Whither the British bus?
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This week sees the launch of the third major bus design on the British bus market to use the integral concept of construction. The Volvo B59 will certainly not be the last integral to be unleashed on the British bus operating world and already some conservative quarters are up in arms at the thought that in future they may not be able to write their own specifications.
In fact the integral bus looks like doing, by commercial and economic means, what the DoE bus standards programme has failed to do. Though there are undoubtedly territories which demand special features unlikely to be provided within a mass-produced integral design, it would be hypocritical for the majority of busmen to oppose the integral bus. Operators have been demanding cheaper to run, easier to maintain vehicles and it is just these advantages which standard integral buses should bring — together with the higher inherent safety margins which international legislation will, with public support, increasingly demand. Theoretically, near-standard components massproduced should be cheaper to make, and purchase Price should be lower, though the £10,000-£14,000 price tags now floating about do not seem to reflect this yet. Operators should ponder, however, on what the cost of the "traditional" bus might soon become, with its labour-intensive manufacture.
In one sense the British bus market is more wide open than it has been since the War. Though individual integral designs may offer less choice of specification there are now more competing Manufacturers than for many years, and another can be expected soon. If bus operators feel — as we know some do — that integral single-deckers and standardization are being forced upon them, they would do well to reflect that the operating industry would probably still be arguing about what it wanted, had not manufacturers taken the plunge. Only united action by operators well in advance can influence basic design when integral construction is involved; a moral that should be assimilated rapidly if they wish to influence the new generation of double-deckers, some of which may even now be too far advanced for such intervention to be effective.