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.
Here are my personal views on bus activity in my area and beyond