30 June 2010

Climate Control

Contributing writer 'CW' offers his thoughts on how the bus and coach industry could benefit from the more widespread fitment of climate control to its fleet, despite the number of hot days per annum here in the UK being minimal.

The recent heat wave that residents of most of the UK have been experiencing has made travelling by public transport very tiresome. When the air temperature reaches 30 centigrade, that found within the confines of a double-decker bus or tram, for example, is always higher. Much higher.

The response often met by bus and coach companies is that the number of days in which the UK finds itself in the grip of a Mediterranean summer's day can be counted on the fingers of both hands and so the investment in climate control or its derivatives is a false economy.

But a growing number of coaches - and now buses - are being fitted with a form of climate control. All coaches operating on the National Express network built from 2004 must now have climate control fitted as standard; virtually all new coaches delivered to the 'big five' in recent years have come with gas pods on their roofs, which ensure a pre-set temperature within the saloon below can be selected and maintained.

Bus operators have increasingly opted for 'air chill' fitment to their fleets. One of the more recent to do so is Stagecoach with its Cambs Guided Busway fleet of vehicles. I believe some of its Gold-branded services operating in Oxford and between Cheltenham and Gloucester also have this system fitted.

Often climate control comes hand-in-hand with other premium facilities, such as leather upholstery, though this is not always the case. Stagecoach in Lincolnshire has recently re-branded its Connect 3 (Grimsby-Lincoln) service, extending it to Newark and naming it Executive Connect. It boasts leather, coach-style seats yet no climate control other than window vents. It seems churlish to offer leather seating without climate control of sorts as burnt flesh is a real possibility to passengers who board a vehicle matching this description that's been parked in the sun for a length of time. We've all sat in a car that's been parked in the sun and found it unbearable to touch the steering wheel. A bus' seat is no different.

While the domain of climate control tends to be with the coach industry, operators in Oxford - notably City of Oxford - have introduced air conditioning to its urban services. This is very welcome when the temperatures are in excess of 30C. If passengers were to be assured that one operator's service would offer this facility over the other's, they'd surely choose the climatically controlled route, provided the fare wasn't too much higher.

In summary, while 'red hot' days are of limited number here in the UK, the relatively recent addition of climate control (and its air chill and air conditioning derivatives) has made such a noticeable difference on these infrequent sweltering days, that more and more people whom I speak with now plan their journeys by public transport accordingly.

Climate control per se works, of course, at both ends of the temperature spectrum, offering efficient heating to a bus, coach, train and tram during the winter months. The only time a vehicle with climate control should be avoided at all costs is when the unit fails in the summer sunshine!


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

It also ensures the moisture is removed from the air , stopping the windows from steaming up and hopefully reducing germ transmission

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