Stagecoach has appointed two new Managing Directors of its bus operations, effective from 1 October.Edward Hodgson, currently Managing Director of Megabus.com Europe, will also take on the position of Managing Director, Stagecoach South.Mark Whitelocks, currently Operations Director, Stagecoach East Scotland, has been appointed Managing Director, Stagecoach North Scotland.Edward Hodgson was previously Commercial Director at Stagecoach South before spending three years in the US in the role of Director of Megabus.com. He returned to the UK in 2011 after being appointed Managing Director of Stagecoach West Scotland and in July 2014 also took on the role of Managing Director of Scottish Citylink. In October 2014, he moved from West Scotland to take on responsibility for megabus.com Europe and, as Managing Director, led the rapid expansion of the megabus.com network within mainland Europe over the past two years.Mark Whitelocks is a product of the Stagecoach UK Bus Graduate Development Programme. He has previously held managerial positions at Stagecoach West and Stagecoach South West. In September 2013 he took on the role of Operations Director at Stagecoach East Scotland.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued new guidance to local authorities (LAs) on hackney carriage and private hire licensing.In an open letter to LAs, the CMA warns that “some licensing conditions may restrict or distort competition”, including those that limit the number of providers in a market or restrict the ability of drivers to work for more than one taxi operator.The open letter and guidance is at goo.gl/RmZb7L
Optare’s MetroCity was introduced with a brief to claim a chunk of the market for urban single-deckers. In effect it is a revised Versa, and powered by Daimler’s popular OM 934 engine at Euro 6, although an electric version is available. Tim Deakin drives the diesel demonstratorOptare builds weight-optimised integral buses across the size range, and in the middle of that spectrum is the MetroCity. With a gross vehicle weight of 12,000kg, it is available at lengths of 10.1m, 10.8m and 11.5m and seating a maximum of 44.The MetroCity and its twin sister the Versa are built on a common platform, but have a number of cosmetic differences. The Versa is now regarded as a premium product, but the MetroCity is seen as a bread-and-butter city bus, aimed at stop-start work.At Euro 6, both models are powered by Daimler’s OM 934 engine coupled to a six-speed Allison gearbox, but Optare Engineering Director Alastair Munro has recently confirmed that ongoing development may see other transmission options added in the future (routeone, Manufacturer, 27 January).Besides the diesel format, the MetroCity and Versa – like all of Optare’s domestic range eventually – are available as electric vehicles (EVs). But while Optare expects demand for EVs to rise in coming years, it accepts that there will also be a long-term requirement for diesel buses.Its strategy in this regard is simple: Get its buses’ weight as low as possible, optimise their drivelines to the task in hand and keep the whole product as simple as can be.If all those rules are obeyed, reliability, economic operation and sales success should follow. They apply as much to the MetroCity as to any other member of Optare’s range, and while the Solo is still its best seller, the MetroCity has found its way into a number of fleets.For an idea of whether it hits the spot or not, Optare kindly made its MetroCity demonstrator available for a routeone First Drive.The basicsThe demonstrator is to the longest length available, 11.5m. Its width is 2.5m, enabling the MetroCity to be sold outside Europe; Optare is seeing success in Australia with the heavier Tempo at the moment, and has also delivered Solos there.The demonstrator is to provincial specification, and has visited a number of operators around the country. It seats 41, including three tip-ups, and can hold 20 standees; 44 is the absolute maximum number of seated passengers at this length, and is achieved by mounting three seats over the front nearside wheel.If a wheelchair is carried, seating capacity reduces by three; the buggy and wheelchair area is to the offside, although Optare is able to finish the MetroCity with dual bays.Upon boarding, immediately obvious is one of its principal strengths: The extent of the low floor area. With a single buggy and wheelchair bay, no fewer than 24 fixed seats plus the three tip-ups can be accessed without reaching a step of any kind, while a solitary position behind the driver is simple to access, albeit on a platform.Two shallow steps almost between the rear wheels lead to a raised rear section, where 13 seats are located. While the MetroCity does have a rear window – unlike the Solo – it is relatively small compared with its peers’, and is square rather than rectangular. It is also offset slightly.All seats are high backed and finished in a shade of artificial leather very similar to that used by First Bus in its standard interior specification, although there is no suggestion that this is anything other than coincidental. The ability exists to customise the interior, and things such as charging points and Wi-Fi can be added.Under the bonnetThe OM 934 engine is shoe-horned into an engine bay that is both compact and full. Despite this, and like all of Optare’s other products, the MetroCity’s power unit, gearbox, cooling system and exhaust – its complete driveline, in other words – are fitted to a cradle that is easily removed once disconnected, making heavy work easy.Optare goes so far as to say that, regardless of the model, it would be practical to remove the whole driveline unit and replace it with another