In Service

miniplus June issue 31

in service Minibuses are gaining traction in the stage carriage market. Two Mellor Stratas are in Nottinghamshire – and we ride along with one 32 | June 2017 | miniplus.co.uk NCC’s two Stratas are able to make easy work of narrow housing estates in the Nottingham suburbs Strata in service with Notts CC Small buses are continuing their resurgence, and one of several areas where Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based examples have been introduced on stage carriage work is the East Midlands. Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC) has taken two 21-seat Mellor Stratas for use on low-demand routes, and they are doing well. Like its competitors, Mellor has said lots about the Strata’s fuel efficiency, its ability to penetrate housing estates, and its desirability from passengers’ point of view, but how does it perform under reallife conditions? miniplus was recently able to find out by riding along with one of NCC’s Stratas for a morning in Nottingham. Working hard The two Stratas are used mainly on service 510 and the associated 511 route, which run in an arc in the Stapleford, Attenborough and Beeston areas. Frequency is largely hourly six days a week and the first bus is in service before 0700hrs; both are finished for the day at around 1830hrs, although there is additional dead mileage to and from NCC’s depot. One is also used on a school service in the morning and afternoon. NCC’s PCV fleet numbers 65, 63 of which have been bodied or converted by Mellor. The Stratas are proving popular with drivers so far, says Fleet Operations Manager Andy Frogg, who adds that if given a choice, they will always take a Strata. “We have found that the Stratas are quiet and comfortable, although that is to be expected of a new bus,” he explains. “Passengers have also taken to them well and we receive good feedback. The heaters have proved very capable and that is a positive on services that carry a high proportion of older passengers. Mechanically they are doing well, but again, I would expect that of any new bus.” Scores on the doors The 510 and 511 are typical urban bus routes. Parked cars are numerous, as are traffic lights, and stops are made frequently. Additionally, two housing estates near Stapleford are tricky to negotiate and there is little layover time; the minibuses are worked hard. Andy reports that on this urban work, fuel returns are in the region of around 19.5mpg, which compares well with the larger buses used previously. They turned in around 10mpg, and so the potential for savings are obvious. Each Strata covers around 160 miles per day. “We have also used them on rural routes elsewhere in the county and there, where stops are fewer and speeds are higher, they are giving up to 23mpg,” says Andy. The day began for miniplus at Beeston bus and tram interchange, where the 510 route connects with the Nottingham Express Transit tram network. There were just a handful of passengers aboard on departure, but even so, the Strata did not take on the rather forlorn look of an under-utilised full-sized bus. Tim Deakin Editor


miniplus June issue 31
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