Irizar Integrals give Blakes’ customers a first-class upgrade
“When passengers step onto an Irizar Integral, they feel like they have been upgraded to first class,” says Hannah Blake, financial director of Devon company Blakes Coaches.
Blakes Coaches commenced operations in 1998, with just one vehicle doing a single school run. Since then it has become a premium operator of its own holiday programme and has also established a loyal and valuable private-hire customer base around its home town of Tiverton.
The company has just refreshed its fleet with the arrival of two new Irizar i6 Integrals, which replace older coaches from other manufacturers on the 15-strong fleet.
“We go for quality, rather than quantity,” Hannah says. “Our oldest coach is just seven years old, and we usually tend to swap them over at four to five years.”
Blakes took delivery of its first i6 Integral, a tri-axle, last year, and the passenger response led Hannah back to Irizar (UK) when the time came to order two new coaches for this year.
“We were so pleased with the first coach that our second tri-axle is virtually identical, and we’ve also acquired a second two-axle Integral,” she explains.
The tri-axle is a 13.2 metre vehicle, while the two-axle is 12.9 metres.
Both new coaches are of near identical spec, with 53 i6 seats with magazine-holders, tables and multi-position footrests. Each seat has a USB charging point, and AC mains-power inverters and three-pin plugs are provided for driver use. Both coaches have drinks machines, driver’s bunks, toilets, heated windscreens and front and rear safety cameras.
Hannah is a fan of the DAF/ZF driveline used on Irizar Integral coaches. Both coaches have advanced DAF MX-11 engines and ZF AS-Tronic automated transmissions. The tri-axle has the more powerful MX-11 340 462 hp engine, while its lighter stablemate has the MX-11 320 435 hp unit.
“We maintain all our fleet in-house, with full inspections and services on each vehicle every four weeks, and the Irizar Integral design is very popular with our workshop because the vehicle is so well laid out,” Hannah says.
“Also, the technical backing from DAF and Irizar (UK) is superb. The nearest engineer is just up the road from us in Weston-Super-Mare, and he is always available to offer help with servicing if needed, whether that is by dropping in or just being on the end of the phone.”
The new tri-axle Irizar Integral coach formed the centrepiece of Blakes’ display at the recent Devon County Show near Exeter, where it was promoting the company’s annual programme of some 300 UK and European holidays, and 120 day excursions.