Friday 20 November 2015

The Ultimate Bus Comparison Part Three

Welcome to Part Three of my quest to find the best new bus around. In Part One I sampled the new Wright Steetliight and ADL E400MMC. In Part Two the very new ADL E200 was put through its paces and today it's the turn of two more Wright examples, the Streetdeck and Volvo B5tl  Gemini3.

It was a battle to beat the elements over the weekend, with Saturday morning looking the best chance to stay dry. I wanted to ride Lothian Buses' new Streetdecks on the 100 Airport Express route, but I also wanted to squeeze in a trip on the new Borders Railway to Tweedbank of which a separate post coming soon. So a short tram ride to the airport - Edinburgh fares are extremely cheap unless you want to go to the airport, where they rise dramatically. However I got there and soon spotted the blue double deckers I was looking for.

Lothian Buses 437 Wright Streetdeck SA15 VTT at Edinburgh Airport. 431 is behind
First impressions were good. Comfortable seats and an eye-catching interior with three tables upstairs.

The upper deck of Lothian's Airlink Streetdecks
But then we started moving. In May when I rode Brighton & Hove's Steetdecks I was undecided about them. Now I'm pretty much decided. They are quite superb buses if the road you are travelling on is as smooth as glass. However if anything bigger than a small ant is on the road you know about it, both in the jolt through your spine and the accompaning rattles. Since we live in the UK where potholes in the road are relatively common it was not the best of rides. I arrived in Edinburgh a little bemused.

After my journey to Tweedbank and back the weather closed in and that was that for the day. I adjourned to a bar on the Royal Mile with my friend and forgot about transport for a bit. However it hadn't escaped my notice that Lothian have some more Streetdecks in normal service, and made a mental note to get on one of them the following day to give them every chance possible. So early Sunday morning I was back in Edinburgh City Centre and gave the Streetdeck one last chance.

Lothian 561 Wright Steetdeck SA15 VUM on Princes Street Edinburgh
Unfortunately despite giving the Streetdeck another chance it failed to take that chance and all my misgivings from the previous day were confirmed. Lord only knows what these buses will be like in 3 or 4 years time but I certainly won't be that willing to find out.

So I turned my attention to another Wright product I thought might prove to be more satisfying - the Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5tl. I had already travelled on the hybrid version in London and been impressed with it. And immediately it was noticeably better than the Streetdeck. However despite being quiet with not bad suspension there was still too much noise from the interior and body - in fact more than the Gemini 2 I had been on the previous evening. Good but not quite Carling as they say.

Lothian Buses 418 Volvo B5tl BN64 CRZ in Princes St
There are still two more buses to go in my quest to find the best new bus around, the Volvo 7600 hybrid, which I have reviewed before but Lothian have a newer batch, and the giant hydrogen buses operated jointly by First and Stagecoach in Aberdeen. Look out for Part four coming soon


  1. More entertaining than telly!! Am hooked and hopefully part 4 won't be too long!!

  2. As far as I am aware mate, Lothian doesn't have any StreetDecks , both buses sampled are Gemini 3 with standard and new body style SA15 VLM is a B5LH version, I am liking these bus comparisons though, it is a fair surprise at the amount of squeaks that come from the latest Wright bodies however!

    1. Ok that's embarrassing! However being the case it's rather alarming how the two different Gemini 3 bodies appear to be of vastly different qualities. Thanks for pointing it out, Peter

    2. Not a problem Steve, keep up the good work it's a great read this blogspot! Tell me about it! I know for their Deckers Volvo supposedly shed 500KG off the chassis.. As mentioned God knows what these will be like in a few years.. Plaxton Darts come to mind !

  3. Wright appear to be a little inconsistent on build quality on some of their deckers recently if your experience is anything to go by. The Arriva Derby Streetdeck, one of the first with the new front that appeared, was awful banging and rattling along in a very worrying way that contrasted very poorly with the 12-year old Scania I caught back. Since then I have ridden Streetdecks in Oxford & Leicester which have been much better rides over road surfaces not that much different to Derby. The Wright bodies are certainly, even on a good version, not as good as they used to be and with ADL improving their offering so much the business case looks more open than it did in the past.