10 Show cases

Thursday 3rd November 2022

The Euro Bus EXPO 2022 show is on at the NEC over three days this week (it ends today, Thursday).

I popped up for a quick look round on Tuesday’s opening day to check out what’s new since the last exhibition four years ago which I blogged about here.

Back in 2018 I picked out ten exhibits that caught my eye and thought I do the same again this time.

First up are some impressive electric and hydrogen powered buses which will be coming to a bus route soon. Interestingly no gas buses were on display this time perhaps indicating how the industry now sees electric and perhaps hydrogen as the ‘green’ propulsion of the future.

1. Alexander Dennis’s Hydrogen bus for Merseytravel

These 20 buses destined for route 10A between St Helens and Liverpool operated by both Arriva and Stagecoach have been funded by Liverpool City Region’s Transforming Cities Fund and certainly look the part both externally and internally.

With Ray Stenning’s Best Impressions expert design skills involved in the project from the outset, these buses are bound to make an impact when introduced in Liverpool next year.

The bus has all the hallmarks of a Best Impressions masterpiece with sensible rear seat arrangements, if a little close for the knees….

…. but at least it’s now becoming standard practice to have four proper seats at the rear rather than expecting five people to squeeze together.

And, of course, there’s the usual wood effect flooring which is also now becoming a standard feature on many new buses, and very welcome it is too.

There’s a rather large box type structure on the nearside as you board which I assume is something to do with the hydrogen arrangements, maybe even the storage area?

My one concern is the 20 buses will not be enough to convert the entire route which will lessen their impact. It’s a missed opportunity not to have taken a route with a requirement for say 18 buses which would have pretty much guaranteed passengers will have a ride on these impressive buses when they turn up at the bus stop rather than the hit and miss which will apply on route 10A once ‘launched’.

In the meantime the bus certainly turned heads on ADL’s stand at the Show.

2. Iriza ‘ietram’ electric bus for TfL

This is another head turner thanks to its deliberate tram like shape – hence the rather odd name, “ietram”. However judging by social media feedback they’re going to be a kind of Marmite design – you either love it or hate it.

Destined for introduction next year on Go-Ahead London operated route 358 between Crystal Palace and Orpington the bus will feature pantograph recharging at each terminus as recently installed at Bexleyheath bus garage for route 132 and for some time in use at Harrogate bus station.

Inside the bus it’s immediately noticeable the front entrance door is much narrower than on standard buses; you’d not even get a slimline buggy through there ….

… and there’s not a huge amount of space for a wheelchair and buggies or standing room for passengers by the larger middle door.

There are just 33 seats which strikes me as not many for a busy route like the 358 although on the upside they certainly look (and are) comfortable and a definite step up in quality for London’s bus passengers.

I wonder what they’ll make of the two-by-two facing each other arrangement though?

And I wonder if the back offside seat all on its own will prove the most popular.

3. Switch Mobility electric bus for TfL

Another electric single deck bus for London to a new design but not quite as radical as the Irizar “ietram” is the Metrocity from Switch Mobility (formerly known as Optare).

As you can see what it lacks in tram style looks it makes up for with a rather bulbous front end.

12 of these buses are destined for Stagecoach operated route 339 between Leytonstone and Shadwell stations (a route formerly run by Tower Transit until it sold out to Stagecoach in June).

These single door only buses also have swish looking seats which are sure to make an impact on London’s bus passengers who are at last catching up on what provincial passengers have enjoyed as new buses have been introduced outside the Capital for years.

However the wheelchair area looks very confined to me and that nearside single seat may restrict movement. I’m surprised it wasn’t removed to allow a more flexible area and room for a buggy.

4. Mellor’s electric Sigma Family

I highlighted Mellor’s Strata bodywork on the Mercedes Sprinter minibus as featured on its stand at the 2018 Show so was interested to see what would be on display this time as I’m a bit of a Mellor fan.

The company didn’t disappoint with two of the six models in the Sigma family range – the 15/16 seat Sigma 7 and longer 27 seat Sigma 8 on display.

Both are very box shape looking as befits Mellor’s way but I find the design and the interiors attractive in a rather square box kind of way as well as practical for what’s on offer.

