East of the M60 aboard one of First Greater Manchester’s new additions to their fleet
If like myself you was present at the Olympic Torch Relay in June 2012, you may have come across a type of midibus with a rather protruding front. I am referring to the bus which is either a successor to the Volvo B7RLEs, or a rival to both the Optare Solo or Enviro200. Today, they have become FirstGroup’s standard single decker bus of choice, and pretty neat they look too.
I am referring to the Wright StreetLite single decker buses, which I consider a natural successor to the Dennis Dart SLF and the Volvo B7RLE.
- Fleet Number: 63116;
- Registration Number: SK63 KGG;
- Capacity: 70 (29 standees, 41 seated);
- Variant: single door, door forward.
On the 1834 Hyde to Ashton 346 route, I had the joy of boarding 63116, a 41 seat Wright StreetLite. Quite a contrast to the usual Dennis Dart SLF or Optare Solo allocated to this journey. Though three minutes late, I would safely say that was soon forgotten as soon as I boarded.
Between Hyde and Dukinfield, it made for a most comfortable ride. It made light work of Victoria Street and Talbot Road and probably would have done a shift on the 389 without fuss. Likewise with the steepest section of the 346 service between the Albion Hotel and County Bridge (or Crezzie Road if you prefer).
Acceleration is lively, that came to its own around the Shaw Hall end of the 346 route up to the former Bay Horse. As for the speed bumps between The Duke of Sussex public house and Cartwright Street junction, they were barely noticeable.
Interior Design and The All Important Metal Rear Factor
Interior design of 63116 is consistent with the present FirstGroup look. Though the leather seats are comfortable enough, the treatment of the side trim and lack of moquette makes for a rather clinical appearance. Though good on arrival, the leather seating and bright interiors could look rather shabby after about three or more years in service.
Though FirstGroup’s Volvo B9TLs had the best interior trim of their vehicles, they were somewhat lacking in the legroom department. I am happy to notice that FirstGroup’s recent buses have better legroom, and 63116 was no exception. In terms of legroom, they compare well with any of the GMT standard double deckers, which being around six feet tall myself, is a most important factor (and a good thing).
With regards to the Metal Rear Factor, I could happily remain seated on 63116 and its other nine vehicles for an hour. Which is a contrast compared with the X-reg Marshall bodied Dennis Dart SLFs or the 51-reg Optare Solos.
The leather seats and plush cushions on most of its 41 seats have a very low metal rear factor. Therefore on these grounds, your posterior is less likely to be numb if deployed on a Sunday journey of the 343 service, along its full length. However, the longitudinal tip up seats, are comfy than previous examples I have parked my posterior on, but comfortable enough on the 346 rather than a 350 all the way from Ashton to Oldham.
I doubt as if Ralph Bennett would approve of the curved front end, but they seem to be less pronounced on the 10.8m models than on the 8.8m versions. The streamlined look is slightly reminiscent of the Dennis Lance’s cab and seems to be an amalgam of the early 1990s and the Volvo B7RLEs. One thing for sure is the fact they scream ’21st century bus’ to me.
On entry, the curved windscreen seem to have been designed with better kerbside vision and doesn’t seem to protrude as much as the Optare Solos often seen on the 1834 to Ashton. The driver’s cab seems to be smaller than the Solos and as cramped as the Marshall bodied Dennis Dart SLFs.
On alighting, I was pleased with my first ever journey aboard a Wright StreetLite. Though I like the Enviro200s and Enviro300s (as seen on Stagecoach Manchester’s 346 journeys and First Greater Manchester’s 81/81A services), I have warmed to the StreetLite even more. The last bus to have that positive an impact on me was the Alexander Dennis Enviro400, on a 220 journey from Piccadilly Gardens in 2006.
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On first look, the bulbous cab is a little disorientating but on looking again, less pronounced than any of the Optare Solos or Versas. The rounded nature is less pronounced on the door forward variant and – in my view – more aesthetically pleasing than the wheel forward version.
The Wright StreetLite, in comparison with the Dennis Dart SLFs, offer real improvements in comfort. Its strengths lie in the plush leather seats and its legroom. In terms of capacity, akin to its predecessor and a smoother ride throughout. It also has improved sound insulation and agreeable acceleration.
As for gripes, I think the dimensions of the driver’s cab are on the tight side. My other peeve concerns the luggage caddy, which I think is too small and shallow for resting carrier bags upon.
In time, I think First Greater Manchester’s StreetLites will prove to be credible performers on anything from the 331 Ashton Circular to a full length journey of the 350 via Uppermill. Let’s hope this ten is the first of many. I can think of another route in dire need of new buses where they would be best suited to; the one which passes Foxdenton Hall springs to mind!
- Presentation: 89% (Bright interior, a little on the clinical side though serves its purpose);
- Graphics: 82% (Usual FirstGroup Olympia livery. Looks good on StreetLite, though not quite as sumptuous as on the 56 reg Plaxton bodied Dennis Dart SLFs);
- Sound: 85% (Rather beefy Cummins engine, beats the Enviro200s engines which remind me of a trip to Costa Coffee);
- Overall Rating: 87% (Prefer the interior style of the Volvo B9TLs myself, but the legroom and seats cannot be faulted. All in all, a very good all round bus).
S.V., 05 March 2014.