Euro Bus Expo 2012 was far more interesting than predicted. Smaller than usual and with fewer Day 1 visitors, there was nevertheless plenty on offer to ensure a return visit today. So, what was around at the show?
An Eye for an i
This year, all eyes were on the Plaxton stand. This undoubtedly held the vehicle attracting most attention at Euro Bus Expo 2012. It was the Plaxton Elite i (on a newly revealed Volvo B11R chassis). The i is for interdeck and at 13ft tall, it’s almost as high as a lowbridge double deck of some 13ft 6in. Why not go the whole hog? Luggage stowage, perhaps.
The Elite i’s long, too, at the maximum permitted 50ft. It will enter service in 2013 along with 10 others for Stagecoach’s Megabus. Megabus is no stranger to 15m Plaxtons but the Elite i increases the capacity to up to 75, with seating “upstairs” using the entire 50ft length.
The windscreen and below is unmistakably “Elite” but the “upper deck” does look a little grafted on, to some eyes. No one, however, would deny that this was anything other than stunning.
There were some compromises, though. Most noticeable was the way in which wheelchair passengers would be carried, next to the driver. Expect some final tweaks to the layout, because the show vehicle’s platform didn’t appear particularly wheelchair-friendly. The layout certainly obviates a lift system and doesn’t even need a ramp but when Wrightbus designed its Eclipse Commuter, to much the same specification, disabled people complained that they were left vulnerable and alone at the front by the drafty door, while everyone else was raised above them in lofty luxury and warmth. The difference with the Elite i is that passengers who can mount the stairs, when seated, cannot see wheelchair passengers.
The second disadvantage was that those accompanying any wheelchair passenger immediately behind the driver have height restrictions immediately, as they do upstairs in the first 10 seats. And the luggage racking overhead was an annoyance when leaving the seats.
Rhymes with Ferocity?
The Optare Metrocity was the biggest surprise of the show. Optare had kept this well hidden, till yesterday. But how do you pronounce it? Metro.City seems the best guess. Or is it Metrocity that rhymes with ferocity or atrocity?
Indeed, there was no Tempo on display. Instead, Optare opted for a 40ft (11.7m) Versa. Four are already in service with Arriva but the show vehicle was destined for Go North East. It seats up to 44 and with less weight and superior fuel consumption now makes the Tempo redundant unless, of course, you really do need a heavy- rather than welter-weight.
In terms of design, why stop Metrocity at the M25? In spite of Versa’s popularity (of its own accord and over Tempo), there are those who argue its front end is both overdesigned and, well, a little pointless in protruding a foot more than really necessary.
China in Town
The prize for the most extravagant launch went to King Long for the debut of its XMQ6130Y coach. Here was a fully stage-managed Chinese mini-show that surpassed anything ever seen at the show (with the exception of previous King Long exploits). The internal design was fine, even if the lavatory was small & difficult to get to, even by Chinese standards. I’m nevertheless not quite sure what to make of King Long’s product. Will they last the course? Is the build quality there? Mind you, we all said that about Japanese car imports in the late 1960s/early 1970s and look at them now...
A Table for Four
The most unusual vehicle at Euro Bus Expo 2012 must’ve been an ADL Enviro400 for Newport Bus. The trim was opulent, with leather (or faux leather) seating in two-tone green with decent pitches (although not high backed). There was also extravagant mood lighting. Capacity below stairs was 27+2.
Upstairs, well, have you ever seen tables on a *bus*? There were four, each with sunken recesses for drinks, to promote group or family travel. Upper deck seating was for 41. Was this for private hire? The bell pushes and real time announcements said “service bus” and an ADL employee thought that it was to go into service on the X30 between Newport & Cardiff direct (unless you know differently).
Does anyone know of any Optare Bonitos on the road? Access is straight off the pavement and even without kneeling, it offers a remarkably low entrance. There’s (an optional?) lift at the rear and tracking within, offering considerable flexibility.
And, with a capacity of 16, it seats two more than Alero. Let’s hope its reputation is considerably better. Interestingly, the body’s made of single moulded plastic.
The Bova Futura design is one of the most familiar on the road. It was one of the faces of the 1980s that changed our perception of coach travel. The basic design’s been the same ever since and in 2012 we see the latest generation, new to the UK, in the shape of three for the show, including one for long-term Futura customer, Johnson’s.
Here’s an interesting one. A cut down Mercedes Benz Citaro, the Citaro K. Same attractive, new, more human & less bland front end, something that you might have expected the National to evolve into eventually, had it lasted. Same decorative shaping over the wheel arches. Just 5ft shorter and with a shorter wheelbase.
Vying with Newport Bus’ ADL E400 for the most unusual vehicle was first time exhibitor Omnibus Trading, with its two convertible cabrio minibuses on Iveco Daly chassis. This wasn’t the first time that cabrio minibuses have been on display and I suspect that the market is still small. The vehicles were nevertheless good looking and unique.
There were two other of the new B11s from Volvo at the show, aside from that under the Plaxton Elite i, above. One sported a not unattractive and a refreshingly styled Sunsundegui front end and the other one was very Jonckheere.
Going to the Max
Streetlite Max that appeared alongside a standard Streetlite but one with electric traction. The Max competes head-on with the new, longer Versa, above. Both are of similar length, the Streelite Max being about 8in shorter and seating one more passenger (at a capacity of 45 that may even be termed class-leading, or so the salesman said). It was of “door-forward” design and therefore the most flexible of the two Streetlite driving potions.
Next Generation Buses
MAN was showing the first of about 20 biomethane-fuelled buses for Arriva. We’ve been here before, of course, using buses with large roof tanks. In keeping with Stagecoach & National Express, Arriva too is liverying its eco-friendly buses differently. Only Arriva’s is in starker contrast to its existing livery and it certainly stands out.
My thanks to those who supplied images for this post (my camera wasn’t working)