Wright launches single-door Pathfinder
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• Ulster-based bodybuilder Robert Wright & Son has launched a single-door version of its low floor Pathfinder 320 body, geared to the needs of most UK operators, writes Alan Millar. Wright's built the first of 38 two-door Pathfinders, based on Dennis Lance SLF chassis, for London Buses at last year's Coach and Bus show in Birmingham and some of these are now in service. But two-door buses are unpopular with most British bus operators who want to deter fare evasion by compelling all passengers to board and alight next to the driver. The first of five 40-seat one-door Pathfinders, also built on the Dennis chassis, has been handed over to the Gateshead-based Go-Ahead Group and is to be operated on north Tyneside in a Department of Transport-funded trial of the benefits of low-floor buses. Unlike the 11.2 metre London buses, which are designed to be manoeuvrable in heavily congested traffic, these vehicles are 11.5m long and have a 1.3m wide doorway. At its narrowest point, the gangway between the front wheels is 906mm wide, sufficient to allow an unfolded double baby-buggy or wheelchair to be pushed through into the main seating area.
The front platform hinges down at an angle and a powered Kassbohrer ramp slides out to meet pavement edges, so buggies and wheelchairs can be wheeled on and off. The bus chassis also "kneels" at the front from the normal ride height of 320mm to 240mm.
Like all recent Wright's bus bodies, the Pathfinder 320 uses the Alusuisse M5438 bolted aluminium system designed for rapid assembly and repair. Because the body of a low-floor bus has to bear more strength than on a higher floor vehicle, the Pathfinder 320 has additional strength built into the roof members.
Before being put into production, the first body of a Dennis and the first of 30 similar bodies being built on Scania chassis for London Buses have undergone extensive structural tests.