Saturday 10 September 2016

Metrodecker 2 Part 2 and Round Up

Perfection doesn't sit easy with me - no not me personally - you couldn't get much further away from perfect than I, but on Wednesday I near enough described the blue version of the Optare Metrodecker as perfect, and that cost me sleep. No such thing as perfect after all, so yesterday I decided a further ride was necessary as after all I call myself a critic and I wouldn't be doing my (grossly underpaid) job if I didn't find room for improvement.

The best double and single deck buses around together?
Now at this point I should explain something. From just about the first time I went on a bus I decided the front offside seat upstairs on a double decker was designed specifically with my posterior in mind. In Kent at that time just about every decker had a 1+3 arrangement at the front of the top deck, and that single seat was mine. Atlanteans, Fleetlines, Bristol VR's all had that arrangement. and Volvo Ailsas were even better with just a single seat and nothing else as the stairs brought you up right by the windscreen - Health & Safety would need medical assistance if that was to be suggested these days! But that ownership of the front offside seat still applies and it's where I test most of the deckers I review. On the Metrodecker it is a very pleasant place to be. I thought, however, I'd better see what the bus felt like sitting elsewhere, and last night I slept easier as I have finally found something I think can be improved.

That something is noise. In my seat noise isn't an issue but go further towards the rear of the top deck and you suddenly become aware of the air chill system. It is very loud as the air is pushed through the length of the bus from the rear. Although the ride was just as good at the rear the noise was too loud and I wouldn't like that day in day out. The system also leads to additional problems. There are no ventilation/air chill outlets at the front of the top deck, and that causes the front to get pretty warm. This isn't helped by the fact the windows open. Yesterday one window was open which had the effect of pushing the chilled air back to the rear of the bus and the front got nothing. If air chill is going to be effective the windows need to be locked shut and only opened in case of air chill failure. Air vents are needed at the front too.

One other thing I noticed from the back of the top deck was this, and I promise you this is not my camera not capturing the image accurately - the "stopping" sign really does look like this.

Nice row of LED's
Now to that strange place known as the lower deck. All deckers are noisy downstairs, with maybe the exception of some Scanias, but I found the engine noise louder on the lower deck than I expected, as it's a relatively small engine. I suggest in the quest for lightness things like sound absorbing materials have been omitted, and I think this is a mistake. Optare have a potentially superb vehicle that could easily become a market leader, but noise matters. If passengers can't hear themselves talk then that is not a good thing. If memory serves me correct there is plenty of room in the engine bay for sound absorbing insulation, and I really think it's needed. The only other option is 83 front seats upstairs, and that might be a little more tricky. So reduce interior noise, both from engine and air chill system, and I'm going to struggle to find anything to criticise again! No rattles downstairs though, even from the driver's protection screen and that really is impressive. Incidentally when I got off at Pakefield I noticed just how windy it had become, which had not been apparent on the top deck. Another box ticked.

Now to other news, and I have been informed by multiple sources of upcoming fleet developments at Anglian. It is common knowledge that the gas buses are moving to Plymouth - half term has been suggested to me as the moving date - but the big question has been what is going to replace them. It would appear that the 5 Scania Omnicities withdrawn earlier this year are to make a comeback, after being refurbished. So 458 - 462 YN05 HFH/J/F/G and YN03 WRJ should be back by end of October. This makes sense as they are much shorter than the gas buses which Anglian said "are too long to cope with our country routes". Oh hang on that's not right is it - they are the same length if not longer than the gas buses. And of course a Scania Omnicity uses far less fuel than a gas bus too.....

462 on the 61A in Pakefield last year
This weekend is the late Summer Diesel Gala on the Mid Norfolk Railway, and on Thursday I went to Wymondham with Tim to see the convoy arrive from Derby complete with no less than 4 Class 20's and a Peak Class 46. The sun was extremely bright which made photography difficult but this one makes the Peak look rather good.

Peak D182 heading the 4 Class 20's
However to make up for the poor photographic conditions I did manage to get a pretty good vid of the convoy leaving National Rail territory and moving onto the MNR, including some rather nice Class 20 clag. Enjoy.

Finally it has been confirmed that the Class 68 short set is to remain until at least December. Good news and hardly surprising as firstly 170204 is still being repaired and secondly it is attracting so many enthusiasts to the area it must be making a fortune. Don't be surprised if it's still here next Summer - I hope it is.


  1. Would be interesting to see the route the Gas Buses will take to Plymouth. Bet they cant make it on one full tank. So a re fuel en route. But where ?.

  2. I assume a tanker somewhere en route.

  3. any idea what spec the refurb will be? Thinking more will they repaint the outside into the same paintjob as the 55 Scanias do you think

    1. Sorry Zak no idea at all. As far as I know the only thing to happen so far is some seats have been sent away for refurb. That doesn't fill me with great hope that any flash paint job or body tightening/replacement is going to take place. Having said that Metrobus have been refurbing similarly aged Scanias and they have been repainted. But we are talking Anglian here so who knows.....