NUMBER ONE
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June 22 2016
By Tim Deakin

Tim is Editor of routeone and has worked in both the coach and bus and haulage industries.


First's success with pre-production Metrodecker

Pre-production bus does well in South Yorkshire trials as First continues to weigh up options

Optare’s integral Metrodecker is reported to be performing well during its inaugural in-service trial with one of the big groups.

First and Optare management will discuss Metrodecker after trial ends

The second Metrodecker to carry passengers, it has been at First South Yorkshire’s Rotherham depot for six weeks. Like a number of other Euro 6 double-deckers, First has trialled it on service X78 between Sheffield and Doncaster.

The operator reports that driver and passenger acceptance is high, and while no exact fuel economy figures have yet been generated, first impressions are that returns “will be favourable,” says First UK Bus Technical Director Mark Munday.

“The Metrodecker has been allocated to the same duty each day to make comparisons with other types valid. Once the trial is complete, we will discuss the results with Optare.” A Metrocity single-decker will enter service with First in Halifax later in the summer for a similarly thorough trial.

Optare labels the Metrodecker as the lightest bus in its class. At 11.1m long and with 84 high-backed seats, the pre-production demonstrator weighs 10,860kg unladen, and Mr Munday expects builders to continue to reduce vehicle weight further.

Contrary to predictions in some quarters, First has no reason to believe that ‘lightweighting’ will affect long-term durability, and it is also has no concerns about the lifetime of smaller engines. The Metrodecker uses Daimler’s four-cylinder, 5.1-litre OM 934, coupled to a ZF EcoLife gearbox.

“We see no evidence to suggest that lightweight buses will suffer from durability issues later in life. Any suggestion that they will is a fallacy,” says Mr Munday.

“I see no correlation between weight and durability. Longevity is reliant on clever design and selection of the correct materials, and removing mass that does not need to be there.”

Optare has confirmed that it will shortly have three pre-production Metrodeckers in service trials. A Transport for London-specification example is close to completion, after which it will join Go-Ahead on a long-term basis, while an earlier bus continues to tour the country.

Pre-production demo bus used on X78 between Sheffield and Doncaster

The latter is currently with Borderbus of Beccles, where it recently achieved 9mpg on one day. That is testament to Optare’s efforts to ensure that the Metrodecker delivers a best-in-class total cost of ownership, says President Graham Belgum.

“We are not trying to be fancy with the Metrodecker. We want a bus that does what it says on the tin and is a workhorse, although we can add things such as charging points, Wi-Fi and various cosmetic items should the customer require.

“Feedback so far has been very good. We have had no requests for any major changes, although there are some small alterations that will be incorporated into production buses,” adds Mr Belgum.

Optare continues development work on an electric Metrodecker, with production slated for 2018. It is targeting a 100-mile range, but Commercial Director Robert Drewery says that the structure of the bus and the passenger environment will remain the same as diesel versions.

“We are not going to produce a mobile battery that has seats. Instead, the electric power pack will ‘plug in’ where the engine and gearbox sit on a diesel Metrodecker,” says Mr Drewery, who adds that Optare remains uninterested in hybrid or gas drivelines. Opportunity charging, while not ruled out, is unlikely to be part of the electric product, he adds.

“Our research shows that operators don’t want opportunity charging. They want a full day’s work on one charge so that they can run the bus as they would a diesel. The other thing to consider is that the positioning of opportunity charging points can define a route, and make it difficult to change things in the future.”




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