in the name of getting the bus back on the road rapidly.Whether that would be of interest to operators in practice can be debated, but it illustrates the ease with which the engine, gearbox or other driveline component can be removed for work to take place.The demonstrator’s engine is rated at 156bhp and develops 650Nm of torque. It is coupled to an Allison six-speed 2100 series gearbox.Available optionally is the OM 934 rated at 176bhp and 750Nm, and this may be specified in conjunction with the six-speed Allison T270R transmission.The latter has a benefit of engaging the lock-up clutch in the five highest gears; the 2100 series does so only in its top four ratios.When compared fairly, there may thus be a small potential fuel saving to be had with the T270R.The driver’s viewOptare continues to use its standard cab components on the MetroCity, including the same steering column and stalk arrangement that debuted in the MetroRider over two decades ago. While they remain functional, and the chunky stalks are undoubtedly durable, this is one area where Optare could perhaps update things.Body functions are controlled by a bank of one-touch buttons to the driver’s right as seen for many years on the Solo, while gear selection and the handbrake are on a ledge below the signalling window.The EcoDrive dash is fitted to the demonstrator. It consists of a large dial adjacent to the speedometer and a number of more specific performance indicators, such as cornering.The dial has green, yellow and red sectors, and the needle’s position reflects the driver’s performance. At low speeds it is difficult to keep within the green sector, but once free from traffic, driving economically is easier.Similarities with other members of Optare’s range continue with the driver’s seat’s position on top of a large moulded unit. While reducing cab storage, it helps prevent the accumulation of debris and rubbish around and under the seat, something that will be welcome.Cab heating is by blown air, while a handful of fresh air vents are situated around the driver’s legs. Saloon heat and ventilation is controlled by a simple circular dial in the area beneath the ticket machine position, and the MetroCity was comfortably warm during a drive from Sherburn-in-Elmet to Leeds and back.On the roadSome Optare vehicles have displayed remarkable longevity, with many Solos dating from the late 1990s only removed from service towards the end of 2015 thanks to PSV Accessibility Regulations requirements.The MetroCity is lightweight like the Solo, but Optare’s use of monocoque construction means that it is inherently strong, and with a robust driveline at Euro 6 it should display similar longevity. It tips the scales at 7,660kg empty.Driving the demonstrator along some poorly-maintained roads highlighted just the odd rattle from the rear, although these were from a coving panel that Optare’s engineers had removed the previous day to perform work.Apart from that no rattles or squeaks were to be heard. The Daimler engine is quiet and more refined than its predecessor, the smaller and long-lived OM 904 used up to Euro 5, and engine vibration levels are noticeably lower.Few drivers will find anything confusing about the MetroCity, and it is doubtful that those already familiar with Optare products would even need type training on it. Controls are clearly marked and easy to use, and – unlike the Versa – there is no perception of a long and potentially vulnerable ‘snout’.The speed limiter is set to 59mph. If pushed, the bus wastes little time in getting well north of 50mph, although heavy-footed acceleration results in a poor driver performance score.A full-bore take-off is very rapid indeed, and could be disconcerting to passengers who have not yet found a seat. Combined with a high top speed and six-ratio gearbox this makes the MetroCity as suited to interurban work as it is to stop-start urban duties; many of those sold already are employed on higher-speed services.The verdictThe name MetroCity suggests a bus that is tilted at the urban, low average speed market. Thanks to an exemplary internal layout it is perfectly suited to that task, but the MetroCity is equally at home outside the city environment where fleet-of-footedness is required.One of the model’s main strengths is its passenger area. The low floor section is extensive, the window line is deep, and six large opening hoppers ensure adequate ventilation. Bell push provision is also excellent, meaning that the MetroCity ticks every box from a user’s perspective.Its mechanical aspect should do similar for the operator. Daimler’s engine has proved itself already, and when combined with Optare’s smart charging auxiliaries the manufacturer says that 12mpg is achievable.There is no reason to disbelieve this claim; sister bus the Versa has cultivated an enviable reputation for fuel efficiency, and some operators have found it to be capable of a similar return without smart charging auxiliaries. Additionally, with the lower-powered Euro 6 engine, the MetroCity is Low Carbon Emission Bus certified, bringing an enhanced BSOG payment.While the Versa may shade the MetroCity in terms of looks, the latter could just have the edge on practicality thanks to its flatter front.Both share a common platform and saloon, meaning that there is little between them. They are equally suited to urban and high-speed running, not something that can be said for all buses in the lightweight segment.Further developments are possible with the MetroCity; Optare does not rule out addition of a Cummins engine at Euro 6, and more gearbox choice could be introduced. It’s a very competent alternative to some of the more well-established models on the market.
