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.