An amazing day out
The long overdue brand new double deck fleet for the revitalised Yorkshire Coastliner operation, arrived on time as part of a preview launch display outside the impressive York Minster. These impressive vehicles are the first of the new generation of Coastliner buses. The £2.3 million pound investment has again risen the bar for long distance bus travel, in terms of passenger comfort and individual service standards.
After many months of planning and subsequent delays with various issues, with some teasing sneak behind the scenes photographs with three Coastliner drivers winning a visit across to Wrightbus in Ballymena. The stage was now being set for the final finishing touches to the new fleet of buses, with typical flourish of Best Impressions ‘creative desire’ the new image was approved and brought to life. A new fresh two-tone blue livery, ten new rear end advertisements, the new #Yorkshire’s Amazing day out, new look timetable and the now standard Transdev features of, Wi-Fi, USB power, high specification seating and luxurious interiors. The first of the ten vehicles arrived at Burnley, with the new vinals and finishing touches applied. Transdev York Twitter announced to the UK that a special preview would be held at York Minster on December 8th 2016.
After a recent cold and crisp spell of weather, December 8th was very mild for the time of year, the early rain had gone, as the sun appeared. As a few enthusiasts, had gathered by Lendal Bridge to see which of the new buses would be arriving. Shortly before midday 3631 and 3632 had ventured around the block, passing the railway station then onto Lendal Bridge and towards the Minster.
3631 BT66MVO and 3632 BT66MVP travel along Museum Street in York, heading for the York Minster, venue for the special preview event. Both vehicle catching the eye of the public who were going about their business.
A Minster view
Both buses continued onto Duncombe Place, here the vehicles were positioned into place, as the Minster was to form the stunning backdrop for the event. Transdev’s CEO for the UK operation, Alex Hornby was mingling with the public and enthusiasts, before turning to more civic duties. York City Councillor Mr. Ian Gilles was present to join in for photographs with the local press, and members of the public, also the Transdev team were invited to join in the photoshoot. Later two local thespians arrived dressed in medieval costumes, one jester and one warrior. Both had their moment with drivers Adam and Michael, with some interesting poses.
Transdev’s marketing team were on hand to ensure a full promotion of the new buses, timetables, Coastliner rock and beach balls were given away.
Beach balls at the ready, the Transdev team posed for photographs with York Councillor Mr. Gilles and Alex Hornby Transdev’s CEO.
After the group photographs, Mr Hornby stayed around before departing for another meeting. Leaving his trusted Transdev team to ensure the day ran well. Drivers Adam and Michael were very accommodating with everyone’s request, as the public ventured onto the buses. The instant reaction was of sheer wonderment of the high standard of the finish to the vehicles. Many people were surprised at the wood effect flooring the seating and glazed roof. One couple commented ‘ It’s just like those 36 buses they have in Leeds, very smart’.
Inside the new Coastliner’s
Upon entering the vehicle, the customer is greeted with a friendly welcome from the interior vinals and the teak-wood effect floor. Two luggage racks are immediately after the entrance on the right. The Staircase has a glazed panel, which illuminates, with the new Coastliner logo embossed into the sheet. The wheelchair and buggy zones are well proportioned with three tip-up seats in each bay. Cloth moquette is used on the Estaban Civic V3 high backed seating in the lower saloon. The four rear seats are VGA style seats with the new look tables, and USB power sockets, these eliminate the dirty shoes on the rear seats issue. A new Coastliner logo takes the space on the rear window area, thus completing the lower saloon.
The lower saloon with wood effect floor and ceiling panels, the glazed staircase glass with Coastliner logo, buggy and wheelchair zones and the comfortable Civic V3 seating.
Taking a walk up the stairs, after looking the various Best impressions adverts and designs, the passenger is presented with VGA high backed airline seating, with a pleasing cloth moquette finsh, very comfortable indeed. Look further down the saloon, the passenger is introduced to the social seating areas with tables, power sockets and USB charging points. It allows space for laptops, tablets and mobile phones, the plug sockets will allow laptops to be charged during the journey. There is even a bin in between this social seating arrangement. The Coastliner buses are long distance travel services, so no single seats in the upper saloon, all are double seats with amble legroom. Again, unlike the lower saloon the rear most seats have five spaced out seats in the VGA style.
Two social seating areas allow for the modern-day commuter to continue with their mobile life, with USB and Socket charging points. However, there are no at seat individual tables on the buses.
The spacious uncluttered upper saloon with glazed ceiling, amble legroom and social areas with the equally comfortable VGA airline seats, all adding to the new Coastliner experience.
As with the yearlong investment for the 36 Riding Redefined twin decks, Transdev’s creative team, along with Alex Hornby, collaborated with Ray Stenning’s Best impressions design team. This time to refresh the Yorkshire Coastliner brand and breathe new life it to this vital link to the Yorkshire coast from the major cities served by Transdev’s buses.
Ray Stenning is a man on a design mission, not only to improve the look but to refresh, rebrand and in some cases, reinvent the bus and railway industries liveries and information leaflets. Across twenty years in the business Best impressions have delivered a constant fresh feel to some bus fleets, Bournemouth, Oxford, Reading, Trent and Wilts & Dorset to name but a few, have all been given a Best impression make-over.
For the Coastliner fleet, Alex Hornby and Transdev requested a batch of ten 11.5 metre Volvo B5TLs with the Volvo D5K euro 6 specification engine couple to the 6 speed ZF Eco-life gearbox. Again, following on from the successful order for the fourteen 36 Riding Redefined twin decks, Wrightbus of Ballymena won the tender to build the ten bodies needed. The various adaptations for the fleet included double glazed windows, a glazed upper saloon roof, high specification seating, wood effect floors and ceilings, with new social seating areas, rear lower saloon tables and the now standard USB sockets and super-fast 4G Wi-Fi. All linked with the modern 'next stop' announcements and scrolling 'next stop' screens, along with fourteen CCTV cameras for extra passenger and Transdev staff saftey. With these improvements, the new look for Coastliner had begun, which also saw a new look improved timetable leaflet featuring new maps, drivers profile and a short history of the previous vehicles on the service, with a guide to the places visited by the east coast routes, the timetable is packed with useful information.