The Sigma 8 in particular has a very wide entrance as highlighted above (compare it to the Irizar ‘ietram’ for example) but the Sigma 7 has its entrance door behind the front wheel which may not be so handy for driver/passenger interaction.

They could do with some Best Impressions style work on the interiors and seats though – this is the inside of the Sigma 8…

… and the Sigma 7 which at least has more comfortable seats, but only room enough for 15.

5. Yutong E12 electric buses for TrawsCymru

I was pleased to see one of the new electric buses destined for TrawsCymru on display on the Yutong stand as these have been much heralded as a positive development for the high profile extensive inter-urban network across Wales but have yet to appear on the road, mainly because of infrastructure issues, I believe.

12 buses have been commissioned by Carmarthenshire Council for TrawsCymru.

You are very high up on those seats towards the rear.

6. Brighter destination displays

I highlighted the ever improving products produced by Hanover and McKenna in 2018 and both companies are back again with even brighter higher definition destination blinds and information signs now available.

There are others on the market too including Navaho …

… and aesys.

I reckon it would be a good use of Government funding (that’s assuming after 17th November such a thing exists) if every bus was to have its destination display upgraded to these very impressive standards. Just imagine the impact it would have and the statement that would make about the importance of buses.

7. E-paper departure displays at bus stops

I also highlighted this development at the 2018 Show suggesting it really must be the way forward for bus stop displays – which can be either real time departures or traditional timetables or both; but the key thing is the information can be controlled remotely and updated as simply and quickly as a click of the mouse.

It’s been disappointing to see very little progress with installations over the last four years but I was pleased to see a company called Papercast at the Show showing the coverage they’re now achieving with the support of local authorities.

This is another area I believe could benefit from Government funding – just imagine if every bus had those bright destination screens, and every bus stop had up to date, clear to read, E-paper displays showing timetables and real time. What a transformation that would bring to bus travel.

8. Website and App development

It was good to see Tom Quay and his team from the company called Passenger at the Show. This company have done wonders to improve the presentation and availability of information for passengers – making websites and Apps intuitive to use and incorporating as standard, popular features such as vehicle tracking as well as easy to find links to timetables and maps.

Tom was telling me they’ve recently launched a new website for TrawsCymru and boy did it need one and the result is a huge improvement on what went before which was clunky and unfriendly. It’s another excellent transformation.

9. Comfortable seats

The bar really has been raised on providing quality seats for both passengers and drivers and it’s heartening to see so much effort now going into this as a key ingredient of a new bus specification by enlightened bus companies and also seeing manufacturers obliging.

For far too long those specifying and purchasing buses showed no interest in this key feature – often because they never travelled by bus themselves. Thankfully this has changed for the better and it was good to see seat manufacturers present at the Show.

10. The best design and marketing

All the foregoing demonstrates the importance of excellent design and marketing and it was good to see Ray Stenning and his Best Impressions team displaying their superb work for a whole range of bus companies across the country with the all important attention to detail and design presentation.

The team have produced a new booklet showcasing the recent work Best Impressions has done which includes over 25 examples of the company’s desire creating creativity.

Another design agency, Southampton based Mangopear Creative run by Andi North, doing great work for the bus industry, not least promoting ‘Britain’s Scenic Bus Routes’ are also displaying their work at the Show reaffirming you have to properly promote buses with design excellence if you want a successful industry – which is what Euro Bus EXPO 2022 is all about.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

25 thoughts on “10 Show cases

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    1. Those Stenning knees are famous in their own right!!
      I’m surprised to see the Mellor buses still have “wing” mirrors fitted . . . on the 15-seater they’re nearly as big as the bus!!
      You didn’t mention the re-powered LT bus . . . if a Boris bus can be converted to pure electric successfully (and trials are to be undertaken), then any diesel bus should be possible . . .

      It is indeed good to see so much innovation on show . . . especially the e-paper bus stops. My concern is two-fold . . . with local authorities likely to be spending the money on bus stop fittings, will they have the money available? And . . . will there be much of an industry left outside the conurbations?
      Just at the moment, we’re seeing cut-backs most-everywhere . . . and how much BSIP funding might survive (and what about the £2 maximum bus fare? That’s gone awful quiet too!).

