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Electric Hybrids Flourishing in Manchester

Article and photos by 50700910/03/13

Nowhere outside London has as many electric hybrid buses as Manchester, and the number continues to grow in 2013. The city is benefiting from two additional orders of eco-friendly hybrids totalling 51 buses, with Green Bus Fund grants worth nearly £4 million, to be operated by Stagecoach and Arriva. We visited Manchester on Saturday 10/03/13 to take a look at these brand new green machines.

Stagecoach Manchester, already the owner of 50 Alexander Dennis Enviro400H examples, was successful in securing funding for an additional 40. These are steadily entering service on the operator’s busiest corridor, the route 192, which connects central Manchester with Longsight, Levenshulme, Stockport and Hazel Grove. With 18 buses per hour between Manchester and Stockport and as many as 24 an hour along the northern section on weekdays, it offers one of the most frequent services anywhere in the UK.

Alexander Dennis Enviro400H 12194 (MX62GKZ) on Piccadilly working a route 192 journey to Stepping Hill, showing off its green livery and route branding.

The first 12 of the new batch went into traffic on 01/02/13 with 16 more a month later. The full fleet of 40 is expected in service by the middle of March, completing an £11.3 million investment in one of the country’s most heavily used bus routes. Unlike the previous batches, the 192 hybrids are fitted with Wi-Fi. The green Stagecoach livery has been slightly revised to include a lime coloured ‘lip’ below the front windscreen, and the buses feature prominent route branding for the 192 which advertises the 18 buses an hour between Manchester and Stockport.

The upstairs interior of 12205 (MX62GWL), one of the latest to enter service. The green seating and alternative floor gives a pleasant internal ambience.

Internally, the new arrivals match their older cousins with a pleasant green variation on the standard Stagecoach internal fare. The Lazzerini Pratico seating features green seat backs and an alternative ‘beachball’ moquette, serving to emphasise the green credentials of the buses. These complement the grey and light brown vinyl floor in providing a brighter internal experience compared with the standard Enviro400s which dominate the Stagecoach Manchester fleet.

Five minutes’ walk from Piccadilly station is Shudehill Bus Station, which plays host to the latest hybrids in the city, operated by Arriva North West from Bolton depot. As mentioned in the previous blog, funding was secured for 44 double decker Volvo B5L hybrids with Wright Eclipse Gemini bodywork, 11 of which were intended for Manchester at a cost of £3.3 million. These are the first electric hybrids to enter service with Arriva outside London and confirm the operator’s commitment to cutting carbon emissions.

Numerically the last of Arriva’s hybrids in Manchester, 4502 (MX13AFF) approaches its stop at Shudehill Bus Station, showing off its green colour scheme.

Operating the route 10 which journeys from Shudehill to the Brookhouse estate via Salford Shopping City and Eccles Interchange, the Volvo B5Ls went into traffic for the first time on Monday 04/03/13 following a press launch outside Manchester Town Hall on Saturday 02/03/13. They wear Arriva’s green livery as already seen on Runcorn’s MAN EcoCity gas buses and feature promotional material in place of adverts. Captions such as “Go on, it’s cleaner, greener and a leather seater” attempt to coax potential passengers into giving the buses a go.

The upper deck interior of 4502 (MX13AFF) with the leatherette seating and CCTV monitor (top left) visible. They are otherwise similar to Arriva Speke’s VDL DB300s.

The interiors are impressive and, like the Runcorn EcoCitys, feature the high-backed Esteban Civic V3 seating with leatherette covering. The seating capacity is 66 in total, with 43 seats upstairs and 23 downstairs. In a first for Arriva North West, these double deckers include a CCTV monitor on the upper deck situated in front of the staircase which should assist in reducing the potential for anti-social behaviour and vandalism. The route 10 had not regularly seen double deckers prior to the arrival of the B5Ls, being operated mainly by a mixture of DAF and VDL single deckers.

Ten of the eleven buses are required for weekday service on the 10, allowing for a spare should one break down or require substituting. Saturdays, however, operate to a reduced 15-minute frequency with a need for only six examples, which permits the B5Ls to operate certain services around Bolton on weekends.

4498 (MX13AEY) collects passengers at Eccles Interchange before continuing its journey towards Salford and Manchester.

First are the other major UK operator to hold a significant presence in the city. Not to be outdone, First Manchester operates its own fleet of 14 Volvo B5Ls with full-height Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodywork based at their Queens Road depot. These operate mainly on the 18 route which runs from Shudehill to Rusholme and Langley, entering service in November 2011. They wear a sleek version of First livery with a silver base colour and pink skirt.

First Manchester’s Volvo B5L Hybrid/Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 39220 (BN61MWY) departs Shudehill for Rusholme.

The next local area to benefit from hybrid technology will be the Wirral and its collection of ‘Cross River’ routes, which will receive 33 Volvo B5L Hybrids with Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodywork similar to those seen above at Bolton.

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