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London finally gets some MAN power

Skip back a few years when Buses were actually interesting, quite a unique set of Buses were ordered by North London operator, Metroline. Although by that time Metroline had already had a proven track record for not ordering standard vehicle types.

Metroline MM779 LK07 AYL on route 251 at Arnos Grove Station
© Matthew Wharmby  
The year was 2007 and ADL had a year before launched the E200 which was said to be the predecessor to the timeless Plaxton Pointer Dart, however I wish they hadn't, its rattly bodywork made for an annoying journey and awkward seat pitches made it difficult to comfortably sit in about 98% percent of the seats on the vehicles if you are a tall person such as myself.

It was announced the previous year that Metroline had retained the contract for the 251, with the contract commencing in the Spring of 2007. It was expected that vehicle types would be Dennis E200s as the company had a substantial amount of Dennis buses in the fleet. So I think it came as a shocker when these quite unusual bodied buses appeared on the 8th of May 2007.

To be fair we all knew what the body was as Blue Triangle and Docklands Buses had ordered some the year before on the Dennis Dart chassis, but due to the engine placement and beastly sound of these buses, it was quite evident that these were not Dennis Darts in the slightest, not even the 6.7 Liter variant sounded so beastly and untamed.

It was later revealed that the Chassis and Engine on these things were provided by German manufacturer MAN. The chassis dubbed the MAN 12.240 was one that was highly tested and proven in the provinces notably by Stagecoach group but never in London so it was really quite something be excited by. The reason behind that excessive noise output on these vehicles owed to its 240HP engine connected a 3 speed Voith Gearbox (but the best was yet to come).

The 11 vehicles allocated to North Wembley Garage numbered between coded 'MM' and numbered MM771-781 were strictly allocated to the 251, although if my memory serves me correct, i remember seeing one on the 245 at Alperton Station.

Metroline MM772 LK07 AYC on the Route 251 at Arnos Grove Station
© Peter Horrex
I did say the best was yet to come, almost immediately after the 11 MMs entered service another order was placed for these buses, this time for 9 MMs to operate on the newly retained Route 206 back then ran from St Raphael's Estate to Kilburn Park Station. The new vehicles were delivered in September 2007 and entered service the following month.

The New MMs were very different to their early sisters, this time they were fitted with a ZF Eco-Life 5 speed gearbox which meant that their acceleration was much faster and their top speed was quicker than the older MMs. In addition to this they were fitted with Esteban Civic seat types which are far more comfortable than the Rowan Telmac seats previously used. The nine Buses were numbered MM782 -790 and allocated to Metroline's North Wembley Garage.

Metroline MM786 LK57 EHK on the Route 206
© Lawrence Abel
They often say bad things happen in threes, but in this case I think its safe to say that this is not always true. Metroline announced that the chosen type was again more MMs. 18 of these vehicles were ordered as part of a Quality Incentive Contact (QCI) for the Route 90 which runs from Northolt to Feltham. They vehicles were delivered in November of 2007. The new vehicles identical to those operating on the 206 were numbered MM810 - 827. The only difference being there was more blue interior paneling on this batch of vehicles.

Metroline MM785 LK57 EHV on the Route 90 at Hatton Cross Station
© Lee Thatcher 
The reason why these vehicles were such a hit, owes to the fact, although they seat 26 passengers, they manage to do this comfortably, this is down to the seat pitching, in addition to this, they were very fast and sounded great when driven at the legal road speed!

In 2009 it was announced that Metroline would be closing their North Wembley base, the base subsequently closed on the 11th of May 2009 and Route 206 transferred to Perivale East (PV) along with its MMs, however the Route 251 which transferred to Cricklewood did not take its MMs there due to standardization issues, so the MM770-781 transferred to PV to operate on dual-carriage way route 232, and the Darts on the 232 temporarily transferred to the Route 251 while new E200s were built for the route.

The new E200s were meant to be built for the route 232 however, Metroline consulted with TfL and it was decided that the new buses would to to W (as always!) for the route 251 and the nearly new MMs would go on the 232...but for how long...?

On the 28th of April 2012, Metroline lost the route 206 to First and MM782-790 were made redundant, so they remained in storage at PV for just over a month.

When PV closed on the 23rd of June 2012, Routes 7 and 90 transferred over to neighboring Perivale West (PA) Garage and Routes 143,232 and 326 transferred to Cricklewood Garage, however if the 232 was to transfer over to W then taking the MMs with it would create a repeat of the situation in 2009 that was avoided.

