雙層空調巴士先驅者 The Pioneer of Air-conditioned Double Decker
The success story of air-conditioned double decker in Hong Kong should be started with KMB's AL1, the Leyland Olympian 11m air-conditioned demonstrator. However, the Olympian is not the first air-conditioned double decker running in Hong Kong, there were two pioneers in early 80s and they are Leyland Victory Mk 2 and Dennis Jubilant.
Let's take a look on the background of Victory Mk 2 and Jubilant first. In 1970s, the development of new town gives a opportunities for bus operators opened more and more routes linked with urban areas and the new towns. However, this also made a great pressure on the fleet, they need to order more new buses to meet the demand. Though the rear-engined Damlier Fleetline was already available, their performance were poor especially on the route with steep slope. As a result, front-engined Leyland Victory Mk II and Dennis Jubilant were developed to solve the problems. In addition, the commenced of MTR left a great impact on KMB coach service and to face this challenge, the idea of air-conditioned double decker was introduced.
Since Victory Mk 2 and Jubilant performed satisfactory and the design of the front-engined chassis provided sufficient spaces for another engine to drive the air-conditioning system, they were chosen to be the first air-conditioned double decker. Specification of them almost the same, powered by Gardner 6LXB engine with Voith DIWA 851 fully automatic gearbox. Modified Walter Alexander KB-type bodyworks were fitted and featuring with coach-style seating and no standees. The air-conditioning unit supplied by Thermo King. The Dennis Jubilant registered as CF4180 in 1980 while Victory Mk 2 coach got it registration later in 1981 as CM3879 after participated in the event of Hong Kong festival in London.
Both of air-conditioned double decker demonstrator decorated with coach livery and deployed on route 206 operated between Lai Chi Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui. We should appreciated the effort how KMB paid on the challenge they facing and improved the standard of bus service, however, high running cost for air-conditioned buses resulted in bargain fare cannot be achieved. Moreover, their poor performance during the trial also prevented further introduction of air conditioned bus service. Finally, dramatic decreased in demand result in the cancellation of coach service. CF4180 and CM3879 were then converted into non air-conditioned bus with their coach-style seating and the rear ventilation holes retained within a short period of time in 1983. During their service life as coaches, there were no fleet numbers allocated until their air-conditioning unit were removed, they classed as N364 and G544 respectively, the last members of each families.
CM3879 mainly served with New Territories routes like 57M, 70 and the last routes it served was 33A, G544 were withdrawn from service in Mar., 1998 with the last batch of Victory Mk 2 in KMB. While N364 liked other Jubilants, worked on Eastern Kowloon routes with 1K, 119 and finally, before withdrawn in May, 1998, it was scheduled route 24 serving Kai Yip and Mong Kok.
There should be a lot of improvements made on the Victory Mk 2 and Jubilant coaches, but the appeared of them left us a lot of valuable experience and resulted in the quality bus service we have today. I hope that with this chapter, you can know more about them and the development history of Hong Kong air-conditioned double decker.
Finally, special thanks my best friend K.H.Ng for kindly sharing his valuable photos, without his help, it is impossible for me to complete this chapter.
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