First continues annual Millbrook bus testing

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An ADL Enviro400 (front) and Wrightbus StreetDeck are put through their paces
An ADL Enviro400 (front) and Wrightbus StreetDeck are put through their paces

First Bus has been testing the latest offerings from Alexander Dennis (ADL), Wrightbus and Optare throughout August at Millbrook Proving Ground.

The manufacturers have been putting their latest products through First’s comprehensive testing programme the specially designed vehicle testing facility in Bedfordshire. The annual event was launched in 2012.

Managing Director of First Bus, Giles Fearnley, described the improvements in vehicles since 2012 as ‘remarkable.’ Manufacturers have successfully improved the fuel efficiency of vehicles by 30% and reduced vehicle carbon emissions by 30%.

The results of the testing programme play a major part in the First Bus vehicle procurement strategy. In this financial year First Bus is investing £70m in 305 new vehicles and since 2012 the company has invested around £300m in almost 1,600 new buses. With multi-million pound orders at stake, manufacturers have treated the annual trials at Millbrook very seriously.

During the testing, the buses are hooked up to sophisticated equipment to monitor many aspects of performance. They undergo maximum speed and acceleration tests and are subjected to extreme 25% gradients.

To replicate the driving pattern of a bus on an average working day, vehicles follow a route featuring hills, junctions, roundabouts and numerous bus stops. The buses travel at a range of pre-defined speeds and spend a proportion of the test idling to simulate passengers boarding at bus stops. Vehicles are weighted with ballast to replicate passengers.

Giles Fearnley said: “In 2012 we laid down the gauntlet to bus manufacturers to drive innovation and deliver vehicles that were cleaner and more fuel efficient.  As we emerge from our fourth testing event at Millbrook, I’d pay tribute to manufacturers such as ADL, Wrightbus and Optare – the progress to date has been remarkable.

“We’re confident that by continuing our partnership approach with Millbrook Proving Ground and our vehicle manufacturers we can deliver a further 10% improvement in fuel efficiency and carbon emissions in 2017.

“The improvements to vehicle performance that our annual competition has inspired have wide ranging benefits not just for First Bus, but the industry as a whole. I am immensely proud that we are leading the industry on this agenda.”

Mark Nodder OBE, Chairman and CEO Wrights Group, said: “Wrightbus is both proud and excited to take part in the annual First Bus vehicle testing programme at Millbrook. The First Bus tests really are driving significant change in vehicle design, and bringing out the best from innovative UK manufacturers.”

Ken Scott, Group Engineering Director at ADL, said: “The team at ADL was delighted to participate in this rigorous testing initiative instigated by First Bus, as it correlates so closely with one of our fundamental principles – designing and manufacturing reliable vehicles which respond to the diverse needs of the operator, driver, passenger and general public.

Graham Belgum, President, Optare, said: “The First Bus fuel trails offer manufacturers an important opportunity to independently benchmark the performance of their vehicles and understand better how vehicles will perform across a demanding combined duty cycle. Optare’s approach is to use production ready vehicles for the trial so that the results are truly reflective of the vehicles being sold.”