猛獅 NL系 MAN NL Series
For many years, the Isuzu from Japan was dominated the NLB fleet though Mercedes Benz Coach and Dennis Dart SLF once introduced for serving the new developed Tung Chung New Town and Chek Lap Kok Airport (The Hong Kong International Airport). Route 38 is the trunk route linking with Yat Tung Estate and Tung Chung MTR Station with high passengers flow. As NLB only can deploy all Dennis Dart SLF with the high-floor Isuzu, with only one door for boarding, the service standard of route 38 was therefore blamed by the residents even with a very frequent service.
In 2003, the 30th anniversary of the NLB, a batch of 9 MAN NL263 full-sized super low floor single deckers were introduced and this is the first German product in the fleet. The dual doors bodyworks on NL263 were supplied by Caetano from Portugal and completely build up before delivery. All of them are fitted with MAN engine and ZF fully automatic transmission, air-conditioning unit was from Carrier-Sutrak while Lite Vision electronic route display was chosen. One things should be mentioned NLB applied a new colour scheme on NL263 and become the standard livery for both new buses and current fleet afterwards. MAN NL263 was already serving with NHKB and DBTSL since 2001 and NLB is third operator of MAN NL263 in Hong Kong. Passengers are benefited from the super low floor design and spacious cabin, hence a much comfortable journey resulted.
MAN NL263 never served in Southern Lantau as the restriction of Tung Chung Road and the South Lantau Road and they were mainly deployed on route 38 to cater the demand. The more standees design of NL263 is suitable for this short-distanced but high demand feeder service and a large luggage racks were provided within the compartment. Apart form route 38, MAN NL263 also can be seen on route 36 and 37 serving Tung Chung Town Centre.
In order to enhance the service of Northern Lantau, a batch 5 MAN NL262 full-sized super low floor single deckers were acquired which new to City Bus in 2000. The interior of NL262 was retained as served in City Bus and all of them were repainted with the the same NLB livery applied on the NL263 before entering service. Both MAN NL262 and NL263 can be easily found on routes serving within Northern Lantau until the mid. of 2007.
1 Jul., 2007, the day of the 10th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China, NLB launched it first route serving outside the Lantau, route B2 connecting Yuen Long West Rail Station and Shenzhen Bay Port. To cope with the operation of route B2, NLB deployed the MAN NL262, NL263 and the other Isuzu buses together with the brand new A91 coach serving the commuters. Though total 6 Volvo B6LE midibuses from City Bus were introduced to substitute the MAN single deckers used to serve route 38, it was considered that those B6LE cannot satisfy the high demand within Northern Lantau and as a result, a batch of 10 MAN NL273 full-sized super low floor single decker were ordered and entered service in early 2008.
MAN NL273 complied with the Euro 4 emission standard and as it ancestor, engine is from MAN but this time fitted with a Voith automatic transmission and Nippon Denso air conditioning together with Amplus electronic display were chosen. MAN NL273 received their Gemilang bodyworks in Malaysia. When they first entering service, mainly serving route 38 but soon assigned on route B2 to upgrade the service standard and taken the role of the Isuzu and MAN NL262. Amplus display become the standard of NLB fleet later on and all NL263 and two of the NL262 were changed their display to Amplus product.
The entire fleet of NL262 was withdrawn before Mar., 2013 after the arrival of the third batch of YoungMan JNP6122GR1. For the MAN NL263, started to withdraw from the fleet after their 15 years of service and the first to be retired is MN1(KW7894) which off from the fleet on 19 Jan., 2018, all NL263 finally were replaced by the Gemilang facelift bodied MAN A95 before mid. of Apr., 2018. The NL273 showed a relative short service life when compared to the MAN NL263, the first retired NL273 was MN39(NH7752) which off from revenue service in Nov., 2019 and followed by MN31(NF1274), MN35(NG7943), MN37 (NH3591) and MN38(NH6660) which withdrawn in Feb., and Apr., 2020 respectively under epidemic of Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia.
The introduction of MAN NL263 and NL262 from City Bus can be considered is an important step for the NLB fleet changing from Isuzu to MAN as mainstream. Northern Lantau is the area that the remaining NL273 still actively served at present.
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