In order to avoid this, Metroline decided to directly swap the MMs on the 232 with the DEs on the E6 which meant that the whole batch of DEs numbered between DE859 - 877 transferred over to W and MM771-781 transferred over to PA. However with some of the newer MMs (782 - 790) still redundant, Metroline retired some of the ex 251s MMs to trainer buses (*774 and 777 for the moment) to allow the ex-206 buses to be used on the E6.

Metroline MM821 LK57 AYS on the Route E6 at Hayes & Harlington Station
© Matthew Wharmby
Being a West Londoner, it is a welcome to change to have lovely MMs operating on another relatively nearby route, but I still have to question whether the DEs now operating on the 232 are suited to high speed dual-carriage way type work...that still remains to be seen.

In effect by Metroline doing this, it allowed them to allocate the non-standard MMs to one single garage similar to what they did with their Scania Olympus bodied buses on the same day. Below are some key facts about the MMs.

Key Facts

  • Made their debut in 2007 on the route 251 with 11 examples ordered.
  • Powered by a powerful 240HP engine which in terms of size-power ratio makes them the most powerful diesel buses in London. 
  • 38 Buses ordered in total comprising of three batches
  • All allocated to PA Garage
  • Some of which in the process of being converted to trainer buses.

Be sure to comment and rate below!
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Snowy Observations! 20.01.13

With today's snowfall, I took the chance to get some nice snowy pictures in and around the local area! Enjoy!

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Focus On: Route H28

I'm still alive!! Yes my first set of university exams are over and I finally have had the time to write a post! Anyways, enough of the sob story, lets get into the action! Whilst travelling home today I thought of a new series that could take place on the blog. A focus on a certain route. I thought it would be rude if I didn't start with my local route (the best route in London of course) the mighty H28!!

Route H28 currently runs between Osterley Tesco and Bull's Bridge Tesco via Hounslow and Heston.

Route H28 is currently run with Dart SLF 8.8m/Pointers but is due an upgrade to new 10.2m E20D's any time soon. The route is run from Hayes garage which is situated about 2 minutes from Bull's Bridge Tesco. The current PVR of Route H28 is 8. The route takes running numbers 611- 618. The route takes an 11 mile journey between the two tesco's serving the back streets the main bus routes in the areas don't cover. It's a very convenient link for shoppers as is often used as a hopper bus between the shopping locations it passes. The current frequency of the route is every 20 minutes Monday - Saturday and  Every Sunday and evenings every 30 minutes. The H28 is currently allocated:

8051, X311KRX
8052, X312KRX
8053, X313KRX
8054, X314KRX
8055, X315KRX
8057, X317KRX
8059, X319KRX
8061, X322KRX
8062, Y38YVV

8051 - 8055, 8057, 8059 and 8061 all hit the road during December 2000. 8062 was purchased by Tellings Golden Miller and entered service in February 2001. Originally, Route H28 was run from Twickenham (TF) garage b. I must say I personally will miss the old buses when they get replaced as they are what I have grown up knowing on the H28. Considering their age, they are still in good condition and could do another 5 years (or maybe that's just be not wanting to let go of them!)

Below is some pictures of the allocated buses along with some sightings on the route:

 8051, X311KRX

 8052, X312KRX
  8053, X313KRX

  8054, X314KRX
 8055, X315KRX

 8057, X317KRX

 8059, X319KRX

 8061, X322KRX
8062, Y38YVV

 8041, V301MDP

 8113, KX06LYS
 8044, V304MDP

 8466, GM03TGM

 8470, HX04HTV
 8499, KX05KFW

8508, LJ08CZR

I hope you liked this post. Thanks for reading. Feel free to rate/comment
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The Metroline SELs...A brief History

Quite an unusual feature in the Metroline fleet but nevertheless very good buses. I'd prefer to get on one over the latest VWs and TEs any day. For some reason there is something very appealing about these vehicles, it may be due to the fact the ELC Olympus body is not a body that can be found in abundance on the streets of London or it may be due to the fact, they are one of a handful of Euro 4 Scania N230UDs, which are great buses.

