Green Arrow targets Blackpool Rally

Lothian chose the eve of the UK Coach Rally to demonstrate its new interurban coaches from ADL Plaxton to the press. David Cole joined them on the road to Fleetwood

As previewed in last week’s issue, two of the eight new Volvo B8R based Plaxton Leopard Interurban coaches ordered by Lothian were brought to Blackpool for demonstration purposes with one taking its place within ADL’s three vehicle display on the Promenade. The second vehicle was used for a press road run and demonstration of the vehicles’ innovative features developed through collaboration between the operator, the Lothian Country Buses subsidiary of Lothian and manufacturer ADL Plaxton.

The 12.8m vehicles have 49 moquette trimmed fixed Brusa coach seats together with a wheelchair space. The same material is also used to trim the underside of the luggage racks adding to the range of measures aimed to offer passengers a comfortable and quiet ride. The wood effect floor incorporates gangway and step-edge lighting. A Hanover Displays system with two monitors provides audible and visual journey and next stop information. Simple but effective is the addition of an in-cab sunshield for the driver’s offside mirror.

Innovation has been particularly focused on the entry and exit arrangements of the vehicle. In the front entrance area, the dash moulding has been significantly revised to incorporate the exact fare box, ticket machine base and radio system required by Lothian without these items appearing to be ‘add-ons’ as is often the case with coach designs adapted for interurban work.

Still a new concept for the UK although common on high floor interurban vehicles in Europe, the vehicle has a centre exit with a two-piece Tamware plug door and a PLS lift integrated into the five shallow step stairway. The onboard location of the lift, accessible for maintenance from the offside locker opposite the exit, will minimise its exposure to dirt and water ingress.

Describing them as “a true dual-purpose coach,” Lothian MD, Richard Hall, spoke of their planned use on yet-to-be-revealed limited stop interurban routes from Edinburgh where customer service will be a priority. He added: “We want the driver to communicate with mobility impaired persons boarding the bus.” The interaction includes the wheelchair lift being operated externally and the use of lockers on the nearside equipped with parallel lift doors to allow stowage of buggies and other bulky luggage at the kerbside. The vehicles will also be available for private hire when the opportunity arises and, should they be required for a different role in the future, they can be readily up-seated.

ADL Chief Executive, Colin Robertson, praised the collaborative working with operators that has set the Plaxton product firmly at the quality end of the commuter coach sector and confirmed that the innovations developed with Lothian would be available to other operators if requested.

Partnership working between Lothian and ADL has already delivered the Volvo B11R Plaxton Panther coaches for Lothian Motorcoaches (with a repeat order participating in the 2019 UK Coach Rally) and the Enviro 400XLB 100 seat double-deckers. Feedback on the latter has been positive from bus users and non-users alike with initial results showing that patronage is growing on the first route that they have been introduced to.

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