CPT Ride & Drive – a good time had by all
B&CB’s Stuart Jones reports from CPT’s Ride & Drive event at North Weald Aerodrome
CPT London and South East has been staging Ride & Drive events at the North Weald Aerodrome near Harlow since 2012 and, after an absence in 2022, this year the invitation was opened up to all CPT members and moved to Monday evening rather than the previous Friday evening spot. Despite grey skies overhead, the weather held off throughout and did not appear to have in any way deterred the 150 or so visitors that had signed up beforehand, many of them travelling considerable distances to participate.
On his first visit to North Weald, I talked to CPT CEO, Graham Vidler, after joining him on his first spell behind the wheel of anything larger
than a family car, an experience he clearly enjoyed. Asked whether he was keen to see CPT stage more such events he said, ‘bring it on.’ Praising the team that had made it happen, he said CPT was ‘looking for venues to bring the same benefits to members located further north’.
He revealed that CPT was growing more this year than it had for some years and he wanted to build on that, though he didn’t want to concentrate on it at the expense of existing members. He claimed that CPT membership was currently in the high 800s. This was not a constant number because mergers often meant that you lost a couple of members but retained the number of vehicles. “We now represent more vehicles than we have in a decade,” he said.
There were fewer vehicles made available than at some previous events but there was nevertheless a good selection to experience including coaches, buses, minis and midis, among them two electrics.
EVM had the biggest representation with no less than four vehicles, all of them very different. From the AOS brand of Anodolu Isuzu came the 9.66m Visigo with Cummins 6.7-litre engine, ZF gearbox and 39 Sege seats priced at £165,000 in the colours of C&S Executive Travel. It was this coach that Graham Vidler had driven earlier, praising the turning circle by comparing it with a London taxi. Also from AOS was the 8.5m Grand Toro with 37 Sege seats, Allison transmission and 4.5-litre Cummins engine priced at £140,000. This was from the Godiva fleet.
Featuring 16 leather seats, four tables and a courier seat was a Grand Tourer-mounted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter bodied by Carbus. The final EVM offering was an E-Cityline LW from the Altas range mounted on an extended 5025mm wheelbase Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis equipped with the Elinta electric driveline with a 150kW motor and 115kW/h NMC batteries. Supplied through Dawsonrentals, this bus was destined for Edinburgh Airport and was equipped with 14 seats and a large floor-mounted luggage rack. I took the Cityline round the test track and was impressed with its quietness, response and smoothness. Regenerative braking kicks in with even light braking and heavier braking gives up to 45kW/h of recouperation. Prices for an 18-seater are from £235,000 plus VAT.
Dawsonrentals also displayed a white 21-plate 13.1m two-axle Mercedes-Benz Tourismo in their own right, and several members of the team were present to discuss their offering with potential customers.
Another Tourismo, this time a new Access PSVAR-equipped example featuring 53 seats and a toilet, the OM936 7.7-litre engine and Daimler Powershift transmission was shown by the manufacturer. It is scheduled to enter service with P&O Lloyd on 1 September. There are a couple of differences between the Access launch models and the latest specification including new front light clusters and a new Infotainment touch-screen media system taken from the Setra range. Demand for the Tourismo is currently so considerable that availability is from October 2024.
Volvo not only arranged for the BZL electric single deck demonstrator with 200kW motor to be present but also a 10.8m fully-seat-belted
B8RLE MCV EvoRa recently delivered to Dews Coaches at Somersham. The MCV bodied BZL was the prototype which featured in last year’s Bus Euro Test in Limerick and featured four battery packs, though five is possible. The electric was smooth and regenerated efficiently though the video mirrors took a little acclimatisation. I don’t remember driving the shorter B8R before and I was surprised just how good it was to drive, very easy and responsive and also quiet with a solid feel. Volvo did not show any coaches but I was told that there is stock of both the 10m Sunsundegui SC5 and the MCV EvoTor coming through, both on the B8R chassis.
Jones Coach & Bus offers the Turas range of midicoaches and had brought a 9.167m long Turas 900S on a DAF LF210 chassis over from Wales for the evening. Well appointed with 33 seats and the ZF eight speed automated transmission, it drove well. As well as the 33-seater a 9590mm 37-seat version is offered on the DAF with availability from the end of the year.
All of the buses and coaches were kept busy from start to finish, with manufacturers clearly very pleased with both the level of interest and the caliber of visitors. There might well have been more vehicles present were it not for the current paucity of available new stock.
Catering is always crucial at outdoor events and this year’s eats were widely thought to have been the best yet. It was excellently handled by local company, Biryani Boy, with drinks supplied through the hospitality unit of PSV Transport Systems who were promoting their Fogmaker, J.L.Lewis Auto Electrical and PSV Ramps brands. And yes, you can get a Fogmaker system for an electric bus.
I spoke to a number of the many operators there and they were unanimously positive about the event, though some would have liked to be able to sample a few more buses and coaches. It was the same story with the manufacturers, who would have liked to have had more vehicles available to show, so everyone was happy.
With the recent cancellation of a major industry trade show, one operator suggested to me that this type of event was the way forward. There may well be something in this view, especially if its success encourages more vehicle suppliers to participate. Finding other suitable sites, weather dependency and manufacturer’s ability to control their customer experience are among the issues here, but on the basis of last Monday evening in North Weald, there is much to recommend it and the CPT team and their supplier members did a fine job in staging it. Plans are underway for a return to North Weald in 2024 and organisers Karen Tiley, CPT’s Regional Manager for London & the South East and East Midlands and Robert Lodge, Director of Lodge Coaches, were already busily discussing potential improvements when I left them shortly after 9pm.
Speaking the following day to Karen, who is celebrating 25 years with CPT this year, she said that discussions about the date for 2024 were scheduled for the following week. She also revealed that a smaller scale event in conjunction with the annual dinner in the North East was likely to be held in March 2024.