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Metrocentre Bus Rally 2002
View from cab, AEC Regent III

The highlight of this year's rally had to be Doncaster 122, an AEC Regent III from 1951 with a Roe body.

This bus has had a rather chequered past. Originally built as an experiment with Potts Patent Air exchanger and Siddall Moreseats it was fleet number 122 for only four years.

Because of standardisation the Corporation sold it to Blue Ensign where it operated until 1961 when it came head on with a Scammell lorry.

The original bodybuilder restored it and it saw service work in the Doncaster area for a further six years before being sold as a driver trainer.

After 1970 things took a turn for the worse and it languished in the hands of a few enthusiasts and became a rotting hulk by the mid eighties.

The present owner, Tony Peart of Doncaster, has done a grand restoration job and this now sparkling vehicle is a joy to behold. The original body design was far from accessible as there is a mighty step on the platform, but once inside the passenger is treated to original moquette design, spotless floors and those darling little light bulbs offering their warm as toast glow during the evening.

Today the immaculate and spotless engine was on display. The 6 cylinder 9.6 litre unit is so simple compared with today's plumber's nightmares! One little pipe for the fuel, one big one for the air and another for the exhaust, and a couple of push rods for the throttle and engine stop.

This bus gets my vote for best in the show.

AEC Regent III, KDT393 Doncaster Corp
AEC RegalIV, SHN301

Another AEC on show was this Regal IV with 41 seat Burlingham Seagull body from Scotts Greys, a Darlington firm. This 1952 bus is ready for its next tour of the coast; all it lacked was the distinctive white headrest covers and the smartly uniformed driver. This model is powered by an under floor 9.645 litre 6 cylinder engine and has fluid flywheel and preselector transmission and air brakes. This was one of the first types of coach to be built to the then increased maximum of 30 feet (9.23m) length and 8 feet (2.46m) width. Production of this chassis finished in 1955. This well presented bus is owned by Jim Leonard of County Durham.

AEC Regal IV, RSL383

RSL 383 is another Regal IV, this time with a Roe 35 seater body, was built for Dalesman in 1952, and its Clackmannanshire registration suggests that it started life in Scotland, or that it was registered by the bodybuilder. There was no one on hand to give any information and it sported no notices or potted history.

Leyland Tiger PS1, KTJ502, Hasslingdon Corp

This Leyland Tiger PS1/1 with a Burlingham 35 seat bus body, was new in 1947 to Hasslingden Corporation and continued in service until 1963. After a few careful and not so careful owners it is now restored to its original glory. Its 7.4 litre 6 cylinder engine drives through a 4 speed constant mesh box and fully floating rear axle. It has vacuum servo brakes and was a little outmoded and unadventurous, even in the late 40s. Production ceased in 1950 and the newer more powerful PS1/2 had full air brakes and was able to take the larger bodies.

53rd State School Bus

Old Fashioned UK compromise School BusHere are two takes on the future of the school bus. Above is the American bus adapted for the quaint Brits, but still maintaining its knockout gas in the air conditioning and strap in utility seats connected to the 5kV generator underneath (I wish!).

Go-Ahead North East, on the other hand, have decided to snatch this 1983 MCW Metrobus from the breakers balls and give it a makeover. Again, UK operators continue the recent trend of make do and mend to gain public contracts for peppercorn rates. The margins for operating such services must be so meagre when the upkeep of these elderly vehicles is considered.

If safe home to school transport is so important, and the hypocritical premium of words put on the carriage of children were translated into cash then surely only the newest and custom built vehicles like the First Bus example should do.

For so long as the operators in this region continue to allow themselves the strife of tiny margins and unrealistic tender prices the industry will remain in the doldrums and there will be no growth and improvement. The contract won at a wages plus fuel plus five percent means investment lost to the industry as a whole; for ever.

Dennis Dart Mini Pointer NK51MKE

This Dennis Dart with Plaxton mini Pointer body is designed for accessibility both for the passenger and to urban and residential locations. The Sunderland route 136 and its counter circular 135 offer many twists and turns. It is commercial, hence the investment in new vehicles, during the day, but evening and Sunday workings are subsidised. Below the megabucks generated by the Gateshead town centre to Metrocentre shopping complex fast link X66 route justifies this spacious and eye-catching set.

Shopping activity and commercial fares leads to this sort of investment; other but socially necessary services are left to wither from under investment. So now it's official, shopping is more important in the mind of the average transport user than safe home to school transport, despite all the crocodile tears of concern and pleas of pious protection.

Sania Bendibus NK51OLU

Here a 1977 Roe bodied Leyland Atlantean, mainstay of the UK bus fleet for almost thirty years, was saved from the breakers two years ago after a useful life in Ipswich. The new owner has made a few mechanical improvements to a substantially roadworthy bus, and is now offering it for sale. I have seen hulks in much worse condition than this taking our dear kiddies to and from school.

Let us not hope that the future of the bus is in longing for some non existent perfect past period, but to meet today's challenges with truly modern solutions and adequate investment in all sectors.

Leyland Atlatean SDX30R. Ipswich
Up front AEC

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