All quiet on the 98
After visiting the VCS85 event, I took the opportunity to sample the BYD double deckers that Metroline are running on TfL route 98 from Holborn to Willesden. It’s a route of three parts; the whole length of the West End shopping experience on Oxford Street; Edgware Road, amajor arterial route and suburban streets from Kilburn to Willesden.
Boarding in Oxford Street, two features were immediately apparent; the generous leg room upstairs reducing the capacity to avoid the battery heavy vehicle exceeding the maximum gvw when fully loaded, and the stillness! At the end of the Friday rush hour, however, the maximum load was barely half capacity throughout. Starting off, there was little noise or vibration noticeable upstairs, just a faint hum. The ride was quite smooth although the lack of other noise and vibrations emphasised the impact of every deformity in the road surface. There is also a very different buzzer sound every time a passenger uses one of the bell pushes.
Once out of Oxford Street and beyond Westway, the Edgware Road was remarkably quiet and there was the opportunity to move out of the side of the road, avoiding most of the ironworks to give a smooth and fast ride between stops. It didn’t help the journey time though as the driver was asked to wait several minutes at the next stop. Once through Kilburn’s typical stop start suburban shopping street, the bus turned left onto the road to Willesden where the main challenge was the succession of speed control measures, some of the platforms and humps having a particularly steep approach. The route terminates by the back entrance to Willesden Garage where the bus went out of service for the night.
I was quite impressed by the BYD double-decker, particularly the lack of noise and vibration. It is heavy though and perhaps not as refined in finish as other current London double-deckers but these are both areas being continually improved and the vehicles demonstrate that, for the passenger at least, electric double-deckers are a practical proposition.