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Thursday 5 December 2013

Vehicle Focus: MBK1 [BU13 ZVE]

While we enthusiasts scream out for more variation within the bus scene, along came MBK1, Mercedes answer to a conventional midibus. Based on their highly successful Citaro, MBK1 is a combination of the old Citaro body frame, albeit with fancy trimmings and curves all fitted to a 10.5m Chassis. The vehicle's true length is 10.6m. Quite big for a midibus right? Yeah that's what I thought.

There is one thing that begs a question however. What does that seemingly odd fleet code stand for? It actually stands for Mercedes Benz Klein. Klein is the german word for short or miniscule and Mercedes being a german company, it doesn't seem so odd after all. Many might actually remember London United's 8.9m Plaxton Pointer Darts which had a similar code, theirs being DPK, but then again London United are a French owned company.

For years, Dennis have dominated the single deck market, with their Dart chassis, which comes in a range of sizes and specifications to suit operator needs. Vehicles such as the fairly successful Volvo B6LE have been introduced to match the Dart, but have never quite enjoyed it's success. Wrightbus launched the Streetlite in 2010 to rival the dart in a project called called 'streets ahead' which includes the new Gemini body, but while the streetlite is enjoying some success, the Dart is still the frontrunner.

It has been recently revealed that several operators have been reporting gearbox issues with the E200 and one London operator has actually started ordering streetlites as opposed to E200s for the time being. It is now quite evident that there is a gap in the market for single decks.

Fuelled by talk of a new single decker from Mercedes, I was excited but nonetheless ecstatic when I saw the finished product when it was unveiled at the Euro Bus Expo in 2012 as it is just a citaro with a few curves and ridiculously large wheel arches, nevertheless still an attractive vehicle to look at.

The vehicle is specifically aimed at the UK market and fully meets the EuroVI emissions criteria which owes to the BlueEfficiency engines Mercedes use in their buses. Mercedes claim that vehicle can provide between 3 and 5% savings on fuel per year in comparison to other midibuses.
Two models were built, with one provincial spec'd model being exhibited back in 2012 and the other heading the other way to London. The London model arrived at Quality Line's Epsom Garage (EB) back in July 2013 for evaluation, albeit with LED destination blinds...unusual! 

Quality Line MBK1 BU13 ZVE on the X26 © Dave Mckay
The vehicle arrived at their garage on the 28th of July 2013, and prompted an immediate reply from the managing director of the company who expressed his awe of the vehicle on the company website. It entered service the following week for fuel evaluation trials on the X26 and 465. Although the trial did seem to be a success, it did stay garage bound for a week. However it was later confirmed that there were only two qualified drivers for this vehicle which gives an insight as to why it was off the roads.

Go Ahead London MBK1 BU13 ZVE  on the 355 in Brixton © Luke Vjaska
The photo below which is kindly provided by Luke Vjaska shows how well, LEDs react with digital cameras. After some lengthy time off the road when its trial ended with Quality Line,the vehicle was seen driving around the Waterloo area, igniting talk of it possibly entering service on the 507 or 521 which are already due some trial vehicles. So it came as a shock when it entered service on the Route 355 on the 11th of September 2013 from Go Ahead's Camberwell Garage. This attracted many enthusiasts to the otherwise non appealing area of Brixton, where the bus was photographed and one female driver in particular became akin to her somewhat 'celebrity' status amongst photographers.

The trial with Go Ahead lasted just over two weeks, with the final day of service being the 27th of September 2013. It left Camberwell and was parked up at Waterloo Garage for just over a week before appearing at....

Abellio London XMS1 BU13 ZVE at Hatton Cross Station © Lee Thatcher
Abellio London XMS1 BU13 ZVE at Hatton Cross Station © Lee Thatcher
Fulwell with Abellio London and entering service on the 9th of October 2013, taking duties up on the 235, albeit however with a new fleet number, which one can only assume stood for Xtra Mercedes Short. Although the trial was said to be for the 235, cameo appearances on the 490 turnt into the norm. It ended service with Abellio almost as sudden as it began with the last day of service being the 24th of October.