Creating Desire, the Best Impressions livery and design for the new #Yorkshire’s amazing day out’ Coastliner buses. Posed outside of the equally impressive York Minster are 3631 & 3632 awaiting the general public to cast their eyes over. Overall impressions of the day's activities saw very favourable comments and remarks upon the look and feel of these impressive vehicles. The freebees needless to say were popular choice amongst the people who had ventured to visit the display.
As the event closed it was confirmed that 3631 and 3632 would be out along the Coastliner routes from Monday December 12th 2016 all being well. By four O’clock the buses were packed and ready to leave the Minster area, after a very successful day. 3631 was taken to Fulford Road depot for final checks and 3632 was driven to Malton, so the engineering team could give the bus a closer look. Currently five of these new vehicles are over in Yorkshire, with the remaining five due to travel across from Northern Ireland in the few days, as the new fleet is phased into service.
That’s not all folks, Transdev plan to completely replace the other Yorkshire Coastliner buses during 2017, which will make the Coastliner fleet the youngest fleet in the country. Yorkshire Coastliner had this title during 1988 and into the 1990’s as newer buses replaced older units and in 2005 the fleet was renewed with single and double Volvo buses with Wrightbus bodywork.
As Alex Hornby, always says ‘exciting times ahead’
Yorkshire Coastliner, making Yorkshire’s amazing day out complete.
Coastliner Features: -
3632 pauses on Duncombe Place before an early evening trip across to Malton depot, looking very smart, clean and fresh in the new Coastliner livery.
New fresh look for the 6&7 Accrington & Blackburn services
The Hyndburn Circular service
The 6&7 Hyndburn circular service has seen an interesting mix across the years, as Transdev took over the former East Lancashire depots from Stagecoach in 2001, taking over the Manor Sutton Street depot in Blackburn. The route has stayed the same across the years, with many a variation to the theme, as Blazefield sort after updating the Blackburn and Burnley fleets with more modern vehicles, which included over 30 Volvo B10BLEs with Wrights bodies for the mainline services in Burnley and the Volvo B7TL/Plaxton double deckers for the X43 Manchester service. Blackburn gained its B10BLEs during 2002, with most replacing the former Stagecoach Darts on the Hyndburn Circular services.
By 2007 Transdev has purchased the Blazefield operations in Lancashire & Yorkshire, later the acquisition of the Blackburn Transport was also secured. This resulted in the revamping of all the Blackburn services with the ‘Spot-On’ Brand. The red & Black ‘Lancashire Way’ X41 Blackburn to Manchester was kept, as it was already an identifiable brand.
The first real change to the Blackburn fleet under Blazefield control was a new livery, which looked better then the stripes of the former Stagecoach fleet. Above:- 210 an Alexander ALX200 bodied Volvo B6 is departing the old Blackburn Bus Station, with full Hyndburn Circular branding. The Alexander Darts were kept by Blazefield as they were youngest buses in the fleet at the time.
Blazefield then undertook a programme of vehicle replacement, as most of the buses inherited from the former Stagecoach operation were becoming time expired. An order for over 30 Volvo B10BLEs with Wrights Renown bodywork was placed, most were based at Burnley. Around a third of these new buses were dispatched to Mannor Sutton Street, for use on the Hyndburn Circular route and the 225 Bolton to Clitheroe service. 1085 pauses at the exit of the former Acrrington Bus Station, bound for Blackburn.
New liveries and new vehicles
The 6 and 7 could go either via Great Harwood the long way round to Accrington or go via Oswaldtwisle, which was the quicker way round. The 6A & 7A were an extension of the service, which would venture between Intack and Oswaldtwistle via Stanhill. However towards the end of 2012 the Blackburn fleet were being repainted into the new yellow and blue livery, with additional brand for the 6&7, 152 and the Lancashire way X41 services. This happened after several vehicles had gained the new ‘Spot-On’ grey and purple livery.
Transdev had successfully purchased the Blazefield operations of Lancashire and Yorkshire in late 2006, with the new identity being applied to vehicles in early 2007. Then in an unexpected move Transdev purchased the operations of Blackburn Transport and quickly established the 'Spot-On' branding. 1825 a Wrights Eclipse bodied Volvo B7RLE is depicted departing Blackburn during May 2009, while on 7 duty to Accrington via Great Harwood
Transdev decided to introduce a corporate identity to livery application and thus came up with various ideas, which were an improvement on some of the liveries. The best of the bunch was the improved livery for the 'Spot-On' routes, as shown above by 573 a former Keighley Volvo B10BLE/Wrights Renown saloon.
The new 6&7 Hyndburn Connect branded was appearing on various types of Blackburn based saloons, Volvo/Wrights, Optare Tempo & Versa. However there were plan drawn up for 2016 within the Transdev group of a new local identity and new livery for each depot served. Blackburn were to become two tone blue with new branding and brand new Optare Versa saloons, all of which would be in serve around June/July 2016. This new local livery would also be accompanied by two new identities for the X41 now the ‘Red Express’ and the recent updated 152 Preston to Burnley via Blackburn service, ‘Hotline’ using a two tone purple livery.
Transdev brought in the new blue and yellow livery from early 2012, for the whole Blackburn fleet, which included the 'Lancashire Way' X41 Blackburn to Manchester service. 203 another Wrights bodied Volvo B10BLE, which was new to Ambassador travel. Is seen entering the temporary Blackburn Bus station, in full Hyndburn Connect branding.
A day in Blackburn on the new Optare Versa saloons
Transdev brought in the new two tone blue livery on 18 brand new Optare Versa saloon, which arrived during late August 2016. These new buses were exclusively used on the rebranded 6&7 Accrington service. Above:- 224 departs Thwaites Road bound for Blackburn, in full 6&7 branding.
By early September 2016 your author decided to venture across to Blackburn to sample the new Optare Versa saloon on the 6&7 service. My first journey was on 224 on the 7 to Accrington via Oswaldtwistle, going along Thwaites road. Then dropping into Accrington via Stanhill Lane and into the newly revamped bus station. After a short stay in Accrington, your author returned back to Blackburn on the 7A which went via Windsor Road and Stanhill. Which offers some very nice areas for photography. After some lunch it was back onto the buses, this time using a 6 to get to Thwaites Road for some shots along the road and at both ends.
