Why Irizar Integrals are The Travellers Choice
The first three Irizar i6 Integral coaches for leading Lancashire operator The Travellers Choice have just joined the 102-strong fleet.
Established in 1872 and still in the hands of the founding Shaw family, The Travellers Choice is one of the best-known names in the UK coach industry. Joint managing director John Shaw believes his company, which he runs with his family, is the second-oldest coach operator in England.
The decision to return to DAF-engined coaches, after 29 years with coaches powered by another engine manufacturer, had not been taken lightly, John said, but he had been persuaded by other operators’ experiences to try them again.
“Modern DAFs seem to be good on fuel and maintenance, we hear, plus DAF’s back-up has always been good,” he reports. “We are confident of getting good fuel figures with the new coaches.”
“I did take some convincing to go for the Irizar Integral, but a visit to the factory in Spain enabled us to see the very high standards to which the coaches are built first-hand.”
Powertrain on the new arrivals is the economical 408 bhp DAF MX-11 300 engine, driving through a ZF EcoLife automatic gearbox.
“We’ve had good previous experience with ZF products,” John explains. “It may make the coaches slightly thirstier on fuel, but we hope to more than win that back in terms of reduced maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle. There is no mechanical clutch to replace, for example.”
The new i6 Integrals have been carefully equipped to meet the needs of The Travellers Choice’s operation. This is primarily focused on private-hire, with incoming tourism forming the most significant revenue stream, although a wide variety of coaching tasks are undertaken including the company’s own extended touring programme.
All three coaches are 12.9-metre models, with 57 seats.
Passenger amenities include a centre toilet, seat-back tables, drinks machine, and a Bosch Smart Series audio system with twin Actia video monitors.
Three-point seat-belts are fitted throughout, and adaptive cruise control is a further safety aid.
Extra-tint windows enhance both comfort and external appearance, and the driver benefits from Irizar’s new ‘virtual dash’ cockpit instrument panel.
An integrated washing system helps drivers keep the coaches clean away from base.
“The Irizar washing system is very impressive,” John says. “It’s compact and is offered at a reasonable price.”
Like the rest of the fleet, the new Irizars will be maintained in-house: either at the seven-acre site in Carnforth, which has a five-bay workshop and is being expanded to include an ATF lane, or at its Dalton in Furness depot where there is a four-bay workshop.
The new coaches are initially destined to work with parties of incoming tourists, and will remain on the first-line fleet for three-to-four years. The Travellers Choice has a continuous fleet replacement programme, with up to 12 new vehicles joining the company each year, but some coaches are retained longer for contract work.
“We keep the most durable coaches for up to 10 years, providing maintenance costs remain acceptable,” John explains.