A new tour of Dirty Dancing will begin on 20 September at the Brighton Theatre Royal.It will then tour to Dartford, York, Stoke, Hastings, Southend, Birmingham, Preston, London, Plymouth and Oxford, with further dates to be announced.The musical is based on the classic 1987 film starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.
Minibus-based demand responsive transport gives major cost savingsPublic funding for bus services is in crisis. That’s common knowledge. But what is less well publicised is how minibus demand responsive transport (DRT) can ameliorate many of the otherwise damaging service withdrawals in a cost-effective manner – and in most cases, with no subsidy.One commercial DRT service promises to be with customers within 10 minutes. Another offers cashless, Uber-like transactions, where users conduct their entire interaction with the operator via app.Interestingly, it’s not just the minibus industry that sees DRT as potentially accounting for a chunk of the public transport demand of the future.Both Ford and Mercedes-Benz own DRT providers in Chariot and Via respectively. While their motive is clearly to create an additional outlet for the vehicles that they produce, both are conservative corporations that don’t invest without being sure of a return.Much of the minibus industry has been demand responsive for years. It was a leader in the concept.But now, instead of being considered as a bridesmaid to the mainstream bus business, DRT has the chance to show what it is made of and become an integral part of many people’s travel habits, whether that is in the rural or the urban landscape.
Isle of Wight-based Southern Vectis held a special event in Newport this week, highlighting the importance of concessionary travel.Says Southern Vectis General Manager, Richard Tyldsley: “We wanted to find out, first-hand, how our customers have been helped by having easy access to local buses.“Many confirmed to us that being able to travel freely across the island really is a lifeline.”Den Barlow (83) attended the event and explained how he uses his bus pass: “We use it all the time,” he said. “It allows us to really explore the island and get out walking in some of the more inaccessible areas. We’d struggle to do that without our passes.”Mary Hall (71) said her pass gives her freedom: “When I moved to the island, I lost my husband soon after, and I felt very alone,” she added. “My financial budget also reduced considerably, and I found my bus pass to be invaluable. It allowed me to make necessary trips like going to the shops, visiting the doctor or the hospital, and I was able to get out and meet people. Many of us who travel on the same bus know each other well now, and it’s all down to the accessibility. I’d be lost without it.”
Node-based local pickup arrangement in Bristol delivers passengers to bus stops for onward travelMyFirstMile transports people to stops served by Bristol trunk routesFirst West of England (FWE) has joined forces with taxi start-up Esoterix Systems to trial a service that transports people who do not live within easy walking distance of a bus stop to and from a place where they can take advantage of one of the operator’s Bristol trunk services.Residents of Henleaze and Westbury Park walk to one of 25 pick-up points. From there, a hackney-style ride-sharing service transports them to Nevil Road or Ashley Down Road bus stops on the A38, from where high-frequency buses run to various traffic generators in Bristol.Christened MyFirstMile, the service operates in the morning and afternoon peak periods. Journey planning and payment is handled by app and all-inclusive daily travel costs £6.Says FWE MD James Freeman: “Technology and new data sources represent a tremendous opportunity for improving transport.“The time is right for bus operators to work with innovators to improve existing services and design new ones, attracting new customers. MyFirstMile is just one of the ways that we’re exploring innovative ways to allow people to go about their lives using smarter ways to travel by bus.”The trial will explore passengers’ willingness to take multi-leg journeys and examine how far they regard as too far to walk to a bus stop. It will also be used to evaluate the price point and business model.First says that if MyFirstMile is successful, it may be rolled out elsewhere in Bristol and the country. The project is a collaboration that also involves Bristol City Council, Transport Systems Catapult and the University of the West of England.
