Over the last few months Bus Eireann has been taking delivery of a fleet of 32 high specification double-deck commuter coaches, designed to provide extra capacity and comfort on medium-distance comuter runs to Dublin from counties Cavan and Meath. The buses, built by Berkhof on DAF chassis, are to three-axldesign to maximise capacity, and indeed seat more on the upper deck alone than the conventional single-deck coaches they are replacing.
But what are they like from the passenger point of view? Our editor took the 4 hour round trip to Cavan to experience the new coaches at work.
Visually, they are very stylish, and make an impression both in terms of design and sheer size. Bus Eireann have wisely decided to steer away from using them as mobile advertising hoardings as with traditional double-deckers, thus allowing the space between decks to be used to show off the company branding to maximum advantage.
The seating is comfortable, even on a journey of more than 2 hours, and the belts are easy to use, and accomodate the largest of passengers without feeling cramped.
The front seat give you the real “King of the Road” experience, and unlike many double-deckers, do not suffer from limited legroom, as a special recess has been designed under the dash to give extra stretching room. The safety bar is well positioned below the eyeline, and is padded, and there are even cup-holder recesses in the dash. All the seats feature controls for recline angle, though unusually my front seat seemed to have some sort of built in vibrating bottom massager linked to the braking system – which made sudden stops a very interesting experience, though I am not sure that this is exactly what the manufacturer intended!
Being a double-decker, even the non-front seats gave a vasty enhanced view compared to the blurry hedgerows that is all that can be seen during a normal coach journey. Being able to see over the hedges and across the countryside is no small advantage, and makes a longer journey much more enjoyable. I know that Bus Eireann think in terms of capacity when buying these vehicles, but they should also consider the vastly enhanced journey experience that comes from greater vision for the passenger, and consider introducing these vehicles on a wider range of services.
Climate-wise, the coach was warm as toast, with cool air available via individual blowers if required. The noise level was very quiet, with the engine almost inaudible upstairs.
The vehicle also seemed very nippy, and had no difficulty keeping up with the other traffic on the N3, and will doubtless benefit from the abolition of the speed restriction on double-deck coaches that comes into effect from February 1st 2009.
All in all, a very positive experience, 10 out of 10 for style, 9 out of 10 for comfort, and the only thing missing is wifi.