Metroshuttle free city centre bus service goes electric-hybrid

Metroshuttle hybrid outside Oxford Road stationWe’ve had to wait a few weeks longer than we were expecting, but the second batch of electric-hybrid buses for Greater Manchester has now entered service on the free city centre Metroshuttle bus services in Manchester. 20 electric-hybrid vehicles have been purchased by GMPTE with £1.14 million funding from the Department for Transport’s Green Bus Fund, comprising 12 Optare Versas and 8 slightly shorter Optare Solo SRs. The network of three routes use colour-coded vehicles and bus stops: orange line 1, green line 2 and purple line 3. Although the vehicles are owned by GMPTE, they are maintained and operated by FirstGroup, who retained the contract to operate the service.

Metroshuttles 1 and 3 on Piccadilly approach

The three city centre Metroshuttle routes are special in that they carry a large percentage of people who may not otherwise use local bus services: commuters and shoppers who have driven into town or caught the tram or train; visitors and tourists from outside Greater Manchester. For that reason, it’s important that the service makes a good impression. Will the new vehicles succeed in doing just that? We think they will, but unlike the vocal comments of passengers on the first day of hybrids along Wilmslow Road we suspect that many Metroshuttle users simply aren’t aware of or overly interested in the new vehicles. That’s our impression travelling at the weekend – perhaps the daily commuters are more enthusiastic?

Metroshuttle network mapMetroshuttle seatingThe interiors feature black and white panelling with dark grey seats: headrests are leather, but the rest of the seat is covered in a velvety material. Handrails are silver-coloured, with yellow bell pushes. The overall look is plain but smart – an improvement on the previous utilitarian FirstGroup interior.*

* Before we get letters, let us explain what we mean: the standard FirstGroup interior is pleasant enough, but it’s a design found nationwide and so doesn’t have much “wow” factor for that reason

From a design point of view, we’re particularly taken with the new network maps – bold colours on a dark background. The malfunctioning cogs are gone, replaced with simple circles. The hybrid engines have similar characteristics to those on the Wilmslow Road double-deckers – quieter, quick acceleration, vague electronic whirring noises as opposed to the thrumming of a pure diesel engine. Where the smaller vehicles on the Metroshuttle lose out is the amount of space for equipment, requiring an ungainly pod to be placed on the roof of both Versa and Solo SR alike – we assume this is where the batteries are located.

Frequency of hybrid buses on Metroshuttle, November 2010
Metroshuttle route Weekdays Saturdays Sundays and Bank Holidays
Line 1 6 mins (0700-1800)
10 mins (1800-2100)
6 mins (0800-1900) 10 mins (1000-1800)
Line 2 10 mins (0700-1900) 10 mins (0800-1900) 10 mins (1000-1800)
Line 3 10 mins (0700-1900) 10 mins (0800-1900) No service

You can see more photos from this morning’s jaunt on Flickr.

What do you think of the new Metroshuttle buses? Do you share our views or have a different opinion? Leave a comment below!

About James McCollom

Web geek and public transport user
This entry was posted in Buses and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Metroshuttle free city centre bus service goes electric-hybrid

  1. StuartGintheCity says:

    Noticed since they came. More patronage. People discovered the routes by accident like me. Think they’ve misjudged how popular they’ll be now. The old Solos were battered by years in city traffic, tight corners and attack of the bollards. They could shift though! The versa is bit ponderous and slow and that snout is going to take a bashing. They look great though for now.

  2. Martin says:

    As I am a somewhat regular visitor to the Town Centre – I always use the Metroshuttle to get around and these news ones to me are great buses!

    Is it me or are these new ones bigger than the old Solo’s that they had on the routes?

    • James McCollom says:

      The Versas on Lines 1 and 3 are certainly longer from end to end – the door is located in front of the front axle – but don’t have as many seats as I thought they might have. Official capacity is 27 seated + 28 standing (or 24 seated + 1 wheelchair) but the vehicles they replace have an official seating capacity of 30.

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  4. StuartGintheCity says:

    Really fed up with GMPTE and First Bus.
    2 times i waited for the 1 outside M&S to take me near home. I finish at 8pm and they usually have 3-4 services after that. 2nd time i checked the timetable (dated31/1/11) Finish at 19:10! NO big SIGN. No nothing……!
    I noticed at least 8 regulars, me included…Getting the bus at this hour.
    Now we’re walking.! Thanks for the rides!!!!!

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