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  1. I would not worry too much about the 20 pvr required for the 10A, as I am sure that will be reduced before too many sunsets. And yes, something needs to be done nationwide about the ridiculous so-called “bright-Tech(?) orange blinds, now almost universal, as on our ever increasing sunnier days most bus fronts are completely unreadable. I am surprised Traffic Commissioners have not raised this issue after complaints.

    Whoever dictated the purchase of the just 33 seat French Marmite wagons, “letrambus”, clearly has absolutely no clue whatsoever about the loadings on the always busy 358, previously always operated with 40+ seats. The service at peak, indeed most times, is absolutely rammed, passing numerous schools and major hospitals throughout. It is one of the longest TfL services for route miles (please note I have only written “one of the longest”), and with traffic levels now at an all-time high causing frequent service disruption, should without doubt be split and double-decked on the Orpington-Bromley section. Which of course will never happen. The need to recharge at only terminal ends should be interesting and similarly shows total disconnect with reality.

    Pity those who do not have any alternative services to use and now face a lifetime of avoiding eye (and knee) contact with those lucky enough to ever secure a seat, or getting used to standing continental style. Not normally one for predictions, but I would be surprised if these vehicles (I hesitate to call the buses) last their allotted term such will be the outcry.

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    1. Regarding London traffic congestion delaying the 358, I came across this article linking the decline in London bus speeds and reliability with the increase in road space allocated to cycle lanes.

      https://www.onlondon.co.uk/vincent-stops-the-cycling-lobby-has-been-allowed-to-ruin-londons-bus-service/

      It made me think that Amsterdam has gold standard segregated cycle lanes and bus lanes, the latter being in the middle of the streets shared with the trams, and thus you get two benefits, there is no conflict with cycles and delivery vans don’t block the bus lanes. For more info on Amsterdam cycling infrastructure see the excellent YouTube channel “Not Just Bikes”. For examples of Amsterdam tram and bus priority see the excellent YouTube channel “Rail Public Transport” where there are many tram route cab rides.

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  2. It would be a good thing to have destination displays upgraded. That move should be accompanied by having a national presentation standard and outlawing their use for crass marketing messages. It’s a destination display – the clue is in the name.

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  3. Why are there so few seats on the ietram? The current Citaros are 12m long – are these new buses shorter, or does face to face seating reduce the number of seats. Face to face seating will also encourage feet on seats.
    Lastly, I assume that since the recharge facilities are at the ends of the route, that buses will no longer be able to be turned short due to congestion or other delays.

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  4. Love the Scouse bus. Not sure about the “Metro” branding though. Must be the most over-used term used in bus operation today. Can’t the marketing whizzbrains come up with something more original?

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  5. I have been saying since the launch of the Hydrogen bus project in Liverpool that the impact will be diluted if the buses only appear on the 10A. The core corridor is also served by around 14 buses per hour in addition to the 8 per hour which currently operate on the combined 10A.
    Would have been much better to convert the whole of one route, initially.
    Also, there appears to be very little said about the reintroduction of bus priority (removed previously by the City Mayor) to support the bus. Journeys past Alder Hey, through Old Swan and Kensington and into the City Centre can be painfully slow.
    Taken together, a package of measures could be a real head-turner, but piecemeal delivery weakens the impact

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Surely we should only invest in those bus routes which have a secure future?That should remove 95% of them from consideration. It makes everyone’s job easier, at least.

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  7. Some interesting designs highlighted here, but:

    ietram :
    – as you say, narrow entrance will be unpopular with those with oversized buggies
    – the ‘below window’ windows seem impractical – surely more expensive to repair accident damage than plain metal panels? And okay, if you have shapely legs you don’t mind displaying to the outside world (like Mr Best), but if not …
    – the wheel “spats” – can’t see these being popular with engineering staff. A previous generation of London electric vehicles with spats weren’t!

