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Friday, 16 October 2015

What A Grey Day!

I have been looking forward to today for sometime. Back in Februrary I rode a batttery powered train and a Mercedes Citaro demonstrator that Ipswich Buses had on trial (see here). In that review I stated that I was so impressed with the Merc I emailed the then Managing Director of Ipswich Buses, Malcolm Robson, with one word - invest. Well invest they have and this week the three brand new Citaros entered service. It takes a lot to drag me to Ipswich these days but the prospect of spending a few hours riding around on these impressive looking buses was enough to brave the pouring rain for.

Ipswich Buses 154 Mercedes Citaro BF65 HVU at a wet Tower Ramparts
Now it must be said that from the outside these buses looked exactly as I expected them to - attractive and enticing. I like IB's modern livery and think it suits everything it has gone on. I let 154 go as it was already full so of course the next two buses were the two Scania Olympus deckers. Eventually, though, 155 rolled in and I boarded full of anticipation.

Immediately my vision changed from colour to black and white. Everything is grey. The seats are grey and grey, the floor is grey, the side panels and window surrounds are grey, the poles and grab handles are grey, the roof panels are light grey. It has truly got to be the most depressing and drab bus interior I have ever seen. Ever. But never mind I settled into my sumptuous seat to enjoy the journey. Oh hang on that's wrong I don't mean sumptuous do I. I mean rock hard. I have sat on softer wood. On the demonstrator I said the seats looked threadbare but were comfortable. These seats are not comfortable. Anything but. A complete disappointment in fact. When will operators learn that if people are going to leave their cars at home then the least they expect is a comfortable seat. You don't expect car passengers to sit on seats like that and they haven't waited 20 mins in the rain. Ipswich Buses have decent seats on all their other buses but these seats on the Mercs are appalling.

For those of you watching in black and white you're missing nothing. Nothing at all.
And then as we pulled away it rattled. I could see a loose roof panel and it wasn't just that I could hear rattling. Having said that the Citaro's suspension is awesome and speed bumps are effectively flattened - you cannot fault the ride in anyway.. But the engine seemed louder than the two demonstrators and sounded like a truck. I compared the demonstrator to the gas buses but not this one. One thing that was as quiet as a mouse though was the bell. In fact it's inaudible and passengers were checking the screen at the front to make sure it said "bus stopping". My intention was to do a rounder on all three of the Mercs but I ended up getting off 155 in Whitton, doing some shopping and catching 153 back to Ipswich. That was it.

Ipswich Buses 155 Mercedes Citaro BF65 HVV at Whitton
153 was a lot better in that it didn't rattle at all. However, it took ages to board with my shopping due to a buggy jam. The 9/10 serve a part of Ipswich that to put it mildly has a few buggies. A lot of buggies actually, so you would have thought the design of the interior would have taken that into account. Not so. Even one buggy intrudes onto the aisle and I can see a lot of time being lost purely through buggy problems. In fact they may not last too long on the route.

Ipswich Buses 153 Mercedes Citaro BF65 HVT
So to conclude: They look great but only from the outside. They are German so the engineers will love them as they will be extremely reliable. The ride is superb. But the interiors let them down badly. Colour, design and comfort are all lacking in imagination and with the customer in mind. The bell is silent yet the engine was louder than I expected. One is already rattling. In short they give the impression that the cheapest possible options in every area were chosen. I seriously thought they would be favourites for my "Bus Of The Year" award, but no. Had one of these been the demonstrator my email to Malcolm Robson would have contained two words not one - don't bother.

17 comments:

  1. Is there any reason why they're being used on services 9 and 10, given these services are always busy and really need deckers to cover the schedule?

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    1. That route tends to get the new deckes but the first time it's had new singles. Originally the Citaros were going on the X5, which I thought was too short a route for them, but having been on them now it's about as far as I could tolerate!

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  2. IBs scania omnicitys were branded for the 13 when they arrived new and for a while,thats where they stayed. gradually they started appearing on the 8 and 12 and now they can appear pretty much anywhere. dnt think it will be too long before the Citaros wander on to other routes.last time i used the 13,it was well used by buggies so where the best place for the Citaros is,i dnt know. might give them a try next saturday though.

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    1. I'll be interested to see if you agree with me, Trevor.

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    2. will let you know. going to spend a day riding buses methinks.