The new standard Transdev interiors, which offer wood effect floors, very comfortable seats, USB power sockets and 4G Wi-Fi with a light, bright and airy feel all adding to the passenger experience. The Optare Versa with a Euro VI Cummins 6.7 litre engine coupled to a Voith gearbox, deliver a smooth and comfortable journey. The new buses are also rattle free and allow good all round vision for the passenger.
For the final part of the day, your author ventured towards Windsor road for some shots of the Versa arriving and depart the road, before heading into Stanhill and getting some scenic shots of the new fleet, before venturing home.
The Blackburn Bus Company livery and logo are shown here to good effect by 234, exiting Windsor Road while on 6A service to Blackburn. These new Optare saloons are very impressive vehicles, with the latest in passenger comfort and easy low floor access and dedicated buggy and wheelchair zones.
The Blackburn Bus Company brand new livery looks very smart on the new Versa saloons, as demonstrated here by 236 on 6A duty. The bus is seen heading along Stanhill Lane just near the bridge which has the main M65 running underneath.
From Keighley & District to DalesWay
The 66 formerly the 68 service between Skipton and Keighley has been a staple part of the network since West Yorkshire Road Car took over the Keighley Corporation operation in 1932. The Skipton area had many services into the bus station, with the 70, 70A & 70M from Silsden. The 71 from Buckden, the 72 & 76 from Hebden, both via Grassington. With the 666, 667 and 668 routes from the Metro/National re-numbering of 1978, as the 68 was continued by Keighley and is now the 66. This route as remained unchanged, with services visiting Cross Hills and Sutton in Craven. During the West Yorkshire days the service would have used various Bristol/ECW saloons on the service with classic Bristol Ls, REs, and Leyland Nationals.
By the time the new look Keighley & District division arrived in 1987, there were still many former West Yorkshire vehicles in stock. But soon the new Volvo chassis were ordered and arrived with the Volvo B6B and Volvo B10B versions. By 2008 the older B10Bs were withdrawn and some examples were used as schools buses, as newer Volvo B7RLE/Wrights saloons arrived into revenue service.
Vehicles used on the service
Above:- Volvo B6B with Alexander Dash bodywork 224, is collecting its passengers for another trip into Keighley. This particular vehicle was a Volvo demonstrator, which led to Blazefield ordering 13 vehicles for 1993 delivery, Ten for Harrogate and three for Keighley.
Above:- Volvo B10B with Wrights Endurance bodywork 566 pauses at the Old Skipton Bus Station arrival point, at 13:40 according to the clock. This was the second batch of buses which were low floor buses for the Keighley & District fleet.
Above:- Volvo B7RLE/Wrights enters Skipton Bus Station on the 66 service, after the bus station was rebuilt during 2010. The light blue and white livery soon gave way to the new Transdev style of blue and green for the whole fleet, introduced by Transdev from 2010.
Above:- Volvo 1848 is seen entering the bus station at Skipton on very wet weather during October 2011, the new green & blue livery had been applied to most of the fleet at this stage.
All change for the 66
The route still had a 30 minute frequency during the daytime, with an hourly evening and Sunday service. Which seemed to work well with this rural service, however several Keighley routes were under revision during 2013/14, which led to some services being operated by TLC Travel of Bradford.
Keighley held on to many of its services, including the 66, which saw a change in frequency during 2015. From August 30th, the 66 had a new 20 minute frequency 08:05 until 19:10 from Skipton and from Keighley at 08:00 until 18:30, then hourly from both locations. This arrangement would last until September 4th 2016, when the next phase of rebranding would be unveiled. Transdev and Optare entered into a tender bid for the new look vehicles to be used on the rebranded 66, which would become ‘Dales Way 66’. CEO Alex Hornby and the Keighley team examined a demonstrator Optare Versa during early 2016, to evaluated the products latest features, Euro VI engine, gearbox options and seating arrangements to suit Transdev’s needs. This was also tied in with Best Impressions, who have recently engaged with Transdev on many new liveries used with in the Yorkshire and Lancashire operations.
By the middle of August 2016 the three Optare Versa intended for use on the Dales Way 66, were entered into service, this was to ensure that any teething troubles could be ironed out before the actual launch of the Dales way brand, which would be on September 3rd 2016. On August 10th 2016 the overdue Optare Versa saloon for the rebranded ‘The Keighley Bus Company’ had been entered into revenue service on the former 717 Oakworth route, now the new K7.
238 above is seen with its branding during the day on September 3rd 2016, as the bus approaches Skipton. By this time the weather had set in for the rest of the day, a damp start to the new look service.
Welcome to Dales Way 66
Transdev announced via their Twitter and website pages that the new look for the 66 service would be unveiled on September 3rd 2016 at Skipton town hall from 10:00 until 16:00. So the date and time were set, all that was needed now was some last minute touches to the three versa saloons. The external and internal brand was applied during Friday evening on September 2nd in order to have Optare Versa 241 ready for its big day being displayed at Skipton.
From Keighley Colin, Dale and Phil were on duty for the day’s activities, while Ben and Matt were on hand to assist with the day. It all set off very well that morning on September 3rd, the sun was out and the weather was fine. However the real spanner was the intended forecast of persistent rain from mid-morning.
As Team Transdev arrived, 241 was paused outside the weekly Saturday Market, opposite the town hall. Driver Dale then brought the bus into the tightest gap for an Optare Versa directly outside the town hall forecourt. Then everyone began setting up the display, with flags and a table for information leaflets and the Dales Way branded merchandise. The Twitter photos were taken and all was set for a reasonable day of promotion.
241 is seen working its way around towards Skipton town hall on the driest part of September 3rd 2016, the early bit.
Then it started, slowly at first, but with the timing set the forecast rain had arrived right on cue, it was the fine drizzle, which later led to heavier rain. The Keighley team were quick to put the table display into the town hall entrance, as Matt and Phil were looking for some gazebo for keeping stuff dry. Even with the best wills in the world the Keighley team ploughed on to ensure the local Skipton public knew about the new Dales Way look. By 12:30 the team decided to get the hell out of dodge and try for some drier conditions, namely Keighley Bus Station.!
