Route 36 - Ideas in Action

3 October 2011

In 2004 £2.25million was spent on 12 eye-catching twin-deck buses for the prestigious Route 36 linking Ripon, Harrogate and Leeds. Considered revolutionary within the industry at the time, the spacious leather-seated buses in their distinctive black and chrome livery and a frequency increase from every 30 to every 20 minutes ensured that customer numbers rose by over 20% and saw the route win the Marketing Award for Bus Operators at the 2004 ‘Bus Industry Awards’.

By 2010 they were starting to show their age a little and the time had come to consider replacing them and renewing the ‘wow’ factor that our customers had come to expect. New bus manufacturers usually offer only standard finish levels, so an alternative was to use in-house design and engineering skills to rebuild existing buses and work in partnership with suppliers to develop superior standards of quality, comfort, safety and environmental friendliness – and all at a cost considerably lower than the new-bus option.

Amongst the innovations are new seat designs. The distance between towns and cities on Route 36 means that passengers can spend, on average, 45-50 minutes on board at peak times, and research has shown that people don’t like spending long periods of time sat next to total strangers. As a result, we have replaced some of the double seats upstairs with individual seats, emulating the ‘2+1’ layout of many first class railway coaches. This gives extra room and means passengers don’t need to feel quite so nervous about having to sit next to people they didn’t know. Downstairs, in contrast, a ‘lounge’ area has been created at the back, so people travelling in a group can sit together, and the unpopular rear-facing seats have be removed. Concealed lighting beneath the seats has also been fitted to illuminate the aisle in a practical and stylish way.

The seats have extra leg-room and all are covered with leather for a more comfortable journey with a luxurious touch. Monochrome artwork depicting landmarks along the route decorate the lower saloon of the bus, whilst poems and prose on the theme of travelling are featured in the stairwell.

An important feature installed is WiFi - a free wireless internet connection. Given the long average length of people’s journeys, we felt the ability for our passengers to do work, catch up with emails, surf the internet or engage in social networking to be a valuable addition. We anticipate this to encourage new users too, as such activities are unavailable for car drivers or for rail passengers between Harrogate and Leeds as the trains are not WiFi fitted and pass through a long tunnel en route.

The suspension has been improved and extra sound-proofing installed to give the passenger a smoother, quieter, more enjoyable journey. The old 5-speed gearboxes have been replaced with new 6-speed gearboxes, which improve fuel consumption and reduce engine wear. New engines have also been fitted which are more environmentally-friendly - an important selling point in Harrogate, where our own MOSAIC demographic research has shown environmental matters to be important to residents.

After seeing static growth figures for the last two years, we are now seeing an increase in patronage of almost 3%. We are sufficiently confident of this growth continuing that we have increased the daytime frequency of Route 36 from every 20 minutes to every 15 minutes.