One-bus policy for all Ireland?
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ULSTERBUS expects to reach a decision later this year future vehicle policy, and this could be the answer to Ireland's bus needs.
Keen to find a replacement for the Gardner-engined Bristol RELL before it fails to meet forthcoming noise and braking regulations. Ulsterbus has been talking to British Leyland, Seddon Atkinson, and Hestair Dennis about a new generation replacement.
While the company is concerned only about its own requirements, there is a strong possibility that Coras Iompair Eireann's problems in finding a new supplier for Americanengined buses could make it seek the same supplier as Ulsterbus.
This is made more likely by the fact that a Bristol-built Leyland B21 — the model which Ulsterbus is most likely to buy — has been supplied to Australia with Allison transmission and a Detroit Diesel engine, both CIE favourites. Ulsterbus wants Leyland to offer a Gardner engine in the vehicle which uses National running gear.
Seddon Atkinson has talked with Ulsterbus about a reincarnated Pennine RU and Hestair Dennis is conducting a feasibility study into a horizontally-engined version of the Dominator, but this is still at an early stage.
These are threatened by a lack of other interested par ties, as Ulsterbus's annual demand for around 100 buses, including interurban vehicles, means that other British Isles operators should take the same type.
There is a possibility that Alexander, which builds most of Northern Ireland's bus bodies, could be asked to reach a deal with Scottish Bus Group and supply bodies for B21s. But SBG's new-found enthusiasm for Leyland Nationals and Alexander's healthy order books make this seem Ulsterbus has standardised on locally-built Alexander bodies for 10 years and has tooled up its maintenance policy to handle its own version of the Y-type body.