I was fortunate enough to visit the 5th biennial exhibition of Coach & Bus Live, organised by Expo Management Ltd and the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK and was held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.
The event boasts over 200 exhibitors showing the latest in bus and coach innovation, product and vehicle launches, in-depth vehicle evaluations, updates on technology and legislation. Over 85 buses and coaches were on display indoors, outdoors and in the Live Showcase Arena as well as over 6000 bus and coach professionals in attendance.
The exhibition is split up into specific zones including, Technology, Accessibility, Training and Development, Tourism with Coach Monthly and features including free Live Master Class Theatre, Workshop Live Stage, large outside display area, Driving Skills Test and Ride & Drive Live.
I could go on for an hour and a day about the event, therefore, I have decided just to focus on a few things that took of interest to myself, selfish maybe, but sadly I don’t have an awful lot of time to explain everything that was on show on the day.
Alexander Dennis and Plaxton
A presentation presented by Colin Robertson, Chief Executive of Alexander Dennis Limited was in ebullient mood as he unveiled two new vehicles, announced big business wins for the company’s Plaxton coach operation, revealed plans for a revolutionary “virtual electric” bus, and signalled that he expects further growth in North America, and elsewhere, in the coming years.
Two new coaches were unveiled, named Leopard and Panther, with the Ministry of Defence placing business worth £13m for nearly 80 vehicles, including 59 of the new coaches.
Looking beyond the UK, Plaxton also had cause for celebration when Mr Robertson revealed that a £7m deal had just been struck with Warsaw-based PolskiBus.com to supply 20 top-of-the-range, inter-deck coaches. The vehicles will be left-hand-drive versions of the Elitei which was successfully launched in the UK last year. All 20 will be delivered in 2014 and will operate on inter-city routes across Poland.
Turning to buses, Mr Robertson confirmed that in recent weeks orders had been secured from UK operators for 250 of the company’s market-leading Enviro200. In addition, a further 60 had been ordered by NZ Bus, in New Zealand, which means that almost 400 ADL midibuses will be operating in Auckland and Wellington shortly. In the meantime, ADL has also won an order for 15 open-top Enviro400 double decks that will go into the New York tourist operations of RATP.
On the technology front, Mr Robertson said that having won the lion’s share of the last Green Bus Fund, ADL is now clearly Britain’s biggest supplier of hybrid-electric buses. It will deliver its 700th hybrid soon, however, he appealed to the government to continue subsidising hybrid sales, in order to help substantiate the multi-million investment being made by companies like his own, as they strive to progressively move towards emission-free buses.
Cannon Bus Chassis
Cannon is a small independent chassis manufacturer based in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland who, having offered their 150BEL bus chassis to the industry with little success, have now produced their own low floor body to suit the chassis.
William Cannon, the owner of the company has purposely made the bus look like an Alexander Dennis Enviro 200 by using ADL body components in an effort to make people sit up and notice the vehicle. All the chassis components are hot-dipped galvanised and come with a lifetime warranty against corrosion.
All components are from familiar suppliers. Cummins Euro 6 ISB4.5 engine, Allison 2100 gearbox and ZF steering and Dana front and rear axles. The body and chassis have been built to a narrow width of 2.18m so could be of interest to such markets as the channel islands.
MAN Bus & Coach
The main focus on the MAN stand was their high specification Neoplan Starliner 2 for Southampton FC, that aside, a MAN Lions City in left-hand drive format was on display on their stand too, showing off the redeveloped front that will be available on their MAN EcoCity and MAN CitySmart.
It had a unfamiliar internal layout, especially compared to other European designs, the the arrangement of seats over the rear wheel arches where in a tiered combination, somewhat like some configurations found on that of the Mercedes-Benz Citaro, as well as featuring upholstered ‘bum perches’ at the rear where the passengers can lean rather than stand.
Optare was once again showing its passion for innovation in passenger vehicle design and technology by showing two electric-powered, two diesel-powered and a hybrid model from its range of low-weight integral single-deck buses. The first of their four bus offering was a 10.4 metre Optare Versa EV, one of ten in build for Nottingham City Council.
The second vehicle was the 2014 9.7 metre Optare Solo SR which features a redesigned interior that is ready to accept the much larger mechanical package to meet the Euro 6 emissions legislation. Most of the changes in the 2014 model are in the raised platform area at the rear of the vehicle where Optare had taken the opportunity to also improve passenger access and comfort.
The third vehicle from Optare was a diesel-powered example of the Optare Versa in the colours of Go North East, who are taking delivery of 14 this year. The bus is a 10.7-metre model which weighs in at just 7,820 kgs.
Optare was further demonstrating its strong commitment to low carbon technology with an example of a hybrid Optare Solo SR, which is one of ten recently supplied to MCT Travel for operation in Greater Manchester. The 9.2-metre model featured a Mercedes-Benz IM904LA engine delivering 130 kW (154 bhp) at 2200 rpm and linked to an electrical system by Siemens, which includes energy storage in roof-mounted maintenance-free Blueway ultracapacitors.
Over on the Dawson Rentals stand was a 7.2m Optare Solo SR SlimLine model for TLC Travel. It was purchased to operate on rural services in the Keighley area. TLC Travel’s managing director, Trish Lambert, said: “These routes include numerous narrow country roads and this called for a more compact bus and when the new SR version at 7.2 metres long and only 2.3 metres wide became available we felt that this would be ideal.”
The new Volvo B5TL diesel and B5LH hybrid double-deck buses have been completely re-developed over the course of the last three years in close cooperation with Volvo’s long-term bodybuilding partner, Wrightbus who bodied it with a facelifted Gemini 2 body. Revised styling has added further appeal to the overall aesthetics and enhanced ergonomics has increased driver and passenger comfort on both vehicles.
Volvo’s new Euro 6 B5TL diesel double-deck bus has been specifically developed to offer operators optimal uptime and lifecycle cost savings. Using a smaller engine than the Volvo B9TL model at Euro 5, the new B5TL double deck bus loses nothing in terms of overall performance. The D5K 4 cylinder engine is rated at 240hp at 1900 rpm, with a maximum torque of 918 nm at 1200-1600 rpm.
Volvo Bus has also developed the B8RLE single deck for Euro 6 to further build on the success of the B7RLE with bodybuilding partners. The new extremely fuel-efficient 8 litre Euro 6 engine, rated at 280 hp at 2100 rpm, uses selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) technology to reduce operational costs, while Volvo’s high quality ensures superior functionality, passenger comfort and reliability.