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    3. Well today was the day I got to ride a citaro. Had to wait though because no.23 was sitting waiting to go out so boarded that. For a 51 plate decker, the ride was really rather good. The tartan seats were fine though the roof panels rattled over bumps. Got off at Aldi for shops and just got out in time to catch 153. Oh dear. Engine was reasonably quiet, bell very quiet( I couldn't hear it) and one of the seats rattled a bit. The ride however was a different matter. At low/v.low speeds,it was excellent.over 30 mph and I felt every little bump and crack in the road. I couldn't believe it. Will need to try 154/155 but the ride was disappointing. The decker was a lovely ride for the year.better than my Galloway solo sr though maybe that's unfair considering the roads it has to use.

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    4. Not sure we ever got above 30mph, Trevor! What did you think of the Citaro interior? Not surprised about 23 as Lothian take good care of their buses.

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    5. interior was disappointingly bland.grey grey and more grey although not as claustrophobic as the omnicities.i thought the seats were fine,better the 14 plate galloway solo but i was only on there 10 mins.looking at the seats, i was bothered about legroom but actually i had room and im 5 10 so it wont be an issue for most people. can see your point about buggies.if there had been 2 on my bus,it wouldnt have left much room for passengers to get on and off.

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  3. Rode one of those earlier this year on the cross-country Arriva GreenLine journey out of Harlow so I was waiting for your report. Was one of the better buses I've been on for comfort and ride, but it did have deep leather seating. I quite like the grey (at least compared to First's pastel shades of everything) and the bell didn't seem unusually quiet but I always check the screen anyway. I felt much worse and shaken up on the equivalent First Essex Volvo hybrid service 100 run, so much so that I took the roundabout country route on an Optare Solo back on the return journey!

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    1. I cannot stand those hybrids! I also believe Arriva care more for their customer's backsides than those round here. Decent seats would make a big difference to a lot of vehicles in our part of the world, not mentioning any Anglian Scania First B7l's names of course!

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  4. Shame they obviously went for the cheapest possible spec on these. Rattles occur on any bus and normally just need an engineer to tighten something up - not rocket science.

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    1. Indeed but only two days in service is a little unimpressive - the Germans would be horrified!

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  5. Same thoughts when I rode on First's Park & Ride Citaro's in Truro. Look fantastic, but I was surprised by the lack of padding on the seats. Glad i'ts only a 5 minute ride into town

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  6. Why the strange shape of the seat backs? The only logic I can see is it saves om material. What is the strange metal bracket on the side of the seat. It is useless as an arm rest or anything else

    The interior looks dreadful and substandard. No thought seems to have gone in to it at all. It snakes of chap and nasty. The seats just appear to be hard molded plastic

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  7. Andrew Kleissner18 October 2015 at 17:37

    I lived in Lisbon (Portugal) in the late 1970s. At this time Carris was changing over from British buses (mostly AEC including some ancient Regals) to more modern Volvo B59s. The old buses were real "utility" versions and they certainly rattled on the Lisbon cobbles - but some lasted for well over 30 years.

    What was interesting about the Volvos was that the bodies came from several manufacturers, both Portuguese and foreign.The first batch had really comfortable deep leather-covered (or Rexine!) seats. The only problem was that they were almost too soft. A later batch had the most uncomfortable moulded polypropylene seats without even the least of squabs. I think this was to save money but also because the padded seats got vandalised.

    However neither beat a good old-fashioned London Transport seat (think RT and RM). A lot of Lisbon streets are sharply cambered and the buses had very soft suspension.This gave a lot of body lean and moquette on the seats would have stopped one from sliding off! The grab rails got a lot of use!

    The present day Carris fleet is splendid (if less interesting), especially the articulated Citaros.

    I haven't yet tried the Ipswich Citaros. They certainly have the brightest destination indicators I've ever seen!

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  8. The mercedes Benz citaro. The most CR** Bus I've ridden. I've been on three around my local area - Luton. An 06 plate - generally just rattled the whole time. A 58 plate - that the doors wouldn't close on. A 12 plate that you could feel every single crack and bump in the road. All three of these I had to get off a stop early because of the awfulness of them. Bearing in mind I rode the 58 plate in winter it was more freezing on the Bus than it was outside. And the seats - they are just cheap. The 06 plate and the 12 plate I rode had bog standard Merc. Seats. You could actually feel the frame of the seat in your back. As for the 58 plate, that had been refurbished to standard UK bus interior so was a slightly more enjoyable ride.

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  9. Andrew Kleissner26 October 2015 at 15:42

    A leaflet from IB came through my door today, publishing the new buses. Apparently they have "luxury E-leather seats". So now we know.

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