Coventry says farewell to the bendy bus
As dusk fell on 20 March, many staff and enthusiasts watched on as the sole remaining Mercedes-Benz Citaro articulated bus in the National Express Coventry fleet returned to the depot for the last time, says David Cole. Its final day’s duty on service 4 brought an end to nearly 15 years of bendy bus operation in the city.
Back in May 2003, the first bendy buses for operation by the then Travel Coventry were launched in a promotion of partnership working with Centro and Coventry City Council at the city’s cricket club. The then Coventry North East MP, Bob Ainsworth, made reference to the importance of the bus to the city, quoted in Bus and Coach Buyer’s extensive coverage, “The headlines go to light rail but it is the bus that does the job.” At the time, there were many visible signs of the partnership appearing across the city, new bus lanes, priority measures, park and ride sites and upgraded street furniture with real time displays as well as the £2M investment in new buses. The Euro III Citaros were to outlive several of the initiatives, particularly the withdrawal of most bus lanes in early 2017.
The 17/27 service between the railway station and University (Walsgrave) hospital was the first to be operated by the new buses. The Citaros were subsequently joined by the Mercedes-Benz 0405GN articulated buses that had introduced bendy buses to Birmingham in 1999. These were branded for the cross-city service 21 between Wood End and Willenhall and gave the city a fleet of 20 articulated buses, one of the largest outside London. Both vehicle types enjoyed a full operational life under fairly arduous conditions with many of the Citaros gaining branding for service 4 between the hospital and Arena Park in the National Express Coventry era.
National Express Coventry driver Shaun Boyce was at the wheel for the final journey. As a child back in 2003, his grandmother had taken him for a ride on a bendy bus on their first day in service. The final vehicle was the only articulated Citaro to see service initially on Birmingham’s 67 service before moving to Coventry.