Thursday 29 June 2017

Advanced Australian Fare?

We interrupt the Northern road trip to bring you a review of the latest - and most interesting bus to try its luck on the Western side of the X1 between Norwich and Peterborough. With just about every UK manufacturer ruling themselves out of the market - which is quite shocking in my opinion - this week, as has been widely reported, an Australian BCI Enterprise is being evaluated. However, this blog prides itself in riding the buses it features, so this morning I met up with Cameron in Norwich - always good to have someone to give alternative views - and thanks to Chris Speed we knew what time to be there to catch the Enterprise to Kings Lynn. (If I last the post without any Star Trek references I will have done well!)

The BCI Enterprise loading up at Norwich
First impressions count, and the open cab area, airy interior, LED lights on the stairs, smart seats, no noisy air chill and a solid feel gave great encouragement. Then we started to move, and things got even better. Excellent suspension, not a rattle to be heard, and the smoothest brakes you could wish for. Sadly I couldn't get any interior shots but several things stood out.

Firstly screws hugely outnumber rivets, meaning everything can be kept tightened up. The hand rails had a design I haven't seen before meaning rattling is virtually impossible. The opening windows are inset into larger windows again aiding the feel of solidity, and I realised fairly quickly that this was a nice place to be. We didn't reach Warp Factor 9 as the X1 needs to do (damn I knew I'd fail) but that would be sorted if a fleet was purchased.

A rear shot at Kings Lynn Bus Station
However I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't mention one or two albeit minor quibbles. My old pet hate of destination screen access flaps rears its ugly head again. In time it will rattle - no doubt about that so my plea for rubber seals is repeated. Very simple yet would make such a difference. The legroom wasn't great, but I assume any ordered for the X1 would have a different spec. That was about it, except the bell was difficult to hear upstairs. No such problems with the bus's horn though, which is spectacularly loud!

No review is complete without the driver's view, and our driver was happy to give her opinion. She said it was lovely to drive, lovely to brake, felt solid and well made but had one big problem - she was unable to see the dash instruments through the steering wheel regardless of the position she had the driver's seat in. I will be interested to know if any of the Ensign drivers have made similar comments.

Thanks to Ross Newman of Ensign who has kindly answered my questions today, I can inform you the Enterprise costs around £220K, which is slightly more than a standard E400MMC but my word you notice the difference. That price includes shipping, not from Australia it transpires but China, where the bus is actually built. There is also a tri-axle version, with a much beefier Cummins 8.9L engine, air conditioning and seat belts, which Ensign are loaning to First sometime in August. That version is considerably more expensive, but Ross assures me the difference is well worth it. I can't wait to ride it.

So in conclusion I can finally say, at long last that after years of ceaseless searching I have found a new bus, in production, that I feel is progress on the Olympian or B9. I would be happy to go anywhere on the Enterprise, indeed to boldly go where no blogger has gone before. I'll shut up now before I end up in Sick Bay....

Nice, seriously nice
Part three of the road trip will be up soon.

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