Follow Us

Drop Down MenusCSS Drop Down MenuPure CSS Dropdown Menu

Search This Blog


Birmingham MMC's Part 1

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.
6108 (SN15LFS) is seen on Snow Hill Queensway, Birmingham while working on Route 9 to Stourbridge. (Taken by Kristian Lake on 16/05/15)
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.

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)
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.

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)
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.

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)
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.

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)
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 decker buses.

6106 (SN15LFP) is seen on Snow Hill Queensway while working on the Route 9 to Stourbridge. (Taken by Kristian Lake on 16/05/15)
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.  

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)
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.
Read more »

London Recap - April 2015

A relatively quiet month in the London bus world, but one thing we can confirm is that Arsenal are not going to win the league title after all and Jeremy Kyle is our new top gear host and I personally cannot see anyone better to be honest, with his amplified voice, who better to talk about a V6 engine on a car.

Delivery of the VH class Volvo B5LH/Wright Gemini buses for the 116 & 285

Delivery of first of 28 VH class Volvos numbered VH24-51 for London United commenced on the 27th of Apirl where four of these buses were unexpectedly delivered to the company's Twickenham Depot in South West London. Earmarked for the Route 116 & 285, there was much speculation as to what both routes will be using to mark the start of their new contract, in particular the 285, with some theorists suggesting the ADH class on the 94 would be utilised which would make way for the introduction of LTs on the route. This was of course rubbished when the first pictures on the net emerged of the new buses. Seen here in a lonely Twickenham yard, stands VH40 which is in warm storage, while it awaits blinds, Tfl revenue equipment as well as IBUS installation prior to entering service on routes 116 and 285.

Introduction of Enviro 400 MMC's for Metroline on Route 332 

The 17th of April, saw the much anticipated introduction of the first batch of Metroline MMC bodied Enviro Hybrid buses, with TEH2081 and 2082 performing the honours. The vehicles ordered against the issue of the new 332 contract were delivered to the company's CELF Centre facility in February before being placed in warm storage at another location. The introduction of 16 strong batch with numbers ranging from TEH2072-2087 will ultimately allow some of the older TEs from the batch TE1073-1104 to transfer to Holloway (HT) in order to oust the 25 TP/TPL class currently in service. As of April 2014, TE1076 & 1077 have made the short trip up north. 

The Last Enviro 400 to enter service

Seen here with the Millennium dome in the backdrop, is Stagecoach London's 12364 SN15 LRJ, the Plumstead allocated vehicle prides itself in being the last ever production model Enviro 400 to be introduced to the streets of London after which all other models will be of the MMC body. Allocated to the 122 as a logistical spare, it spends most of its time plying its trade on the other routes at Plumstead Garage.

Sullivan's new acquisitions

The 7th of April, saw independent operator Sullivan Buses take on the delivery of four former Stagecoach Lodno Scania Omnicity buses which had recently come off lease following the end of their contractual duties on Route 56 which obtained Hybrid buses. Given fleet numbers DS50-53, the vehicles will be allocated to newly won school routes, 692 and 699 which were respectively won from fellow operator London General. The Buses originally ordered by stagecoach are in the process of receiving a new blind sets, prior to deep clean, their arrival allows the company to oust the ageing ALX1/2 & 4/5 in the summer which are nearing the end of their lives.

More Greens for Metroline 

Delivery has commenced of 34 VWH class buses for Metroline as illustrated in the above picture, the eventual batch will consist of 64 vehicles, with eventual fleet numbers set to be running from VWH2088-2151, the introduction of these vehicles will see both routes 6 and 98 convert to full hybrid operation, to meet new requirements as well as allow the not too long refurbished VPs to be utilised elsewhere, ridding older leased deckers in the process. 

A set of striking two tone pink and black NBFL adverts

The over-publication of London fashion icon, the 'LT' continued, with this time Magnum supporting the cause, noted across the Holloway and Leyton garages, the buses, are being wrapped in a pink vinyl advertising Magnum's new flavoured ice cream, all wrapped vehicles have also had WiFi installed, which is sponsored by Walls.

Slightly out of London

Introduction of Streetdecks in Brighton

Slightly out of London, the much coveted introduction of the first of the facelifted Streedecks went very smootly, with the first models entering service on flagship routes 12 and 12X, 24 buses comprised of an integral Wrightbus chassis which is coupled to a 5.1 Daimler engine commenced delivery in the early days of April. Although there have been mixed reviews about the vehicle, nothing can be taken away from the fact it has a marvellously striking design.


