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VehicleVolvo B7L Articulated
AB53D Wright Eclipse Fusion
Number10182 (T5 FCC)
OperatorNorthampton Transport Limited (“First Northampton”)
New (9/05) to First Somerset & Avon Ltd., Bristol. Passed (6/10) to Northampton Transport Ltd. (“First Northampton”), Northampton. Passed (10/13) to First Essex Buses Ltd., Chelmsford
LocationPadmore Street depot, Worcester
DescriptionStored after being overhauled by First Midland Red on behalf of First Northampton
DateMonday 5th July 2010
DD12 on Saturday 8th June 2019
This is a sight at WR never likely to be seen again ! -- Looks almost like a triple-articulated bus too !!! . OR, is it the future of Worcester passenger transport ?

TimBrown on Saturday 8th June 2019
These were my thoughts after a demonstration ride 11 November 2005 in the Firstbus Streetcar bendi-bus from Park and Ride site to Crowngate and return. Basically, too long for our cramped streets! Streetcar in Worcester As promised, first impressions of the 'Wright's Streetcar' and the demonstration run between 'Park-and-Ride' site at Perdiswell to Crowngate bus station and return with thanks to Robin Peart for managing to organise us on this demonstration run. Local radio and television reporters were present along with certain Civic dignitaries, so it was something of an occasion which I would normally fight shy of completely. That said it was an experience that I would not have missed. Initial impressions are of a dramatic looking vehicle which draws attention to itself like a pouting rock star, it really turned heads when moving on the road, and many bystanders and motorists did a double take. Inside it certainly has the look of a tram-car, but lacks the completely flat floor throughout possessed by the multiple articulated successful Nottingham trams, the rear section rises over the driving axle as in any other conventional single decker. The seating arrangement was different at the back end being in a sort of horse-shoe shape around the sides and back panel. The engine was mounted unusually on the nearside of the chassis and it made much more noise at the back than a standard Volvo B7L such as those used on the ‘44 Malvern’ services. We were talking to a Director of Wrights the Belfast based manufacturers and he said that it had been developed with much input from the 'First' bus group. 40 ‘Streetcars’ were currently on order, with the initial 100 promised to 'First' based on an ‘exclusivity’ agreement that no other Companies such as 'Arriva' or 'Stagecoach' can consider ordering until the initial quantity had been fulfilled. Technically he answered all my questions on the structure of the bus and said that the turntable assembly featured two anti jack-knife devices and an overall restriction on the pivot angle to prevent the back overtaking the front in slippery or icy conditions. When asked how the driver could see where the third axle was in relation to the kerb when turning sharp left he said that this was covered on both sides by CCTV, but I said these are not totally reliable quoting the sometime non-functioning of reversing cameras on the 'Optare Solo's'. The discussion then turned to multiple HGV type mirrors which he said were actually fitted. So far so good, but when I looked at the legal lettering the weight shown adjacent to it was a massive 19,750 Kgs which is 19.434 long or Imperial tons! In comparison our new ‘Volvo B7L's’ single deckers are 11,000 Kgs or 10.82 tons, and the ‘Transbus Enviro's’ recently introduced to the extended ‘Park-and–Ride’ services a relatively lightweight 8500 Kgs or 8.364 tons. With a full compliment of 100 passengers, no less than 58 of whom will have to stand, the all up weight of this three axle ‘Streetcar’ behemoth will be 26.93 tons with an average 8.978 tons per axle! Its acceleration was smooth but quite pedestrian despite lower gearing; it would have been interesting to see how it progressed up Ronkswood hill, for example, with its assumed mere 7 litre engine. I had hoped to be able to report that this 'bendi-bus' was, or was not, capable of working the 'W1' route with the equal ease of the existing 40 footers as claimed; but we were denied any proof of this on the inward journey by using St. Mary's Street, Sansome Walk and St Nicholas Street, so I was unable to observe the spectacle of a right turn from Foregate Street into Angel Street, and we completely missed out the much used Foregate Street Station stop which is crucial to an integrated Worcester transport system.. The