Vayon, a green technology group specialising in the design and development of electric and hybrid power systems, has bought Ashwoods Energy, the leading supplier of battery management systems and battery pack integration, for an undisclosed sum.It follows Vayon’s purchases of FrostEV Systems, FrostEV Parts, Frost Electronics and Goodwolfe Energy earlier this year.The sale will enable Ashwoods Automotive Ltd to focus on its ambitious growth plans as it looks to expand the company’s electric motors in automotive and off-highway applications and to develop Lightfoot, the company’s in-cab driver efficiency system.Vayon Group Head of Marketing, Phil Gamble, says: â€œAshwoods Energy fits perfectly into the Vayon Group portfolio of companies and strengthens our position as a one-stop-shop consultancy business.â€œWe now have the ability to design, manufacture and integrate complete electric or hybrid power systems all under one roof. Being able to source batteries, chargers, telematics and full system integration from one supplier is very attractive to the OEMs and F1 race teams we work with.â€
One of a so far select band of customers for the i8 integral is Chandlers Coach Travel of Wiltshire, which has taken delivery of an 13.2m example supplied by Irizar UK (01909 500514).The operator placed its order after being impressed with the i8 integral at January’s launch, and it is built to touring specification. The capacity of 46 can be increased to 53 if required, and additional equipment includes a fridge, centre servery and high-capacity water tank.Joining two i6 integrals purchased in 2015, the i8 integral will work Chandlers’ premium tour programme.
The UK’s first Euro 6 articulated buses are now running, thanks to orders from two airport operators.Right-hand drive versions of the latest 18m Citaro G model are now in operation at Gatwick and Bristol airports. Internally, they have luggage racks, along with the trademark floor-to-ceiling ‘wardrobe’ on the rear nearside interior, housing the engine bay.Internally, they have luggage racks, along with the trademark floor-to-ceiling ‘wardrobe’ on the rear nearside interior, housing the engine bayA long-standing customer with an all Mercedes-Benz fleet – having placed its first order in 2007 – Bristol Airport has bought its first two Citaro Gs.In what dealership EvoBus describes as a “landmark order,” Middlesex-based OmniServ has taken delivery of seven three-door Citaro Gs for its Gatwick operation.Specialising in all elements of aviation travel, OmniServ runs services at Heathrow, Gatwick, London City and Southampton airports as well as bespoke mobility services and VIP luxury travel. â€¨Seating 46 with a total capacity of 163 passengers including standees, they are being fully-wrapped in Gatwick Parking livery for car park shuttles. â€¨
Personal Group’s business has morphed from cash plan provider, to benefits provider, to all-round employee services go-to. We speak to the firm about driving employee engagement and happinessFluidity for any company is useful. For a coach or bus operator, being fluid, adaptable, and easy to change has often been the difference between failing and carrying on. It’s a common theme in routeone profile articles: By changing the business model a little, operators have often thrived.Scott Read: ‘Great respect for the knowledge and innovation that comes out of the bus sector’And so it is for Personal Group. Established in the 1980s as a personal insurance provider, this employee benefits business has already changed its model once.And it is currently going through another transformation, morphing from a benefits provider to a more all-round employee services provider. The change is coming rapidly, thanks to both the talent of the company’s in-house software design team – and the innovations and ideas of the bus industry.Hapi platformWith a large purpose-built HQ in Milton Keynes, Personal Group is an impressive business that covers a great range of industries, but it has a specialism in the bus sector, and indeed, most of the major bus operators in the UK use it in one way or another.Championing this specialism within the company is Scott Read, Account Development Director. He explains how the company started in the 1980s; Personal Group was an insurance company offering employee cash plans, and there are still operators that use the company on this basis alone.Over the years, it has branched out to offer a range of benefits alongside its cash plans. These include salary sacrifice schemes for childcare vouchers, cycle-to-work and technology; holiday and leisure discounts; and discounts from an ever-growing list of supermarkets and high street stores.This led to the creation of the ‘Hapi’ platform – an online hub, customised to each operator that uses it, where employees can go to access all the company benefits. Routeone visited Oxford Bus Company last year and saw Hapi in use. As well as the discounts and offers, Personal Group offers employee health checks, debt consolation, and Hapi-Life, a wellbeing and lifestyle service. “Our relationships with different companies allow us to open up different features,” says Scott. And it’s all on a very simple, attractive platform, customised with the operator’s branding.Operators were soon requesting to add all sorts of other services to the Hapi hub, such as their company handbook information, and even a link to routeone magazine. “Oxford Bus Company use Hapi as their corporate intranet. Instead of building an expensive intranet from scratch, we can host all that HR information on Hapi,” says Scott. The beauty is that it can also provide a platform for access to an operator’s existing benefits.New employee servicesThe platform has developed to the extent that Personal Group now offers employee services as well as straight-forward benefits, such as a 24/7 Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which allows staff members to make confidential calls to a helpline for advice and support on any worries – whether they’re work-related, marital, financial or legal.Personal Group’s impressive headquarters are in Milton KeynesA particularly important point is that through Hapi, employees can access the helpline confidentially and in their own time. “For an employee who doesn’t want their colleagues or family to know about an issue they have, they’re more likely to use EAP because they can use it in their own time,” says David Walker, Chief Commercial Officer at Personal Group.He adds: “Because phones are so central to our lives now, employees are much more likely to allow their employers to communicate with them and help them if it’s through their device.”The nature of the bus industry, where workers are dispersed over a wide area, makes that particularly important, and it’s a great opportunity for employers to save money. Instead of posting HR documents to hundreds of drivers’ addresses, for example, documents can be pushed out to employees via Hapi.Personal Group has also worked with operators to streamline simple office procedures that amount to a high and unnecessary cost: For example, by making the switch to e-payslips on Hapi instead of printing and posting them on special paper.