I am about to say something unusual. Thank you either Norfolk County Council or Norwich City Council whichever one of you authorised chaos causing temporary traffic lights near Norwich Airport today. I'm very grateful. Let me explain.
With a good weather forecast I decided to use my one day out this week to sample the new E200MMC's Stagecoach Norfolk introduced on the Coasthopper service between Kings Lynn/Hunstanton/Wells/Sheringham and Cromer on Sunday. The plan was to get the X44 to Sheringham and do a couple of trips to Holt and back to sample a few of them. I missed an X44 by the skin of my teeth on arrival at Norwich and waited for the 1105 departure. And waited, and then waited some more. Sanders were of no use with information, maintaining a stony silence, and then at 1135 two X44's turned up. I jumped on one to be told everything was up the spout due to the forementioned roadworks. I had settled down on the 06 reg Omidekka when just as we left Castle Meadow a flash of green and blue loomed before me and yes, there was one of the Coasthopper MMC's on the X29. Mission quickly aborted I jumped off again and made my way back to the Bus Station where the MMC was sitting looking pretty in the sun. 37431 SN16 OPV
|Stagecoach Norfolk 37431 E200MMC SN16 OPV|
An Anglian driver kindly checked with the Stagecoach driver when he was leaving (thanks Ian) and luckily he was the next one out as SG buses turn up out of the blue at lunchtime! I went to the stop and after a few mins 37431 came round.
|47431 prepares to board passengers at Norwich Bus Station|
It was at this point I was told why the MMC was on the X29 and not its branded route. Apparently the MMC's are too big for the Wells - Cromer section of the route and cannot be used. To me this seems quite staggering that no one thought of this eventuality before the order went in. New shorter buses have been ordered but I cannot confirm if they are shorter E200's or Solo SR's. Some of the MMC's are operating between Kings Lynn and Wells, but then its the old Solos!
Now my verdict on the MMC as I had the best part of 75 mins on it. The interior I think is stunningly good. All in Coasthopper colours it is mural like both sides. The orange and blue e-leather seats are just about the most comfortable standard bus seats I've sat on for ages and show a lot of thought has gone into them.
|The interior of the Coasthopper MMC|
Now the ride. No rattles, smooth acceleration and braking despite like the Streetlites sounding like an old Metrobus. It feels solid, has a nice engine tone and I cannot fault it in anyway whatsoever. Of course the big test will be if I think the same in 6 months, but I can't tell you how nice it was to go on a brand new bus and come off smiling. As usual the X29 became an X8 at Fakenham and carried on to Kings Lynn.
|47431 at Fakenham.|
So you see if those traffic lights hadn't held up the X44 I'd have ended up at Cromer staring at Solos all day without an MMC in sight. Mysterious ways!! I had an Optare Tempo for the journey back with a definite deficiency in the rear shock absorber department. I swear several vertebrae have been rearranged! Anyway if you can get on a Coasthopper MMC while they are new. You'll love them!
Zak - Does seem very odd that they didn't realise this before the order went in, like you said. It was pointed out from the very beginning! As soon as local enthusiasts heard about these buses all they were saying was "but aren't they too big?" It's unusual for Sanders to be quiet on Twitter, although if it is just ran by the one man who I think it is ran by, he was in Cambridge today on a driving job which is why he didn't reply. Still, Sanders should've supplied a substitute.ReplyDelete
Hi Zak - I don't blame Sanders for not supplying a replacement - after all they are the wrong side of the roadworks concerned and it would have taken more than the delay to get the bus there. Anyway it did me a favour as it turned out.Delete
As for the bus size - who said size isn't important. At least it provides solace to know that sometimes too big is very inconvenient!!
