Arriva North West is bringing a new concept in bus travel to the people of Wigan, Bolton and Chorley with the introduction of the Sapphire brand which sees the introduction of buses that are fit for royalty.
The Sapphire concept is based on what Arriva’s customers told them in extensive research including surveys, site visits and focus groups, with the main appeal of attracting first-time users and reluctant bus users out of their cars and on public transport. Friday 4th July was the service’s official launch party, with the first vehicles hitting the road at 05:40 on Monday 7th July 2014.
Services 362 and 575 retain the existing 58 and 09 plate Wrightbus Pulsar bodied VDL SB200s which have been refurbished to Sapphire specification at the company’s St Helens bodyshop, and repainted by Bus & Coach World in Blackburn. Part of the philosophy behind Sapphire is to try different approaches in different locations to try and quantify the results that different levels of specification produce.
Frequency on the 362 service between Chorley and Wigan has remained the same, at every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime and every 30 minutes on Sunday daytimes. The 575 service between Bolton and Wigan, like the 362 has also retained the same 15 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime and hourly between Bolton and Wigan and half hourly between Bolton and Horwich on Sunday daytimes.
In the saloon, state of the art “talking buses” technology has been implemented on board, it comprises of information screens and speakers that deliver automated next stop announcements produced by Hanover Displays, who also produce Arriva’s destination display equipment, it is an impressive innovation and offers passengers a clear and concise reminder of where they are on the route.
The fifteen refurbished vehicles are Wrightbus Pulsar and Pulsar 2 bodied VDL SB200 saloons, which feature a Cummins ISBe6 engine coupled up to a Voith D854.5 gearbox and feature Euro 4 (Wrightbus Pulsar) and 5 (Wrightbus Pulsar 2) emissions. Internally they feature Sapphire branded luxurious e-leather covered Esteban Civic V3 seats, a mural behind the drivers cabin of a local sight or building of interest, LED saloon lighting.
The high-specification interiors are certainly a talking point, Icomera’s Moovbox WiFi equipment is also fitted, as seen on an increasing number of the fleet, where passengers can connect their phone, tablet or laptop to connect to the internet, though it’s given the Sapphire touch with its own landing page and one-time registration page. Passengers are only required to register once then their device is recognised.
You may have read that yesterday Tom Harrison reported on the launch of Sapphire in Rhyl in North Wales, where Prince William and Kate Middleton lookalikes attended, complete with free ice cream and aquamarine sauce. The Wigan launch was attended by a Her Majesty the Queen lookalike, where the royal indulgence of the day was a pie with peas – known locally as “pea wet babbys yed“.