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Saturday, 8 October 2011

Show Time

This is the start of some catch-ups - sorry for so little activity recently.

It is show season with the American Passenger Transportation Association event in New Orleans and Coach & Bus Live at NEC Birmingham both this week and only 12 days before Busworld at Kortrijt.

These events very much demonstrate the temperature of the industry's economy and in the case of the UK Show the first thing obvious to visitors was that on the very long walk from the airport/station apart from the Horse of the Year Show there were absolutely no other events going on at NEC. Mile after mile of empty exhibition areas until you arrive at Hall 17, home of Coach & Bus Live which itself only occupied two-thirds of the available space.
Although there is a UK Show every year they alternate between this rather smaller one and a bigger event in even years. Although Volvo and ADL had their own large stands there were relatively few other major manufacturers - King Long, BMC and some others but generally rather thin.

It is not surprising. Despite the very thin times being experienced by NEC the cost of taking the hall is still expensive and the cost of having a stand and manning it easily runs into six figures. More than one manufacturer expresses the view that for the money they could take their best and/or most promising customers to an idyllic island paradise for a long weekend and have their exclusive attention. In contrast those same customers step off one stand duly fed and watered and go straight to a competitor's.

The bulk of these Shows is increasingly taken up by the supporting manufacturers of components, materials and services and perhaps the most interesting continues to be those promoting the benefits of new technology. Some of the more far-thinking operators were clearly engaged in opportunities for improved efficiency and reduced costs by engaging with them.

I had one commitment myself which was to be part of the presentation in the Show's auditorium for operators to learn about the Olympic Games and how it affects London and the other venues.

This took place in an open seated area in the middle of the Show. With a headset microphone to help beat the background noise of the whole event and people coming and going throughout it felt like I was demonstrating a new foot bath in a department store but it was good to see so many coach operators eager to learn about the business opportunities which the Games will bring, as well as the making sure they were prepared for the changes to the way the road network will operate.

A First Wrights-bodied Volvo was on display demonstrating the quality of external refurbishments being undertaken, and in the moments before opening TfL Roundels were being applied.

A nostalgic line-up of AA road vehicles past and present
was an interesting feature of this year's show