Tuesday 30th October 2018
The Euro Bus Expo show opened at Birmingham’s NEC today for its biennial showcase of what’s hot in the bus and coach industry. I popped along for a stroll round the stands; here are ten exhibits that took my fancy.
1 Navaho Technologies Ltd’s displays
These guys were demonstrating attractive bright new displays with built in gizmos which can provide useful information like how long until the next bus comes on a Bus Full destination sign and a live map showing where the bus is travelling when on a diversion.
Some of their work is already being trialled by TfL on a range of vehicles and routes. They’ve also updated their ‘seats available’ gizmo which detects people as they pass a sensor to go upstairs. I’ve no idea how much all this techy stuff costs but it’s impressive.
2 Mellor’s Strata
i really like what Mellor have done with the Mercedes Sprinter – creating a practical and comfortable small bus for both urban and rural services.
This larger Strata Ultra takes minibuses to the next level. Very smart and swish. A million miles from that ‘riding in a welfare vehicle’ feeling.
It seems to me like it was only a few years ago if you wanted to buy a ticket machine you had the choice of Almex or Wayfarer. Then Ticketer hit the industry by storm and now they’re everywhere.
They had by far the most imaginative stand in Hall 5 including an astronaut in full spaceman costume (seen here with Passenger Transport magazine’s Andrew Garnett).
As a passenger I like the simplicity and quickness of using contactless on Ticketer or reading a QR code on an m-Ticket or paper day ticket.
4 McKenna Brothers electronic timetable
We hear about the Internet of Things coming our way with new 5G signals enabling our fridge to automatically order a pint of milk and other exciting developments so surely it can’t be long before the humble bus stop paper timetable is replaced by an electronic version?
So it was good to see McKenna Brothers leading the way with this innovation – be good if they can make it as bright as their super destination blinds too.
5 Comfy seats
As well as on board the gleaming new buses on show there were some impressive displays of comfortable seats from a number of manufacturers.
It’s encouraging to see such a step change in seat quality – passenger ergonomics are definitely taking centre stage as well as requirements for battery recharging and coat hanging. What a shame some train companies (or perhaps more accurately, their civil servant masters) don’t share the same thinking.
6 Hanover Displays – now in colour
Something else that’s come on leaps and bounds is the quality of electronic destination displays including the use of colour. Lewes based Hanover have had a long association with Brighton & Hove Bus Company and it’s good to see they’ve now got decent coloured displays available.
The latest bright LED destination displays really do make a bold statement as a bus approaches as well as standing out to non users on busy streets in town centres (TfL please note).
7 Electric; Gas; Hydrogen
It wouldn’t be a bus and coach show in 2018 without some impressive alternative fuel powered buses on display. Optare were showing off their new Metrocity and Metrodecker EV vehicles bound for London – and now with an impressive 150 mile range (enough for a whole day’s operation) …..
….while Scania had the 100th Enviro400 City biogas double deck bus bound for Nottingham …
… as Wright’s had the very first Hydrogen powered double deck on their stand (including a very mini version of their ‘w’ logo on the front lower panel.
One of my first jobs when joining West Riding in Wakefield 43 years ago as a management trainee was to spend a few weeks in the company’s schedules department. Four people spent all day, pencil in hand, pouring over huge graph paper (it seemed like at least A1 size) trying to get the best vehicle and crew utilisation.
It wasn’t long before clever people invented computer software to make the task so much easier. Now, companies such as Omnibus with its Omnitimes link schedules into many other systems and have now even launched cloud based software with interesting new functionality, but my eye was caught by these impressive screens showing ‘what ifs’ devised by Optibus and which impressively give you a resource and cost update as you make any changes. Made me quite nostalgic for doing a bit of scheduling again!
9 Nostalgia corner
Talking of nostalgia it was nice to be taken back in time on a couple of the stands and be reminded of launch vehicles of bygone times. They also remind us of just how far we’ve come.
10 Best Impressions
I’ve saved the Best until last. You just can’t beat Ray Stenning and his team for creating desire and promoting the bus. It’s no coincidence that most, if not all, of the award winning renowned successful companies, brands and routes have the hand of Best Inpressions behind them. Long may that continue.
One final thought. As I hopped on and off all the gleaming new buses on display with all their latest gizmos and comfort attributes and which will soon be out on Britain’s roads attracting and impressing passengers, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that the most prominent message on entry on a few of them is a stark Exact Fare farebox. In this contactless, m-Ticket, smartcard world perhaps it’s time for a change and give change?
Euro Bus Expo is on until Thursday 1st November at the NEC in Birmingham if you’re reading this when published. Wonder what they’ll call the next one in 2020!
Roger French 30th October 2018
Another view of exact fare schemes is that they discourage passengers from paying cash. I took a trip around Birmingham a few months back and hardly anyone paid cash. Reputable operators like West Midlands, Lothian and Nottingham have been using the system since the 1970s. In those days it really speeded up buses on busy city services and I don’t think they would have retained fareboxes if they thought it was losing them passengers. I lived in Birmingham for a couple of years in the 1980s and I don’t remember passengers complaining. I’d say most grumbles come from those who live in other areas where drivers give change. I think most local people see the benefits from faster journeys, operators benefit from more efficient schedules and drivers from no cash handling. That said, with smart cards, M tickets and contactless the need to pay cash is much reduced so fareboxes do seem rather old fashioned. It is amazing they still look exactly the same as the original Bell Punch equipment, with no electronic counting displays to show how much has been inserted.
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Find the Bus Full display kind of ironic at this time. Good implementation of countdown to tell passengers when the next bus is. If only TfL invested in some of this tech 😛 Another great read, Roger 🙂