Thursday 7 September 2017

Star Trek II - The REAL Enterprise

A couple of months ago I gave a glowing review to what I believed was the BCI Enterprise (see here) only to discover all my Star Trek references were in vain as it's actually the Excellence. However, in that post I said that First were going to try it's big tri axle brother. This week they are, and it's really called the Enterprise. So my apologies for a second stream of Star Trek puns and references!

I was meant to do this a couple of days ago, and traversed the Norfolk galaxy to Kings Lynn to catch the Enterprise back to Norwich only to be thwarted by the Enterprise not being on the road despite information it was (someone owes me lunch). However today I was not to be outdone and spent another light year (trust me it feels like it) on one of the X1 E400's to Kings Lynn. A very quick lunch, and I got back to the bus station bang on time to catch the 98 seater giant arrive.

Ensignbus 404 BCI Enterprise LX66 GXF at Kings Lynn Bus Station
It is big. Very big. 98 seats big to be precise. The top deck goes on for a very long time.

Top deck of the Enterprise
Now first things first. If I was buying one and 94 seats would do I'd take a row out the top deck to give more legroom and make it feel slightly less budget airline. But the seats are comfortable, although Ensign have told me some are being replaced as deemed not good enough. I was surprised not to find power sockets, USB chargers or WiFi on board, but I imagine if that was wanted it could be provided. It's funny how little things stand out. I started the journey near the back, but at Swaffham the front seats were vacated so I moved up. One of my regular complaints is the lack of bell pushes at the front of the bus, indeed on a lot of buses the front most bell push is by the stairs. Not so the Enterprise, as seen here.

A bell push at the very front!
Yes there's one the other side too. You will notice the seat belts too. This means the Enterprise is a truly dual purpose vehicle, able to be used on private hire and contract work too. That, as it turns out is highly appropriate. Because the Enterprise feels more like a coach than a bus.

The big and jaw droppingly powerful 8.9L Cummins engine is deathly quiet, and although you hear the bumps in the road you don't feel them. The ride is sensational, and I started comparing the Enterprise with not an E400MMC or Streetdeck, but a Plaxton Interdeck coach. It's that good. No rattles but a really annoying squeak from the driver's seat, which I'm sure a liberal dose of WD 40 would cure. The air chill wasn't exactly working overtime so it was rather hot but that in no way detracted from the ride. The power of this bus is extraordinary considering its size, and the top speed impressive. Ross Newman of Ensign told me I'd like it and he wasn't wrong. I would let several other buses go so I could ride one of these.

The Enterprise at Norwich Bus Station
I only have one real issue, and I think it's quite an important one. I noticed the bell pushes have "stop" in Braille on them, clearly catering to the blind. Unfortunately the bell is exactly the same tone as the indicators, so press the bell while the bus is indicating and you won't know you've pressed it if you can't see the "bus stopping" signs. I'm quite surprised this isn't covered in DDA regs and is something that needs to be addressed. As a Borderbus driver said to me when a similar issue with the Excellence was identified - "I'm having to take my eyes off the road to see if anyone has pressed the bell, as I can only tell by the light on the dashboard". It's such an easy remedy and one that needs to be done.

But that aside I got off at Norwich a very happy bunny. I'll certainly ride the Enterprise again before it goes - it's at Kings Lynn next week too - as it's right up there with the best buses I've ever ridden. It's not cheap, but cheaper than a Borismaster to put things in perspective. But I'll leave the last word to the driver. I always ask the drivers their opinion as they are the ones who really matter, and I don't think I can put it any better.

"The difference in acceleration out of places like Hockering (compared with the E400's) is phenomenal, and this is exactly the sort of thing this route (X1) needs."  I just hope everything can be put in place with after care etc to give that driver his wish. It's a bus, Jim, but not as we know it! If all is done correctly it could prove to be a real star!

Parked up at Norwich

1 comment:

  1. Here in Cardiff we have a Scania-chassised E400MMC demonstrator on our local route, Stephenson's had it in Southend a little while back. Hope I can catch it, it will be interesting to compare with our normal MMCs which rattle and shake something awful on our terrible roads. Problem is our route has a high vehicle requirement so it will be difficult to nab!