In busy conditions, the time it takes for a bus to drop passengers at a stop and then board the new riders, can result in significant service delays, not to mention upsetting passengers whose journey can seem never-ending.
Back in 2003, Alexander Dennis, or Transbus Dennis as it was then, were looking for innovative features to set the planned replacement for their Dart SLF, probably Britain’s most successful bus, apart from its competitors. Their Eureka moment came in deciding to equip their new bus, codenamed TM02, with doors at both the front and unusually also at the extreme rear, allowing a through-flow of passengers boarding at the front and exiting at the rear, thus speeding up the time the bus dwelt at bus stops, since passengers could be boarding and alighting simultaneously. In truth, such a configuration was not unusual in mainland Europe, however here in the UK it had always been thought impossible, at least on a narrow midibus like Dart. Dennis’s engineers however found a way to achieve the through-flow configuration and a number of prototypes were built, including a number of hybrids.
Despite the trauma of the collapse into administration of Transbus in 2004, and the subsequent formation of Alexander Dennis, the prototypes, by then given the production model designation of Enviro200, were well received by customers and the first production vehicle orders were won even before development was completed.
Fate intervened again, this time catastrophically, when Transport for London, who had previously supported the concept, then decided that it was inappropriate for London. Since London was inevitably the key market for the new bus, this made the new bus non-viable, and ADL reluctantly cancelled the project before any production vehicles were built. The model name Enviro200 was retained, and used for the companies more conventional replacement for Dart SLF.
Opinions vary as to why TfL turned against the product, however it is hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that the decision was politically motivated, for this was the era of the bendi-bus being championed by London’s Mayor as the best bus for London – a view shared by very few others! Had there been a change of Mayor at the critical moment, the future of the product could have been entirely different
The prototypes were sold off, effectively as scrap, however several were restored and went into service, thus the ill-fated product lives on, albeit as a pale shadow of what could have been.
For the full story, read the August 2014 edition of Buses Magazine.