Surely if the agora lines used to work coasthopper these could?ReplyDelete
Fair question. However if memory serves me correct in Norfolk Green days the Coasthopper network was divided into different sections which required changing buses. The Agoras would not have operated the Wells - Cromer section. If anyone can confirm that for me I'll be grateful.Delete
Agoras regularly operated the full route, and Lynx managed to fit full size Tempos through to Sheringham too. I'm not sure why Stagecoach feel that the new buses are too small.Delete
Thomas Browne) Thanks Steve sorry about that. Are those mmc's LWB.ReplyDelete
LOL too long for the Wells - Cromer section. Yes I'm pretty sure they're full size!Delete
These are standard length (10.7metre) Enviros. Not the 11.2 ones!Delete
Thomas Browne) Of course steve maybe its just me or is it that newer full size single decks seem smaller than the old B10BlE's, Scania Flolines, Leyland Nationals, DAF's etc. Do you think stagecoach will send them back to A.Dennis or keep them and repaint them?ReplyDelete
No it's not you Thomas. However the E200 was never intended to be the same length as the Flolines for example - the E300 covered that base, although it seems to have quietly disappeared from the scene. For really full length single deckers you have to look at the Mercedes Citaros of even the MAN Ecocity that although hasn't taken off in the UK for some reason continues to be popular on the continent.Delete
The Streetlite has evolved as competition for the E200 when if you remember the originals resembled the old Metroriders more than anything else. As for the Coasthopper E200's I'm pretty sure they will stay - thr driver thought they'd end up on the Wells - Cromer section eventually anyway due to shortage of other vehicles. We'll see, but I'm sure Stagecoach will sort something out as they are decent buses and they won't want to lose them, even if my friend at Stagecoach Southeast said he might offer them a swap for some smaller 03 reg Darts!!
Thomas Browne) Thanks for the info steve. Its a bit of a pity that the MAN Ecocity hasen't taken off, mind you being a MAN and the fact it's a gas bus is probably likely to be an exspensive bus for operators to buy.Delete
It's not that new full size sds are smaller than the past it is just that we are used to thinking of the models as smaller. The new E200 is now available at lengths up to 11.5m (longer than a long National) as are both the Versa/MetroCity & Streetlite. UK operators have almost universally switched to lighter weight models built by UK builders to specs that meet UK requirements (maximising seating as UK passengers actively dislike standing) rather than heavier European designs that are compromised in UK spec (engine intrusion leading to either reduced seating capacity - such as the Citaro - or leading to compromised view due to height - like the Volvos & Scanias with coach back ends attached to low-floor fronts). The instability of fuel costs allied to the much lower government support the UK gets compared to the continent also drives investment in cheaper to buy & run models that are offered by UK builders (there is about a 25% price difference between the cheaper UK builders & their heavier-weight European competitors on diesel models) whilst UK builders appear to be leading in conventional diesel fuel-efficiency (rather than going down hybrid or electric routes which subsidised European operators - & London - are often favouring).Delete
Gas is a different issue, there is still some suspicion as issues over the quality of gas supply caused reliability issues on early trials over a decade ago. The latest move to gas that was led by Anglian addressed this with special pumps which clean up the impurities that are in the gas in the pipes (related to reducing leaks in the older pipes still common across the UK) but the infrastructure is expensive to set up (if you can get together an order for over 10 you could get it paid for by the gas supplier by signing up to a long term supply deal) which held back demand but new offerings are appearing that reduce that level of demand. The vehicle range has also been limited to really big singles but with the launch of a decker offering both Nottingham & First Bristol have publically indicated interest in heading this way, if someone offers a smaller vehicle as well (Solo sized - Solos have been done as retrofit but they are not explicitly offered from new) then that would also make the fuel more attractive. The buses are more expensive to buy but the fuel is much cheaper so the vehicles cost less to run so on a medium term view they become competitive, once the Buses Bill is out and operators have a better view of what the future holds and the hope of some long term stability we may see a further expansion of the use of gas buses.
Thomas Browne) 03 Reg Darts! Oh dear, mind you if you want to know true bus hell ride on a first B7L! LolReplyDelete
The little contretemps with the E200MMC's size is as nothing compared to the mess that SNCF found itself in a couple of years ago when it found that it's lovely new trains were too wide for the platforms! See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/10845789/French-rail-company-order-2000-trains-too-wide-for-platforms.htmlReplyDelete
Thomas Browne) Blimey, that is a lot of money down the drain when you think how much trains cost compared to buses!Delete
Thomas Browne) Just off the subject of mmc's. Heres this what I found on the internet. Its a New Routemaster but on a Volvo B5LH chassis. The description said the bus is on trial in London and only has the conventional 2 door's rather than the 3 door's like on the normal NBFL. Here's a link. http://www.thetflforum.co.uk/forum/printthread.php?tid=106&page=29ReplyDelete
The reason no one buys MAN products is that Stagecoach got their hands burned with the MAN powered E200 and E300 they bought hundreds of them .They spent too much time in the workshop that on the road.Some of them have been repowered with Cummins engines.ReplyDelete