My love/hate relationship with the Scania OmniLink

When I heard that the Scania OmniLinks were set to be withdrawn from service next year, as well as feeling a sense of relief, I was also a little saddened.

In all the time I have taken a more serious interest in buses, this will be the first time that a bus type will be withdrawn that I can remember being introduced, so in a sense I have lived my life alongside these buses.

It started back in 2008 when I moved to Acocks Green in Birmingham, having taken up a job in nearby Solihull, on the Cranmore industrial estate to be precise. My commute to work involved catching the 30 (now A12) or 37 (now 4), and then either the 6, 76 or 166 (later the S9) to Marshall Lake Road.

At the time, the 37 was using ‘toothpaste’ liveried Wright Eclipse Urbans, which I remember fondly as being nice buses to travel on.

It was then in 2010 that NX acquired a number of brand new Scania OmniLink single-decks for use on the 6 at Yardley Wood, as well as the 37 out of Acocks Green. Now of course NX already had a number of these at other garages, but at the time I had not had any experience of them.

1940 pictured with ‘refreshed’ 37 branding circa 2013, (c) Tony Hunter

Initial impressions were good, after all who can’t fail to be impressed by brand-new buses?

The 37 was already a very frequent route at the time, running up to every 5 minutes between Birmingham and Solihull via Acocks Green and Olton, so the use of single decks was not usually an issue with regards to overcrowding.

The downside with these OmniLinks though was the ‘cramped’ feeling inside. Many of the seats towards the rear felt like they didn’t have enough legroom, and the ‘mind your head’ notices were appropriate due to the limited headroom at the back.

Despite the quoted carrying capacity, it also seemed like there wasn’t much in the way of ‘standing room’, not helped when people decide to stand in the narrowest part of the bus, in the gangway between the front wheels, making it difficult and awkward for other people to board and alight.

Eventually getting fed up with overcrowding on the 37, I started getting the longer – but not as crowded – 30 service to Blossomfield Road, which then became the S3, before reverting back to the 30 (which is now the A12 service).

This batch of OmniLinks at Acocks Green and Yardley Wood would of course be the last vehicles that NX would buy from Scania, following some kind of ‘falling out’ or disagreement.

Over the years, with other single-deck types being withdrawn, some of these OmniLinks have moved around a bit to other garages.

After moving away from Acocks Green in 2016 to South Yardley, I managed to avoid OmniLinks for a couple of years, enjoying brand new Platinum double decks on the 900 and 957 (now X1 and X2) instead.

However in 2018 I found myself relocating to Billesley, and making use of the 2 and 3 services in order to get to work in Sparkbrook.

At the time, these services were mainly operated using elderly Dennis Trident double-deck vehicles, so it was a bit of a ‘step-down’ from the Platinum vehicles I had gotten used to. But at the end of the day, a bus is a bus, and travelling on these services was a fairly comfortable experience.

I can’t remember the exact specifics of what happened now, but somehow Yardley Wood garage found itself receiving more single deck vehicles in the form of these Scania OmniLinks, due to the company as a whole having far more single decks than were actually required. This was due to some previously single-deck routes being upgraded with new double-deck Platinum vehicles.

I guess at some point it was deemed prudent to use these single decks on the 2 and 3 due to them being fairly frequent, combined every 10 minutes between Billesley and Birmingham city centre, but in the couple of years since all the Covid lockdown shenanigans, with passenger numbers rising again, they simply struggle to cope especially during the busier peak times, and especially if journeys get delayed due to traffic congestion.

I know people say ‘any bus is better than no bus at all’, but it’s no fun trying to get on a bus that’s overcrowded if it sails straight past you because it is ‘full’.

So yes it is ironic that nearly 14 years after I first caught one, most of the buses I get now on the 2 or 3 are those that were first ‘new’ to the 37 service back when I lived in Acocks Green.

On the positive side, most of this batch that are still in service are still very well presented inside, you’d forget sometimes that these buses are nearly 14 years old now. The difference is obvious when you compare against the older examples that recently transferred in, the earlier ‘blue’ interiors just look tired, worn and permanently ‘grubby’.

During the colder winter months, they are nice and cosy inside as the saloon heating still works! And their powerful engines mean that when driven correctly, they can shift when the opportunity arises!

But at the end of the day, they have served their purpose, and the time is coming when they will have to make way for the ‘next generation’ and be retired off into Coke cans or spare parts.

Times have changed though, and with the cost of operating bus services having increased in the last couple of years, along with passenger numbers growing again, it is now considered more ‘desirable’ to increase capacity on certain routes by using double-deck vehicles, rather than just simply increasing service frequencies using single-decks.

An era will come to an end in 2024, and I will be both saddened and relieved, but I’m pretty sure many others will be glad to see the back of these things! I’d love to hear your own thoughts and comments so please feel free to do so below!

Featured image (c) Tony Hunter, WM Buses In Photos, used as always with permission


About WMBU

Stu is the founder of this West Midlands Bus Users website.
He is not a bus enthusiast, but as a regular passenger takes an interest in public transport related matters, having relied on buses to get around for over twenty-five years now.

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