Contributor James Grundy takes a look at Merseyside’s fascination with the Enviro400 double-decker bus manufactured by Alexander Dennis which have been in Merseyside since 2008.
The Enviro400 is a popular option for operators of all sizes across the United Kingdom, with the 10,000th low floor double deck floor chassis, a high specification demonstrator vehicle, being constructed by the Scottish bus manufacturer in December last year. Launched back in 2005, it been updated twice over its lifespan, with the latest generation being launched in 2015.
The First Examples
The first Enviro400 was delivered to a Merseyside operator in late 2008, with Aintree Coachline taking delivery of one example, SN58 CDK. The company also acquired a second-hand example around two years later, however, this has since been sold on.
In January 2009, Arriva North West introduced their first Enviro400s on Merseyside, with 23 examples based on Alexander Dennis’ Trident II chassis for “CrossRiver” services.
These were also the first buses in the division to sport the “Interurban” livery. Another dozen followed in mid-2009, with these allocated to Bootle depot for their services between Bootle New Strand and Aigburth Vale.
In March of the same year, Stagecoach in Lancashire purchased a batch of eight Scania N-Series based Enviro400s for their X2 express service between Liverpool, Southport and Preston. As you may have read before, the vehicles on the route were recently upgraded.
After Stagecoach’s takeover of First Chester & The Wirral in 2013, a batch of eight Enviro400s dating from 2006 were transferred to Rock Ferry depot from Stagecoach Manchester. These were deployed on services 471/472 and replaced the Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied Volvo B7TLs acquired from First.
A further batch of this type, which were initially new to Stagecoach North East in 2006, transferred to Merseyside from Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire’s Preston depot in 2015, although they have since been redeployed across the division.
In mid 2014, Stagecoach Merseyside loaned an Alexander Dennis Enviro400 Hybrid demonstrator, SN63 VTX (80022). This was the second Enviro400 Hybrid demonstrator on Merseyside, with Arriva North West loaning SN59 AWW in March 2012, although this did not go into passenger service.
The Enviro400 Revolution
In mid 2014, Arriva North West ordered a total of 28 Enviro400s based on the updated “Enviro40D” chassis, with the first nineteen allocated to Speke depot to upgrade its “QBP” 86/86A services. The remaining nine were delivered to Southport depot shortly afterwards, with these deployed on services between Southport and Wigan.
Between January and June 2015, a further 100 Enviro400s arrived on Merseyside. The first batch of 53 was initially destined for Arriva Midlands and Arriva The Shires respectively, however, they were diverted to the North West in exchange for similarly aged Wrightbus Pulsar 2 saloons. These were split between Green Lane (eleven), St Helens (26) and Bootle (sixteen) depots.
The remaining 47 Enviro400s entered service between May and June 2017, with the bulk of the order, 35 vehicles, being allocated to Green Lane depot for Stockbridge Village and Huyton services. The remaining twelve were allocated to Speke, converting route 75 to double deck operation.
The “MMC” arrives on Merseyside
In March 2016, Stagecoach announced it had ordered 32 Enviro400 MMCs for Gillmoss depot. These were allocated to routes 14/14A and 86/86C, and were the first new double deckers purchased for Gillmoss since 1998, when the depot was owned MTL Trust Holdings. These were the first of the “MMC” variant to enter service on Merseyside, excluding a solitary demonstrator (YY15 HJZ) which Stagecoach Merseyside trialled at their Gillmoss and Rock Ferry depot in 2015.
Stagecoach ordered another 51 Enviro400 MMCs for Merseyside as part of their 2017/18 financial year order, with 33 of these brought forward for early delivery. These were also allocated to Gillmoss depot to upgrade their 20 and 21 services between Kirkby and Liverpool, with a number of these going on loan to Wirral based depots to boost capacity during the Merseyrail Loop Line Replacement project.
In mid-2017, Arriva introduced their first “MMCs” on Merseyside, which were a batch of five vehicles for Bootle depot to upgrade their services to Old Roan. These were the first vehicles delivered to the North West to feature Arriva Bus’ new “Standard” livery.
In June 2017, Arriva North West loaned an Enviro400 City demonstrator, SN66 WLK. This had previously been on demonstration with Arriva Buses Wales, and returned to Liverpool in September 2017 after it was loaned by Peoplesbus for a short period.
Later on, in 2017, Stagecoach Merseyside received four high specification Trident II-based Enviro400s for its Chester to Liverpool express route from Stagecoach South West.
The most recent delivery of the Enviro400 for Merseyside services are eighteen high specification examples purchased by Stagecoach. Seven of these, delivered to Rock Ferry for routes 471/472, were built to Stagecoach’s “Gold” specification. The remaining eleven, which also feature a high specification interior, were allocated to Preston depot for their express service between Liverpool, Southport and Preston.
In my view, the Alexander Dennis Enviro400, in all guises, has played a key role in the upgrade of a number of bus routes on Merseyside. The type has been operated in the area for almost a decade, however, it is only in the past few years the Enviro400 has become a much more common sight.
There are over 200 examples in service on Merseyside today, with 150 of these operated by Arriva. Stagecoach’s Gillmoss and Arriva’s Green Lane depots have the largest allocations in the area, with around seventy at the former and 47 at the latter.
It is unknown at this time whether more Enviro400s are due to arrive on Merseyside, but I am looking forward to seeing if this changes in the future.