New London ‘decker from Volvo/MCV
The red double-decker bus has become as much a symbol of London as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey or Tower Bridge. For much of the 20th century, these buses were built by AEC, a company that was initially spun off from the London General Omnibus Company, the precursor of London Transport, but as the millennium approached, and the British motor industry imploded, foreign makes started to play an increasingly important role in moving people around London’s streets
Following the privatisation of London’s bus services from 1984, a local government authority, Transport for London (TfL), has overseen bus operation by a number of private contractors, and is responsible for setting standards to regulate the types of vehicles that may ply the streets of the capital.
Earlier this year, we provided details of a bus being developed in Slovakia with features characteristic of the iconic Routemaster design that operated in London from 1959 to 2005. Although the dual-entrance Troliga Sirius was modern in technical execution, it retained the front vertical engine, rear door and fully-enclosed driver’s cab from an earlier era, with the inevitable conclusion that it would be restricted to two-man crew operation. In times when every operator is looking to contain costs, it could prove difficult to balance the added convenience of an on-board conductor against the need to pay two salaries per vehicle, plus the loss of some seating capacity displaced by this traditional layout.
Despite the undoubted appeal of a “traditional” design, most London operators are likely to continue procuring more conventional products from global brands, and, with this in mind, Volvo Bus UK has jointly developed, over a three-year period, a new version of its B9TL double-decker with Egyptian coachbuilder MCV. The 63-seater design has emerged as a low-floor 10,3 metre two-axle unit, with an aluminium body, featuring a rigid low-beam front axle, a ZF portal rear drive axle, a single, centrally-mounted staircase, internal CCTV cameras, an in-built wheelchair access ramp, and LED lighting both internally and externally. Power is provided by a rear-mounted Euro 5-compliant Volvo D9B diesel developing 195 or 230 kW (260 or 310 hp), driving the rear axle through either a ZF Ecolife or Voith D864.5 automatic transmission.
Volvo had reportedly been excluded from the London double-decker market for the past five years because its products were too heavy to comply with TfL requirements. This had prompted the Swedish manufacturer to form a partnership with MCV to jointly develop a suitable product. During this process, improvements were also initiated on the B9TL chassis, including I-Start, dual batteries, electrical fan, a new version of the ZF portal drive axle, a water-cooled compressor, an oil top-up system, and reduced chassis mass.
Volvo and MCV have also announced that they will be extending their co-operation to the development of a diesel-electric parallel hybrid drive single-decker city bus. Chassis built in Borås, Sweden, will be shipped to MCV’s plant in Salheva, Egypt, for body fitment, prior to final delivery in the UK.