This year’s show (still on today) is definitely a little more Lidl than John Lewis, if you know what I mean. It isn’t as opulent as in previous years. It seems smaller, even by biennial Coach & Bus Live standards. Still, it remains a wonderful opportunity to bump into people (and products), those perhaps you only see once a year.
Keeping up the tradition of reports from the show, this blog supplemental will be somewhat different to previous examples.
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For one thing, rather than stretch it out over several instalments, there’s only enough copy for one. For another, I have no photographs. My photographer had technical problems so I’ve had to improvise. Sorry. If we can resolve things, we certainly will. Please check back.
The highlight of the show was on the ADL stand, thanks to the new Plaxton Leopard. Google “Plaxton Leopard” and it’s not surprising you get a lot from the 1960s and 1970s, such was the longevity of this famed body/chassis combination. The names “Plaxton” and “Leopard” go together so very well indeed, even if they seem odd arranged in that order, without the word “Leyland”.
The new 57-seat Leopard was on a B9TL chassis. It had clean lines if a rather upright frontal appearance. It’s a lower cost option and it tends to show it, with a workaday interior and driver cabin. Even the mirrors, these days so often flamboyant, were unassuming, rather like the Leopard/Plaxtons of old, in fact. There’s nought wrong with a basic product, though: perhaps the Leopard is getting back to the basics of coaching. Horses for courses or perhaps that should be cats. It’s very much designed for shorter distances.
Nearby was a relaunched mid-range Plaxton Panther with a distinctive and rather pleasantly revised light cluster. The new interior was far more upmarket than its sister.
In terms of new metal, there wasn’t a lot else to report. Unvi gave us the first UK look at its Tourer GT bodied midicoach, with a distinctive if slightly fussy front.
Wrightbus wasn’t showing in its own right but Nu-track offered a rather interesting Streetlite door-forward conversion, with tracking along the entire length of the low floor section and fixed seating behind the rear steps. It was a kind of a bulbous Optare Alero. It’s difficult to see where Nu-track was heading with this product. Nu-track seems to specialise in minibus conversions with tail lifts for the community transport sector and I wonder what the market is for a full size minibus capable of, what, half a dozen wheelchairs but to rather long and wide proportions. The accessible front entrance rather than tail lift was definitely a plus, though. Sorry, I can find no photo online.
There was nothing particularly new at the Optare stand, either. Two Solo SRs (one of which was a hybrid) and two Versas, including one all electric. No Tempo, though. They said as much that the Tempo was, well, “less popular”. No double deck, either (not that we expected one). And no Metrocity.
This year, there was an area set aside for what the organisers called “the showcase arena”. Here were a dozen assorted vehicles that, on camera, people like Ray Stenning and Roger French picked over. Each vehicle came literally under the spotlight for the duration of the discussion but otherwise, sadly, the whole area was in virtual darkness and you couldn’t step up and touch. Was this a means of using some unbooked space, perhaps?
Finally, in the centre was a rather nice Bedford OB complete with sunroof, windable windows and about 30-ish very comfortable seats. Lovely.