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

Conclusion:

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.

9 thoughts on “Enter the Enviro 200

  1. Were these the same buses that Stagecoach Manchester introduced as a fleet improvement on the 11 service between Stockport and Altrincham?

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  2. Hi Paul,

    Yes, they are the same make of buses as used on the 11 (Stockport to Altrincham) and 327 (Haughton Green to Stockport) routes, but not the same age. Stockport’s date from 2009 whereas Ashton’s are completely new and not cascaded from another Stagecoach depot. Daw Bank’s Enviro 200s are numbered from 36095 to 36113.

    Bye for now,

    Stuart.

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  3. Hi

    Out of the 3 Enviro200s I have been on, 2 had rattles and squeaks (on the first and third day of operation), though not nearly an unacceptable level. But right at the start of their lives? Perhaps they’re just breaking in.

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  4. They are pleasant buses though, and looking at Stockport’s 59-reg examples right now I don’t think we have anything to worry about regarding rattles.

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  5. Where do First’s ex-Metroshuttle Solos hang out these days, Stuart? I went on one at Christmas on the Narnia-like 350 to Oldham: seemed like a vehicle upgrade on this (then) competitive route. Do they make it out to Hyde or are they allocated to the wrong depot?

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  6. They are regularly seen on the 346, 387 and 389 routes in Hyde. All First services in Tameside are run from Dukinfield (where the 54-reg Solos are all now based) apart from the more prestigious 409 route which is operated from Oldham depot using vehicles from their pool of Volvo B9TL/Wright Eclipse Geminis.

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  7. They’re very nice, and look a little like Arriva’s vehicles on the 263. They would suit the 350, although judging from my experience yesterday on a crammed 350, they cold do with deckers!

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  8. We must say that despite the promises that they were for the 346/7 they have emigrated onto other Ashton services too. I have been very surprised that there being used on the 236/7 and that they have replaced most of the 400’s doing the evening work on the 236/7, 330, 347 and 231.

    Having travelled on a few 200’s now i do wonder whether these vehicles are suited to the 346/7. Both the 346/7 struggled with MAN’s at peak and were often overcrowded, these are slightly smaller so some may say a backwards move. Loads should be eased slightly on the 346 with its new 20 min frequency but the 347 remains unchanged and it was interesting to see on Friday a couple of MAN’s had been draghted in to help.

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  9. Interesting points there Felix, given that both the 346/347 routes are busy in the peaks. Perhaps an upgrade to the peak hour timetables should be considered for both routes, given the smaller vehicles.

    Prior to deregulation, the 346 used to have a 20 minute daytime frequency, with a 15 minute frequency during the morning and evening peaks. Typically, MCW Metrobuses (75 seats) were used, operating from Tameside depot. At present, the number of seats per hour has fallen, despite higher frequencies: an average of 190 per daytime hour in 2011 compared with 225 in 1985, with the former figure due to smaller buses being used.

    Could a 10 to 15 minute peak hour frequency using the Enviro 200s alleviate this (co-working with the 347)? Or could bigger buses at the same frequency be better?

    Bye for now,

    Stuart.

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