Another delivery duty for Crosville Motor Services recently took me on a return journey to Yorkshire, this time with a hybrid double deck bus.
It’s a journey I’ve done several times before so I hardly used the printed route notes I always carry in the cab. On previous journeys I’ve delivered a 1950 Bedford OB and a 1949 Bristol K6A to the restoration premises of Cobus in Yorkshire.
For various operational reasons I was unable to leave the depot until after 10:00 but, not having driven one of these hybrid buses before, I was glad to be able to accompany another driver on a similar bus as we took it into Weston-super-Mare town centre to swap it with the bus I was to take north. Watching his every move, I soon learned that it was really no different to driving any other modern bus with an auto gearbox.
If you haven’t already guessed, a hybrid bus uses a combination of battery power and energy from a small diesel engine for propulsion. Before I left the depot an engineer flipped a couple of switches behind a panel to put the bus into ‘DE’ (Direct Energy) Mode, which meant that the batteries would not be depleted on the long journey. The bus is built for Euro 6 economy on urban services but would require diesel power throughout the 260 mile trip to Hunmanby.
The purpose of the long journey was to deliver LJ58AVG (a VDL DB300 hybrid/Wright HEV Gemini 2, formerly with Arriva in London) to be converted to open top format for use on Crosville’s popular 100 service to Sand Bay. Regular followers of this blog will remember that I took one of the Leyland Olympian open toppers (one of two regulars on the 100 service) to Portsmouth Harbour following its sale to a new owner. New disabled access regulations have just come into force this year which means that all double deck vehicles on stage carriage service must be disabled-friendly with low floor access. Replacing the Olympians will be two of the aforementioned hybrid buses, following their conversion to open top.
Driving the bus was easy, as you’d expect. The driver’s position is comfortable, with all controls within easy reach and a useful LCD display on the dash which gives all sorts of useful information. The most important data it gave me was the contents of the fuel tank, which was a delight because normally I’d be using a broom handle and a Mk 1 eyeball! Being designed for urban use the top speed wasn’t very high so I settled down for a long, if tedious, journey at about 45mph. The bus will do about 53mph if pushed hard but I didn’t want to trade speed for economy.
Traffic levels on the motorways weren’t high to begin with so I enjoyed the changing countryside, with occasional reference to my notes to make sure that I took the correct lane at motorway junctions.
With a couple of breaks en-route and Doncaster behind me, I ran into dull and drizzly weather. I was reminded of my earlier trip with HLJ44 but this time I was glad to have good windscreen wipers and decent headlights! Now in darkness, I headed away from the M18 motorway and up the A614 and A165 through Driffield and Bridlington. The traffic was now much heavier due to rush hour and it was just after 19:00 before I finally arrived in the village of Hunmanby. The Cobus building was in darkness and the gates were locked but, after a phone call, Steve Waggitt the genial proprietor turned up to let me in.
So ended another marathon journey oop north. As I trudged down the lane in search of a pie and a pint I cast my mind back over the day. Although I much prefer to be driving a half-cab bus, this was still interesting and the job meant that I could tick another box!