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Monday, 20 July 2015

Birmingham MMC's - Part 2

So the eagerly awaited follow up, we will now look at the latest batches of Alexander Dennis Enviro MMC’s to be introduced into the National Express West Midlands (NXWM) Fleet…

The follow on order to the Scarlet and Maroon batch were delivered in May/June 2015 to Birmingham Central Garage for the new 'Platinum' services which will be NXWM's flagship premium brand. The new buses will feature a new two tone grey livery with flashes of red which looks very sophisticated and slick. They also have a full external rear LED destination screen. Internally they feature luxury high back leather trimmed seats, extra leg room (with the removal of two sets of seats when compared to a standard MMC), on-board stop announcements and free Wi-​Fi, not to mention the suit wearing drivers which the local media seemed to pick up on when the idea was launched in October 2014.

With the Enviro 200MMC being a brand new design, I am sure for some people it may take a lot of getting used to. But in my opinion the Scarlet & Maroon does certainly suit the new design, I can’t say that for the TFL red versions which will be introduced at Stagecoach’s Romford garage very soon. I think the rear of the E200MMC is very much similar to the Scania Omnicity Single Deckers. And differs very much from the original Enviro 200’s. However I think the fatter curved front suits the Enviro 400 more.
They are following a very similar principle to all the other premium brands such as Arriva Sapphire/MAX or Stagecoach Gold. By providing a higher quality service on a standard routes. Especially if they link main towns such as Coventry, Solihull and Walsall with Birmingham. It also provides competition with the railway. They are also trying to increase patronage especially on key trunk routes which would hopefully reduce the number of cars travelling between these main towns. Even though this does not seem to be such as problem in the Midlands as during the morning peak, it’s been calculated that 28 people per second get on or off one of NXWM’s buses.
This is not forgetting that NXWM will become the first operator in the UK to introduce the Enviro 200MMC, the first of 50 vehicles began to be delivered to the Acocks Green Garage towards the end of June 2015 for the Routes 37, 71 & 72. The first of which entered service on 4th July making them the first in the country. And within the first two weeks, 11 had been delivered with a steady three a week expected for the next few weeks. The first two ventured onto the Route 71 and 72 shortly after I visited, following the summer service changes on 20th July.
The ‘E’ working. A very interesting concept that I have only really come across in the West Midlands. There seem to be two types of ‘E’ working; the Timetabled and the un-timetabled. The timetabled ‘E’ workings come in the form of regular short workings for example the platinum routes 900 and 957 combine to form eight buses an hour between Birmingham and Sheldon this comprises of 4 957’s, 2 900’s and 2 900E’s an hour. With the 900E’s only running to Birmingham Airport compared to the full 900 which reaches Coventry. Then there is also the un-timetabled, these may come in the form of a traditional ‘duplicate’ bus at peak times or could be a short working due to delay.


The Route 900 (Coventry to Birmingham via the Airport) was the first route to be upgraded to Platinum standard from 1st June 2015. With the Route 957 (Solihull to Birmingham) following at the start of July. And routes X51 (Birmingham to Cannock), 934 and 935 (Birmingham to Walsall), 936 (Birmingham to Brownhills) & 997 (Birmingham to Wallsal Limited Stop) all expected to follow suit over the rest of the summer. Which means the first 18 platinum’s have been delivered to Birmingham Central Garage with the following 40 currently being delivered to Walsall Garage.  

There has been a lot of talk about the design of the MMC models and that is no more apparent than when you look at the rear of the MMC’s. The Picture above shows off the rear of an Enviro 200 MMC alongside an Enviro 400 MMC platinum. Both models have no rear window so reversing camera for the driver is provided. The E400MMC platinum’s also have a rear white LED destination screen, I am not convinced people will be looking at the back of the bus to see where it is going. And to be honest the rear is probably better off with a full rear advert or branding in this case.

A general refurbishment program has started with the rest of the National Express West Midlands fleet which comprises of an internal deep clean including new seat covers to match those that now feature on the new MMC’s buses. It is also includes an external re-livery into the new livery which also matches the new MMC’s buses. At the time of writing a quite a few of the older Enviro 400’s had been refurbished as well a handful of the Scania Omnilink’s.


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