Thursday 2 June 2016

Optare Metrodecker Arrives & Review

They say all good things come to those who wait. On this occasion it's true. I was all set yesterday to venture over to Beccles to welcome the Optare Metrodecker demonstrator to Borderbus when I received an email informing me it had been put back 24 hours. Clearly Optare had heard the news from Anglian and didn't want to get in the way on that post!

So today I walked up from where the soon to be slashed Beccles Town Service 82 had dropped me, and on entering Borderbus's yard a bright orange thing appeared. No not the much absent sun, but a rather impressive looking bus.

Optare Metrodecker YJ65 EPU
I say demonstrator but that technically wrong, as it's more of a prototype. Only 4 are in existence and as yet a production model is to be built. Three of the prototypes are being lent to operators for appraisal and feedback. One of those is in London for whom another is currently in build. I was privileged to be invited on the test drive this afternoon so I can give my own feedback. Regular readers will know I've been pretty scathing about the most recent new vehicles, but once again I boarded with a sense of optimism that this time I would be pleasantly surprised, despite the Metrocity single decker not impressing many last year.

The first impression when you board the Metrodecker is there is a lot of blue plastic around. An awful lot of blue plastic. The rear seating downstairs looked rather uninviting, but at the same time there was a feeling of airiness and space.

Rear lower deck
Those seats are deceptively comfortable, and the engine noise unobtrusive compared to other double deckers. There are 32 seats downstairs, which is extremely favourable these days.

The upper deck has been very well designed, with a curved front that is almost Borismaster like, and a large rear window giving extra light. There are 51 seats upstairs but nowhere is legroom cramped, and I found it an extremely pleasant environment. I should also add there are no huge pillars at the front obstructing views like the Streetdecks do.

The front top deck
And the rear
The Metrodecker also has something none of us had seen before - the emergency exit is on the nearside of the bus, not the usual offside. How this would impact on a double door version I have no idea, but I assume it could be easily relocated to the other side.

The nearside located emergency door
And so off we went, and immediately there was a feeling of solidity. The acceleration isn't obvious but it is smooth and consistent. A smooth gearbox ensures no-one will get thrown up the bus. The brakes are just as brakes should be - no screaming retarders, no jerkiness, just smooth effective braking. Upstairs it is extremely quiet, and a ride the quality of which I haven't had on a bus for a very long time. The top speed was impressive, showing that the Metrodecker could handle longer routes such as the X1 with ease. You will also have noticed that I haven't mentioned rattles. No need to -there weren't any.

A nearside view
So let's do the scoring as I did for the BYD Electric Bus the other week.

Exterior Appearance: 9 - Nothing wrong with it, would get a 10 with a bit more wow factor
Interior Design & Comfort: 10 - a lot of thought has gone into it, and even hard looking seatts are good.
Ride Quality: 10 - can't fault it. Smooth and comfortable in every way
Acceleration: 8 - perfect for a bus but not mind blowing
Brakes: 9 - didn't notice them which says it all.
Soundtrack: 9 - quiet and unobtrusive
Build Quality: 8 - too much plastic but no rattles!
Feel Good Factor: 9 - couldn't stop grinning, loved it..

That gives an average of  9, which I feel could be hard to beat. I'd recommend a ride on this lovely bus while it's here, and it is without doubt the best bus Optare has ever produced.

I have informed by Borderbus that the Metrodecker may be out Saturday but that is to be confirmed. However from Monday it is expected to be on the following journeys, although these are subject to change. Keep an eye on Borderbus's Twitter account.

0915 Southwold - Norwich.
1050 Norwich - Kessingland
1228 Kessingland - Norwich
1340 Norwich - Kessingland

At other times it will be on school work.

Borderbus ae also experimenting with a new electronic display for their fleet of Presidents. The first one has been fitted to 206 X652LLX and looks pretty good.

The new display on 206

There is still no date for the delivery of the two Geminis, and as soon as I hear something I'll post it. As usual my thanks to Dave, Colin and Eric at Borderbus for inviting and letting me have a preview of the Metrodecker.


  1. Somewhat off topic but Silcox a major bus and coach operator in South West Wales is going into administration. Not may other operators around their so who will pick the routes up who knows

    1. UPDATE. The situation seems a bit confused but they seemed to have filed a notice that they intend to file for administration. They have 100 days to do so from filing that. Currently it appear the management are trying to find a buyer.

      Meanwhile Pembrokeshire County Council have awarded all the School Contracts to Edwards Coaches. They will pick them up after the half term holiday

      In addition they appear to have cancelled all day trips and holidays.

  2. Further Update, Now confirmed All Silcox bus services will cease. New operators will take them over from the 6th of June. I assume these are emergency contracts until they can be retendered

    Link Here:,1629,839&id=33628

  3. In answer to your question about how the emergency exit would be affected by a second door, the answer is the second door replaces the emergency exit. Current legislation only requires 2 exits so if you have a 2-door bus you don't need a separate emergency exit.

    1. Andrew Kleissner8 June 2016 at 13:19

      That's correct. Paragraph 52H of the M2 & M3 Vehicle Approval Manual states, "A minimum of two doors must be fitted consisting of either two service doors or one service door and one emergency door. Every double-deck vehicle shall have two doors on the lower deck. Service door/s must be on the nearside of a vehicle".

  4. I disagree with your review of the metrodecker. I found it deeply underwhelming.

    1. The world would be nothing without differences of opinion! look out for my overall review in next day or so, which does highlight some room for improvement.

    2. I'll be interested to read your comments. Did you take a long journey on it? I travelled from Norwich to Beccles on the upper deck. A pleasant surprise to be able to do so as I use the 146 weekly (or more frequently) and used long ago to be an Optare shareholder (less said about that the better!). Is two years from launch of a new model without making sales or entering production a record I wonder? lol.