Duffers’ Guide to Bus Operations #7: Passenger Doors

If you’re looking for a way out…

Up and down the United Kingdom, most buses only have one passenger door (excluding emergency exits). This serves as both the entrance and exit on most bus and coach services and suffices on most routes. There has been experiments with two and three passenger doors, though this has seen limited success outside of Greater London.

It is worth noting that some bus passenger doors are more equal than others. Some have differing widths, or the doors may fold differently. Our seventh Duffers’ Guide focuses on these differences.

The Scores On The Doors…

Single Aspect

  • Often seen inwardly folding on minibuses;
  • Outward sliding on coaches;
  • Whole width of door, though half width of standard bus passenger doors.

Where patronage seldom justifies the need the full size buses, minibuses or midibuses like the Plaxton Primo often features on such routes. In more recent times, such vehicles have opted for a single aspect and single width passenger entrance. Though it offers some balance and proportion to smaller vehicles, they can be a headache on busy journeys, slowing down the loading and unloading times. Passenger unfamiliar with such doors could be bemused by them.

Today’s coaches also have single aspect doors, but unlike their bus counterparts, they slide outwards. This is also true of coaches which have continental exits, seen at the centre or rear of the coach opposite to the main entrance doors.

Mercedes CDI minibus Y344 PNW, Manchester Community Transport, Oldham bus station
An inward folding single fold door, seen on a Manchester Community Transport Mercedes CDI minibus in Oldham bus station.
Plaxton Primo, JPT Travel YX60 DWO, Shudehill Interchange, Manchester
A further example of an inward folding single fold door seen on a JPT Travel Plaxton Primo at Shudehill Interchange, Manchester.
MAN Lion's Coach, Juwan Reisen (Austria), KL 269 BM, Portree bus stance
An outward sliding single aspect door, seen on the MAN Lion’s Coach at Portree bus stance.

Double Aspect

  • Most commonplace form of bus passenger doors;
  • Can vary in width, from half standard entrance width to full entrance;
  • Differing types of retractability – bifold, jackknife or double bifold.

A great number of passenger doors seen on service buses fall into this category. Bi-folding doors would comprise of two doors, with each one supposedly congruent with the width of the average passenger. Before low floor buses became commonplace, the right door would be for egress with entrance and exit parts separated by a perpendicular rail.

To save space, concertina style bi-folding doors are a common feature, mostly on step entrance buses. The concertina nature is designed to accommodate the step. Some operators opted for a concertina style of door in a different way, akin to a jackknife. Instead of a set of double doors, this would be one full length door folded into quarters or halves. The pivot would be one-quarter or three-quarter way through the entrance.

In 1970s London, where dual door buses were used, the right door was painted yellow instead of the usual white on DMS class Daimler Fleetlines. The white door would be used for paying the driver, whereas the yellow door was used for passengers purchasing self-service tickets.

First Greater Manchester, Volvo Olympian, T990 KLF, Oldham bus station
Standard bi-folding entrance doors, seen on T990 KLF, a Volvo Olympian at Oldham bus station.
Great Yarmouth Transport AEC Swift, WEX 685M
Double bifold entrance and exit doors, as seen on this preserved AEC Swift at Heaton Park, during the 2012 Trans-Lancs Transport Show.
Leyland Olympian, A658 OCX, Mexborough and Swinton
Jackknife style bifold doors, as seen on this preserved Leyland Olympian at Heaton Park, during the 2011 Trans-Lancs Vehicle Rally.

Fleet Identification and Door Positions

Most bus spotters may be able to tell a door position by the fleet list. The type of bus would be denoted by a single letter, followed by seating capacity and entrance position. Using A765 NNA, a 1984 Greater Manchester Transport standard Leyland Atlantean AN68D/1R, this would be detailed as:

  • H43/32F.

Which means it is a high bridge double decker with 43 seats upstairs, 32 downstairs and a front entrance. SHMD’s legendary Atkinson Double Decker, 70, would be detailed as:

  • H35/25C.

