Sunday, 9 April 2017

New buses for independent bus companies and the closure of Epsom Coaches

In this article, I will be relaying articles from Route-One and Alexander Dennis regarding new bus purchases and deliveries made by the independent bus companies in Britain. I’m not referring to the Big 5 bus companies which are Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead Group, National Express Group and Stagecoach Group.

First off, ‘Borders Buses’ has invested £3.5 million for 30 new vehicles after they took over the First Scotland East operations in the Scottish Borders.

From Route-One

Borders Buses Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of West Coast Motors (WCM), is investing £3.5m in 30 new vehicles, customer real time information and ticketing systems.

It took over First Scotland East’s operations in the Scottish Borders on Sunday (26 March).

The acquisition involved the transfer of 116 employees based at Galashiels depot, Hawick, Peebles and Kelso outstations.

All services operated by First Borders have been maintained on a like for like basis by Borders Buses.

The new vehicles include Alexander Dennis double and single-deckers along with Optare MetroCity single deckers. Some have already entered service.

Borders Buses will be red and cream, like its WCM parent, but during the transition a range of vehicles, including buses hired from First and unbranded new vehicles will operate the routes.

WCM MD Colin Craig, says: “Our investment is a clear demonstration of our on-going commitment to the Borders and beyond.

“While exciting, it’s important to add we do not underestimate the challenges which lie ahead.

“The Borders Railway has had a significant impact on the local bus network, but represents an opportunity for local bus services to be adapted to complement and enhance the public transport network in and around the Scottish Borders.”

Compass Travel have purchased four new Enviro200 midi buses and added them to their fleet.

Compass Travel has added another four Enviro200 midi buses to its fleet of over 70 vehicles operating in Brighton and Hove, West Sussex, East Sussex and Surrey.

All four of the new buses are 9.6m 33-seat models powered by Euro 5 Cummins ISBe engines with Allison S2100 gearboxes and are fitted with CCTV camera systems.

Malcolm Gallichan, Engineering Director commented: “The Enviro200 works well in our fleet and along with other Alexander Dennis models, such as the Enviro300, forms the mainstay of our operations in places such as Guildford, Redhill, Reigate, Chichester, Arundel, Bognor Regis, Lewes, Hayward Heath, Worthing, Eastbourne and Brighton.”

He added: “As a business we have to service both rural and busy inner-city routes and the various Enviro200 model lengths, coupled with the Enviro300 range, gives us a good mix that covers virtually every requirement.”

Another independent bus company ‘Hatton’s Travel’ has purchased two new Enviro200’s as part of their new route contract.

Hatton’s Travel, the St. Helens based bus and coach operation has introduced two new Enviro200s to routes won recently in the Wigan area.

The business, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, goes from strength to strength with a fleet of 20 buses, which are predominantly Alexander Dennis models, supporting service routes in St. Helens, Widnes, Blackbrook, Prescot, Eccleston, Gillars Green, Bold Heath, Lingley Green, Newton-le-Willows, Kirkby and Wigan.

In addition, Hatton’s Travel also operates 10 coaches providing private hire, day trip and holiday options.

Company director Brian Hatton commented: “We are a family-run business that aims to build on our reputation for class-leading service and delivering exactly what we promise. That applies to both our coach business and our ever-expanding bus services, which now include the St. Helens Circular and a dozen other high volume routes across the region.

“Alexander Dennis Limited has been an impressive ally, supporting us over many years with both midi and long wheel-base single decks. We find the Enviro200 particularly adaptable for rural, town and inner-city operations. The manoeuvrability is excellent, as is the fuel economy and overall performance. It is also a stylish vehicle that both drivers and passengers find appealing.”

The new ADL buses are 8.9m 29-seat Euro5 Enviro200s with Cummins ISBe 140PS engines and Allison S2100 gear boxes.

Next up we have news that the deliveries for the two-axle version of the BCI Enterprise buses has arrived at Ensignbus Purfleet (PT) depot.

From Route-One

The first 12 two-axle versions of Ensignbus’ Enterprise ‘deckers have arrived in the UK.

