In my last post, 2 months ago, I posted a rather ‘average’, middle-of-the-road ‘review’ of the Wright StreetLite when it touched it’s 6 wheels down in Dukinfield. Now, 2 months later, I’m ready to conclude and discuss that last post a little more. Mainly because I’ve had the VERY, VERY unfortunate chance of riding these everyday. My view has changed…a lot. And you’d know this if you have been following my Twitter feed – sneaky plug.
I hate them.
I hate them so much infact, I can’t wait to pass my driving test so then I’ll no longer be riddled with the horrible, dreary, monotonous, mediocre, parasite, sloth-like, horrific experience (insert more adjectives here) that is the StreetLite. Now that’s a phrase(s) I never thought I’d have to use. Ever.
The engine is horrible. The seats are too hard. The suspension has paranoia. The lights flicker more than a cafe’s fridge light – or traffic lights’ amber light, you get the idea. The brakes are made out of styrofoam, and the whole vehicle seems to spend most of its day going backwards.
Then, I got the utmost pleasure the other evening when I, by chance, caught a very lovely Volvo B9TL in a nice Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 body. What a god send. The responsiveness of the engine is just refreshing and awesome (bit weird to say it was orgasmic, but it was certainly euphoric when the engine started up and set off from the stop). It likes to go forward. The brakes work very well, no ‘jerky’-ness at all – my neck thanks you, B9! The suspension is very light and ‘swishy’ – a good thing. You’d never of thought it was a double decker at all! The saloon is just an absolute pleasure to be in. The decoration and trimmings are very soft and pleasing on the eye. The heating is nice and warm (with a nice smell to it too, may I add). The lights don’t flicker. There’s enough seats for everyone. Lush. Awesome. Brilliant.
I have one question: why did they even BOTHER with these?
I suspect, and backed up by a very knowledgeable and reliable source, that the maintenance of the B9s was proving very expensive. But, for a company like First – one of the biggest transportation companies in the world, with lots of money, and possibly the biggest in Greater Manchester – does this really matter? Does this really matter for a company with a profit margin bigger than the full length of the A1/M1/A1(M) (combined)? No. This just, to me, makes them look lazy. It’s a disgrace to the engineers at Pioneer/Pennine – who have a history of keeping buses running very well (look at the Darts and Olympians, etc) – who have been made to look lazy. You have to spend money to make money. It’s a simple business principle! But First are known to be very lack luster when it comes to their business sense anyway.
A few years ago they rose the price of FirstWeek and FirstDay tickets to £18 and £4.50 respectively. No prizes for what happened next. Passenger numbers dropped “significantly”, and so with it, I expect, revenue declined. Then someone gained a bit of common sense and decided to drop the tickets back down to £13 and £4. This, unsurprisingly, preceded a huge rise in passenger numbers across the network, bus usage went up; more people were using the bus! Great! Success!
Why did they do that? How comes one minute they can make weeklies jump to £18, then a few months later cut it signifficantly (a whopping 28%) to £13? What were the business reasons behind this? Are First scared to invest in their still relatively ‘new-to-you’ (Pioneer/Pennine) fleet? They’re still running even older (~20 year old) buses in other parts. Why should they be? The B9′s are around 10 years old and they’re running superbly. In a press release, First said that they’re going to invest “£9m in around 50 brand new single decker buses that will complement the £20m investment in 2012 of 100 new double deckers”. Utter waste of £29 million pounds (I don’t like the Enviro400′s much either – but they’re bearable compared to StreetLite).
I told you First had a lot of money. And they’re wasting it. A lot of questions to be answered. Shame on you, First Greater Manchester. You’ve turned a very happy passenger into a very angry and fed-up customer. Not. Good.