Manufactured by Leeds-based Optare, the new fuel-efficient double decker could be in service by the end of the year
London’s historic red buses could be driven into the 21st century after Britain’s richest man unveiled plans to make a lighter, more fuel-efficient version.
The new bus, called MetroDecker, will be built in Leeds by Optare, part of the Hinduja Group run by billionaire Srichand P Hinduja.
It will be the first double-decker bus produced by Optare since HInduja took over and the only one in their current product range. Optare is looking to expand in the UK as double-deckers make up 40pc of the bus market.
Lower deck of the Metrodecker
In a bid to make it fuel-efficient, the bus will weigh less than 10 tonnes and feature an optimised Mercedes engine, “Ecolife” gearbox and a system that turns off the engine when the vehicle stops moving.
Enrico Vassallo, chief executive at Optare, said: “We have worked hard to assess and evaluate every part of the vehicle to ensure it is as efficient as possible; consolidating parts, reducing complexity and removing duplication.”
Metrodecker's upper deck
The new double-decker, which has been built to Transport for London standards and will be painted red, will go on sale to bus operators in the third quarter of this year. Optare aims to have the first vehicle delivered to a customer by the early 2015 at the latest.
Mr Vassallo noted that many of the sales will be connected to operators winning tenders for bus routes, but that the target was to sell roughly 100 buses in the next 18 months. The company is also looking to sell the bus globally.
The Hinduja Group has invested heavily in Optare since taking a majority stake in 2012, consolidating all production in a new facility in Leeds. Around 90pc of Optare’s supply chain is based in Britain, with 2,000 jobs created either directly or indirectly by the company
The MetroDecker, which the Hinduja Group has classed as a “critical product”, is the second in the series of releases specifically developed for the London market - the first being the single-decker MetroCity bus.
“We have been in an investment cycle from Hinduja and this bus represents the end of the first cycle of reorganisation and the renewal of the company,” Mr Vassallo said. “The company is now able to get back in to the [double-decker] market and try to be successful there again.”
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said this was “an important development in the bus manufacturing industry and is testament to the hard work the Hinduja Group has achieved since taking control of Optare”.