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.
With the slight inevitability of a setting sun or a ticking clock, Test Bus C had arrived in Harrogate on Tuesday February 10th 2015. The bus was quickly turned around and placed into service on Wedensday February 11th 2015, after a day of driver training.
YY64GWX is a ADL E400MMC with a Cummis ISBe 6.7L rated at 250hp at 2100rpm Euro6 engine coupled to a ZF Ecolife 6 speed gearbox, with a metallic blue livery. This particular vehicle was fresh from doing a stint at Trent/Barton for use on the i4 Derby-Nottingham service, in January 2015. During late 2014 the bus was plying her trade at Cardiff, after being part of the Euro Bus Expo 2014 held at the NEC Birmingham. YY64GWX had 41 seats in the upper saloon along with four tables and 27 seats in the lower saloon, all are Estaban Civic V2-E leather covers. Giving a plush feel to the saloons, with blue/grey interior and full saloon lights, which could be blue aswell as white. The bus has full height windows, with hopper scoops in both saloons, the heaters were connected to vents which blows out air around the saloons, even the front upper deck window had air blowers.
Above are shots of the saloons, the lower saloon shows off the underlit seats, wheelchair zone and the wood effect floor. The upper saloon had the same seats as the lower saloon, but with some additional features like four tables, and a air-climate unit over the stairs. On the subject of the tables, WiFi and power sockets would help with such a feature.
For YY64GWX her first day started at....early, the bus was given diagram 4 with a 06:20 start for a run out to Ripon, your author joined this journey with driver Neil at the helm. The ride was smooth and comfortable as the ADL glided towards Killinghall and then the sleepy village of Ripley. Then YY64GWX had the open A61 road to deal with and surprisingly the bus coped very well with the undulating twists and turns of the A61. At Wormold Green the hill would be one of many challenges faced by the Cummis 6.7/ZF 6 speed gearbox, but with only one change down, this bus swiftly delt with that hill and accelerated along the A61. With no passengers on board, until we reached Ripon for the return trip back to Harrogate. It was interesting to hear the drivers' views about the ADL E400MMC, which he seemed very impressed with the bus and happy with the spacious cab. The journey back to Harrogate, YY64GWX began to fill up with a hearty load of passengers, which gave the Cummis/ZF powerpack plenty to think about. With a pause in Harrogate, the bus then did the 07:35 trip over to Leeds. Traffic was light until Harewood Bridge, where the cue was long, but it was soon back on to the A61 and a swift smooth trip towards Moortown/Chapletown, with heavy traffic towards Leeds. Eventually the bus arrived at Vicar Lane and then forward to Park Row, it was all to soon back on the 09:00 to Harrogate only return trip.
YY64GWX is seen turning onto Headrow bound for Park Row, looking impressive in the metallic blue livery. Unlike the journey into Leeds, the return to Harrogate was swift and smooth with not much in the way of rattles or bangs from loose window hoopers. The bell sound rang twice when pressed and was repeated around the vehicle, which had three CCTV cameras on each deck, linked to two monitors. There was a large mirror just by the stairs, which acts as a safety feature for the driver. Speaking on safety features the hand brake had to be released after the doors were closed, and the brake pedal depressed so the bus would set-off. In all the ADL E400MMC is a well built vehicle not only for passengers but the drivers aswell, a bigger engine, wheelchair zone, safety staircase and less moulded seats, which were on the original E400 model. Its fair to say that YY64GWX would easily fit into the 36 fleet, as it had the high backed E-leather seats, and without the tables, the bus is there.
For me as a passenger the Volvo B5TL was swift and smooth with great acceleration, with plenty of Volvo bleeps and tones, however the twin turbo chargers could cause a problem if they break.
The StreetDeck was an interesting choice for Transdev, with a Mercedes engine and Voith gearbox, with cloth covered seats. It was fine on the straight parks of the route, but the change downs on the hills were to quick for the engine to allow time to gather pace.
The ADL E400MMC seems to me the complete drivers bus, with the updated style and design, at least the moulded design seats are less, which gives more scope for proper seats. It was swift with smooth acceleration on all parts of the route. I do like the blue livery.
