Metroline Model Change (working title)

The Alexander Dennis Enviro400H MMC has entered service closer to home with their arrival at Cricklewood (W) for route 332.

Route 332 was retained by Metroline with new double-decker hybrid buses on 11 October 2014, however it was not until December that the new Alexander Dennis Enviro400H MMC had been ordered for the route, even if this was the most popular guess. Initially expected for delivery at the beginning of this year, it has taken four months for TEH2072-2087 to be built and delivered - quite a shame that my daily commute and second favourite bus route was not the first London bus route to introduce the new model to service!

For those unfamiliar with the young route, the 332 was introduced in 2007 so has been allocated with Alexander Dennis Enviro400s since its start. Its most commendable section is the link from Paddington to Maida Vale via Edgware Road, meeting and paralleling route 16 through Kilburn until the latter's terminus at Cricklewood (W). Ducking into the suburbs of Neasden, route 332 eventually encounters the motorway abundant section to Neasden and averages 35mph whilst navigating its way through intersections towards Brent Park Tesco. (A Know Your Routes article is available for more info.)

This is the latest works from the innovative Alexander Dennis Limited and the Major Model Change has taken the bus industry up a level with its pioneering advancement to the smooth Enviro-curves we have grown accustomed to for the last decade.

Bus operators who have purchased the original Enviro400 and representatives of their drivers contributed to the many mechanical omissions and additions incorporated to the new Enviro400, with additional reviews from passengers taken into consideration. Alexander Dennis also took any mechanical issue reports into consideration for the new bus, with a said 200 improvements from the preceding design present with the MMC.

Most notably, the seat behind the driver saloon has been removed for a more commodious driving experience. This is shared with passengers, a roomier lower deck saloon consisting of an additional five seats to the previous Enviro400 and, believe it or not, a better standee experience, as well! The fuel tank can be thanked for this, its redesign prompting an even more spacious interior. Notwithstanding this, the seating design has minor difference to the current Enviro400s in fleet, but enthusiasts should be able to distinguish the more square-shaped seat padding and the welcoming fresh fragrance of the new bus!

Drive-line should see a drastic improvement for both drivers and passengers alike, rubber bubble seal between the cab door and door-frame with thinner, lighter glass constructing the structure of the bodywork attempting to meet revolutionary window-shimmer (or "rattle-proof") objectives. A 250bhp Cummins 6.7 litre ISB engine is unusually larger than competing 5-litre iterations at WrightBus and Volvo. The Euro 6 power unit is also heavier than what is accustomed to the engineering aspects of buses, however the weight of the Enviro400 MMC has been reduced substantially, demonstrating the exceptional engineering Alexander Dennis have worked at to produce a truly stunning bus, both aesthetically and mechanically.

Now, forget the specifications of the bus and focus on the bus from the perspective of the average passenger. Even better, here's from the experience of my commute and analysis on buses in general, collaborating with the most detail yet. My second favourite bus route took me home with the privilege of TEH2081 (LK15 CSZ) on its first day of service. Smooth is an expected adjective for any hybrid bus and there was no disappointment here! I was surprised with the similarities of driveline and engine sound to all of Metroline's TEHs with the original E400 bodywork. Because I was only going home rather than taking the bus for a full-route analysis, that was the only information I could acquire amid the excitement of new buses for one commute and favourite route.

From outside the bus, as undoubtedly the smartest-looking Enviro400 MMCs so far, Metroline's new TEHs look dull courtesy of the displays. Initially acknowledging this as a minor, I was not impressed with the fact that, a few days later when I did take the 332 for a full-route commute to Brent Park Tesco for the first time with its new buses, the buses did not have their lights behind the displays on. An issue to be sorted out? Nevertheless, talking to a driver on the 332, he confirmed that from a driver's perspective, too, the new buses were 'just the same' as the other TEHs in fleet.

However, 'just' is belittling the buses ... just slightly. The acceleration is reminiscent of the VWHs, acclaimed for their driving style of a car and general quality, except Wright and Volvo hybrid buses have six gears whereas Alexander Dennis are distinguishable for the one flat-out gear of their hybrid buses. You could say the new TEHs are VWHs with one gear, put simply. The spacious interior makes the new buses feel a bit too airy, but this should play as a massive advantage for the standees during the route's afternoon peak. The bus was extremely comfortable to be on, not just courtesy of the seating but because of the air-conditioning, as well; I snugged into a little nap without disruption. I regretted it, afterwards, because I missed the fastest section of the route: the North Circular Road! The driver accomplished a steady 30mph along the long bend leading towards Brent Park Superstores, so at least there was some speed-related fun to end my journey with satisfaction.

Discounting the display issue, the only other problem with the new Enviro400 MMC, then, is the reason why I said to forget the specifications of the new buses: the Enviro400 MMC feels heavier than the original Enviro400. This was because prior to service, reviews highlighted how light the bus is compared to its predecessor, when really it seemed quite the reverse.

Abellio disappointed me with their introduction of the new Enviro400H MMC on routes 109 and 415 when I boarded both routes with their new buses, 2487-2513, 2514 and 2515-2522 louder than the average hybrid bus and suggested by enthusiasts to be restricted. However, as much as I gradually got annoyed by the wait, the new TEHs are quality buses and a better representation of Alexander Dennis' well-designed innovation to the Enviro-series.

So, while route 332 has acquired arguably the best Alexander Dennis Enviro400H MMCs so far, the argument is not whether 2523-2531 for the 350 are better because more importantly has the 332 acquired better buses? And to that, I don't know.

The TEs previously allocated to the route are my favourite Enviro400s in London, so I did not mind waiting longer for the new buses to start service because the 60-reg TEs are quality themselves! I managed to board one later on from Brent Park and the way the bus maintained 30mph everywhere it went reminded me just why the new TEHs are difficult to compare to such outstanding buses, albeit the new buses are superb, as well.

When the new buses are fully introduced into service, I will miss the TEs for sure. However, the TEHs have the quality to continue the outstanding service of route 332.

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  1. They are really great buses to drive in,and the AC is an improvement to older ADL buses.When more of these enter service around London,I'll try to get as many as I can!

    1. They are good-looking buses, they stand out every day! But they are competitors with previous TEHs when really their performance should be better than the original Enviro400 like the design is. Perhaps I should get used to the new buses, first!

  2. The MMCs on the 350 are great. It's the best route to catch on on currently. Lots of high speed running. (or not stop start like thr 109)