Triple decker buses at Euro Bus Expo

Triple decker buses at Euro Bus Expo

You wait years for a new double-deck bus, then three turn up at once. All three of Britain's major bus makers were showing new double-deck models at Euro Bus Expo. 

The market leader is ADL, which claims a 49 per cent share of UK double-deck sales and had its new Euro 6 Enviro400 on display. It is 400kg lighter than its predecessor, and 17 per cent more fuel efficient, according to Colin Robertson, ADL's chief executive officer. It is available in lengths of 10.3, 10.9 and 11.5m with up to 86 seats. A novel feature is ADL's quick release glazing which cuts glass replacement time from hours to minutes. ADL anticipates gaining low carbon vehicle certification for the Enviro400 ahead of the start of series production in 2015. ADL has orders for over 400 of its new double-decker.


Optare MetroDecker.

The new Wrightbus StreetDeck is an impressive vehicle, and a high-specification Arriva Sapphire bus was on show alongside a striking pink Gemini 3 model for Translink Metro in Belfast which shares the same body style. The StreetDeck has the shallow upper deck windows first seen last year on the Gemini 3 for Volvo chassis. It also has a dramatically-restyled front, which sets it apart from the previous Gemini range. The new windscreen is designed to improve visibility. An unusual option is glazing on the offside of the body to cast more natural light on the staircase, a feature seen earlier this year on a Volvo Gemini 3 demonstrator and also used on the Wrightbus-built New Routemaster.



Gemini 3/VolvoB5TL

Wright Gemini 3/Volvo B5TL.

The StreetDeck is powered by a 5.1-litre Mercedes OM934 engine rated at 231bhp. Wrightbus says that its use of a longitudinal driveline layout improves efficiency, and reduces weight and noise when compared with conventional transverse-engined double-deckers. The StreetDeck uses some of the technology developed for the New Routemaster. It shares the same front and rear modules, including axles, steering, brakes and suspension.  It will be offered with the company's Micro Hybrid drive, which is proving popular in the StreetLite.

The first StreetDeck order to be announced is for 24 for Go-Ahead's Brighton & Hove subsidiary, which has most recently been buying Wrightbus-bodied Volvos.

The third new double-decker was Optare's MetroDecker. When this was launched in the summer it was with a two-door version, a layout only of interest to London. The show model was a single-door bus, which uses the same structure, with an emergency exit in place of the second door. It's clever, if visually untidy – but how many passengers will notice?

The MetroDecker has the same four-cylinder Mercedes engine as the Wrightbus StreetDeck. At a length of 11.4m it can seat 84 passengers and can carry 15 standees. Optare faces a considerable challenge breaking in to a double-deck market where ADL, Wrightbus and Volvo are well established, and Scania has a presence too. Can it carve out a niche in a crowded market?

Volvo B5TL

Volvo B5TL chassis.

There was a time when chassis were routinely featured at bus and coach shows. They've been less common in recent years, but Volvo showed its B5TL double-deck chassis.

Probably the most significant single-decker at Euro Bus Expo was the upgraded ADL Enviro200. Like its predecessor, and the original Dennis Dart from which it has been developed, the Enviro200 is a straightforward design with a good interior layout. The Euro 6 model is 200kg lighter than the Euro 5 and benefits from some of the features developed for the new Enviro400, most notably the quick release glazing. The range runs from 8.9 to 11.8m, with the longest model seating 46 people. This is in effect a replacement for the diesel Enviro300, but not for the hybrid Enviro350H.

The new Enviro200 is 2.47m wide, against 2.44m for its predecessor. The extra width allows ADL to improve the seating layout behind the driving compartment. The drivetrain options include a flywheel hybrid, a ZF automated manual gearbox, and stop-start technology, all aimed at improving fuel economy and reducing emissions. There is an improved suspension system, too, with electric self-levelling.

The body has been restyled, with an asymmetric windscreen and a sweeping corner panel, a combination which evokes images of the Borismaster.

