MAN ND243F / East Lancs Kinetec+
MAN developed a new double deck chassis for the UK bus market during 2006 which was displayed for the first time at Euro Bus Expo 2006 at the NEC in Birmingham in November 2006. One of the key new features beyond its new Euro 4 EGR engine (which does not require the use of cleaning agents such as Ad-Blue that Euro 4 SCR engines require) is that it has a completely flat floor for the entire length of the bottom deck. This is made possible by the use of 'super rear' tyres at the back, which being stronger than normal tyres allow the normal inner set of rear tyres to be removed and gangways widened. Reading Buses acquired this first demonstrator vehicle for operation in Reading from about March 2007 once further testing had been carried out. 501 is seen below on display on 7th November 2006:
Below are interior views also taken at the exhibition on 7th November 2006, the layout made slightly more unusual by the protruding engine compartment:
The one let down with this demonstration vehicle is that it has had to be built to European height limitations so that it may undergo extensive testing at the manufacturer's facilities in Poland. Therefore headroom on the top deck is somewhat limited, but normal UK heights will be available when it comes to fleet purchases. It is on a special arrangement with MAN which will allow the bus to be 'bought back' if it is not successful in Reading.
Following delays with the delivery of real time equipment from the manufacturer to East Lancs, delivery of the vehicle was delayed until 4th July 2007. The bus wore 'quality travel for Reading' livery with light green branding for route 9.
Alistair Liddle visited East Lancs at Blackburn on 26th June 2007 and took the photograph below:
This rear view taken the same day highlights the dramatic difference in height between the normal bodywork on a Scania and the super low height bodywork on the MAN. Thanks to Alistair Liddle for this photo:
501 entered service during August 2007, and is seen below on 16th during it's first week in service. Thanks to Mark Lyons for this photo:
The bus was displayed at the Neoman launch of the new MAN A22 / Wright Meridian at Millbrook Proving Ground on 26th September 2007.
In July 2008 501 was sent away for warranty work and repaint into Newbury Buses livery for use on route 32 to Basingstoke. A generic liveried Optare Spectra replaced it on its duty on route 9 pending service changes in September 2008. It was repainted at North West Bus and Coach in Blackburn, on site in route 9 livery by 27th July and repainted by 17th August, still on site there on 24th, and back in Reading by 29th August. It returned to Newbury on 5th September and re-entered service there on 6th. It is seen below outside Newbury Tesco on 17th September 2008. Thanks to Bob Stanger for this photo:
Route 32 was rebranded "The Link" from 12th January 2009, with 501 receiving route branding to that extent. A similar exercise was carried out by Stagecoach with Dennis Trident / Alexander ALX400 18136 on their half of the service. 501 is seen below leaving Newbury Bus Station on 20th February 2009:
501 was withdrawn pending sale in September 2010, it's premature replacement by Scania OmniDekka 818 being due to MANs being non-standard within a largely Scania fleet, and the transfer of Newbury's engineering functions to Reading from 18th September 2010. Scania vehicles became available following service changes in Reading from October 2010.
501 has it's branding for The Link removed in late December 2010 apart from the MegaRear, and briefly returned to service in Reading on 29th and 30th December 2010 on rail replacement duties. It went on loan to Weavaway Travel on 6th January 2011 for use on routes 101/4/5 returning on 4th February 2011. It was sold to Slaemuir Coaches in April 2011, departing via BASE to have new seats with seatbelts fitted. It is seen below at Braehead Shopping Centre on 20th August 2011 looking remarkably similar to its days as a demonstrator. Thanks to Jonathan Graham for this photo:
Last updated: 23-08-11