Eleven Optare Solo SR midibuses have been put into service by leading Berkshire independent Courtney Buses on routes in Windsor and Maidenhead and surrounding villages.
The buses, which are operating on contracted services with Windsor and Maidenhead Council, carry distinctive route branding in a range of vivid colours. The Council decided to enhance the services with additional and higher specification vehicles because of a doubling in passenger numbers in recent years and to cope with increased traffic congestion.
Features of the 9.0 metre Solo SRs include Hanover TFT screens with ‘next stop’ message and audio announcements and full colour Hanover LED destination equipment, both of which are particularly helpful to visually or hearing impaired passengers. A Synectics CCTV system is fitted for both passenger and driver safety and to provide evidence for insurance claims and this is also used as a route familiarization training aid for drivers.
Seating capacity is 29 on Esteban Civic V3 seats, which are now the company’s standard choice, with embossed leather headrests. There are also two tip-ups in the wheelchair/buggy space immediately behind the driver which is accessed using a simple fold-out wheelchair ramp. Along with a very low entry height and its kneeling capability, this makes the Solo SR easily accessible by passenger of all levels of mobility.
One now standard feature of the Solo SR that particularly appealed to Courtney Buses was the EcoDrive driver behaviour monitoring system. Company Training Manager, Barry Catlin, said: “Many drivers acknowledge the benefit of the EcoDrive dashboard with its easy-to-read bars, economy dial and driver skill counter giving them instant feedback on their driving style and assisting them in maintaining a good driving standard. As a result they are providing a smoother and more comfortable journey for our passengers and assisting in reducing fuel consumption.”
As with most of their fleet, Courtney Bus has specified the new Solo SRs with Regenetac PPO technology enabling them to run on bio-fuels and which significantly reduces their CO² emissions. This was fitted in their own workshops following delivery of the buses. The company believes that by using this system they are operating the cleanest bus fleet in the country.
Power for the Solos is from the Mercedes-Benz OM904LA engine rated at 154 bhp (115 kW) and 610 Nm of torque. The Allison 2100 Series five-speed automatic transmission is fitted with a torque convertor, which helps improve fuel efficiency, as does the electro-magnetic retarder which operates automatically when the footbrake is applied.
Optare Sales Director John Horn said that he is delighted that the Solo SR is the choice of Courtney Buses for these services. “We have supplied a large number of Solos to this customer over the years and have a further five to deliver in the next few weeks as part of their ongoing fleet renewal programme. The model has proved popular with drivers and passengers, is very reliable, and is delivering excellent fuel economy.”