Monday marked the start of Plymouth Citybus' new network of premium routes with the introduction of 4 ADL E40Ds to the established 21/A linking Plympton in the East with Barne Barton in the West. The vehicles certainly look very smart indeed in the new 'Red Flash' branding, with the simple yet stylish livery creating a very good impression. Unfortunately as several photographers seemed to have found out already, including myself, the darker red bands are very difficult to photograph clearly, but in the flesh, compliment the design very nicely indeed. The trend of ever decreasing fleet number size continues though, with the rear one actually being quite difficult to find unless you know where to look for it!
The E40Ds are certainly very pleasing vehicles to ride on, even from an enthusiast's point of view. Usually I'm not a huge fan of the Enviro, particularly the more recent incarnations but these are surprisingly pleasing to the ear which I certainly wasn't expecting. The somewhat jerky gearbox previously found in the Enviro has also been modified, and the changes are now far smoother. The interior itself though I found to be really quite dark, even on the upper deck, largely due to the grey rood and side panels, as well as the grey of the leather seating which in all honesty I didn't find particularly inviting. The layout though is certainly very nice, with plenty more seating than what is currently found on the Ex-London Volvo B7TLs, as well as much more space set aside for pushchairs. This is a feature we seem to be seeing increasingly in the modern bus, as parents continue to discover the benefits of not having to unpack and fold down the pushchairs to fit into the car. It seems slightly ironic though that the people occupying all this extra space don't actually pay!
My one criticism of the 'Red Flash' is actually the red itself. My thinking would be that considering people in the areas the 21/A covers are already used to red buses from Plymouth Citybus, they aren't standing out as much as they could, or indeed should do considering the sheer amount of investment put in to these high spec brand new vehicles. Should red have in fact been reserved for one of the new routes where the impact would be fully felt, freeing up another colour for the 21/A, for example blue, which would stand out from the crowd, and hopefully attract the attention of non-users to the fact that the local companies has just invested many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and that they'd like to have a go. Most non-bus users I would doubt will really take a huge amount of notice of the branding "It's just another red bus". On the other hand though, are PCB keeping it red in this area for familiarity, so the people don't end up letting the vehicles go by thinking that they're being operated by another company. Although we all too often see passengers completely ignore the colour, route number and destination of a bus they put their hand out for, undoubtedly some of the more savvy users may be wary of a strangely coloured bus heading towards them.
The next four operating on 'Blue Flash' service 12 will shortly commence service on the new route to Tavistock.