Arriva Bus & Coach hold Wellingborough Open Day
In recent years the Arriva Bus & Coach dealership has been maintaining a much higher profile than previously, and this is reflected in its growing sales figures with well over 100 DAF/Paccar engined Van Hool integral products to be delivered this year as well as Temsa coaches and MCV and Wright bodied buses on VDL chassis
With a growing customer base, and the desire to better serve those in the south who are furthest from its Cleckheaton headquarters, Arriva has taken on the Wellingborough premises formerly used as a delivery centre by Van Hool, and originally home to the LAG importers, LAG Viewbond who brought the LAG Eos to the market
The new facility is in addition to the Cleckheaton site for which there are further expansion plans
To give customers the opportunity to see the facility, which has been refurbished and re-branded for the role, an open day was held on Wednesday of last week to which an open invitation was extended to operators from throughout the country. Around 80 took them up on it including some who had flown in from Ireland to do so.
Arriva Bus & Coach Managing Director, Steve Hodkinson, confirmed that, ‘with the business growing, the real reason for us being here is that it brings us closer to our customer base in the south of England. To me, customer service is how we differentiate ourselves. We have a cracking product but how we differentiate ourselves is in how we look after our customers; and sometimes you’ve just got to be nearer.’
He continued, ‘Further expansion was not the driver for the move but it will help us to expand the business.’
For those who made the trip to Northamptonshire, there were no speeches and there was no ribbon cutting ceremony but there were plenty of members of the Arriva team to greet them along with stands explaining the varied product areas the company is involved in, the chance to race Arriva liveried radio controlled coaches and a line up of new and used stock to inspect.
Apart from MD, Steve Hodkinson, among those present were Sales Manager, Robert White; Rentals Manager, Steve Fletcher; Service Manager, Stuart Raikes; Assistant Service Manager, Neil Cowdell; Parts Manager, Martin Blakely; Marketing Manager, Laura Finnigan; Quality, Health and Safety Manager, Jackie Burkinshaw; Customer Support Executive, Mark Haley and Area Sales Managers, Jeff Edwards, David Brown and Steven Duffy. Also present was Peter Copperwheat, who has been at the site for many years and transferred from Van Hool when Arriva took on the premises.
Former occupants of the site, Van Hool, who are leasing the facility to Arriva, were represented by a delegation that included Erik Olijslagers, Freddy Dierckx and Daan Peeters.
The building itself has a three bay workshop incorporating a brake testing bay. During the event a set of column lifts within it was occupied by a 2010 MAN engined T915 from the rental fleet that the company is looking at the possibility of re-engining with a Euro5 DAF unit.
One fitter will be permanently based at the depot, in addition to which, one of the fully equipped service vans will be based at Wellingborough. There are now six vans covering the country and demand is so strong that the recently introduced sixth van is also now getting booked up weeks in advance. Coincidentally, the fully equipped van exhibited was the same one displayed at the NEC Show last year.
Steve Fletcher, told me that the intention was to keep a mix of new and used stock at both sites to interest any operators that call in. New right hand drive coaches exhibited were all Paccar/DAF Euro5 powered including: a 51-seat TX15 Alicron for Maynes of Buckie; a TX16 Alicron for Callinans; a stock 13.56m double deck TDX20 Altano with front lounge wheelchair accessibility, a rear kitchen and a number of sleeper seats among the 46 seats on the upper deck; a TX16 Alicron for Mortons with 53/57 seats and a rear toilet (but no luggage allowance in 57 seat mode); and a very highly specified TX16 Acron with 40/44 seats and an unusually well appointed rear kitchen compartment that was handed over to Jay & Kay Coach Tours during the afternoon.
Illustrating the shape of things to come was a left hand drive TX16 Astron equipped with the DAF/Paccar MX13 unit. This was a demonstration coach previously demonstrated at Busworld Kortrijk. Arriva will standardise on the 460hp version of the MX13 for the UK. In Europe, Van Hool has so far delivered 32 Euro6 coaches, though this number will now begin to grow rapidly. The first in the UK will be the 26 Astromega double deckers being delivered to Stagecoach for the Oxford Tube during the third quarter.
