When I received this notification in my inbox, on Tuesday, I was tempted to think it was a delayed April fool. But it wasn’t. Arriva’s announcement of new buses may pale in comparison to First’s and Stagecoach’s but it does include a significant number of ADL Enviro200s that are said to use an innovative approach to reduce fuel consumption. This is what is termed a “revolutionary new automated manual transmission” and it is this that could be an April fool.
Automated manual? A contradiction in terms? Regular readers will have gathered that I’m no engineer but I am told an automated manual transmission is basically an update of the clutchless semi-automatic boxes introduced in the 1960s on the likes of the Leyland Leopard, Atlantean, Daimler Fleetline, Bristol VR and the famed Bristol RE. Will drivers therefore have to go back to a stick shift? I doubt it, not in the old sense. I bet this new technology comes with paddles but will drivers have to re-learn the art of the gear change? Perhaps this will lead to a smoother ride for passengers as well as a 13 per cent saving on fuel.
We’re in the season of Lent at the moment. These days, few bother but I often used to wonder whether the most usual foodstuffs given up for Lent—chocolate, chocolate biscuits and cake—actually dented manufacturers’ or supermarkets’ profits. Nowadays, probably not. In terms of chocolate, the food processing industry certainly makes up for things 40 days after, on Easter Day (or Easter Sunday, as is now the vogue). Break out the Easter eggs.
But there are more eggs consumed at one other time of the year. Real eggs, that is. The egg trade really has to gear up for a peak demand during the run-up to Shrove Tuesday (marketed these days as Pancake Day), the start of Lent. Basically, at all other times of the year, hens are over-producing by 20 per cent just to ensure that the Shrove Tuesday demand is met. This is because hens cannot work overtime and their output cannot be stored long-term. But at the start of Lent, Shrove Tuesday, every egg possible goes on sale, for pancakes.
It rather reminded me of parallels within the bus and express coach industry in our own daily and seasonal peak demand.
There’s an alternative to giving up things for Lent and that’s the participation in Christian Aid’s “Count Your Blessings”, when participants are encouraged to think about certain issues and then make a modest donation. On March 17th, Christian Aid told us that 115 million children are involved in hazardous labour. Participants were then asked to give 50p for every job where they felt safe.
This got me thinking. Looking back at the start of my career and there were no PPE & de rigueur hi-vis jackets, no warning sings, no yellow depot floor markings to segregate pedestrians from moving vehicles, no physical barriers, no separate entrances, no flashing beacons. In fact, the phrases “risk assessment” and “safe systems of work” were never uttered. The Health and Safety Act was introduced in 1974 but it was 20 years later that we realised its existence.
Yet, I’ve felt safe in every job I’ve done. Physically safe from harm, that is. However, where I haven’t always felt safe was sometimes in terms of other more ethereal hazards, such as restructures, regime changes and the like. I can remember some jobs that came with large slices of corporate paranoia, uncertainty or insecurity.
Manufacturer ADL has fallen foul of the Health & Safety Executive recently after a worker fell from a gantry while working on a double deck bus. The gantry was inadequately guarded and ADL had to pay over £30,000 in fines & costs. Said the HSE, “Work at height is inherently fraught with risk and falls remain the single biggest cause of deaths and serious injury.”
On the road, there are those sharply angled, straight steps to tumble down, should the driver need to brake sharply. No more slightly curved stair wells that used to prevent the worst excesses of a tumble. Arriva’s order is for 40 ADL E200s with the revolutionary automatic manual boxes; nearly 100 Wrightbus Streetlite Micro Hydrids, delivering similar fuel savings; five Optare Versas… and 94 ADL E400 deckers.