Yesterday, there was a highly interesting string of comments about Plymouth City Bus’ and Wilts & Dorset’s interior designs for their new Volvo B7RLE/Wrightbus Eclipse 2s. As is standard practice, W&D retained the popular 2+1 layout and City Bus adopted it.
I say “popular” because the 2+1 arrangement is well-liked, at least throughout the east Dorset conurbation. Ray Stenning actually hit the nail on the head when he outlined three prime reasons for adopting 2+1, which were:
- Better accommodation for anything on wheels—buggies and trollies in particular
- A better standing environment, whenever standing is required
- A feeling of spaciousness within.
London: do 29-seat midibuses such as these really need central exits?
Operators still try to cram on as many seats as possible on their buses. Look at some of the oddly perched seats you see these days. This is particularly true on single decks. Who’s to blame them? Today, a 12m buses actually has a lower capacity than a 9m bus of old (and here I’m comparing City Bus’ new B7RLEs with its modest number of secondhand Bristol LHs of 30 years ago). While there are sound operating reasons for stuffing in seats, elsewhere there are equally valid marketing reasons to take a few out.
There are now examples of buses with greater seat pitches (fewer rows of seats) or just fewer seats, including Go Ahead’s recent intakes. Arriva has recently introduced a small number of generous, *66* seat double decks. Though unable to speak for City Bus, W&D’s service levels are such that standing should be minimised, though bunching at such high frequencies does cause standing issues. But passengers can make their choice: Yellow Buses offers an equally inviting ambiance in its double & single deck fleet across the main cross-conurbation services, including leather and Café Nerro-style interiors.
There have always been compromises between length and capacity. Going back to Plymouth, like many urban areas of the late 1960s and 1970s, Plymouth City Transport operated a large fleet of 11m Leyland Nationals seating not the customary 52 but 46, owing to dual door bodywork. And Hants & Dorset ran a batch of 11m Bristol REs with dual doors (its Nationals were invariably single door examples). As a commenter alluded yesterday, the substitution of one of these dual- for a single-door vehicle would throw passengers into confusion.
Dual door buses were really nothing but a prolonged experiment, a kind of a fad. Their use stemmed largely from union agreements that were linked to the conversion of fleets to one man (person) operation. In many urban situations, it was difficult to clinch OM(P)O agreements without centre exits. Never mind that the dual door single decks had far fewer seats than the deckers for which they substituted. Passengers could always stand (but they tended to melt away and this was a failure of weak management). Once these union agreements started to crumble or were proven unnecessary, operators switched back to a preferred single door layout. Except, of course, in London, where even the smallest midibus comes with a double dose of doors. This is another area where London is perceived to be different even though it really isn’t.
These days, dual door buses come with what in the mid-1970s was an unforeseen handicap: they require extra-long high kerbing at stops.