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Metroline Refurbishment Centre Part 1 [Preview]

On a small estate in the Buckinghamshire countryside is a bus refurbishment centre owned by Metroline who opened the facility in 2013. It was adapted from the success of the company's CELF centre which opened 6 years prior in 2007. At present the centre is receiving an influx of buses, namely vehicles from the batch TE1715-1751 which are being prepped for their uptake on the retained 282 and newly won 482 which will operate from G. The ongoing refurbishment of the SELs for the conversion of 79 and 297 is also nonchalantly taking place here too.

The purpose of the centre opening was to significantly reduce the cost and time it takes to refurbish a bus in order to get the bus back in to revenue as soon as possible Typically the company would either send their vehicles to the Hants & Dorset Trim in Eastleigh which would only be after a slot had been booked, a process that can take months to finalise, or the Rowan Telmac trim in Coventry for which a low loader would be required. Another benefit of having a centre as such is that it reduces the risk of mistakes as everything is foreseen by the man who opened the centre, who I upon speaking to said he "anticipated great things for the centre, and other operators as also keen to utilise the base in the near future. Join us as we add another exciting series to the blog.

Metroline TE1735 SN09 CFK & TE1717 SN09 CDX
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The Wrightbus Gemini 3

Arriving at the Expo with about an hour to spare, it was all smiles at the Wright camp, who two weeks prior had unveiled their updated Gemini 3 design, a design I was most impressed with. The face-lifted model sees Wright move away from the rounded 'Nokia' design, to a more sleek and sharper looking vehicle, which simply looks fantastic. Other than the obvious, one of the more noticeable features of the vehicle is the smaller grill, which is said to be designed in a manner as such to allow all operators to be able to fit their logo on their products, without a compromise of size.The wrap around windscreen now ensures that there are no driver blind spots, somewhat increasing the safety of the vehicle. The larger blind box along with the reshaping of the unit makes it's accessibility slightly easier too.

From the nearside angle is very hard to spot that the windows are still the shallow ones, specified on the previous Gemini 3 which is by no means called the Gemini 2.5 or 2.75 or any other silly name but they more in proportion with the bodywork of the vehicle, something I had to force my self to get use to with the previous model. Following suit with other manufacturers, the traditional sixties gasket style windows option has been dropped in favour of a new type of bonded window which is set to save operators a few pennies if damaged. It was explained to myself that the previous Gemini 3 model was simply a stop gap in preparation for the new wave of Euro 6 buses and that it was never intended to be a long term solution, not that there was ever a problem in the first place..!

Immediately noticeable with the lower saloon is the airy and spacious interior, although I'll reserve my judgement till I see one delivered to TFL's intricate specification. A few things have been adjusted such as the pitching of the seats which all together make it a more comfortable vehicle to travel on, and one does not have to be particularly choosy in where he or she sits in order to have a comfortable journey. The lighting has also been altered, a smaller strip of LED bulb have been supplied, which spells the end of intrusive lighting and dazzled eyes. The engine bay has also been altered, although only slightly, which increases the height by 1mm, making it a tad more difficult to see out of the rear window contrary to previous Gemini models.The isle has also been slightly widened to allow ease of movement not that Britain is not the fattest European country!

The upper deck has a very upmarket appeal to which probably is exaggerated by the lighting and shallow windows, which create a very tranquil environment, instantly noticeable is the lack of opening windows, with just two which are adjacent to one another. The room line appears to be much higher than before despite the vehicle being the same height as the previous model, erasing concerns over whether one would be able to walk comfortably upstairs, I mean I'm 6'3 and I had no problems what so ever. My only point of concern would be the size of the rear upper deck window, it seems to have shrunk in size even in comparison to the previous Gemini 3 but that's no major flaw.

The rear portion has also been altered to accommodate for the larger engine tray which ultimately results in a smaller rear window. In addition to this, the black masking has also had a change in shape, although I suspect that is more to do with aesthetics more than anything.

My Rating: 8/10 - I like the vehicle at lot, I really do, although one thing I would suggest would be to add rear blind box level lights as well as get rid of some of the black masking, its a bit excessive in my opinion but I guess that's why I'm an enthusiast and not the one who designs these things. Join us throughout the week as we review all of the new types presented at the European Bus Expo in Birmingham this year.
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