30 brand new buses have relaunched Transdev’s flagship route through the heart of Burnley & Pendle.
Yes, you read that correctly. 30 new buses have exploded onto the scene in Lancashire. In one swoop, Transdev Blazefield has replaced an entire fleet with a brand new one. Overnight.
The new vehicles, built in the North of England by Optare at its plant in Sherburn-in-Elmet, represent a £4.6 million investment in new buses for Lancashire. It’s the biggest single investment there’s ever been in buses for the region.
The buses were launched on Sunday 23 July at The Big Burnley Bus Bash, a charity open day at Transdev’s depot on Queensgate in Burnley, entering service on the same day.
As you’d expect after such splashing out, these are no ordinary buses. In fact, they’re like no other Optare Versas you’ve ever seen.
Mechanically, the buses are almost identical to similar batches for Transdev’s fleets in Blackburn and Keighley – 11.7metre, 6 cylinder Cummins-engined examples. But these particular buses feature some striking new features, the like of which have never been seen before on a single decker for the UK.
Inside, there’s that crisp Blazefield designer interior, filled with signature couture touches (more about those later). There’s USB charging at every seat, 4G WiFi, and wireless charging pads on mini tables.
Ultra-blingy roofline LED light strips illuminate the atmosphere around them in a range of vibrant hues. There’s more lighting at the front, with ‘Pimp My Ride‘ style fleetnames picked out in crystal white along the nose. And of course, that seductive body shape of the Optare Versa itself, still as fresh and futuristic as it was when it was launched over 10 years ago.
The brand itself has been refreshed, too. Mainline feels more grown up, more refined, crisper than ever. Mainline of old was bold, brash, a bit of a blunt instrument. Those multi-coloured destination screens of yore have given way to a Mainline much more sure of itself. It’s come of age.
Make My Mainline
The new buses for Mainline are a result of perhaps the farthest-reaching customer research programme the UK bus industry has ever seen. Transdev set out to find out exactly what customers wanted to see on their new buses in December 2016, with the launch of its Make My Mainline research programme.
Hundreds of customers were surveyed, with questions ranging from those about their daily travel habits, to “what do you think buses will look like in the year 3,000?”.
At the time, Transdev Blazefield’s CEO, Alex Hornby, said; “No car manufacturer would design a new car without thinking long and hard about the features most likely to attract buyers, so why would we design our new buses without capturing the views of our customers?”.
But what exactly did customers want in the end? Flying hoverbuses, capable of cruising at Warp 5? Hyperloop technology? Personal transporters, à la the USS Enterprise?
Erm…no, actually. In fact, it turned out that what the customers simply wanted were the basics. A bigger bin. More legroom. USB power to keep them juiced up on the move (see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, 2017). All things which, to be fair, shouldn’t be difficult for the major bus manufacturers to crack in this day and age.
Mainline’s entry into the world hasn’t been what you’d call ‘quiet’.
Make My Mainline was followed by a teaser campaign on social and in print media, with newspaper wraps and flyers offering customers a tantalising look at their future Mainline. Press and launch photography took place at Turf Moor, the home of Burnley FC, where ten of the new buses were brought together by a team of Mainline drivers and staff, photographed from a 50ft high cherry picker. Rather the photographer than me or you, but it certainly makes for spectacular photos.
Alongside the teaser campaign ran a search to find the next ‘Voice of Mainline’, a friendly, local voice to announce the next stops onboard. A small touch, but one which customers requested over and over again during the Make My Mainline research campaign.
Speaking of small touches – it’s the detail which counts.
Couture, as Ray Stenning of Best Impressions would say.
Mainline is full of these delightful little touches. Tiny, bespoke tags peek tastefully from the edges of the seats, which in turn are draped with a bespoke designer moquette which just keeps on giving. Seriously, look at it. Now, look at it again. We guarantee you’ll spot something new.
Smoked double glazing ensures customers don’t bake when the sun shines, and that the windows don’t steam up when it’s raining – which it does, in Burnley. A lot. Three extra panes of glass are embedded into the ceiling, making the modified Versa possibly one of the airiest, brightest single deckers on the market today – even when the sun isn’t shining.
It’s not just the exterior glasswork which creates that airy feel. The traditional smoked glass pillar behind the driver has been replaced with a clear glass screen. More of the road ahead can be seen from inside the bus, as well as the driver themselves. There’s no bulletproof assault screen, either, and friendly faces of Mainline drivers adorn the cove panels, leading to that fuzzy feeling of being closer than ever to the person behind the wheel.
Oh, and don’t forget the flags, adorning the wing mirrors of each vehicle. Those flags! Have flags ever been seen on buses in the UK before?
Mainline is more refined than ever before. Blazefield’s now-signature rhombuses, first seen on the 36 in Harrogate, have been thinned and elongated horizontally, creating an atmosphere of sweeping style and elegance. It’s hard not to be taken aback by those fiery reds and oranges, which are so stark in contrast to anything else running around in Lancashire at the moment. Combined with that bodywork, it’s clear what these buses have been designed to do.
They exist to turn heads. They exist to turn motorists into customers.
What do you think about the all new Mainline? Let us know in the comments, or drop us a tweet: @transportdsn.
Image credits: The Burnley Bus Company