TEs on the U5

Metroline West TE1743 is seen in Hayes, unusually working the U5, this batch of buses were originally new to former operator, First London's Greenford Garage for the retention of the E1 & E3 which were successfully retained on tender in 2009. The batch were formerly numbered DN33575-33611, however following the purchase of First's Centrwest operations it and its sisters were given new identities, in TE1715-1751. At present most of the batch are still at Greenford Garage, following the retention and gain of routes 282 and 482, while a few transferred north to Holloway Garage (HT) for the 91 while its TEs transferred further north to the company's Potters Bar (PB) garage as temporary cover on the recently gained 34 and 125 while both routes awaited their new VWHs.

WDL1 on the 655

A normally 270 allocated WDL1 is seen loading outside of GAL's headquarters in Merton whilst serving school route 655, the one off vehicle was delivered to Go-Ahead's via VDL dealer Arriva Bus & Coach in 2009 and housed at their Stockwell garage.

MCL1 Still going strong

Still going strong, seen navigating Kingston Bus Station is Quality Line's MCL1, a now spare bus purchased by Quality Line following the gain of Route 293 back in 2003, the vehicle now spends most of its operating as a layover bus, allocated to much of the routes at the company's small Epsom base.

Transfer of TEs from Cricklewood to Holloway

The much anticipated transfer of up to 25 TEs from Cricklewood to Holloway commenced on the night of the 18th of April, when TE1076/7 transferred in the little hours, the vehicles from a bigger batch with numbers ranging from TE1073-1104 were acquired in 2010 to meet contractual requirements. Initially it was only TE1073-1075 that were delivered to Cricklewood in July 2010, while the latter of the batch commenced their delivery in October of that year, following the annual factory shut down of ADL. The introduction of the vehicles at Holloway will allow the ousting of 5 TPL and 20 TP class vehicles which currently ply their trade on routes 17,43 and 271. It is expected that when all 25 do transfer, their mainstay will be Routes 17 and 43.

Tender News  

29th of April 2015

LBSL intends to enter into new contracts for the following routes with the operators listed below:
Route Current Operator New Operator PVR Vehicles
11/N11 London General London General 26 Existing New Routemaster
23 (24 Hr) Tower Transit Tower Transit 28 Existing diesel and hybrid double deck
190 Metroline Metroline 10 Existing diesel single deck
295 (24 Hr) Tower Transit to Metroline West 21 New hybrid double deck

Contracts will commence on the following dates:
31st October 2015 – Routes 11/N11 and 295
14th November 2015 – Route 23
12th December 2015 – Route 190
Read more »

Wright Streetdeck, What's the Verdict?

Now following up from the extremely popular post back in March which previewed a new design Wright Gemini 3 or Streetdeck leaving the Wright Factory in Northern Ireland, I decided to pop to the seaside to see for myself what all the fuss was about, typically the British weather wasn’t the greatest.

943 (BX15ONV) is seen at the Old Steine, Brighton on the final part of the Route 12 to Churchill Square, this is one of the last streetdeck's in the batch. (Taken 02/05/15 by Kristian Lake)
Wrightbus launched their latest product, the StreetDeck at the Euro Bus Expo in Birmingham in November 2014, the product has leading fuel efficiency and capacity in its class and is a highly reliable product. With its Euro 6 Daimler OM934 5.1 litre 4 cylinder diesel engine, rated at 231hp and a maximum torque of 900 Nm at 1,400rpm. The buses measure 10.469m long, 2.52m wide and 4.395m high with two possible body designs available, you can either take the traditional Gemini 3 design or the new more angular design, the latter of which has been adopted by the production models for Brighton and Hove. A number of other revisions have been included into this new product including improved airflow throughout both salons, reduced solar gain in the upper saloon (basically the upper deck stays cooler when the sun is out) however this is at the detriment of having smaller side windows. With other improvements in areas such as cab door lock design, wireless bell pushes and revised handpole fixings.

