26/08/2015

The Enviro200 MMC



When Alexander Dennis unveiled the new Enviro400MMC it was designed to hit everyone like a comet coming down from the sky, and this didn't fail (if you've got half an hour spare watch the launch video). The new design was striking and arguably marvellous with supposedly groundbreaking new features including the useful (but perhaps slightly sad) 3-minute window release feature. This window design is so groundbreaking that ADL have patented it, so don't expect it on a Wrightbus anytime soon!
The E400MMC promised a world-first rattle-free bus due to new superior build quality and a finer attention to detail than previously, so the bus had a rather large standard to live up to.

The first production models of the E400MMC went to City of Oxford Motor Services for their Brookes University services, and many enthusiasts jumped on the coach to Oxford to try them out. Although I (Lewis) didn't go, I heard lots of positive comments from those who did. The buses were indeed very nearly rattle-free and they were nice and fast too, albeit with some minor teething issues which were to be expected with the primary batch of vehicles.
Oxford Bus Company 612 on Route U1, Oxford Station
City of Oxford Motor Services 612, GA64OXF, Oxford Rail Station (CC Aubrey)

It struck many odd because the first batch of a new type of vehicles did not go to London, as is usually the case. In fact, the second batch didn't go to London either, as they ended up with Reading Buses:
Reading Buses 754 (YX64 VRO) on Route 21, Reading Station
Reading Buses 754, YX64VRO, Reading Station (CC Aubrey)
The first route in London to convert to Enviro400MMCs was route 109, which had just been won by Abellio from Arriva London. The batch was numbered 2487-2413 and they were the first batch of MMCs on hybrid drive as all the previous commercial batches had been simply diesel.


Enviro400 MMC at Croydon
Abellio 2488, YY64TYF, Croydon Park Street (© Lewis)
Following the 109 many other routes have converted to MMC including the 415, 350, 177, 135, and a number of these vehicles have entered service at various places around the country.

But that's enough of the Enviro400MMC; let's look at its younger sibling.


The Enviro200 was born in 2006 as a replacement to the Plaxton Pointer midibus and has been Britain's best-selling single decker bus ever since. The original prototypes were somewhat experimental with doors at both ends of the vehicle instead of one in the middle and all of these are now owned by Buses Etcetera.


The original Enviro200 design to which we're all accustomed survived Euro IV, Euro V and Euro VI with a minor rehaul in 2011 to comply with the latest European WTA regulations. It lasted 9 years of manufacture in 2 different factories but very soon the last batches of these buses will hit the road; they are to be replaced by the Enviro200MMC.


The new design was unveiled at the NEC in Birmingham late last year, and very quickly many were unkeen on the new looks which are asymmetrical and not very similar to the double decker E400MMC. The first new batch of these buses - like the E400MMC - will not come to London but will see service in Birmingham instead.


The batch of vehicles for Network West Midlands were scheduled to arrive in May but after the first two were sent back following build problems they finally arrived in July. The batch are numbered in a new 22xx series and will enter service firstly on route 37 and then on route 72 - both routes run between Solihull Station and Birmingham Moor St. but via different routes.

Aubrey and I (Lewis) went to Birmingham to try them out.



Off to Solihull
National Express West Midlands 2210, YX15OYZ, Birmingham Moor Street (© Lewis)

National Express West Midlands 2213 on Route 37, Moor Street/Bullring
National Express West Midlands 2213, YX15OZC, Birmingham Moor Street (© Aubrey)
Unbranded MMC
National Express West Midlands 2202, YX15OYP, Birmingham Moor Street (© Lewis)
Rear of an MMC
Rear of National Express West Midlands 2213, YX15OZC, Birmingham Moor Street (© Aubrey)
At least this end looks like an E400MMC.


Rather quickly succeeding the (admittedly late) arrival of these buses in Birmingham, the Stagecoach London batch for route 499 began to arrive at West Ham Garage for commissioning. This batch, unlike its NXWM counterparts, had black front light surrounds which set the enthusiast community alight over whether the surrounds should be black or red. Personally, I think the black looks smarter, but what do you think?

A post has already been written on the MMC changes in the Romford area, including the 499, which can be read here. That was Aubrey's take on the new buses, so here's mine:

In Its Rightful Place
Stagecoach London 36601, YY15OWU, Romford Rail Station (© Lewis)

A batch of the new buses has finally come to London and they can be found in the far east end. They are genetically identical to the variants in Birmingham as they have the same 4-cylinder Cummins engine and the same Voith gearbox. Previously a Cummins / Voith combination has not been a very good recipe - the gear ratios always seem to be wrong making for a jolty journey as found on older Stagecoach E200s and Streetlites. However, Voith have upped their game for Euro VI as the engine and gearbox do seem to get along much better. The bus is not underpowered: in fact it has more horsepower than the Euro IV or V E200s - and it's lighter too - making it very nippy. The engine also makes a great fluttering sound when you lift off the accelerator or when changing gears, which I think is lovely!
Similar to the E400MMC, the interior is bright and welcoming, and there has been an obvious attempt to reduce rattling as everything feels much more solid than on a previous Enviro200. Non-enthusiasts were boarding and noticing a difference, a couple of teen girls described the bus as "soooo pretty" to which I couldn't help but giggle a little. As for the asymmetry, I don't think it's all bad. It has a certain quirkiness which you wouldn't find anywhere else; it shows that Alexander Dennis have found their stronghold and they're confident that they can pull off a radical design like this without it affecting their sales or reputability.
So with the knowledge that this will become the next bus to be found in swades all over London, if you don't like it then you're just going to have to get used to it, but I think it will become the next striking bus to go over the hills and far away.

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