The Spradling coated fabric is part of AT Industries’ wide product rangeAT Industries is the UK distributor of Spradling coated fabric. The product is suited to use in minicoaches and minibuses and it can be applied to seats and panels. A wide variety of colours are available.“The variety of applications that Spradling’s coated fabric suits is large. It is particularly applicable for custom applications,” says Operations Director Wendy Fraser.The distributor offers rapid supply of this and its other products. The Spradling material is held in a variety of primary colours and Mrs Fraser says that the range will grow year on year.Working with Spradling complements AT Industries’ existing offering. It has a line-up of fabrics and linings that are ideal for both accessible and minicoach requirements, one of which is the Gecko hard-wearing, anti-slip and easy-clean flooring material.Lining is also part of the portfolio. Hi-Flex is a material that is simple to trim, and it is suitable for roof and side panel use. Although it is thick, Mrs Fraser says that it is easily applied.“We can supply everything, from floor and seat coverings to material for the side panel and ceiling, in one delivery.”www.atindustries.co.uk
CVRAS approval removed after inaccuracies in data but the firm gurantees that it will keep all promisesGreenUrban says that it will be accredited by CVRAS before ULEZ dateGreenUrban Technologies has assured buyers of its Euro 6 exhaust retrofit kits that it is working with the Energy Saving Trust (EST) to regain accreditation under the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS).GreenUrban’s CVRAS approval for its ecoNOxt system was withdrawn by EST after inaccuracies in test data were identified. Its approved company status was also revoked.MD Nigel Standley says that steps are in place to ensure that both are regained quickly and before London’s ULEZ comes in to force on 8 April 2019.GreenUrban has supplied 132 such kits with its Early Adopter Guarantee to a mixture of coach and bus operators, where the equipment was fitted in advance of certification on the basis that it would be achieved subsequently. Without CVRAS accreditation, that is not possible.The company is still on course to achieve certification of every system once accreditation has been regained, adds Mr Standley. “We sold those kits with a guarantee that they were built to Euro 6 specifications and we stand by all of those operators who purchased them,” he says.GreenUrban accepts that revocation of CVRAS and EST approval was caused by “a serious lack of proper procedure governing the preparation and sign-off of accurate test data submitted to EST. While not widespread, such reporting is nonetheless unacceptable, and we apologise unreservedly to our customers and to EST for the complications that this has caused.”Mr Standley adds that GreenUrban has made “significant organisational changes” and that it has implemented a programme of preventative and correctional actions. He says that telematics data fitted to ecoNOxt systems that are in service shows that they all comply with Euro 6 limits.“We will not walk away from any buyer. We will ensure that we fulfil our Early Adopter Guarantee commitments and obligations to all of our customers by the necessary deadlines,” he says.
Eberspächer’s latest line-up of heating and AC product is more efficientMarket-leading heating and climate control specialist Eberspächer recently announced new innovations for its heating and air-conditioning lines.The new-generation Airtronic 2 (the 2kW D2L and the 4kW D4L units) are diesel-fuelled air heaters that offer improved benefits via a longer service life thanks to a brushless motor, stepless heating output, reduced noise, optimised burner operation with an integrated altitude sensor and the implementation of proven CAN bus technology.A new Easy Start controller for the revised range has been introduced, allowing for finer heating comfort. It includes a modern start/stop timer.Also new to the air-conditioning range is the EV10000 evaporator (cooling only) and the EV10000H evaporator (heating and cooling for minibuses).For internally-mounted applications in minibuses and buses, these are Eberspächer’s latest solutions for high performance with low noise and more compact dimensions.Keeping vehicles pleasantly cooled or warm and dehumidified, the units are available in 12 and 24v versions, together with a 24v brushless blower for extra-long life. Alternatively, the EV10000H, when combined with an Eberspächer Hydronic heater, provides rapid heating as well as climate control.The EV10000 incorporates a hydrophilic-coated evaporator coil to ensure condensate-free operation with maximum performance. It also has an injection-moulded casing that incorporates a number of alternative fixing locations and outlet panel configurations.www.eberspacher.com