Built by Australian manufacturer BCI at its Chinese assembly plant and shipped complete, they follow the 98-seat tri-axle version that debuted last summer with the Purfleet, Essex-based dealer and operator.

Offloaded at Southampton Docks, they are now at Purfleet awaiting certification. At 10.8m and seating 81, Ensignbus will use 10 on its in-house commercial bus operations, while one has been sold to Aintree Coachline, which also took a tri-axle BCI last September.

All have Euro 6 Cummins engines and ZF six-speed EcoLife automatic gearboxes.

One of the batch will be a demonstrator after having a number of yet to be decided additions, Ensignbus boss Peter Newman tells routeone. Pricing has yet to be revealed, but will be “very competitive” he says.

Epsom Coaches will cease their coach operation after 97 years in service! The bus operation ‘Quality Line’ will continue operating bus services as the company is owned by RATP-Dev.

From Route-One

Epsom Coaches is to close its doors on 25 June, after 97 years trading.

At the same time its MD, Steve Whiteway, will retire after 37 years in the business.

It will also mark the end of the famous red and cream livery.

The move, by owners RATP Dev UK, comes as a surprise as the coach division, comprising around 10 vehicles, remains operationally high-quality and profitable.

It marks a change of heart by the Paris-headquartered firm, which is concentrating on its London bus business through its three subsidiaries London United, London Sovereign and Quality Line (the bus arm of Epsom Coaches).

The business, HR Richmond Ltd, will be renamed at Companies House as Quality Line, and the TfL bus and contracted operations, which include National Express, Epsom & St Helier NHS and Atkins among many other local bodies, will continue from the Epsom, Surrey HQ.

There will be a small number of redundancies in administration and finance roles, along with the loss of 10 coaches that currently run private hire and holidays.

With this change, all of Quality Line’s operations will be brought under direct management of RATP Dev London.

It means RATP Dev will have a single interface with TfL to cover contract and account management, tendering and business development and will also deploy best practice across all 10 of its London bus garages.

RATP Dev London operates 11.5% of all buses in the capital and employs almost 3,400 staff in its three operating companies.

Says Tim Jackson, CEO of RATP Dev UK: “In an increasingly competitive market, I’m confident that the closer integration of Quality Line into the RATP Dev London operation will enhance the company’s competitiveness and create opportunity to develop it further.”

Says Mr Whiteway: “I have always tried to ensure that Epsom Coaches is very part of the community it has served since 1920, actively supporting so many events, both in cash and kind over the years, which I will certainly miss as I know will my staff, most of whom will retain a role within the new company structure.”

Quality Line operates London Bus routes 404, 406, 411, 413, 418, 463, 465, 467, 470, K5, S1 and S3. The X26 contract will be passed over to Go-Ahead Metrobus on 15th April 2017 using their existing double deck buses.

Lastly, some London Bus news updates from LOTS.

From LOTS:

1) Saturday 8th, and the planned changes to 26/100/388 and 207/427  duly took effect.  The 427 (now Abellio) and the 388 (CTPlus) now have new E40Hs in use.  Delivery has commenced early of Metroline’s VWHs ordered for routes 17, 120, 260 and 302 from June.  The Original Sightseeing Tour in London  has received four more Ayats Bravo open-top double-deckers.   Metrobus will shortly take two more Volvo B8RLEs for Fastway expansion – these instead of the two extra StreetLites erroneously reported in the March TLB.

2) From Tuesday 4th April, bus routes of Amber Coaches in Thurrock were passed to other operators on emergency contracts until they can be re-tendered.   Route 11 and 374 are being operated by Ensignbus for Thurrock Council and the 269 by Nelsons (Amber’s parent company) for Essex County Council.

3) RATP-DEV has announced that from 26th June the Epsom Coaches Group will be controlled more closely in conjunction with London United.  The Quality Line TfL services and local routes in Surrey all based at Epsom should continue unchanged but the group’s coach tours and holidays business is to be closed down after many decades. It is expected that the United  Motorcoaches operation will also close down, although the Kingston University contract services will transfer to Epsom Garage.

As my regular readers will know, you can follow me on Twitter and Google Plus which is @CLondoner92

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