Metroline SEL760 LK07 BCX on Route 7 on New Oxford Street© Peter Horrex
On November 2nd 2006, TFL announced the outcome for the tenders regarding the routes 7/N7, and the outcome was quite a shock as it was announced that Metroline had gained the Route from First's Westbourne Park Garage in Ladbroke Grove to. It was announced that the route would run from Metroline's Perivale East Garage starting on the 23rd of June 2007.

The vehicle types were shortly announced afterwards as being a batch East Lancashire Coach Builders Olympus bodies with a Scania N230UD chassis which besides the body was the biggest shock as the company hadn't operated the chassis since the early 90s. The vehicles would be allocated fleet numbers ranging from SEL739 - 764. The body which was unveiled by ELC a year before, was a type that was never seen before, this was probably down to the manufacturer's track record, however the vehicles were very much anticipated by enthusiasts.I remember searching all over Google for pictures using search types such as 'Metroline Scania East Lancs and Metroline Olympus, although to no avail.

So it came as a big disappointment when we understood that the vehicles would be slightly late due to weight issues caused by the bodywork of the vehicle. However in July of 2007 the vehicles began arriving in steady numbers and entered service the following week. I must say they were quite the lookers when they were new   with their bright red paintwork and gold advert frames. Though problems did arise concerning the weight of these buses and they were one by one sent back for removal of their Civic Esteban seats to be replaced by lighter plastic based seats with minimal cushioning.

The 10.8m long vehicles were strictly allocated to the 7/N7 although they did make the odd cameo appearance on the Route 90 from time to time. The company in Autumn of 2007 announced a further order of 7 vehicles for the Route 205 top up. The vehicles would be numbered SEL803-809. However by this time ELC had gone into administration and bought out by Darwen Group, so these buses were known as Darwen Olympus'. They were delivered between January and March 2008. But little under two years later the company lost the route 205 to ELBG who were bought back by Stagecoach.

Metroline SEL748 LK07 BBJ on the Route 205 at
Liverpool Street Station © Andy Davison
The surplus vehicles were transferred onto the route 460 to allow the TPLs operating on the route to be transferred to Cricklewood ( A bit of an odd one there, Cricklewood getting older stock! Irony!). The changes would not last long in typical Metroline fashion as from 11th of December 2010, the company announced that the route would transfer to Willesden Bus Garage and the once again surplus SELs (803 - 809) would transfer to Perivale West (PA) for use on the 297 which would in turn allow 6 TEs operating on the route to transfer to EW and W respectively. Adverse weather conditions at the time delayed introduction of these buses on the route until early January 2011.

Metroline SEL804 LK57 KBE on the Route 297 at
Wembley Park Station © Andy Davison
Since the company won the 79 and 105 in July 2011 and November 2011, only a few of these buses have made it onto these routes, this owes to their awkward blind set layout, which comprises of a manual front driver roller and a rear power blind, which is very unique indeed. This heightens the cost of updating the blinds unlike standard blind set ups.

In the opening months of 2012, it was announced that the company would be closing Perivale East Garage (PV) which holds the main allocation of these vehicles and the routes 7 and 90 would transfer over to PA which would then force routes 143, 232 (run from PV) and 326 to transfer to Cricklewood (W). This move would allow the company to centralize the 33 strong fleet of SELs to one garage which has many benefits in itself, as Metroline's head maintenance Centre 'CELF' is just around the corner, should any errors arise with these non-standard fleet vehicles, this will allow them to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

Since new little has been done to these unique vehicles, however it may be worth noting that SEL743 and SEL764 have both received red skirts and a some tinted windows, which makes them look extremely classy if I must add my opinion, SEL764 LK57 KAU demonstrates below.

Metroline SEL764 LK57 KAU on the Route 90
at Hatton Cross Station © Lee Thatcher
Little is known over the future of these buses, however this is probably dependent on whether the route gets its proposed 2 year extension, however regardless of the outcome, I would love for these vehicles to remain in the fleet for years to come!

Happy new year guys and look out for more posts as such outlining specific vehicle histories within a company and for those that didn't quite take in that piece of text I have included some bullet points to make it that bit clearer. Be sure to comment and rate. Cheers!

Key Facts
  • The company's first Scania vehicles in over a decade
  • The First body of its kind in London
  • Delivered in Summer of 2007 for the Route 7 that was respectively won from First
  • A second batch delivered between January and March 2008 for the route 205
  • Numbered from SEL739 - 764 & SEL803 - 809
  • 33 buses in this batch of vehicles
  • All based at Perivale West Garage (PA)
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