At this time your author was already taking advantage of the final day of the 20 minute frequency of the 66, as from Sunday the new timetable would be in full effect. 238 and 240 were in full branding and out along the route, so with camera in hand a few shots were taken of both buses at Sutton in Craven.
Above:- Optare Versa 238 turns on the corner of Holme lane/Sutton Lane in Sutton, during what can be best described as very wet conditions. In full Dales Way branding, which suits the lines of the Optare Versa well.
By 15:00 Matt and Phil were nearing the end of the day for the promotion of the new Dales Way service, which allowed 241 to enter into traffic for the remainder of the day. The bus was duly prepped for service and it took up the post for the 16:00 departure to Skipton.
Despite the weather taking a damp view of the day, the event was quiet a successful one, as most folk were happy with the new vehicles. Which featured the now standard Transdev interiors of wood effect floors, new high back seat with brand new moquette, at seat USB power sockets and the high speed free Wi-Fi all giving a bright and airy feel to the new buses.
For more details on the Dales Way service use the Keighley Bus Company web pages to download the timetable. You can tweet Keighley @keighleybus on twitter for up to date information regarding the service.
The latest double decker offering from Optare continues the integral idea, with typical flare and style, using the Mercedes-Benz OM934LA 5litre engine. Coupled to the ZF Ecolife 6AP transmission, ZF steering, nearside emergency exit, in two lengths of 10.6 or 11.1 meters. The Metrodecker is now entering the demonstration stage, with Reading Buses and First South Yorkshire sampling this Yorkshire built product.
Ever since the release of the rather impressive styled 'Rapta' body shell in 2009, Optare have been waiting to build on the successful Solo minibus model. Using its favored choice of Mercedes-Benz engine coupled to the Alison gearbox, the IDD4 chassis with the former East Lancashire/Darwen Olympus bodywork was earmarked for a 2010/2011 release.
However Optare was undergoing several changes, with new management (Ashok Leyland), new premises in Sherburn in Elmet and introducing the new Solo SR, Versa, Metrocity and Tempo SR range, leading to the double decker chassis being put on the back burner.
The Optare Spectra bodywork was built on the DAF SB250LC chassis, which was based on the MCW Metrobus integral double decker model. Optare with DAF, who were partners at the time, purchased the rights of the Metrobus and Metrorider from the Laird Group in 1989. Optare continued with the Metrorider and later improved the appearance of the integral minibus, until the introduction of the low floor Solo. For the double decker both Optare and DAF worked for a couple of years, correcting the problems with Metrobus chassis and designing a new stylish bodywork. The finished product was displayed at the 1991 Bus Show at the NEC in Birmingham, in Reading Bus livery. Reading became a customer for the Spectra, along with Travel West Midlands and Arriva Yorkshire, plus many independent companies too.
The DAF SB250LC chassis was redesigned as a low floor vehicle in 1997/8, thus allowing the Spectra to continue for a few more years. The low floor version of the Spectra is identified by the longer upper deck window at the front on each side.
East Lancashire Olympus
Long established Blackburn based bus builder East Lancashire (ELC) continued to produce very stylish. some what bespoke bodies for operators. The final body style to be designed by ELC was the Olympus, which was stylish and pleasant to look at. ELC itself was subject to a takeover by the Darwen Group, who were in turn acquired by Optare. The Olympus double decker body was continued, by Optare, with a pause in 2009 as the 'Rapta' body was unveiled.
This Ipswich example shows off the curved lines and the gasket glazing used by ELC at the time. The Olympus was built on the DAF, Scania and Volvo chassis, with examples still in service around the country.
When this new uniquely styled double decker was unveiled outside the Covent Garden, London Transport Museum in 2014. Optare was now in the hands of Ashok Leyland (75% share holding), which was formed in India during the 1970's by Leyland. The bus was finished with full TfL specification interior, but with a dark blue overall livery, this bus was eventually registered OP14ARE, the event drew interest but no orders were forthcoming. With the Bi-annual Bus & Coach Expo held at Birmingham's NEC, the London bus was displayed outside and joined by a longer prototype inside the exhibition hall.
The neat and uncluttered lower saloon shows of the Estaban Civic V3 high backed seating, with wheelchair zone and the nearside emergency exit. The kidney bowl effect rear window is an interesting style to say the least. Overall the light and bright interior is very welcoming, this particular bus was eventually used by Reading Buses as their 109 YJ65EPU during early 2016. It was also used at Newbury as well as Reading during the evaluation trial, YJ65EPU had moved on by mid February 2016. Another Metrodecker is currently in build for TfL to evaluate, which could lead to a trial period and orders. As operators are now looking for each manufacture to produce, light weight and fuel efficient double decker chassis with light weight bodies too. As Optare knows the UK double deck market is dominated by both ADL and Volvo, with Scania coming in second all competing for business. Bodywork by ADL and Wrights feature in most UK fleets, but MCV are gaining interest with the new Evoseti double deck style, with a batch of Evoseti/Volvo making it into Go-Ahead London's fleet. This does leave Optare with some serious ground to catch up on in the next few months.
First South Yorkshire 35000
Optare has had the Solo and Versa products purchased by First group in the past, so it was quite logical that the Metrodecker might be evaluated within the First group. First as a major bus operator has seen plenty of changes in recent years, the appointment of Giles Freanley, introduction of the refreshed 'Olympia' livery and over £455 million pounds spent in the last few years on new buses across the First group UK fleets.
First South Yorkshire's X78 service has been a little test bed in recent times for potential new buses for the South Yorkshire fleet. The route had been operated by Rotherham based Volvo/Wrights double deckers, with 'Olympia' livery and X78 branding, lately operated by new integral Wrights Streetdecks in a dark/light and grey livery and marketed as the X78 'Steel link'. Two integral Wrights Streetdecks 35101 and 35102 were placed into service with First, with 35101 seeing service in Manchester and Halifax before heading for Rotherham. In late 2015 another demonstrator arrived in Rotherham in the shape of 36301 a Volvo B5TL with new MCV Evoseti bodywork.
