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Monday, 21 January 2013

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!


C0BO says:
at: Monday, January 21, 2013 10:29:00 pm said...

Great post again Jay.
These MMs are fantastic buses and it is a great shame that there ain't more of them in London.
Do the MMs have power blinds or manual blinds?

Jay says:
at: Monday, January 21, 2013 11:49:00 pm said...

Thank you C0BO!

The MMs do not have powerblinds, they have manual scroll blinds.

C0BO says:
at: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 12:14:00 am said...

Thanks for the reply and the info.

at: Sunday, January 27, 2013 10:14:00 am said...

Great Post! Why didn't 251 transfer to EW? It is closer.

at: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 12:09:00 am said...

251 was not worked from EW because there wasn't the space. For a while when 204 went double deck it was operated from NW but had maintenance done elsewhere (EW) as NW could only maintain single deckers. I assume this became a logistical problem as 204 was moved into EW.

I wonder of there is a reason a number of MMs are stored and some have become trainers?

C0BO says:
at: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 6:10:00 pm said...

Do the MMs have the blinds for route 395?

at: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 10:44:00 pm said...

Good question! To be honest, I don't know. Although I wouldn't think they do because MM's can't be used on 395 so having blinds for it would be a waste of money. But I don't know....

Lewis says:
at: Thursday, January 31, 2013 9:32:00 pm said...

They are blinded for route 395, but I've never known one venture onto the route - it's strictly Enviro200s in that territory.

MAN MCVs should be more - they sound better, travel faster and rattle less I think!

Great Post!

C0BO says:
at: Friday, February 01, 2013 4:21:00 am said...

I wonder why MMs never go on the 395? I live near the 395 and I have never seen a MM on the 395.

C0BO says:
at: Saturday, February 02, 2013 6:03:00 am said...

I wonder why MMs don't go on the 395?

Sahan Balendran says:
at: Tuesday, February 05, 2013 7:05:00 pm said...

There is a restriction on the route which prevents MMs from going on the 395.

The average enthusiast
at: Sunday, February 17, 2013 8:19:00 pm said...

I think some of the MM's should transfer to HD and that route H12 should convert to SD operation. After all, HD did do NW maintenance so they know how to maintain MMs.

Or they could win some contracts for routes in Harrow and use the MM's from HD.

at: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 5:21:00 pm said...

If Harrow Weald Garage wasn't doing well, they could've transferred its routes to other garages like:
140 - to Perivale West (PA)
182 - to Edgware (EW)
H12 - to Edgware (EW)

at: Monday, April 15, 2013 1:33:00 am said...

There is no space at Edgware so unfortunately they would have to put 182 to cricklewood and H12 would have to go with Transdev (London Sovereign)

at: Saturday, May 25, 2013 9:38:00 pm said...

I think the routes that are on the Edgware blinds would probably be:

at: Sunday, August 17, 2014 11:29:00 pm said...

I see Brentford have MM772 as a trainer - it was repainted and looks very smart. It's a shame none of these are on the E8, they would have been ideal for the route :)

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