Representing the Temsa product was the last new Euro5 Safari HD Stainless Steel available out of the latest batch of ten. Steve Fletcher confirmed that Arriva would be talking to the Temsa factory shortly about Euro6 powered product. I understand that they are likely to discuss the long awaited MD9 midicoach in right hand drive at the same time. Well over 100 Safaris are now on the road in the UK. Steve said of the 12.2m Safari HD, ‘in hindsight we perhaps should have ordered more Euro5 examples. The long term rental deal we offered has proved very popular.’
Sales Manager, Robert White, said, ‘We’ve been very busy. The combination of the DAF engine and ZF EcoLife gearbox whether in the Temsa or the Van Hool makes them so reliable and fuel efficient, hence our investment in further Euro5 Van Hool stock for later in the year.’
Pointing out that over 100 Van Hools had been sold already this year, he said, ‘Two axle TX15 and TX16 Alicrons have been very popular with private operators along with a combination of tri-axle 13m and 14m single decks and a number of TDX21 Altanos which give the added benefit of wheelchair accessibility through the front door.’ Robert confirmed that Eavesway have ordered a Euro6 TDX21 for cruise work that will appear at the NEC show.
From the bus range was an 11.1m VDL SB180 with Euro5 Cummins engine and MCV bodywork seating 39. I understand that the first 12m VDL SB200 Euro5 with MCV body has just been delivered to Richards Brothers of Moylgrove. Arriva also supplies buses with Wrightbus bodies and Claribel will shortly take delivery of a pair of SB200 Pulsars.
Turning to used stock, the varied display included: a 2007 VDL Synergy double decker with a very clean interior seating 83; a former Birmingham International 12m Bova Futura FHD 49 seater taken in against a second wheelchair equipped TX15 Alicron that was being offered at a retail price of £68,000; an 09-plate MAN powered T916 with 53 seats and a centre toilet; an 04-plate Volvo B12 tri-axle with Jonckheere Mistral 70 body retailing at £78,000; a 10-plate Scania Century with side lift; a pair of 05-plate Setra S315GTHDs, one of which had been sold the day previously; and a 2004 Setra S415HD formerly with Impressions of Peterborough who have taken a new TX16. Also shown was a 2006 14m MAN engined Neoplan Skyliner that was handed over to Skyliner Travel during the event.
Displays promoted the various aspects of the business. Talking to Service Manager, Stuart Raikes, he explained that one arm of the service side was the installation of SCRT technology from HJS Emission Technology for which Arriva is the UK installation partner. It has just undertaken 183 conversions on Volvo B7L double deckers for Arriva London with a number to do for Abellio. The equipment, which costs between £12-15,000 per bus, upgrades it from Euro3 to Euro5 standard.
The investment at Wellingborough is only one of the measures Arriva Bus & Coach is taking to develop its ability to serve operators. Steve Hodkinson told me that in addition to the Wellingborough opening, planning permission had been obtained to extend the Cleckheaton site. This had been difficult to accomplish because of its location within the Green Belt. He explained, ‘We have planning permission to extend on to the field next door which we have always owned. It means we will be able to park more vehicles and better cope with the volume of business.’
With a couple of additional acres of ground freed up, it will extend the size of the facility by between 30-40% he estimated. There will be another important benefit too, because at some point in the future the aim is to expand and develop the existing workshop facilities, and this would not have been possible without additional space. Now that the additional land can be utilised, ‘it secures our future in Cleckheaton for many years.’
‘We have no open days planned for Cleckheaton. The priority there is to finalise work for the planning committee. We hope to start work towards the end of the year,’ he said.
Steve Hodkinson said of the event, ‘this is about allowing customers the chance to see where we are. It’s not just an address, it’s a reality. You can see by the turnout that customers have valued the opportunity. The key thing for me is to get close to our customers and keep them happy.’
He concluded, ‘The changeover with Van Hool no longer offering MAN gives us a real opportunity to get out there. More premises, more people: it’s a growth story. A lot of things are fitting into place.’
By Stuart Jones