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.