During early 2016 it was suggested that First were going to get a Metrodecker for evaluation, by mid April Rotherham depot had been given YJ16DFG for use on the very busy X78 service which serves all the major towns and cities of the South Yorkshire operation. Both the Metrodecker and Streetdecks have the same Mercedes-Benz engine with Voith gearbox in the Streetdeck and the ZF Ecolife gearbox in the Metrodecker. The lower front end dash has echoes of the 'Tempo SR' saloon, which looks smart, YJ16DFG is the 11.1 meter version of the Metrodecker.
Riding the Metrodecker
April 29th 2016 saw the maiden voyage of 35000 the Optare Metrodecker as it started in Sheffield on the 07:03 to Doncaster, then returned to Sheffield as the 08:40 duty. Back to Doncaster as the 10:15 duty, then from Doncaster as the 11:50. It was for this particular journey, that your author travelled down to Coinsbrough, near Doncaster to photograph this new vehicle in service.
Upon arrival, with car parked and practice shot with a Streetdeck, the Metrodecker arrived on time at Castle Hill, Coinsbrough, as seen above. The town was getting very busy decorating the streets with bunting and later spray paint on the roads, for the second day of the 'Le Tour De Yorkshire' cycle race. 35000 then ventured towards Sheffield, as lunch was taken, with more shots of the Streetdecks as well. The Metrodecker returned to Coinsbrough, as the 13:25 departure from the Steel city, with the bus due to leave Doncaster at 15:00.
Your author then picked up the service on the Maple Grove/Micklebring Grove stop at 15:41, some six minutes behind time. The reasonably priced First Day SY ticket £5.00 was purchased and 35000 set off for Sheffield again, in bright afternoon sunshine. Taking a seat over the rear wheel arches the ride quality was good despite the poor condition of the 'wintered' roads the suspension coped very well, which added the smooth ride. The lower saloon was clean and fresh, with larger windows and neat LED lights incorporated within the ceiling coving panels. The light grey and white interior décor is complemented by the light blue/grey with black plastic backed seats, which are e-leather cover Estaban Civic V3s with grey coloured grab rails. There are dedicated buggy and wheelchair zones, with stickers giving priority to wheelchair passengers. The lower saloon has 33 seats in total, with the five rear seats, rear wheel arches and the single seat just after the door, all with thin cushions.
The lower saloon seats forward of the buggy and wheelchair zones, shows the bright and airy design of the vehicle, with Optare logo printed on the floor. At Rotherham, as the drivers changed, so did your author as I ventured to the upper saloon for the continued journey to Sheffield, which had 51 seats all with ample leg room. The windows in the upper saloon were shallower then the lower saloon windows, another weight saving design akin to the Wrights Streetdeck bus. Again Civic V3 seats are in this saloon, apart from the thin cushioned five rear seats.
Acceleration was smooth and jerk free at bus stops, traffic signals and stop/start traffic in Sheffield especially around Meadowhall and the city centre. Hill climbs were somewhat sluggish, depending on the driving style of the driver, however the 18,000kg vehicle got over the hills with dignity intact. 35000 took to the straighter stretches of the X78 route very well providing a fast and nippy, with smooth cornering and deceleration when necessary, the ZF gearbox and Mercedes-Benz engine proving a good combination. The only real noise in either saloon were the constant whirl of the air-con/aircool system. which were busy due to the rather cool nature of the day.
The clean and uncluttered bright upper saloon seen above, showing the high standard of finish to the demonstrator vehicle. The bus was only missing the USB charging points and free Wi-Fi, then it could really make the passengers on the X78 very happy indeed.
Overall the impression of the Metrodecker is one of a favourable vehicle, good quality seating for 84 passengers with space for 15 standing passengers. Rattle free interior, good interior lighting built into the ceiling coving, strong grab rails, good wheelchair and buggy zones and a bright interior décor, give this particular demonstrator the feel of the Streetdecks on the X78 'Steel link' service.
There is a shorter 10.6 meter version, which seems to be aimed at the London market to full TfL specification, no doubt this version could be used as a provincial bus. It will be interesting to see how the Metrodecker sells in the high competitive double deck market, and if Arriva, First, Go-Ahead, National Express, Transdev and Stagecoach will buy examples of this vehicle. One key element which Optare could have is like WrightsBus be able to complete an order for bespoke interior design, like the current Volvo/Wrights Gemini3s on the 36 Riding redefined double deckers.
On a very dark, crisp Sunday morning on January 24th 2016. History was made, well transport innovation was about to be redefined, as the first of the fourteen new Volvo B5TL/Wrights Gemini3s entered service.
Your author joined Tim and Alan from Transdev to record the first movements of the new #Riding Redefined vehicles. The day started with a blanket of a dark sky, including a morning chorus of birds, with the car parked and spaced checked for a intended parking fee, which was still free on a Sunday. Bus 3624 BL65YYX arrived at Harrogate for the initial 07:10 journey to Ripon, on to the stand. The first passenger was Anne, who was tweeted onto the Transdev twitter feed by Alan, while Tim noted down the first bus out. A few minutes after 3624 departed for Ripon the next bus to arrive was 3627 BL65YZB for the initial trip to Leeds, as the 07:20 departure. With both buses out on route, it was a fifty minute wait for the next bus to arrive, so it was time to photograph the new 36 frosted glass at each stand and a chat with Alan and Tim.
The next bus to arrive into the bus station was 3616 BL65YYO, which was the second departure for Ripon at 08:10. This bus was the one which your author witnessed the tilt test on December 9th 2015. While the bus was on the stand, the driver was very upbeat with getting to drive the new fresh #Riding Redefined 36 class vehicles. For the 08:20 departure for Leeds saw the return of 3624 back to Harrogate as it was about to be the first new Volvo B5TL/Gemini3 to do the full Ripon-Harrogate-Leeds route. After both buses had departed Harrogate, it was time for a quick cuppa and a light breakfast in a local roman emperor named coffee house.