Again, a high bridge double decker, with 35 seats upstairs 25 seats downstairs, and a central entrance. This time, for one of their unique dual door Daimler Fleetlines which should have been, though none ever were, preserved:

  • H41/27D.

This time, with a narrow front door and a sliding centre door. Oddly, the front door was used as the exit with the sliding centre door its entrance. This arrangement applied on crew operated journeys. The opposite applied with one person operation. Another, more modern day bus suited to both types of operation is the New Bus 4 London, often known as the Borismaster. This would be expressed as:

  • H40/22DR or H40/22T.

Which means a triple door double decker with 40 seats upstairs and 22 downstairs. High bridge and high in price!

Entrance Door Positions

Door positions, and the number of doors as well as widths can have some effect on the boarding times. Though this is negligible on lightly used journeys, it has an affect on busier routes.

Front

The most common, being a feature of pay-as-you-enter vehicles since the 1960s and some front engine crewed vehicles. With the latter, this was about improving passenger comfort and minimising the draughts.

Rear

A common feature of pre-seventies buses on crewed journeys. Sometimes with standard bus doors or open platforms. In spite of the hop-on-hop-off nature of open platform buses, they were dangerous – especially if you got off a few yards before your stop, whilst the bus was in motion.

Centre

There are no modern day buses which have centre loading doors. Most obviously, their lack of compatibility with one person operated vehicles.

Dual Door Positions

In most cases, the exit door is half way along the length of the bus. Sometimes it may be immediately after the next window from left to right. On bendibuses, often three-quarters way along the length of the bus itself, or half way along the second part of the bus connected to the flexible section.

Throughout the late 1960s, it was thought that dual door buses with pay-as-you-enter or automatic fare systems would reduce boarding times on major routes. It was later proved to be a misnomer as the savings were minimal. In fact it led to some accidents: sometimes, the stairwell on double decker buses would be directly opposite the exit doors.

Some dual door buses had for exit doors at the rear. One example was London Transport’s Volvo Ailsa V3, a bus which I consider to be the natural precursor to the NB4L. There was two sets of stairs, near the front and the rear, and the vehicle could be used for conductor operation and one person operation. There was also Midland Red’s BMMO D10 which had a narrow exit at the rear and two staircases.

If you thought the Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield Joint Board was unique in having a dual door bus with narrow front door, think again. City of Nottingham’s Transport Department had similar models – also bodied by Northern Counties – where some of their uniquely designed Leyland Atlanteans had a narrow entry door. The exit door was twice as wide and had a standard type of bus door.

Triple Door Positions

Yes, someone has to be greedy (Borismaster, I’m looking at you here)! The New Bus For London (as I shall reiterate) has three doors: front entrance and exit immediately after the second window, and the rear door. Hence the low seating capacity downstairs which makes allowances for buggies and people with wheelchairs.

So far, no operator outside the capital has opted for a tri-door double decker, or a bendibus with three doors either (if you know otherwise, feel free to correct me).

S.V., 03 October 2013.

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5 thoughts on “Duffers’ Guide to Bus Operations #7: Passenger Doors

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  1. 2 of the KLF buses 34088 and 34089 have transffered to pionner this week arrow 31943 has gone to Oldham where also 40384 is parked on scarp line withdrawn

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    1. I think I copped for the last Pioneer Dennis Arrow on the 346 today! Waiting for a Hyde bound journey, I went the opposite way, just for the sake of boarding one of these double deckers. 🙂

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  2. Regarding triple doors, are you not forgetting that bendi Citaroes have triple doors and this is what Classic Bus will be using on their Red Rocket service supposedly starting tomorrow.

    Also if your can count them, the only other buses that have had triple doors in the past have been aircraft buses that are mainly used on airside work

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  3. Hi Andrew,

    Well spotted on the bendi Citaros. If I see one tomorrow, yours truly will try and get a picture of one on Classic Bus North West’s soon to be announced RedRocket Express.

    I have forgotten about the airport buses: perhaps there could be another feature in there.

    Bye for now,

    Stuart.

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