‘The last taboos’It is operators that have driven many of the changes. Personal Group has great respect for the knowledge and innovation that comes out of the bus sector, and is planning round-table meetings with several bus MDs to drive further innovation. “Those guys come up with better ideas than we do,” says Scott.Operators have already requested tie-ups with all sorts of staff-related products, from payslips to telematics, and Personal Group continues to grant these requests to become a full employee service provider.“Listening to them has to be at the core of how we engage with employees,” says Scott. “Those operators are looking at it as a holistic way of communicating with their staff. It’s great to see people engaging with it, and asking ‘what can it do for us?’“Technology is the driver. The old world was all about ‘benefits’; buying up things that would benefit the employee. The new world, the technology in particular, allows us to rethink that. And operators are starting to understand the power the technology can offer them.”David returns to the subject of the EAP, using mental health as an example.“One in four people is likely to have a mental health problem of some kind in any one year,” he says. “So of 1,000 employees, 250 will be dealing with something that is potentially distracting them from work during any year. That can lead to increased absenteeism and increased risks of accidents. It may also affect customer service. “The last two workplace taboos are mental health and financial wellbeing. Employees will rarely seek advice from their employer about financial stress, much less emotional stress. But I think we’re breaking that down. There’s a greater understanding of it, and a will to do something about it.”He adds: “Engagement is driven by lots of different things, such as the office environment, the boss, and the quality of catering. We can’t change all of those. But we can offer lots of helpful products and services, and make it easy to access them.”www.personalgroup.com
Durham-based charity Finchale is offering incentives for coach drivers to stop at its café/restaurant, The Kitchen.Coach drivers bringing groups get a free meal and drink (pre-booking required). Incentives for group organisers are also available. Coach parking is free. Call 0191 386 2634 or email [email protected]
Apprentices, drivers, engineers, customer service professionals, managers from Go North East came together recently to celebrate excellence within its 2,100-strong team at its annual Team GNE Awards.Leadership Award winner Shirley Connell, divisional manager- North region receives her trophy from Go North East managing director Kevin CarrRe-launched as the Team GNE Awards to help bring Go North East’svision, beliefs and attitudes to life, the revamped event boasted a stunning new location, at Newcastle’s Crowne Plaza, and more categories were added to the bill to recognise talent throughout the business, with bigger prizes up for grabs at the special celebration – including European mini-cruises, luxury hotel and spa breaks and delicious dining experiences.Go North East also introduced an inclusive peer-to-peer nomination process to empower all team members and divisions spanning the region to get involved. And for the first time, individuals could put themselves forward for an accolade.Beginning the evening’s proceedings, 10 team members from across the company were invited to the stage to honour their high levels of internal customer service.Following this, each of the highly-anticipated winners and runners up for the nine categories were revealed.Team GNE Awards 2017 winners and runners up:Apprentice of the Year:Michael Ord, Gateshead Riverside – winnerZoe Gibbons, Bensham – runner upEngineer of the Year:Barry Coates, Saltmeadows Road – winnerDuncan Graham, Percy Main – runner upDriver of the Year:Iain Graham, Deptford – winnerLyndsey Fenwick, Gateshead Riverside – runner upCharity Star:Ian Proud, Gateshead Riverside – winnerGraeme Bradley, Gateshead Riverside – runner upExcellence in Customer Service:Carl Wood, Chester-le-Street – winnerPeter Dobson, Washington – runner upDennis Crighton, Chester-le-Street – special commendationTeam GNE Star:Emilia Fengriffin, Saltmeadows Road – winnerDaniel Graham, Bensham – runner upLeadership Award:Shirley Connell, Gateshead Riverside – winnerJohn Newton, Chester-le-Street – runner upTeam of the Year:Q3 driving team – winner Saltmeadows Road Body Shop – runner upTicketer project team – highly commendedDepot of the Year:Washington depot – winner Hexham depot – runner upInternal customer service:Alison Tindle, BenshamArek Zuzak, Gateshead Riverside Ben Lowery, BenshamChris Green, Gateshead Riverside Chris Stewart, BenshamGraham Hill, BenshamKatie Chapman, Deptford Michael Rich, Gateshead RiversidePaul Duff, Gateshead RiversideStephanie Bell, Bensham
Two of the new vehicles are Turas 700 models; the other is a Turas 500Kennedy Coaches of Tralee, Co Kerry, has taken delivery of three new small coaches from the Turas range, supplied by Brian Noone (0333 880 3782).One is a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with coachbuilt Turas 500 bodywork, while two are Iveco Dailys with Turas 700 bodies. Of those, one is a VIP model that comes with a host of extras to suit Kennedy’s work for golfing clients.Golf tours is one of the areas that the operator specialises in. Another is VIP work, and the new vehicles join a fleet that is modern by necessity to meet the requirements of those hirers.All three Turases are finished in a metallic blue livery and they join a line-up that extends from cars to 53-seat touring coaches.
