Reach for the sky class

Saturday 19th December 2020

How appropriate that aside from my usual “Annual Review, Quiz and Awards of the year” which will post tomorrow, for the penultimate blog of 2020 I was able to try out Transdev Blazefield’s smart new “Sky Class” buses today. What a positive end to a rather dismal year.

Photos and promotional videos were all over social media last weekend following Sunday’s roll out of a £5.2 million investment in 19 buses for the company’s high profile Witchway and Cityzap branded routes. But these aren’t just any new buses. These are Transdev Blazefield new buses. They’re billed as “the next evolution in local and regional bus travel”. They’re ADL E400MMC double deckers including the usual features, but all to a very high spec including extra comfort seating and lovely wood finished tables.

There’s a glass ceiling and full colour next stop displays showing live bus and rail connections at key calling points, and of course, there are usb and wireless charging and “superfast” Wi-Fi. It’s one of those specs where much thought has clearly been spent on so many finer points of detail. You can always tell.

‘Sky Class’ “will bring new levels of comfort and sophistication making your journey nothing less than an absolute pleasure”. That’s the promise.

They don’t disappoint.

Witchway branded route X43 operated by the Burnley Bus Company is using 14 of the new fleet.

It runs every fifteen minutes between Burnley and Manchester using the M66/M60 after Rawtenstall to give a quick car-like journey time.

The new orange and black livery is the third refresh since the Witchway brand began in 2004. Orange is the colour used for buses based in Burnley and its application n these new buses certainly looks stylish and makes them stand out.

Regular blog readers will know I write as I find when out and about highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly; and never believe the PR hype until I’ve seen and tried it in practice. In this case I am delighted to confirm Sky Class is Premier Class.

I saw a quote from ADL’s President (impressive,eh?) and Managing Director Paul Davies saying “these are the highest specified Enviro double deckers we have ever built” which is certainly born out by my bus travel experience.

Two particular favourite features for me are the wonderful comfortable seats – they are the best bus seats I’ve sat on. And they really do look smart too.

And secondly they’re not that high so as to restrict the all important view out of the windows as the bus glides along. This can be a downer on high-spec buses and particularly coaches – you end up just looking at the seat head rest in front of you – but on Sky Class this really has been thought through.

Other great features include a bookshelf…

…. a route map in the lower deck offside behind the stairs ….

…. a well lit staircase that tempts you upstairs ….

…. rubbish and recycling bins with leaflet racks ….

…. naturally, filled with a splendid timetable leaflet.

All these features have been replicated into the buses for Cityzap.

Cityzap (the fast service between York and Leeds) is operated by Transdev Blazefield’s Coastliner company and was furloughed during November’s lockdown and beyond, returning last Sunday with its half hourly timetable, a new stop to serve a massive Amazon warehouse on the edge of Leeds and a fleet of the other five brand new ‘Sky Class’ spec buses.

For Cityzap the orange and black has made way for red and silver and as with Witchway the livery really does look smart and enticing.

As does the interior decor which, like Witchway, really does look splendid and certainly befits the handy attractive quick alternative to the car and train when travelling between these two key Yorkshire cities which Cityzap offers by using the M1 to access the A64 leaving Leeds.

It took just 35 minutes to travel between Leeds and York College this afternoon; that’s a very good journey time and all the more so for the quality of ride and such a superb bus.

I particularly noticed how absolutely rattle free the bus was – not always the case even with new buses – even the front panel was quiet.

Other great features on Sky Class include the single nearside seats alongside the top of the staircase (see earlier photo), suitably angled just a touch and with a small side table Incorporating a cup holder and side arm rest with colour coordinated cushion.

This creates a nice wide manoeuvring area at the top of the stairs.

Another seat related feature is to have just a row of four seats at the rear both on the lower deck ….

…. (where there are also handy tables over the rear wheels arches) ….

… and at the rear of the upper deck, creating a much more spacious and comfortable seating arrangement rather than being squeezed in with five seats. Let’s hope this becomes a standard industry feature.

I also like the two tables for two slotted in front of the first nearside two rows of double seats behind the single seats on the upper deck.

if by now you’re getting the impression I am really impressed with these buses; you’re spot on. No wonder ADL are proud of them, and all credit to their team for agreeing to upgrade their standard spec and meet the many requests from Transdev Blazefield’s CEO Alex Hornby and Best Impressions’ Ray Stenning who’s worked tirelessly to produce these stunning buses. Mind you at what must be almost £275,000 per bus you’d expect something special.

And these have certainly raised the bar – so high, they’ve reached the sky. Class.

A great way to end a very strange year of bus and train travelling.

Roger French

7 thoughts on “Reach for the sky class

Add yours

  1. These new buses do look pretty impressive, hopefully they will be rolled out on the main Coastliner network in the next few years as well and will set the standard for other key long-distance services to follow. Interesting that they have delivered one of the buses (to York, I think) in their generic black-and-grey Pride of the North livery rather than Witchway or CityZap, so there may be some opportunities to enjoy the luxury on other routes as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. All well and good but these upmarket buses are very expensive fare wise I did a similar looking vehicle,in I think summer last year, from Ripon to Harrogate and a single was about £6.50!those facing tables aren’t so good either with coronavirus, it’s more psychological with someone coughing forward at you mind coughing in the seat behind you is just as likely to infect you! tempting motorists out of cars doesn’t work the only thing that does,or rather did,are Parkway rail stations and Park and Ride buses and these Parkways and Park and Rides are very environmentally dubious paving over huge areas in the worship of the car.


  3. Splendid, but I do hope the seats are a little more upright and back-supporting than appears in the camera angle on some shots? I wonder if Anyone from Stagecoach who approved the “Emperors New Clothes” abomination of new liveries bothers to see what a difference a proper one makes? And perhaps Arriva could join them if they remotely cared about their buses.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. According to Stagecoach, route branding is confusing and Gold needs to be school bus yellow. I would love to know which design company designed the new Stagecoach branding, and which senior executive allowed it to happen?


  5. Looks upmarket and fabulous as always with Transdev. I agree with Mr. Johnhw the Stagecoach school bus yellow on coaching route is awful, can raise any interest from motorist to use the service. Just wonder with fewer seat installed due to the generous provision of space for table, corridor, should it be justify to get a longer bus to satisfy the demand specially in peak times?


  6. These buses are perfect, I wish I was from the north!

    Only criticism is that the seat behind the stairs faces backwards. My go-to seat if I can’t get the front ones.

    Liked by 1 person

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