Wednesday 11 February 2015

Battery 379 and Mercedes Demonstrator Review

As days go this has been a busy yet highly enjoyable one. Before I moved an inch I had to help fix a broken door on a Suffolk Links minibus, then endure an overloaded and hard seated Solo to Ipswich before catching the 1043 train to Manningtree. No sooner had we pulled in on Platform 2 than the Duracel train - 379013 pulled into Platform 1. Today was its penultimate day's testing before it's converted back to a normal train and put back on Stanstead Express duties.

Froont of 379013 at Manningtree
Now obviously you will know by now that I don't just stand on platforms or street corners taking pics but travel on the subjects too. Having been working on Southeastern when  their electrostars entered service I was inquisitive to see how this one performed under battery power. The answer is not bad. It is a heck of an achievement to get a 4 coach train running on batteries before they have even got a production electric double decker bus out yet. But you could tell the difference between battery power and overhead lines quite easily. The acceleration under battery was about that of a diesel, so as the whole idea of them is that they can run on diesel lines then I guess that is ok. However, when we returned from Harwich with the pantograph up, the difference in acceleration was tangible.

At a very murky Harwich Town Station
One point of note is the interior. Apart from the early Southeastern 3753/6/7/8 series these were the most comfy Electrostar seats I've sat on. Far superior to the Southern/Thameslink seats. I liked the interior on this one and the people on the Harwich line will miss it when the 321's dominate the line again.

Interior of 379013
So it was back to Ipswich, a meeting wiith Malcolm Robson at Ipswich Buses, of which more in the coming days, and then a swift calculation as to where the Mercedes Citaro K demonstrator was going to be. To my own amazement I got it spot on and so boarded it to go to London Rd Park and Ride site and back. And immediately I realised there was a problem wth it.

You see Mercedes is symonymous with quality, style, precision and luxury. Everything previous Mercedes buses lacked. The problem I have with this Mercedes is it's unbelievably good. So good it is fighting the MAN gas buses at top of the charts for all time best single deck bus ever built. I frankly adore this bus. First of all it is a Demonstrator over a year old. That normally means thrashed to pieces and rattling like a couple of skeletons already. Not so with the Merc. It is quite, smooth, quick of the mark, not a single rattle, feels really solidly built, and gives the most amazing impression of space I've ever known on a bus. It's like a TARDIS, much bigger inside than it looks from the outside. It is truly uncanny.

Interior of the Mercedes Citaro Demonstrator
The seats are deceiving too - they look threadbare but are actually exceedingly comfortable. The driver's seat is basically a coach driver's seat - with air suspension. The lights are cleverly placed behind the bulkhead to reduce reflection in the windscreen, the bell pushes are very convenienty placed, especially at the rear of the bus, and try as I might I couldn't find a fault with it. I can see why my friend was praising the Maidstone ones so much.

At  the London Rd P&R site.
 I emailed Malcolm Robson within minutes of boarding saying simply these buses are amazing and to invest! Without doubt the best diesel powered single deck bus I have ever been on. It is in my opinion the first Mercedes bus to really deserve to carry that iconic badge. Those who don't find half hour to travel on it are seriously missing out. What a bloody good day!


  1. Would be nice to see Citaro's in the I.B fleet,but i can't see that happening,what with investment in updating the Darts to Euro4 Green bus fund,and the Dart refurbs taking place,shame,hope i'm wrong.

  2. Having had a long chat with Malcolm Robson about that very subject all avenues are still open. At the moment only 4 Darts are initially being refurbished and brought up to DDA standard. It could be that 3 or 4 new vehicles (hopefully Mercs) will be purchased with others leased. I guess it all depends on the Council and what funds they release as to if it's brand new Mercs or polished turds I mean refurbished Darts that are trundling through the roads of Ipswich for the next decade!

  3. It shouldn't be down to the Council,as Ipswich Buses are an arms length company,surely funds shouldn't be available for such purchases,if it's a stand alone company, unless you refer to S.C.C who has already handed 384k for Euro4 upgrades for Darts,i bet Chris Speed would like a hand out like that Steve,well done on the award by the way,makes a pleasant change to see Counties win something,congrats to Chris on that,he is doing a good job at Fec.