927 (BX15ONB) is seen on Churchill Square, Brighton about to depart on the Route 12 to Eastbourne. (Taken on 02/05/15, by Kristian Lake)

Before the main production models where produced, six demonstrators visited a number of companies across the country including Arriva Derby Sapphire, First Manchester and South Yorkshire, Transdev in Harrogate, Brighton and Hove (prior to them receiving 24 production models), as well as two for London with Arriva and Go-Ahead. However only the Arriva Derby model had the new design front, another variable with this design is whether you wish to have a visible stair case. Again looking at the demonstrators, some did and others didn’t, the Brighton production models chose to go with the new front but the non-visible staircase. This characteristic shows how the streetdeck shares a number of similar aspects with the New Bus For London (NBFL).

933 (BX15ONK) is seen on Churchill Square, Brighton while working on the Route 12X Limited Stop to Eastbourne, following behind is another streetdeck on the stopping service. (Taken on 02/05/15, by Kristian Lake)

There is a growing trend in the bus industry at the moment to be moving towards higher  specification buses on par with coaches in some cases, the ever popular Arriva Sapphire/MAX and Stagecoach Gold brands require their buses to be fitted with leather seats, air-con, free wifi, plug sockets etc. This is just one of the ways in which the industry is trying to turn the tide of a general decline in bus usage around the country (excluding London). The streetdecks for Brighton & Hove follow a very similar principle with high-backed seats and leather headrests, audio-visual announcements, free wifi and plug sockets. Externally they have moved away from the traditional Brighton and hove livery and now come in a line green livery with full branding for the flagship coaster route 12 running between Brighton and Eastbourne (Based at the Whitehawk Garage), this also includes the 12A and 12X routes, which combine to form eight buses an hour (Monday to Saturday) between Brighton and Seaford with six continuing to Eastbourne.

The Brighton & Hove Coaster (Route 12) Branding. (Taken on 02/05/15, by Kristian Lake)
Delivery of the streetdecks commenced on 19th March 2015 and at the time of writing only two remained to be delivered hence why there was a few Scania Omnideka's still on the route when I visited. The streetdecks certainly have a place in the Brighton and Hove fleet which must be one of very few fleets in the country to be completely free of ADL/Enviro buses.

922 (BX15OMU) is seen on Churchill Square, Brighton working on the Route 12 to Seaford Library. (Taken on 02/05/15, by Kristian Lake) 
Now as many of you will be aware, I am a huge Enviro 400 MMC fan, but I would definitely say Wrightbus have taken it to the next level with the Streetdeck as it is undoubtedly an improvement on the Gemini models. However I thought the upper deck felt cramped with rather small windows in comparison to an MMC. I also think the cab looks rather small compared to what the MMC offers. But that said the buses rode well, and ironed out some of the smaller bumps well, the buses pulled off smoothly, on the longer runs they do get up to a decent speed, even with a smallish engine. Traffic was quite heavy leaving Churchill Square in Brighton, the bus was able to make the time up along the way.

932 (BX15ONJ) is seen crossing Old Steine, Brighton while working on the Route 12A to Eastbourne via Chyngton. (Taken on 02/05/15 by Kristian Lake)
Brighton is well known for its hills and it just so happens that the Route 12 has a stand on Dyke Road which is at the beginning of a prolonged hill, which the streetdeck crawled up, even without passengers. However on flatter roads they did seem to manage with there smaller engine. Another consideration maybe their choice of gear box which may not help on the hills. This is probably where they are better suited to city roads. The buses are fitted out to provide the best of both worlds for passengers, comfort for the longer distance travellers between Eastbourne and Brighton, obviously competing for customers against the train, but also the shorter distance travellers who maybe jumping between towns along the coast.

939 (BX15ONR) is seen on Old Steine, Brighton while working the final leg of the Route 12 to Churchill Square. (Taken on 02/05/15 by Kristian Lake)
Route One claims that the Streetdeck is 18% more fuel efficient compared to a Euro 5 Enviro 400, It would be interesting to know how this compared to a like for like euro 6 model. As this brings me onto the final question, will it sell in large numbers. I think they are a very good bus and will certainly provide some competition to ADL. There has been a lot of talk about the new design body but personally I think it has been mechanically where the improvements have been made. And can certainly see these buses being popular, for all the fuel saving benefits they offer but can we please keep with the traditional Gemini 3 body.

930 (BX15ONG) is seen crossing Old Steine, Brighton while working on the Route 12X to Eastbourne. (Taken on 02/05/15 by Kristian Lake)
Read more »

Total Pageviews

Recent Comments

Recent Comments Widget

recent posts

Live Chat

Contact Us


Email *

Message *

© The Circle of London Blog 2015

Disable Image Saving