driver also took the right hand lane in St. Nicholas Street for an almost straight access to Angel Street, where incoming buses on the W2 have to approach from the nearside lane bus stop and make a tight right and left hand swing with other traffic on their offside. On the return journey we took the right hand lane at the top of Shaw Street in order to turn left into Foregate Street, this manoeuvre would be difficult or nearly impossible during the evening rush hour with ‘backed-up’ traffic taking both lanes. This rather took the gloss off the driver's earlier assertion that the third axle only cut in about 2 feet tighter than the second axle which itself behaved like a 30 foot long 'Dart' for example. I would ask you to take a few minutes standing outside ‘MacDonalds’ during a typical weekday morning and see where the off-side rear wheel of existing single deck buses mounts the pavement and ask yourself what an extra two foot ‘cut-in’ would do to pedestrians, especially when the rear portion is probably outside the vision of the driver’s mirrors. Basically I am none the wiser as to its suitability for Worcester City centre but reluctantly fear it will 'not do what it says on the tin'. Did you have time to notice that nearly every bus stop within a mile radius of the City centre was cluttered up with parked cars and delivery vehicles, as indeed are the bus lanes in the City centre? The City is crying out for proper enforcement orders on all bus stops and bus lanes with heavy fixed fines and a ‘blitz’ by Traffic Wardens and Police, believe me as an ex-bus driver you eventually give up asking people to move after all the their abusive comments and reluctantly pick your passengers up from unsafe positions in middle of the road. Ten minutes of observing the goings on outside Foregate Street railway station or the old ‘Gifford Hotel’ stop opposite the Cathedral during a working weekday will give you a flavour of the problem. At its published cost of £300,000 per ‘Streetcar’ the County Council could have about two and a half conventional 40 foot single deckers with room for at least 100 seated passengers and have enough left over to specify coach type seats and full air conditioning. Alternatively you could probably buy four smaller 30 seat 'Optare Solo's' or two 70 seat double deckers. I would also ask you to consider the safety issues of 58 passengers standing in a ‘Streetcar’ and think about what might happen to a load of ‘free-falling’ schoolchildren in an emergency stop. In any case where would 58 passengers stand? You cannot put them in the bending ‘concertina’ section as the floor moves in a most disconcerting way over the turntable; with such a crush loading just imagine how an elderly, disabled or buggy pushing passenger could possibly get out at an intermediate stop! Current legislation for Contracted school services stipulates that all seats have seat belts; whilst this is not necessary for a stage carriage service bus at least most of the passengers on a double decker would have a seat and some degree of protection in an emergency situation. A double decker is shorter than a single decker for a given carrying capacity and thus much more agile in Worcester’s cramped congested streets, it has the added benefit of no additional costs of providing special servicing bays necessary for a 60 foot long ‘Bendi-bus’ which just won’t fit in the current Padmore Street premises and workshops. Why not test a demonstrator ‘Volvo’ double deck bus with the latest ‘Wrights’ bodywork for direct comparison purposes, or have a look at what ‘Harrogate and District’ have done with theirs? There is another issue regarding light railway tramcars, the West Midlands ‘Centro’ system lost so much money in the first year of operation through ‘fare dodgers’ that they were forced to employ conductors to issue tickets; this experience led Nottingham to employ conductors from the first day of their tramway services. Is it not probable that you will need to do the same with this ‘Streetcar’ thus adding more to its already high purchase and operating costs? The choice is yours and it comes down to very costly flashiness or more cost effective sheer practicality, in these days when our Council Tax is rising at three times the rate of inflation I sincerely ask on behalf of all those on a very low fixed income for you, your boss and the other decision makers to make the right choice for Worcester.

DD12 on Saturday 8th June 2019
Very interesting report, thanks Tim.

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