It was said that Abellio liked the vehicle, however they were concerned at the size of the LED Blinds on the vehicle which I'm pretty sure can be rectified. The Bus was sent back to Evobus for evaluation of the feedback received. During this time the blind box display was altered slightly to make the appearance easier on the eye.

It seemed to disappear for a while, before randomly appearing at Arriva's Enfield Garage blinded for the 313.
Arriva London MBK1 BU13 ZVE on the 313 in Enfield © Dave Mckay
Although the route choice did not seem odd, as the 313 has the perfect mixture of 40 and 50mph limit roads, which would make fuel consumption calculations all the more accurate. It nonchalantly entered service on the 313 on the 2nd of December 2013. It came as a surprise to me as Arriva seem very content with their choice of vehicles and judging by their order patterns, are not interested in trialing new vehicles. However that may be about to change as Wrightbus have announced the DB300 will be replaced by a new Integral Mercedes engined Chassis.

All in all, I think from the offset the vehicle very good, however this is only from an enthusiasts point of view who is tired of the humdrum fleet of buses currently operating in London, whether or not operators agree or disagree remains to be seen.

Many thanks to the photo contributors!

Having written many business reports, I find it easier on the eye to use bullet points to ensure key information is taken in, so below is a bullet point list of what the Citaro K consists of.

Key Facts
  • 10.5 Meters 
  • 6.3 Litre Engine
  • 283 Horsepower
  • Euro VI
  • 6 Speed ZF Ecolife Gearbox
  • Uses Mercedes new BlueEfficiency engine
  • Seats 28 and has standing space for near 40 persons
  • MBK = Mercedes Benz Klein 
Look out for more 'vehicle focus' posts coming soon, for those who liked the post on the Metroline TAs, you should really like the next one...No clues as to what it is however! 


London Bus Breh says:
at: Thursday, December 05, 2013 8:39:00 pm said...

Albeit a couple typos, a well written article with quality photos to accompany this. Vehicle Focus seems to be an exciting prospect and look forward for upcoming posts in the series.

at: Friday, December 06, 2013 12:37:00 pm said...

Couple of corrections, this isn't the old Citaro body with a few curves added but the first version of the new Citaro body available in RHD, this is how all Euro 6 Citaros will look, it has been gradually switching over and RHD models were some of the last and the full size versions will only switch over when Euro 6 comes in. The short Citaro is a standard European product and has been available in LHD for many years - this sort of shortened full sized vehicle is widely offered on the continent by most manufacturers but has never taken off in the UK (Scania offered some examples of which were purchased by East Thames Buses, Metrobus, Centrebus, Thames Travel & Nottingham City Transport). The problem with these models is that they are built as shortened heavyweights which makes them heavier (and so less fuel efficient - the shirt Scanias used only slightly less fuel than their 12metre big brothers) and gives them a compromised internal layout with less seats (about 4 less than an equivalent E200, Streetlite or Optare). Whether Mercedes have solved the fuel consumption issues as they claim (and whether their claims are compared to a standard UK lightweight or a standard European Heavyweight which gives a very different answer) may shape whether they have any greater success with this model than any of the other manufacturers who have tried this type of model have.

I believe the London United DPK stood for Dennis Plaxton Kingston as that was where they were purchased for rather than anything more exotic, a slightly awkward way of identifying these MPD models from the slightly longer more standard DPS.

at: Saturday, December 07, 2013 11:19:00 am said...

Will thid arrive at metroline?

Jay says:
at: Thursday, December 12, 2013 2:12:00 am said...

Many thanks for the comments dwarfer1979, interesting to see that London United or Transdev at the time I should say used an area code as opposed to one referring to the length of the vehicle. Although I've always found their codes to be a bit left wing.

at: Thursday, December 12, 2013 10:28:00 am said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
at: Saturday, August 01, 2015 2:04:00 pm said...

In the year 2020 All TfL buses will be changed to: (Double Deckers) The New Hybrid Bus And will have a LED screen for the blinds.

For single bus they would be changed to irizar buses or this bus over at the top.

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