Thursday 6 February 2014

The power of the refurbishment

My daily commute to University involves a free ride between York’s two campuses, occasionally on First York’s 4, however usually on the Transdev Unibus 44, simply because it drops me off closer to my department. Today was no exception and it was, by chance, one of the more recent additions to the Transdev York fleet that took me (halfway) home. I am referring to one of the ‘Y’ plate Plaxton Presidents, transferred in from Harrogate, mentioned in my last post.

The Presidents have been at York a while now, but today was the first time I've seen one venture onto the 44

As I also mentioned, the two new additions join two sister vehicles, which are part of the branded unibus fleet. Despite being the two oldest members of the 9 strong 44 fleet, they are, in my opinion the most comfortable. They have ample legroom and nicely padded seats. The only drawback is that their interior is a little dated, hardly surprising given their age.

The two former Harrogate Presidents join two Unibus branded sisters at York

I was therefore pleasantly surprised at how modern my offering this evening was in comparison. Unlike its sister vehicles, the Harrogate batch have had a full refurbishment, with new flooring, seat covers, wall panels and repainted grab rails. It looked like a new bus, and was many passengers were commenting on how much nicer this “new” bus was in comparison to the “old” ones (which are the same age if not newer).

Not the best photo (taken quickly on my iPhone) but it does demonstrate the modern looking interior on the refurbished buses

It just goes to show how much of an impact a refurbishment can make to a vehicle. Transdev are clearly good at this, but so are Trent Barton. The people of Hucknall and Belper would no doubt agree to that, as their designated vehicles come out of “dreamworks” (the affectionate nickname given to the Langley Mill refurb centre) looking like they’ve just come out of the box. The buses on Hucknall’s Connect certainly don’t look 14 years old, either on the inside or the outside, but the effort put into rejuvenating the Sixes fleet is like nothing seen before within Trent Barton.

The buses on Hucknall's Connect certainly don't look their 14 years

As well as a refresh to bring the brand in line with the new corporate style, plenty of thought and effort has been put into making the journeys more comfortable and enjoyable. A journey between Derby and Bakewell can take over an hour and a half so comfort is of paramount importance. It’s therefore to see that high backed seats have been retrofitted, alongside more padded bases, as seen on the 2012 Solo SRs and Versas. It’s difficult to describe in words but there is a notable difference in the comfort of these seats compared to those on the i4 Tempos. Free wifi will also allow passengers to keep themselves entertained, although you’d think the breathtaking views of the Peak District along the route would be entertainment enough…

The buses on the Sixes look as good as new inside and out thanks to their refurbishment

Thorough refurbishment is a cost efficient yet effective way of maintain an attractive fleet. Buses do age quickly, they get dirty and the volume of people using them can make the seats fade into nothing. Failing to act on a deteriorating environment inside a bus can lead to passengers being put off their use which can have a long term negative impact. Buses are expensive things to buy, and a good quality refurbishment is far from cheap, but the results are obvious. Neither Transdev nor Trent Barton would be investing the money that they are in refurbishing vehicles if they weren’t seeing results by way of increased passenger numbers and therefore increased profits. Other companies would only benefit if they took a look inside some of their buses, and engaged them in a programme of thorough refurbishment to make them as good as new once again. 

The two York President photos are from Chris whilst the Trent Barton photos are from Matt. The interior pic is mine, though I'm not so worried about anyone nicking that (photography's not my strong point!).

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