I met with the Metrodecker at picturesque Wangford, just off the A12 not far from Southwold. A gloriously sunny morning tested my new phone camera to the limits and I'm pleased to say it passed!
|Optare Metrodecker YJ65 EPU at Wangford|
I also mentioned that acceleration was smooth, and not savage enough to throw people down the bus. This again was the case, and I found acceleration from bus stops pleasant and not unduly sluggish. However, that is all well and good for passenger comfort, but not necessarily good for timekeeping. Because the Metrodecker lacks the extra poke when needed it means gaps you could take advantage for in other vehicles at roundabouts etc you can't on the |Metrodecker, and this is an issue I think Optare need to examine. With increasing amounts of traffic on the roads buses need to be more nippy off the mark when needed and the Metrodecker is certainly not that.
It also lacks power going up hill. As we climbed out of Thurton on the A146, which lets face it is hardly a mountain, the Metrodecker lost power like an old Fleetline. I checked with the driver when we got to Norwich if he had had his foot to the floor and he confirmed he had. So the conclusion has to be the Metrodecker lacks torque, which is an issue with Euro 6 engines, but needs to be addressed.
Apart from that I have no complaints whatsoever about the ride. No rattles, comfy sears with more than adequate leg room, smooth braking with no screaming retarders, and just as quiet at speed as at low speed. Sort the power out and there is a truly excellent vehicle in the making. I was racking my brains to think of a similar ride from the past, and I kept coming back to the old Olympian coaches. Yes the ride was that good.
However a chat with the driver at Norwich revealed issues a passenger wouldn't necessarily notice. Take another look at the pic above. I was delighted to see the pillars at the front were nothing like the width of the Streetdeck. However they are actually wider at the bottom than the top and this has an impact on driver's vision. The driver said he had never driven a bus with so many blind spots, and even with a side camera which with so many cyclists around now has to be a good thing, there is a panel behind the doors which makes pulling out at an angle very difficult. Looking through my pics I haven't got one that shows it perfectly, but this one gives the general idea. Imagine you are the driver having to look behind the doors for approaching traffic. The driver also mentioned the dash and steering column were not able to be adjusted, and this is also something Optare need to look into.
|Even when doors are closed there is quite a blind spot behind them|
Optare's parent company, Ashok Leyland have insisted that all issues are ironed out before the bus goes into mass production, which is why they are asking for feedback from operators (and I hope bloggers). I think this is an admirable way of doing things, and is certainly better than releasing a vehicle, making a quick buck then years later when everyone has had enough making 300 changes before you finally get a half decent vehicle. Yes the Metrodecker has some issues, but they shouldn't be too difficult to rectify, and we were unable to test for things such as interior light reflection in the windscreen due to the time of year, or how it performs in high winds being so light. I confess in the past I haven't been Optare's greatest fan, but get these issues sorted out, and in my view the Metrodecker will be the best double decker available on the market.
I got off at Norwich, took another pic that my old camera would have really complained about, and wondered when I would enjoy a ride on a new bus as much again.
|The Metrodecker gleaming in St Stephen's St, Norwich|