3625 BL65YYZ was the next bus to arrive with a journey to Leeds as the 08:50, as 3627 returned from Leeds to become the 09:10 service to Ripon. By now the light was beginning to improve as the new vehicles were starting to sparkle in the brightening skies. For some of the early Sunday morning departures to Leeds, the buses start from Startbeck, the Prospect Road bus stop. It was from here that 3615 BL65YYN was first used, by local Harrogate legend Peter Smith, who does occasionally drives the 36 route, when time calls for his services. This vehicle was the 09:40 Harrogate-Leeds service. For your author the morning flew by as the new 36 #Riding Redefined entered service, recording the first movements of the new longer Volvo B5TLs with Wrights Gemini bodywork.
For the 10:20 trip to Leeds, your author joined 3627 which had returned from Ripon. This was one of the first driver changes, with Steve at wheel for the journey through to Leeds. It was a chance to sample the new buses out in service, with the new look and much improved interiors. For the trip into Leeds, your author sat at the back of the lower saloon to try the neat little 'chill-out' zone with the mini tables and luggage space. For the passengers new London style scrolling next stop screens on both decks, with selected next stop announcements by 'BBC Look North' personality Harry Gration. This gives the service a real smart local Yorkshire touch to the whole #Riding redefined experience.
Riding on the #Riding Redefined 36 in luxury.
3627 has the small but powerful Volvo D5K Euro 6 engine rated at 240bhp@1900rpm coupled with the six speed ZF ecolife gearbox. With a top speed of 55mph, which comes in handy along the straighter parts of the A61 towards Leeds. like the Volvo B5TL demonstrator vehicle that was in Harrogate in early 2015, this Volvo B5TL performed very well along the busy but moving mid morning Sunday traffic in Harrogate. After passing through Pannal, 3627 could really break into a sprint along the A61, gliding through to Harewood after powering up 'Harewood bank' on to another straight part of the A61. 3627 then headed passed Wike Ridge Farm and the Leeds Grammar School, taking in the dual carriage way section of the A61 passing through Alwoodley. Moortown and Chapletown were the next places in which 3627 passed through, before finally arriving at the Bus Station in Leeds. Here there was a chance to chat with Steve the driver, as he showed me the much more spacious cab layout with better layout for the buttons and TV screen, which showed all the images of the fifteen CCTV cameras. Another piece of inspired use is the destination screens with the countdown to departure screens, which range from 10-2 minutes then on to 60-5 seconds to departure. In the lower saloon the real features are the quilted leather Civic V3 seating, wood effect flooring, buggy and wheelchair zones and the latest innovation Library 36.
For the return trip into Harrogate, your author travelled in the upper saloon, which had the five ceiling windows, allowing for more natural light into the saloon. The high backed EGA seating is incredibly comfortable, you relax and forget your actually on a normal service route. The real gem of these seats are the individual tables and the USB power sockets, improved leg room and the smart wood effect floor. During the return journey, your author was in conversation with several passengers, all highly complementary about the new 36 vehicles. Passengers are also given the latest safety staircase, with a monitor so passengers can see the remaining seats in the upper saloon.
Upon the return into Harrogate, your author met up with a fellow photographer with a trip to Ripon and a few more shots of 3627. The above shot of the same bus and friend/driver Steve giving a wave to the camera. The rest of the day saw various movements of the new buses mixing with 3613 BF62UXZ, the only Volvo B9TL in the Harrogate fleet. This vehicle has gained the USB power sockets and now standard 4G Wi-Fi, completed in the refreshing two-tone red Riding Redefined spare livery. In all apart from glitches in the GPS software, the Volvo B5TLs entered into the sprit of the day and performed well on the 36. The stunning livery, the crowds of passengers and the amount of positive feedback on Twitter and other social media, across the first week, with pictures from passengers and Transdev's CEO Alex Hornby, who was on hand as a #busbutler during the first Monday morning in service.
For more pictures of the new 36 #Riding Redefined buses, look on my Flickr photostream site at 6228 Leeds.
There will a another blog when these new vehicles, after a few months in service.
On Thursday evening January 21st 2016 around six o'clock the VIP guests and invited passengers on the 36 gathered at the Hotel Majestic in Harrogate for the official launch of the new #Riding Redefined 36.
Alex Hornby the Chief Executive of Transdev welcomed all the guests to the evening, which all started way back in 2003, with two gentlemen taking a risk with bus travel. To introduce the 36 passengers to a new level of travel with improved leg room, better seating and GPS guided maps and stop locations on screens, for both decks. Giles Fearnley and Stuart Wilde took an advantageous challenge, working with Wrights Bus to produce such elements to improve bus travel. The Twindecks were the start of a new revolution, which saw the big three groups bringing in the Sapphire, Gold and Platinum premium standard of passenger comfort. But the 36 story was about to enter a new chapter, forging ahead from the idea by Giles Fearnley into an even higher standard. Both the lord mayor of Harrogate, and the lady mayor of Ripon, were attending along with Best Impressions Ray Stenning who designed the interior and exterior touches of the new vehicles, with ideas from Alex and Transdev all thrown into the mix, which led up to the Riding Redefined branding.
For the new buses the bar had to be raised very high, but also to utilize the very modern touches of the post smart phone era, with better Wi-Fi technology, better smarter seating with bigger legroom. Wood effect flooring with additional wood effect ceiling panels, which gives the impression of the really valued customers of the service. The fourteen buses are the first to have double glazing windows, five ceiling windows along the roof. Volvo provided the extra long 11.5 meter chassis with the small but turbo charged D5K engine, coupled to the six speed ZF Ecolife gearbox. With an impressive 6.3 wheelbase these new chassis were joined together with the equally impressive square shaped Wrights Gemini3 bodywork. Together with some very creative thinking out of the box, Ray Stennings' design team at Best Impressions brought to life the new vehicles, with a stunning livery to boot. Three vehicles were taken across to the Hotel Majestic, 3618, 3620 and 3625 and placed into position for the start of a light and sound show, which would reveal the members of #team36 on a podium. Then it was time to mix and converse about the new buses, with Stuart Wilde and Transdev's UK senior CEO also in attendance, with Keith Roebuck the manager at Harrogate who was very happy about the buzz the new fleet was generating at Harrogate. It has been ten years since any new vehicles were purchased for the service, so with the correct elements in place, orders placed and the finished result out for this special press showing. Local partners from MPs to local transport bodies were able to see for themselves the amount of effort taken to produce #Riding Redefined.
