonable speed as we entered "mad mile" a straight piece of road were some drivers take risks, but that's another story. Leeds Grammar School soon came into view all lit up, must have been a football match or some other game being played that evening. Alwoodley, Moortown and Chapletown simply glided by as the Volvo bus made good time and headway into Leeds city centre. At Vicar Lane the driver slowly turn the bus down Lady Lane so I could take a couple of shots. Also at the entrance of Briggate the driver allowed for a shot as he turned towards the bus stop. A couple more shots were taken on Briggate, as the bus headed back to Harrogate only for the 20:10 arrival at Harrogate. Passengers could only alight at the "Queens Arms" at Chapel Allerton, thus keeping the limited stop arrangements in Leeds. Passengers alighted along A61 before Alwoodley Gates, thus leaving your author and the driver on the remaining sections of the route. As the bus entered the country road section of the A61 towards Harrogate, the Volvo D5K engine was more than happy to go at 50-55mph without much fuss, giving a nippy and smooth ride. The hills posed little problems to the vehicle as the bus arrived into Harrogate, even Humphrey Bank posed little threat to the B5TL. At Leeds Road junction stop another Transdev driver joined the little trip into Harrogate, which saw the bus cope well with the one way system of the lights and roundabouts before heading towards the bus station. In conclusion the Volvo B5TL with its tweaked engine to power ratio and ZF gearbox proved it could cope with the enviros of the 36 service. I wonder if the weight saving would be continued when the deep coach e-leather seating used by the 36 is installed, mind you there are only seven single seats on the offside. If Transdev purchased the Volvo B5TL it will have the new angled front end with curved front and rear end profiles, in the black 36 City Connect livery.
Having unveiled the new generation E400MMC during 2014, it was only a matter of time before the demonstrator vehicles would be doing the rounds. Then by the time the Euro Bus Expo 2014 arrived at the NEC in Birmingham. The Oxford Bus Company (OBC) and Reading Transport were placing their first examples of the new E400MMC's into service. The Brookes University had 605-614 with selected registration numbers, later OBC had staff members names to these vehicles. All are in an overall grey livery with Brookes branding. Meanwhile Reading had delivered eight vehicles as their 751-8, all but 758 introduced a new variation of the claret livery for route 21. 758 has been painted into the generic grey livery, so it can be deployed around the whole Reading bus network. 16 more E400MMC's are due fro delivery in March 2015 for Reading.
Then during late November/early December the first of 29 new E400MMC deckers arrived at Stagecoach Manchester Sharston depot, were 10401-10429 (SL62HZG/ J/K/M-N/P/R-Z, JAO/U, JBE/O/U/V/X-Z, JCJ/O/U/V). 10401-9 were sat inside the bus garage and being prepared for service. By Christmas 2014 the initial few 10401-9 were placed into service on the 85/86 Chorlton service and the 109 service to a hospital in the Manchester area. On December 30th 2014, a visit to Manchester was quickly decided upon, just to catch up with the latest deliveries and the new look MMC double deckers. Adbellio, Metroline and Stagecoach in London are also having E400MMC's delivered, but these have not entered service (at the time of writing).
Arriving by Trans-Pennine Express 185 class train into Manchester Piccadilly, then meeting up with a fellow enthusiast, it was time to wait for the new MMC's to arrive. The first one was 10402, which completed its first trip out on the 86 service, with nearside advert for an E4 TV show, offside blank. This bus was quickly followed by 10408, again on 86 service, all these vehicles entered the Piccadilly Gardens Bus station near the Metrolink tram stop. Pausing to drop off passengers, to run around the bus station to pick up passengers on the other side. The new E400MMC buses are easy to identify as there is now no orange sweep across the upper deck front windows, behind the blue. After 10408 departed Piccadilly, the next to arrive was 10404, followed by 10401 and 10406 all on the 85/86 route. Then after a breakfast stop, three more new stagecoach E400MMC's were out and about, 10405, 10409 and 10403 were also out.
With the new MMC type vehicles now arriving at Manchester, it has allowed Stagecoach to update the Magic Bus off-shoot of the operation. The Magic bus started way back ( in 1997) when Stagecoach had acquired Duple Mestec bodied Dennis Dragon chassis from its overseas operations. These buses were re-registered and placed into service on the 142, 143 & 145 services in direct competition with Bullocks of Manchester, since purchased by Stagecoach. Along with East Yorkshire owned Finglands services, which has since passed to First Group during 2014. The Magic Bus brand is now only running in Manchester, after operations in Glasgow and Sheffield were stopped. It still runs along the Winslow Road corridor. The Dennis Dragon buses from Kenya were replaced by Volvo Olympians, which have been replaced by Dennis Tridents with Alexander ALX400 bodies or a mixture of East Lancashire bodied Tridents as well. Older ADL E400 vehicles are currently undergoing an overhaul scheme and they will be turned out into a new bolder/simplified Magic Bus livery. 19223 (MX08GJZ) entered the paint shop in early December 2014 and was out in service on the 30th of December, working on the 142 service.
Here are my personal views on bus activity in my area and beyond