On the road to recovery
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• Coach and Bus '87 — the Bus and Coach Council's first exhibition run independently of its annual coaching symposium — found both operators and manufacturers at the National Exhibition Centre at their most optimistic since the first rumblings of bus deregulation were heard around five years ago.
The industry is beginning to show signs that it is recovering from the recession, and the steady flow of visitors showed significant interest across the whole spectrum of PSVs, including miniand midi-buses, luxury coaches and, perhaps most significantly, in full-size conventional buses.
Kingston Upon Hull City Transport has ordered 10 double-deck Dennis Dominator chassis and five single decker Scania N112DR chassis. Recently-privatised Brighton and Hove has ordered 10 East Lancs-bodied Scania NR 112 DR double-deckers, while Merseybus, the PTE-owned Merseyside operator, has ordered 30 Leyland Olympian double-deckers.
DEALERS Among the dealers, Ensign Bus of Purfleet reported a lot of interest in the Yugoslavianbuilt FAP Famos 5315, which made its UK debut at the NEC. Ensign expects to receive at least 17 firm orders for the Mercedes-Benz 0303based design as a result of showing the S315 on its stand, along with the rear-engined FAP Famos bus; both were seen at last week's Kortrijk show. Ensign also used the NEC to launch the latest Berkhof flagship, the Excellence 2000, in left-hand-drive form. The Excellence 2000 won the coach of the year award at Kortrijk.
Ironically, the Ensign stand was next to the Yeates/ Mercedes-Benz stand, where both highand low-floor examples of the 'genuine' 0303 were on show.
Management-owned Leyland Bus had a variety of its Cummins-powered vehicles on show, including its latest LTA10 290-engined Tiger 290 with Duple and Van Hool bodies, while Plaxtons exhibited a Tiger 290 with one of its own bodies.
Other Leyland Bus exhibits included a low-floor Lynx, (also with a Cummins L10 engine) for the independent operator Shearing and a selection of Swift midi-buses. Of these the most interesting was the first 3.65m short-wheelbase model, which has gone to the Inner London Education Authority.
In the mini midi-bus sector, purpose-built bodies are rapidly winning business from vanbased conversions. Among the new body/chassis combinations on display was the first Northern Counties-bodied Iveco Ford 49.10 Turbo Daily; the first Alexander-bodied Mercedes-Benz 709 T2 and the first Robin Hood 29-seater coach on a Mercedes 811D chassis.
In the lead up to deregulation the single-deck bus market showed every sign of all but disappearing — but now new designs are in evidence and stimulating interest.
In addition to the Leyland Lynx, both Plaxtons and Kirkby showed the new low-floor version of the Plaxtons Derwent bus body on a Volvo BlOM chassis. Alexander also exhibited its Belfast-built allalloy body on an unusual dropframe Tiger chassis.
The biggest surprise in this sector, however, was undoubtedly the introduction by the Carlton Group of an anglicised German VoV-designed city bus. The right-hand-drivevehicle is powered by a Gardner 6HLXCT engine coupled to a ZF 4HP 600 automatic box, and will be priced to compete directly with the Leyland Lynx.
After going through a particularly bad period, double-deck buses are once again back in the limelight, with Optare displaying an example of its handywork on a Leyland Olympian chassis. Two Alexanderbodied Volvo DlOM doubledeckers were also at the show. The only East-Lancs body was on a Scania N112 double deck I*,
chassis supplied to Al cooperative, and Northern Counties had an Olympian in the livery of London Buses Bexleybus network on its stand.
Less than a month after Renault Truck Industries launched its face-lifted 50 Series, the latest PSV version made its debut at the NEC with an Alexander-bodied version on the RTI stand. Northern Counties, however, chose to discard the existing Renault front end and substitute it with its own, striking GRP front end.
LUXURY COACHES In the luxury coach sector there were a number of familiar models, but still plenty to interest operators. New from Duple was an 8.5m version of its 320 body on a Dennis Javelin chassis. Duple also showed its Integral 425 built for Mai/of Aberdeen.
Other integrals on show included Bova Futuras, as well as a pair of LAG Panorarnics including the stunning all-black Night Rider shown at Kortrijk.
Repowering Leyland PSVs is in vogue these days following the decision by the Rover Group to close the Leyland engine plant. Both Volvo and Daf are now offering "repower packages". In the demonstration park was the first Volvo THD100-engined Leyland Tiger belonging to Eddie Brown of York: the conversion costs around £8,000.
Daf is also into repowering and offers a complete package for Mark I Leyland Nationals. This involves replacing the fixed-head 510 engine with its own, naturally-aspirated version of the 11.6-litre Daf unit.