Now, this isn't comparing like with like, but a 9.7m Enviro200 has 36 seats. On the Volvo stand there was a 9700H hybrid for Lothian Buses – a 12m-heavyweight with just 34 seats.  There's a lot going for the 9700H, including a full-length flat floor and room for 51 standees. But as you board,  the fuel tank is visually obtrusive, behind the driving compartment, and the rear nearside corner is occupied by the engine. It feels like a bus designed by engineers.

The plus point of the 9700H, one of 40 for Lothian, is its induction charging system which will use roof-mounted rails at the terminal points of routes to top up the batteries, allowing it to run for up to 7km purely on electricity.

ADL, too, is developing rechargeable hybrids, and exhibited an Enviro350VE – Virtual Electric, in ADL parlance. Where Volvo's charging system is roof-mounted, ADL's will be beneath the bus, similar to the system in use in Milton Keynes for Arriva's electric StreetLites. The technology is also available on the Enviro400 double-deck. The first ADL Virtual Electrics will be entering service in Glasgow and London in 2015.


Wrightbus StreetLite.

Wrightbus has had considerable success with its StreetLite Micro Hybrids. Now in its second generation, the Micro Hybrid recovers braking energy, but rather than using it to assist propulsion as in a conventional hybrid, the energy is stored and used to power pneumatics, hydraulics and electrical items. These components would otherwise require power from the engine and, by using the energy captured from the braking system, the Micro Hybrid reduces overall fuel consumption. 

New for Euro 6 on the StreetLite is the option of the Mercedes OM934 engine which powers the StreetDeck. An attractive StreetLite Max for First's Potteries fleet was representative of the growing number of StreetLites being bought by First for operations which might previously have used heavy-duty 18-tonne models.

Volvo 9700

Volvo 9700 and charging station.

The StreetLite is 2,445mm wide. Nu-Track, which is associated with the Wrights Group, showed its StreetLite-based Nu-Vibe which is narrower at 2,278mm, giving the Wrights Group a rival to the 2,340mm-wide Optare Solo SlimLine. The front end styling of the Nu-Vibe echoes that of the Wrightbus StreetDeck, and will be carried over to the StreetLite during 2015. The 9m-long Nu-Vibe is powered by a Cummins ISB4.5 Euro 6 engine with an Allison S2100 automatic gearbox. 

If you were looking for an 18-tonne single-decker in the exhibition hall there were just two, the Volvo 9700H and an impressively-finished Citaro for Yourbus of Heanor. It was one of ten for the company, which is an established Citaro user. The two 18-tonne buses had remarkably similar livery layouts.

Scania Irizar i3

Theatre seating on Irizar i3.

Scania and Irizar are respected names in the coach industry, and for the first time in the UK they have teamed up to produce a bus which was on display outside the main hall. This is based on the K250 and has an Irizar i3 body with 45 seats. These take the concept of theatre-stye seating to its limit, with rows of seats rising from the stalls in the low front section of the bus, through the circle and the upper circle to the balcony perched high above the engine. Six 10.9m versions have been ordered by Menzies Aviation for Heathrow Airport car park shuttle services. 

Turkish builder Otokar exhibited a right-hand drive Vectio C midibus. It uses familiar components – Cummins ISBe engine, Allison gearbox – in a 9.6m-long and 2.35m-wide body with 29 seats and space for 26 standees. Otokar says Cummins and Allison will support the product, with back-up from Otokar's own parts warehouse in Paris. British manufacturers pioneered low-weight mid-sized urban buses, and competing with established small buses from ADL, Optare and Wrightbus on their home territory will be a challenge.

There were two hybrids on display, from ADL and Volvo, but no gas or electric buses. CNG buses are available from MAN and Scania, while single-deck battery-electric buses are being built by Optare and Wrightbus. Optare plans an electric double-decker in the second half of 2015. The only other mention of battery power came from Composite Mobility which is now producing the former Plastisol bus briefly marketed by Optare as the Bonito. As an alternative to the standard Fiat Ducato 3-litre diesel CM is to offer an electric drive in its 7.5m low-floor bus.