    Switch Metrocity:
    The strange bulge and twin “elephant trunks” leading up to the electronic mirrors seems to be because TfL require wiper blades to be shielded to reduce possible pedestrian injuries. Other manufacturers use top-mounted blades.

    Papercast:
    Some stops in East Grinstead have these. Very clear to read. Maybe a colour version is in development?

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  8. Not one “trackless” (trolley bus) to be seen- the most efficient way to propel an electric bus. Hydrogen involves massive losses in converting it from electricity and back again. Hydrogen plants, feeding from off-peak sources like wind power, will export electricity not hydrogen.

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  9. I recently travelled on some ietrams in Aix-en-Provence on route A. The BRT segregation provided for significant portions of the route were impressive, but the buses themselves were disappointing. Externally they look nice and made interesting musical humming noises at low speeds. But internally they had a cramped layout of seats, some high up on pedestals; when the buses were busy, standing crush loads didn’t leave a pleasant impression. The ride was no better than any other bus with a number of creaks and rattles where poorer road surfaces existed.

    I believe these things are significantly more expensive than a more normal electric bus (I would love to be corrected on this) and I didn’t see or hear much to justify the excess

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  10. Sadly the new TrawsCymru web site hasn’t fixed any of the problems that I can see. There still isn’t a proper network route map. The individual route maps are still inexplicable as they show all variations of the route in the same colour with no labelling. None of the maps have proper printer support. There still aren’t downloadable PDF timetables. There’s still no joint timetables with co-ordinated bus routes (so if you want the combined T2 and X28 timetable the only place to find it is the Lloyd’s web site). The fares and FAQ sections are useless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Network Diagram (it doesn’t deserve to be called a map) isn’t actually on the Routes and Maps page or the Plan Your Journey page (its under “about us”). There are several routes on the Network Diagram whose timetables are not in the Timetable page with no explanation why. The T9 continues to be on Network Diagram despite being “suspended”.

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  11. Like the Liverpool fuel cell bus, the enviro400 City design with the glazed stairs and the superb livery really stand out. I was surprised to read that there aren’t going to be enough to meet the pvr for the route, what a wasted opportunity. It needs a whole route makeover with these new buses, matching bus shelters and signs, road resurface and bus priority, thus achieving a similar effect to a new tramway.

    Talking of which I really like the ieTram design, again very sleek and eye catching, a real head turner. Again needs to be combined with new bus stop infrastructure and priorities. Also intermediate charging points for redundancy. These should be at bus stops, don’t understand the UK obsession with charging points having to be in bus stations or garages.

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  12. I wonder if these new buses will develop rattles inside within a few weeks of delivery as pretty much every current bus does?

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  13. The latest from the DfT is the BRG is extended to December with a possible extension to March

    No real progress with the £2 fares cap and no funding offers have been made to bus companies yet

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  14. I can’t believe that the rear view mirrors on the Mellor bus will be road-legal. How long will they last before puncturing the back end of the bus in front ?

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  15. Having now seen an internal view of the Irizar, looking at the glazed lower panels, I would think they are an absolute gift to voyeurs. I really can’t see these panels lasting long at all. Didn’t some operators skip glazed staircase panels for the same reason?

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  16. ietram.

    No – the narrow front door will soon get loads of complaints from families with buggies – and also if you have suitcase or other bags or wheeled bags.

    As it has tram in it’s name, does that imply a tram quality ride, ie smooth? No – because of the poor state of the roads so ietram will soon get a bad name.

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  17. Hey Roger, great article.

    Just one thing: it’s Irizar, not Iriza. And judging their history of making buses, the ietram is just another example of the Basques to emphasize form over function, but this time maybe a bit too much.

    Cheers!

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  18. Items 6-9 are particularly interesting. It’s good to see state-of-the-art products that are designed to improve information for passengers. If e-paper displays at bus stops had been around during lockdowns, think how much easier it would have been to keep passengers informed.

    I’ve no doubt that few local authorities will have funds to get any in the short term, but – as Roger says – if the Government chose to fund them it would be a quick win all round.

    Good too to see bus seats improving, even if they make the difference between the seated and the standing even more marked. Standee buses have their uses, but only really for mass movement over short distances. After all, people don’t stand in cars.

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