The preview events Friday January 22nd 2016.
The morning after the night before was wet, wet, wet and no I have not popped in then souled out, and Marti Pellow was no where to be seen. Your author had ventured out early to capture the morning movements of the new 36 buses out for preview events. 3620 BL65YYT was spotted turning into Beech Grove in Harrogate, where the bus was paused for a few photos, with local MP Andrew Jones (Conservative) who was been introduced by Alex Hornby to examine every detail of the new 36 fleet. Then the bus was moved into the main through road for a couple of circuits of Harrogate town centre, unfortunately the weather conditions were not exactly the best for photographs. 3625 BL65YYZ then arrived into view along Victoria Avenue, before turning into West Part and Parliament Street, then pausing at the bus stops near Betty's Tea Rooms. However the potential for attracting passengers was going to be a tough ask for the team of three Transdev employees, but they were keen to try. For your author it was nice to chat too two of the regular 36 drivers and get their views of the vehicles, which were to become there offices.
After a very wet morning, a change of clothes, a spot of lunch and a welcome cuppa, your author returned to Harrogate to get better shots of 3625, as she stood outside Betty's. Then it was off for a trip over to Ripon to look at the other vehicle on display, which was 3618 BL65YYR. Here another team of 36 drivers were gathered as they handed out free travel vouchers, note books, timetables and card models of the new fleet, oh not forgetting the black & red lollies!. The Ripon bus was placed on the Market place in Ripon City, a focal point for visitors and residents of the city. The weather had also improved as the sun ventured out for the last few hours of daylight, all was set for the following day in Leeds.
Saturday January 23rd 2016 the Leeds preview.
As the dawn chorus broke, your author realized it was going to be a lovely day, as the sun rose above the Starbeck depot of Transdev In Harrogate. As 3618 was prepped for action, the depot was busy with Saturday early morning departures. By 08:45 3613 BF62UXZ started its day by running towards Harrogate for its first duties, with 3618 behind. Driver Steve brought the bus around the corner, allowing me to take a couple of shots, as seen above. Then the bus was taken along the A59 Knaresborough Road then along the A61 towards Leeds, your author was lucky with the traffic and the trains. Starbeck has a rail crossing which cuts the high street in two, when a train is due this does cause a tailback or two of traffic. Having ventured through the Rudding Park road and on to the A659 by-pass, it was on to the A61 Leeds road with a quick pause for a shot of 3618 passing by. The bus happily meandered through Harewood and into Leeds, passing Alwoodly Gates and towards Moortown, it was just off the roundabout that another shot was taken. Then 3618 was driven down Scott Hall road, after a brief jaunt down Street Lane in Moortown. Again on Scott Hall Road were a handy lay-by was used to park the car, the bus glided by as it ventured towards its final destination, Briggate Leeds.
After a short bus trip on a competitor's 7 series service into Leeds, your author joined the now gathering crowd of the general public and bus enthusiasts, as the Transdev team began to unpack the bus. CEO Alex Hornby was joined by Keith Roebuck, the Harrogate manager, Joni a member of the Harrogate engineering team, drivers Tony and Steve, with Ben and Chloe, all were on hand to supply the public with answers to the questions posed by the potential passengers. In between their very busy day both Alex and Keith found time to chat with me about the whole Riding Redefined 36 progamme and the first day of service. As your author joined into the sprit of the day, the vast majority of opinion was in favour of such buses, although many wanted First group to have such vehicles. Plenty of the general public were genuinely impressed with the overall splendor of 3618, with its 'airline' type of seats on the upper deck, plenty was discussed about the lower saloon seating and the neat tables at the rear of the saloon. The vast and spacious upper saloon with its uncluttered light and airy feel, was amongst the talking points, as were the position of the bell buttons. The individual at seat tables along the upper saloon, with USB power sockets, were also discussed amongst the passengers and general public, as were the upper deck skylights.
However for your author, time was marching on and with my farewells made to Alex and the team. It was time to indulge a prior booked evening appointment. Then it was off up the wooden hill to bed, as the following would be an early start.
your next stop is:- The first day in service.
In 2003 the first high specification double deck vehicles had arrived on the revamped 36 service as the 'Twindecks'. These new vehicles were presented as the ultimate in public transport luxury, with impressive credentials.
New features included the GPS powered tracking system, with additional route maps and next stop graphics. High backed leather seating with improved legroom in the upper saloon, cloth moquette seats in the lower saloon with the 36 logo sewn into the headrests, again with improved legroom. Each vehicle had photographs of key locations in Leeds, Harrogate and Ripon on the staircase and rear lower saloon panels. These new vehicles were officially launched at a public event in Harrogate in the spring of 2004, with a specially produced booklet, new timetable and a 36 mug! The £2.200,000 investment of the 12 vehicles, each costing around £180,000, was a gamble, which worked well. WrightsBus of Ballymena had worked very closely with Giles Fearnley and Blazefield, to produce what was then a bespoke idea for modern bus travel. The stand out livery designed by Samantha Beeley as illustrated by number 3611 above standing at Ripon bus station, was not only strikingly stunning but also a head turner.
After its first appointment at the 2003 Bus & Coach Show at Birmingham's NEC, 3601 entered into traffic on Monday October 27th 2003, on the 07:30 trip from Harrogate to Leeds, with David Alexander on hand to send 3601 off on her maiden voyage to Leeds. In Leeds Giles Fearnley was interviewed by BBC Look North (Yorkshire) Transport correspondent Alan Whitehouse, all about the luxury way to travel on the 36. In March 2004, 3602-3612 were delivered and entered into traffic, replacing the now established Volvo/Wrights saloon vehicles.
In 2004 the original 'Twindecks' were joined by one solitary Volvo Wrights Eclipse bodied saloon, with the single deck version of Samantha Beeley's livery, number 1800 depicted above on New Briggate, Leeds. 2006 brought in a leased Volvo B7TL with Wrights Gemini bodywork, number 3613, as the passenger numbers continued to grow. Former Lancashire United Volvo/Gemini 2765 arrived in Harrogate during early 2009, with its 'Lancashire Way' branding removed this bus was new in 2005. As mentioned in another blog on my current events page, 3601-12 and 2765 were to undergo a major refurbishment and re-build programme from late 2010 until early 2012, into the new 'City Connect' 36, with new logo, new off-side single seats in the upper saloon, all the seats were now in a tone red leather high back coach seat style. These provided the new personalized space travel concept and the now familiar Wi-Fi was introduced during 2014.
