Coaches to the fore at Blackpool rally

This year’s UK Coach Rally, organised by Coach Displays, was, as usual, a great opportunity to catch up with industry folk. Blessed by reasonable seaside weather once again, the event continues to be a valued and much respected fixture in the annual calendar.

The winning Van Hool Altano was impressive, as you would expect of a Go G VIP team coach, and the array of new, nearly new and well-loved older vehicles provided plenty for operators and passers-by to admire.

One conversation I had repeatedly with entrants and trade exhibitors concerned some of the older vehicles on display. Would the modern coaches on sale today still be going strong at the ripe old ages of some of the entrants here? [And I am just talking about the coaches, not the operators or drivers.]

Passengers on the occasional private hire outings for any of the four Plaxton Supremes on show at the rally would not feel at all hard done by for a ride in these 40-year-old coaches, on show from Bibbys of Ingleton, Gibbons Coach Holidays, Johnson Bros Tours and Sharpes of Nottingham.

Of course, there are always those who are quick to damn particular modern brands as very unlikely to stand the test of time, but this question is not just about the build quality, it is also very much to do with how well-conceived the original designs prove to be, and the changing standards and expectations.

It might be unkind to point out that there are plenty of Euro 5 coaches sitting in dealers’ yards that could be candidates for the 100th UK Coach Rally in 35 years time, if they last that long.

Finally, one intriguing feature of this year’s event was the sight of someone better known as a busman winning the Director’s Challenge. Go North East MD Martijn Gilbert driving an East Yorkshire Coaches vehicle was, according to well informed sources, very, very keen to take home this trophy. However, the wag who suggested that Martijn had a private replica of the course constructed to practice on in the weeks leading up to the event is probably pulling my leg …

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