It might sound like an Independent Electronics Retailer, but ‘Harrogate Electrics’ is one of the latest innovations from Transdev Blazefield to hit the streets of Yorkshire, or more specifically, Harrogate.
Launched in July 2018, Transdev subsidiary, The Harrogate Bus Company revealed a fleet of eight brand-new Volvo 7900e electric buses. A launch event took place on the 26th of that month, attended by local MP Andrew Jones MP and Buses Minister at the time, Nusrat Ghani MP.
The fleet of eight plus infrastructure saw an investment of £1.7m from Transdev, together with £2.25m of Government funding, granted from the Low Emission Bus Scheme.
I’d wanted to, for some time now, have a trip to Harrogate to sample these fully-electric buses. I’d previously attempted this shortly after their introduction to service, but I had managed to pick a day where none of the eight buses were on the road.
Arriving at Harrogate Bus Station, the striking livery of the Harrogate Electrics fleet, designed by Best Impressions, ensured that I was left impressed at first glance. I’m not always a fan of red liveries, but the application on the 7900e works extremely well in my opinion.
Whilst at Harrogate Bus Station, the Volvo 7900e uses OppCharge fast charging technology and a pantograph to connect to the charging infrastructure installed at Harrogate Bus Station.
The front destination screen is set to show a departure count-down, as well as a ‘battery icon’, with a similar animation to what you’d see when your mobile phone is charging, whilst the bus awaits departure.
I took a short trip on the 2A service from Harrogate, alighting on the King Edward Road, prior to boarding again on it’s return trip. Bus 805 (BN68XSA) provided the journey for me.
Having ridden the hybrid version of the Volvo 7900 many a time up in Edinburgh, with Lothian Buses and their 50-strong fleet, the excellent build quality of the Volvo-integral and ride quality was of no surprise to me, but I was certainly impressed with how the electric version performed on the road.
At every opportunity, the bus pulled away with ease, felt like it was effortless, and provided a really smooth and quiet journey.
Once on board, you start to appreciate to what level of detail Transdev and Best Impressions have went into on this project. It is as if almost everything has been considered, creating an excellent customer experience.
Transdev have once again opted to fit these buses with a fabric moquette, which in my opinion, gives a greater passenger comfort as oppose to eLeather (or even leather), which a lot of operators seem to prefer.
Leg room between the seats seemed to be a lot greater than what I’ve come to expect in most modern buses that I travel in. But the 7900e specification only provides for 33 seats, as oppose to 43-45 on a ‘full size’ E200MMC or Streetlite, respectively.
Whilst the routes operated by the electrics are short in length, it would be interesting to see how the loadings are Monday-Friday, during peak times.
The 7900e fleet is also fitted with uplights, illuminating the branded cove panelling inside of the bus, a large colourful ‘Next Stop’ (NSA) screen, complete with audio announcements and USB charging points at every seat.
The lack of handrails, aside from right at the front of the bus, will create an interesting standing experience for customers, and the bell push buttons have been relocated to the sidewalls of almost each row of seats.
For some strange reason though, the row of seats with tables, does not have a bell push button. Not on the side wall, not on the table, no where to be seen. I guess you therefore need to shout loudly, awkwardly reach over other passengers at a low height, or hope that someone else is wishing to alight at your desired stop…
They say that it is sometimes the little things that impress you, and that certainly resonates true in this case, but I was really impressed to see the installation of a recycling bin on-board a bus. With such an investment in fully electric vehicles, it is only right to continue the green agenda by not only promoting recycling – but helping you recycle! 👏👏
I’ve come to expect it from Transdev now, but it is impressive to see, not only the level of detail but the application of it too. Right along the Harrogate Electrics routes, the bus stop flags have been updated with a branded version. Timetable sheets at stops are also branded, and as is various aspects of the bus station.
The bus station at Harrogate itself has both a customer information point, but also a point where it appears that operations are managed from. The bus station appears to run like clockwork.
Whilst there, I witnessed a Harrogate bus pulling onto an incorrect stand. Within 30 seconds a supervisor was out and requesting that the driver ‘go around the block’, as to not obstruct the stand for an incoming 7.
It’s amazing what you can do, when you invest in non-driving resource and customer experience…
In summary, I’m was very impressed by the Harrogate Electrics operation, and its a big step in the right direction for town services and partnership working.
With Durham Park & Ride soon up for renewal, I can only hope that some of this level of innovation, makes its way to my home town…