First review of Stagecoach Manchester’s new buses for the 346 and 347 routes
For the 346 and 347 routes, new buses have been a long time coming. Prior to this week, the bulk of journeys were ran by MAN buses, which formed the mainstay of Stagecoach Manchester’s fleet since 1998. Some of which were getting long in the tooth and climbed Crescent Road at speeds akin to SHMD’s Daimlers on a bad day.
On Tuesday, Ashton Depot’s Enviro 200s made their debut on the 346 and 347 routes. Whereas the 347 has seen little change to its schedules (apart from a Sunday service reduction), Stagecoach’s 346 has seen an increase in journeys from two to three buses per hour. One of which per hour departs a few minutes before First’s 346 (Gee Cross) with some critics wondering whether competition between First and Stagecoach is on the agenda.
Boarding a 346 to Ashton, I am treated to an airy ambience with plush individual seats and a good overall view of the journey ahead. At slow speed, the bus passes the Albion Hotel smoothly and makes light work of the Crescent Road section. Buggy wise, space compares well with the MANs they are replacing.
Comfort wise, the new Enviro 200s should make for a good ride on 30 – 45 minute long journeys. For short 10 – 20 minute trips, they are a real advance on the MANs and lack the rattles of its double decker brethren [the Enviro 400].
Though not the first Enviro 200s in Tameside (The Coachmasters have had them on the evening 346 route since July 2010), they are an improvement on earlier models seen in the borough. As well as passenger comfort, some drivers have been complementary over cab facilities.
Best Seat: first seat above the back wheels, right hand side (left hand side good though with less legroom).
Best type of route: medium distance local routes (such as the 346 and 347 of course) or lightly used long distance local routes (up to 60 minutes long).
Metal Rear Factor: 4/5
The Enviro 200 is a good little bus which could play a greater part in Stagecoach Manchester’s local operations. Its alluring looks could win converts to the Perth concern’s 346 route with First’s earlier Optare Solos beginning to look tired. The Enviro 200’s individual seats offer the same level of comfort as those seen on its Enviro 400s and are an advance on individual seats seen on First’s X-reg to 51 reg Solos (which are acceptable on short journeys, but less comfortable on longer routes like the 343).
Overall rating: 80%.
S.V., 20 May 2011.