One final note, I wish to thank all the drivers of the test vehicles and Transdev in Harrogate for there help and assistance during the trials. Without which would have led to many hours of guessing and waiting, thankfully avoided.
I also would like to thank everyone who has taken time to read these blogs on the all the test buses, which are my own personal views from an enthusiast/photographer.
Long before the start of the 2014 Euro Bus Expo held in Hall 5 at the NEC in Birmingham, Wrights has hinted at a new Gemini3 bodywork style. A few days before the event computer drawn images were offered to preview papers for publication at the show, which gave clues to the new shape of Gemini3 body. It was quite the surprise to see the new integral StreetDeck vehicle on display at the NEC in full Arriva Sapphire livery. Arriva were to acquire the Streetdeck, for use on the high profile 38 Derby-Sinfin, which was one of many Sapphire standard bus routes launched by Arriva during 2014. However after the show the bus returned to Wrights and prepped for service with Arriva, which duly arrived during December 2014 as the bus arrived at the Derby bus depot.
It was here that the Arriva team then took the bus into a brief training routine for drivers and engineers until early January 2015, when on the 14th day 4600 entered revenue earning service on the 38. This new vehicle is powered by the Mercedes/Daimler OM934 5.1 litre 4 cylinder diesel engine rated at 231hp/1400rpm. I assume that 4600 has got the Voith Diwa.6 four speed gearbox for transmission, which has a integral retarder. The bodywork is also built to European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA), with class leading weight and capacity plus fuel economy savings. Naturally Wrights have taken onboard customer feedback regarding the new style of bodywork and the internal fixtures and fittings.
On Monday February 2015, your author decided to pay Derby a visit to sample the new StreetDeck and the square shaped bodywork. Arriva purchased a batch of ADL E400 double deckers for the new 38 and 110 midlands bus services, 6 vehicles for the 38 and the remainder for the 110 Birmingham-Tamworth service. The Derby 38 service serves on of the main estates around Derby city, this route also passes three local areas outside the city then finally Sinfin. At the Asda superstore the 38 takes a circular route around the main road around Stenson fields and Sinfin, which allows the bus to pass the superstore before returning to Derby.
Having sampled the StreetDeck at Birmingham in early November 2014, your author took a chance to hop on to 4600 (FJ64ETZ) at stop A6 Osmaston Road, then forward until a right turn into Walbrook Road. First impressions were how bright and airy the interior is on the bus, with various shades of blues and greys all formed from plastic moulded parts. The Esteban Civic2 e-leather seating is a vast improvement on the standard Arriva cloth patterned seats. One interesting point of note was the windows, with opening hoppers, which indicated that the air-cool system used on the NRM vehicles in London is not in use on this bus, it could be a forced air system. The upper deck windows are still shallow for reduced sun glare, which will help passengers enjoy summer time journeys. While travelling on the upper saloon towards Sinfin, there were plenty of rattles, which were also apparent when 4600 was idle at traffic lights and junctions.
The picture above shows off the different style of vents which are blown air vents, which are controlled by internal temperature controls. Each head rest has the Sapphire brand sewn into the e-leather making the seats look the part in the bus. You can also see the opening hopper windows towards the rear of the bus, the roof line is smooth and clean with saloon length lights, giving passenger good interior illumination. The lower saloon also has the full saloon lights, with wheelchair and buggy zones which comply with DDA requirements for a PCV. In order to gain some shots at Sinfin, your author alighted at the Asda superstore and waited for 4600 to return back to Derby. This time travelling in the lower saloon, your author noticed that the air blow system was on the off-side. The glazed staircase allowed more light into the saloon near the wheelchair bay and the stairs. Overall the StreetDeck performed well along the route, even the start delay seems to have been master by the Arriva driver at the wheel for this mid afternoon duty on the 38. The return journey saw more passengers heading into Derby, with 4600 collecting a good load of passengers from the bus station, back to Sinfin.
Here are my personal views on bus activity in my area and beyond