Dublin Bus Hybrid Trials:
Dublin Bus are trialing nine hybrid vehicles this year on Routes 25/A/B operating out of Conyngham Road. Three, WH1-3, are Wrightbus Streetdeck HEV96 integrals with a Daimler engine, 3 are Alexander Dennis Enivro400H MMC buses, AH1-3, and 3 will be Wright Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5LH, VH1-3. WH1-3 arrived in May, while AH1 arrived in June and has spent time in Broadstone with WH3. WH1/2 were used for driver familiarisation in Conyngham Road for approximately one month before both entered service on the 21st June 2019. It is not known when the AH buses will begin driver familiarisation, but it would seem we are at least a month or so before they could enter service. Dublin Bus have not had a great history with hybrids, being one of the early adopters with the original WH1 in 2008. Unfortunately this was a very unreliable bus. DM2, taken on demonstration, was more reliable but still ran into some teething troubles, and lead to no orders of hybrids. Reliablility in a bus fleet is paramount to the provision of a good service, and Dublin Bus will ensure they are aware of the most reliable bus on the market by doing such a long term comparison of different types on the same routes.
Wrightbus Streetdeck HEV96, WH-Class:
WH2 was first into service, operating the 0535 25A from Esker Road on Friday the 21st June 2019 on Bus 1/25. Unfortunately it didn't last the day on this board. WH1 operated slightly later, operating the 0640 25A from Esker Road. It faired much better than WH2, operating the very last 25A to Lucan, the 2325 that evening. It was then in service on Saturday the 22nd July, allowing me to get a few photos of it in its attractive livery. Though this livery is a Dublin Bus design, it would be great to see all Dublin Buses in this livery. It merges the popular yellow colour, important for those visibly impaired, with two green tones, representative of both Ireland and former colours worn in the city by DUTC, CIE and Dublin Bus vehicles for long periods.
Conyngham Road's WH1 is seen turning from Merrion Street Upper to the 25B terminus on Merrion Square South to operate a service to Adamstown Station on the 22nd June 2019. It will be noted that the bus is already dressed for its return departure (click on photo for larger version).
The reuse of fleet number WH1 is interesting. Maybe this way the history of the former WH1 can be wiped out of memory within the company. Fleet designations have been reused from time to time, but it very rare, and has never occurred within the same operator. The D-class designation was used twice, by the DUTC for 19 (D1-D19) Albion Valkyrie single-deckers taken over from the General Omnibus Company in late 1934. These were all gone by 1940, long before CIE reused the designation for the their long line of Atlantean buses. The RA designation was also reused, though no two buses had the same fleet number. CIE built RA1-152 in 1960/1. Dublin Bus then had RA176-RA325. The closest to this turnaround was P1. The DUTC built P1, Leyland Tiger TS3, in 1931. It was withdrawn in 1939. CIE then built a sizeable batch of P class buses, starting P1-30 in 1948 (though they were initially provincial buses until transferred to Dublin City services in 1951). The P-class designation was further reused by Dublin Bus, with Plaxton Verde bodied DAF SB220s, P1 arriving in 1992. But WH1's reuse by Dublin Bus 7.5 years after the former WH1 (January 2012 - May 2019) beats P1's 9 year hiatus (1939-1948) and therefore has the distinction of being the shortest re-use of the same bus fleet number in Dublin.
Alexander Dennis Enviro400 MMC, AH-Class:
The Enviro400 MMC class is the second to enter service as part of the Dublin Bus hybrid trials. AH2 was the first to enter service on the 26th August operating the 0756 25D from Adamstown, before operating the 25A in the evening peak and into the night. AH3 joined it in service on Thursday 29th August. AH1 is still to enter service but this is expected imminently. For the last two days of the week, 5 hybrid buses were operating on the 25s during the peaks. With the VHs next for driving training, the hybrids will be a dominant force on the 25s in the not too distant future.
Alexander products were the mainstay of the city fleet from 1990 to 2008, when the last batch of 50 Enviro400s entered service. Since then, all buses have been Wrights until the arrival of the AHs. Though similar to the original Enivro400s that have operated in Dublin over the past decade, they have a more modern look. Inside they are much brighter than the SGs/WHs, the full height windows upstairs being a significant upgrade. I was impressed travelling on these buses, the body being sturdy and the ride being very smooth, even during the transition between battery and diesel power. The one negative of the type from a passenger perspective is the internal noise from the fans upstairs. This may be early issues (I recall the exact same issue when the EVs arrived). Overall, from my perspective as a passenger, the Enviro400 MMC is the better bus.
Wrightbus Eclipse Gemini bodied Volvo B5TLH, VH-Class:
The final batch of hybrids to be put into service are Wrights Gemini bodied Volvo B5TLH, VH1-3. VH3 was first into service operating from the afternoon of the 26th September, followed shortly by VH2 which joined it for the evening peak. VH1 entered service a few days later on the 30th September. Though last into service, they are assigned fleet code 45, one up from fleet code 44 assigned to the SG class (WH fleet code: 46, AH fleet code: 47). That brings a total of 9 hybrids having entered service, however WH2 was back at Wrights for some work when they went into administration, and has yet to return. But with 8 hybrids in operation currently, the Lucan corridor has become very interesting.
Internally, they are very similar to the WH-class, though have a cumbersome downstairs rear layout. Having travelled on VH2, it was interesting that the journey was very similar to the original Wright bodied Volvo demonstrator, DM2. The bus was quick to accelerate away from the stop, but to the untrained observer, it did feel like there was a lag in the engine taking over and acceleration continuing. Like the AHs, the VHs are quick to turn their engines off when stationary, which is sadly lacking on the WH-class. With Dublin's increasing traffic, and growing bus passenger numbers increasing loading duration, there is quite a lot of time for the engine to be off, and it would seem a mandatory feature of an environmentally friendly fleet.