New electric buses will be introduced to Coventry and Derby, following investment secured from the Department for Transport’s Ultra-Low Emission Bus scheme.A total of 10 electric buses will be joining the National Express Coventry fleet thanks to £2.2m of funding, while Trentbarton’s £1.5m will go towards eight battery-powered buses.Cllr Jim O’Boyle from Coventry City Council says: “A key part of Coventry’s air quality plan is to reduce vehicle emissions, and that’s why it’s such good news that we have secured this funding to help improve our bus fleet emission standards.”Jeff Counsell, Trentbarton MD, adds: “Reducing emissions caused by congestion in Derby is going to require significant and joined-up action by a wide range of organisations, including public transport providers.“Trentbarton is committed to playing its part by consistently investing in the newest and cleanest buses.”The funding is part of a national £48m investment that has been awarded to 19 local authorities and bus operators in England and Wales.
The Scottish Government is to allocate over £500m to improving bus priority. It is part of “a step change in investment” to tackle the impact of congestion on services and patronage levels.It will also next year start work on designing a scheme to reallocate road space to high occupancy vehicles. Buses will be in scope and it will apply on parts of the motorway network around Glasgow.The news has been announced in a report, Protecting Scotland’s Future. In it, the Scottish Government acknowledges that most public transport trips in Scotland are made by bus.Zero-emission aspirationThe also outlines an aspiration to having “a world-leading zero-emission fleet” of buses but accepts that doing so will require creative action.Because of that, it is set to work with the Scottish National Investment Bank, the bus sector and potential investors to explore potential for new forms of “patient and innovative” funding. That will accelerate the deployment of zero-emission buses across Scotland.The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has welcomed the announcement. CPT Scotland Director Paul White says that operators are committed to working in partnership with local authorities to deliver an attractive, modern and green bus network for Scotland.“Every £1 invested in bus priority can generate up to eight times that amount in wider economic, social and environmental benefits. Investment in buses is an investment in Scotland’s future. It is fantastic to see buses at the heart of the Scottish Government agenda.”He adds that bus operators in Scotland have invested £250m on new vehicles over the past five years.‘England and Wales must follow suit’CPT Chief Executive Graham Vidler has called on governments in Westminster and Cardiff to follow Scotland’s example. They should show “similar leadership” by committing long-term funding to tackle congestion, he says.“Investment in bus infrastructure will facilitate the achievement of climate change targets, improve air quality and grow our economy. It’s time to follow Scotland’s lead.”The report also says that plans are progressing to introduce Low Emission Zones (LEZs) in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh by next year.In the longer term, the Scottish Government is looking towards making a shift to what it describes as zero- or low-emission city centres by 2030. To do that, it will engage extensively with “key sectors,” including the bus industry.
National Express West Midlands (NXWM) is to operate the Sprint bus rapid transit (BRT) service between Walsall and Solihull via Birmingham city centre from May 2022. It will initially use a fleet of zero-emission double-deckers. Those vehicles will include the 20 hydrogen fuel cell-electric Wrightbus StreetDeck FCEV examples ordered by Birmingham City Council in 2020.All the double-deckers used will be to NXWM’s Platinum specification. Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is now working with NXWM to confirm plans to introduce zero-emission “tram-style” articulated buses to the service during 2023, it says.Proposals for the wider Sprint BRT network – which in the longer term is planned to encompass seven routes – have long envisaged the use of air-conditioned articulated buses. TfWM says that such vehicles have been well received on BRT services elsewhere in mainland Europe and the UK.The Sprint corridor will be covered by an enhanced partnership scheme. That will set minimum standards for all bus services along the route. Sprint will utilise bus lanes and priority measures to benefit journey times. 75 high-quality shelters form part of the construction process.NXWM Managing Director David Bradford recently told the CPT UK Bus and Coach Conference that he wants to see the operator running 500 zero-emission buses when the Commonwealth Games come to Birmingham in July 2022. It has already introduced 29 BYD ADL Enviro400EV battery-electric double-deckers.