Thursday, 1 December 2011

Riding the Sunderland Hybrids

click to enlarge
As previously announced on the website on 20th October, Go North East are running two new Optare Solo SR Hybrids on Nexus contracted routes in Sunderland.
The new vehicles connect the city centre with various University campus sites as well as Sunderland Royal Hospital and the National Glass Centre. I took a trip on the north west route part of the route to sample the new vehicles.
A decent load of students heading for St Peter's Campus were picked up from Park Lane Interchange and other locations enroute as the bus made its way around the city centre. In fact the total passenger compliment consisted of students apart from myself.
On reaching St Peter's Campus a massive queue greeted us, consisting again, of students returning to the city centre, giving the modestly proportioned Solo a heavy load to deal with.
The standing load seemed to make no difference to the performance as we made our way on the return journey. The hybrid solos seem to have significant internal noise from the electric driveline and passengers are also aware of the diesel engine noise which is rising and falling in the background. I noticed that even after the bus had stopped the engine usually continued to run at increased revs for a short time afterwards, which I seem to recall is different to the Enviro 400 hybrids where the note of the engine rises and falls according to whether the accelerator is is being used and if the vehicle is stationary the engine just quietly ticks over.
All in all the ride was quite pleasant and I got the impression that the students were quite happy with their new route and new vehicles so it will be interesting to see how they perform in regular service. Passenger numbers have risen to almost 6,000 per week in the short time since the service started
Nexus won Government cash to help fund the service, and Sunderland City Council and Sunderland University are also involved in the partnership. Much is being made about cleaner emissions, minimising carbon dioxide and particulates. At some point we might discover whether the extra costs involved can be recovered through savings in fuel consumption.
 NK61 EFY approaches the stop at Sunderland Interchange   © David Gambles 
 Sister vehicle NK61 EGY on St Mary's Way on the approach to the Wearmouth Bridge  © David Gambles 
 Entering Sunderland Interchange  © David Gambles  
 Rear view of  NK61 EFY as it enters the interchange    © David Gambles 

More pictures of other Sunderland buses have been posted on our Flickr site.
For more information and background about the Sunderland Connect services click on

David Gambles