As a large number of London’s Enviro 400 MMC’s have now been delivered, with two more batches for Go Ahead and Stagecoach still to come, I thought I would take a trip out of the capital, to Britain’s second city, Birmingham. To see what their versions had to offer.
National Express West Midlands (NXWM), is one of the largest bus operators
outside of London and even with London included they would still be ranked
third largest (following Go-Ahead London and Metroline). They operate over 170
routes and around 1,600 buses working out of ten garages, they have a varied
fleet from double deckers to articulated or bendy buses right down to small
midi buses. And that doesn’t include sister company National
Express Coventry. Also it’s worth noting that when compared to London their
fleet is ageing, with still quite a few buses over 10 years old.
As part of the Transforming Bus Travel agreement, signed in 2013, NXWM are
delivering more than £34 million of investment in the West Midlands bus services
over a period of two years, this investment includes 300 new buses. This
included 14/64 registered standard Enviro 200’s and 400’s as well as the
remaining 171 buses which will be delivered this year, mainly comprising of the largest order so far
of Enviro 400 MMC's, they are also the first company to receive the new Enviro
200 MMC. The first Enviro 400 MMC’s hit the streets towards
the end of March. And will form an average of one new bus hitting the region’s
streets every day between March and August.
Alongside the investment in new buses, improvements also include more
real-time information on bus shelters, similar to what exists in London as well
as other cities. There will also be improvements in CCTV coverage, to help
reduce crime and dedicated cleaners at each end of certain routes to help
improve cleanliness on buses. Which I think is a great idea as it
happens on the trains, and it’s something other cities like London should be
replicating to improve the standard of service for bus passengers.
The first batch of Enviro 400 MMC’s where delivered between March and
April 2015 and have been spilt between Pensnett and Yardley Wood garages
for the Routes 9 and 50 respectively. All these buses were delivered in the new
Scarlet and Maroon livery which is a looks very smart compared to the previous
red and white livery. However most of the buses are route branded and in my
opinion it slightly spoils the livery.
The Route 9 runs between Stourbridge and Birmingham City Centre (approx. 13 miles)
operating every 7-8mins in the peak times and every 10-20mins the rest of the
time. The Route 50 runs between Druids Heath and Birmingham City Centre (approx.
6.5 miles) and is one of the most frequent bus services in the UK outside
London running 24 hours a day with buses every 4-5mins Monday to Saturday
daytimes. It was also the first route in the UK to operate low floor double
The Buses themselves… I am surprised NXWM have still continued to order
single door buses as loadings can often be high which will lead to long dwells especially
at busy stops. I am also surprised they did not go for the hybrid version of
the MMC, as there are only two hybrid routes in Birmingham at the moment
(Routes 23/24). But having ridden the route 9 from Stourbridge into Birmingham,
trying to rein in my pro MMC bias, the buses are great, the seats are sturdy,
which will prove useful on these busy routes they are allocated too. They weren’t
too much of an issue on the hour long journey either. The buses are also very
quick not as quick as the hybrid models (in London) but they are still able to
get away from other buses when bunching occurs, which happened a few times I observed
both routes 9 and 50. Also useful on the large amount of A-road’s on the Route
9. The ride was smooth, and it did iron out some of the smaller imperfections.
Also it was quite evident that they have bedded in very well as the drivers
seem very comfortable with them. They also seemed to be very popular with the
local’s as well, which is always a good sign.
So it looks like I will be returning to the Midlands hopefully within the
next few weeks to see the 'Platinum' Enviro 400 MMC’s and Enviro 200 MMC’s so
stayed tuned for Part 2.
|6108 (SN15LFS) is seen on Snow Hill Queensway, Birmingham while working on Route 9 to Stourbridge. (Taken by Kristian Lake on 16/05/15)|
|6141 (SN15LHL) is seen on Moor Street, Birmingham having just started its journey on the Route 50 to Druids Heath. (Taken by Kristian Lake on 16/05/15)|
|6111 (SN15LFV) is seen on Snow Hill Queensway, Birmingham while working on the Route 9 to Stourbridge. (Taken by Kristian Lake on 16/05/15)|
|6138 (SN15LHH) is seen on Park Street, Birmingham while working on the Route 50 to Druids Heath. (Taken by Kristian Lake on 16/05/15)|
|6134 (SN15LHD) is seen on next to The Bullring Shopping Centre, Birmingham showing the rear route branding for the Route 50. (Taken by Kristian Lake on 16/05/15)|
|6106 (SN15LFP) is seen on Snow Hill Queensway while working on the Route 9 to Stourbridge. (Taken by Kristian Lake on 16/05/15)|
|6124 and 6130 are seen on Moor Street while working on the Route 50 to Druids Heath. (Taken by Kristian lake on 18/05/15)|