Raising the bar #Riding Redefined style
By late November 2015 the new Volvo B5TL chassis with new Wrights Gemini3 bodies were taking shape across the Irish sea, over in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. Earlier in 2015 Transdev's newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Alex Hornby had joined forces with renowned bus design guru Ray Stenning, who is MD of Best Impressions, who have lately given fresh appeal to Winchester's Kings City Buses, various Trent Barton coloured coded routes, Reading Buses, Go-Ahead Oxford City Bus and the recently refreshed Transdev 662 The SHUTTLE service operated from Keighley.
Again it was the generous welcome from WrightsBus, who took up this challenge again to follow up the bespoke design of the new #Riding Redefined 36 'Twindeck' vehicles. Using the 2014 introduced Gemini3 square 'Stealth' look to the lighter weight bodywork, with some unique shallow upper deck windows and improved windscreen, affording drivers a better view of the road. This new shape/style of body was debuted at the 2014 Bus&Coach Expo at the NEC, with a Streetdeck in Arriva Sapphire livery and a pink liveried Volvo B5TL for Translink, Belfast. New vehicles to feature the new Gemini3 body are working with Go-Ahead Brighton&Hove, Oxford Bus Company, Metroline and Go-Ahead in London, Lothian and First Bus in Bristol, Worcester, Leicester and Rotherham.
For the Harrogate vehicles came the high specification requirement in order for the new #Riding Redefined 36 buses to really stand out from the crowd. In two firsts for UK buses doubled glazed windows and five skylights windows along the upper saloon roof, High backed individual coach seats with own tables along the upper saloon, quilted leather seats in the lower saloon all with much improved legroom. Superfast 4G Wi-Fi internet coverage on the whole fleet of fourteen vehicles, USB power sockets available at every seat, NRM style air-con system and opening windows and finished with wood effect flooring and wood ceiling panels, giving a light and airy feel to the whole bus.
Tilt test & factory visit
It was during the final 'Blast-off' launch of the 662 the SHUTTLE event in which the old adage of if you don't ask you don't get, applied. During a conversation with Alex Hornby, the subject of the new buses was brought up. I asked if it were possible for me to go over to Ballymena and see the new buses in build, this was agreed with one vital stipulation! None of the photographs could be made public (until after the bus had entered service), which was a fair and understandable request. After several e-mails, booked flights and permissions gained, I was off to Belfast and then Ballymena.
It was an early start to venture of to Ballymena, catching the 06:30 (Ray Stenning styled) Flying Tiger to Leeds/Bradford airport, after the now familiar security checks, it was time for a quick breakfast and then onto the Fly-Be plane. After Landing at Belfast City Airport, I was met by David my driver for the day, as we travelled to the Belfast Translink Falls Road bus depot, we chatted about plenty of stuff. Soon after leaving the car, putting the High Viz coat, I was introduced to both Liz and Colin, employees of WrightsBus. It was here that I had a really good look around AM664, which turned out to be 3616 BL65YYO of the #Riding Redefined fleet. I was struck at how much better the bus looked even with the vast majority of the seats having simulated weights on, which was beneficial to the tilt test. With the arrival of the vehicle tilt test inspector Richard, the bus was then tilted on the hydraulic ramp, the test was carried out on both sides of the bus, which was tilted to 28.6 degrees. Richard explained to me the variations of a good and critical tilt test, 3616 was a good tilt test even though one of the rear back wheels was off the ramp. Richard also took the time show just how a bus at 35 degrees could be easily toppled over. Translink employee John brought the bus down from each tilt and afterwards put all the straps and blocks away from the bus.
3616 is depicted out in the rear yard of the Translink depot, it was here that another vital test was carried out the horn test. The front panel was lowered so the horn could be heard, it was Richard who stood some 30 yards from the bus directly in front, as Colin sounded the horn, with a 94.6 decibels reading, the horn had passed the test. The one of the highlights of the day was a ride on 3616 to the WrightBus factory along the main motorway and A-roads of Northern Ireland, we even passed some First Bus Streetlite saloons heading for the mainland. As for the bus, it performed very well for the half hour or so trip to Ballymena, the engine was very happy at a constant 55mph along the main roads, in all a good run out, the lower deck seats were free of any weights, so it was on these myself and Liz travelled on.
At Wrights reception I was met by Derek Allen, who welcomed me to Wrightsbus, and after a spot of lunch and the safety briefing over it was time to start my guided tour of the factory, which was amazing. Buses start at on end of the factory and end as the finished product at the other end of a line. Streetlite, Streetdecks, Volvo B5TLs and of course the New Routemasters were in various stages of build. In the new customer sign off centre, myself and Derek had a good look around 3616, which looked visually stunning in this quiet zone, a nice chilled out area for the customer to relax, this part of the complex was just finished been built. The rear of the lower saloon was to have the addition of tables to from the chill out commuter zone, here the tables would have USB sockets. As we left the customer sign-off area, Derek took me around the paint shop, the bodyshop and the final finishing line, before vehicles were cleared for dispatch to the customer.
Before my visit ended, I was given some free gifts from Wrights, a model of an OK motors saloon, a very posh pen in a presentation pouch and a 2016 desk calendar, now in use! I have to say that everyone at WrightsBus on the day were very welcoming, and friendly, I can clearly see why Alex Hornby choose WrightsBus for the Harrogate 36 fleet of buses. Derek had to continue with his day as I was taken back to reception and David kindly drove me back to Belfast City centre and a well deserved cuppa.
Many thanks to John Hartley and Derek Allen for allowing me to visit the WrightsBus factory, thanks also to John and Translink for allowing me access to the depot and the tilt test, thanks also to Colin, Richard and Zoe. With thanks to Alex Hornby for starting the ball rolling for me to record the tilt test on December 9th 2015.
Arriving next the preview days and the first day in service for #Riding Redefined the 36.