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Ticketer - Awards 2019
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April 03 2019
By Tim Deakin

Tim is Editor of routeone and has worked in both the coach and bus and haulage industries.

Industry's time to shine at 65th UK Coach Rally

The coaching season will get off to its customary start over the weekend of 6-7 April when the 65th UK Coach Rally is held in Blackpool - another fantastic showcase of the industry, its vehicles and its drivers

Blackpool again the destination for the 65th UK Coach Rally this weekend

The industry will be hoping for fine weather on the Fylde coast this weekend (6-7 April) as it returns to Blackpool for the 65th UK Coach Rally.

It promises to be a popular two-day event, with over 50 entrants already confirmed. Yet again, operators from all four Home Nations will participate, with Classic Coaches once more set to represent Northern Ireland alongside competitors from England, Scotland and Wales.

A number of unfamiliar names will also be seen. Coachpoint, Manchester Bee Coach Hire and Portsmouth City Coaches are among those that represent new blood.

Not only that, but in the trade supporters’ area at least three new models will make their Coach Rally debuts, and visitors will also be able to make use of at least two manufacturers’ hospitality units.

Silverware chasing

This year, the UK Coach Rally will welcome Simon Evans, Traffic Commissioner (TC) for the North West of England, to present the silverware.

A&P Travel of Sleaford returns to Blackpool to defend the top honour. It secured the Coach of the Year accolade last year for its 2016 Van Hool TX16 among two other trophies that it took back to Lincolnshire.

Robinsons Holidays will be represented, with its driver William Brayford having been recognised as Coach Driver of the Year in 2018. Senior members of the industry will also be given the chance to show their skills at the ever-popular Directors Challenge.

Tom James of York Pullman is reigning champion, but he will no doubt face tough competition for the title at this year’s Rally. Several entries are from operators with directors who are not averse to getting behind the wheel.

Competition is once again set to be keen for the silverware that’s on offer

Howard Snaith Coaches returns to defend its title of Top Team, and many other operators will head for Blackpool as they bid to keep hold of their silverware for a second year.

Entrants are from across the size spectrum, with the ‘big five’ bus groups represented by East Yorkshire Coaches, owned by The Go-Ahead Group. Equally, local one-vehicle operator Swann Tours, made of of husband-and-wife team Darren and Jane Swann, makes the short trip again.

The social side

As usual, the Saturday evening is occupied by the popular Dinner Dance. This year, it takes place at the four-star Imperial Hotel and entertainment will include an ABBA tribute band.

Saturday begins with the customary road run. It departs at 0800hrs. That will then be followed by driving heats, which account for much of the rest of the day before the Dinner Dance commences at 1845hrs.

Judging will commence at 0900hrs sharp on the Sunday morning. Following that, attention will turn to the finals of the driving tests. Awards are scheduled for presentation at 1530hrs.

Judgement day

The judging panel is made up of a number of independent industry members. In previous years, it has included representatives of the trade press, a TC, a DVSA manager and two Confederation of Passenger Transport Regional Managers, among others.

They will each examine every vehicle entered into the Rally, with judges split into pairs and allocated a particular area to assess. That ensures the process is fair and unbiased, meaning that those coaches and drivers who come away with silverware really are the best in the business.

Support from the trade

Once again, this year’s Rally will be supported by a number of trade partners, who will exhibit coaches and more on Blackpool’s promenade.

A variety of manufacturers will once again support the Rally’s trade area

Arriva Bus and Coach will display both a Temsa MD9 midicoach and an example of the Van Hool EX range; of the latter, it has both the EX15H and EX16M available from stock.

BASE Coach Sales will show two MOBIpeople Explorers, both in customers’ colours. One, for Waltons Coach Hire of Freckleton, is on an MAN chassis and has 55 seats along with room for up to eight wheelchair users. The other, for Angel Executive Travel of High Wycombe, is a 74-seater on a Scania underframe.

EvoBus (UK) will display a two-axle Mercedes-Benz Tourismo.

An examples of the i6s integral with the latest-generation DAF-based driveline and ZF Traxon gearbox will be shown by Irizar UK. It also promises a hospitality trailer and various giveaways.

MAN Truck and Bus, too, will have a hospitality trailer, alongside a Neoplan Tourliner P21 for Group 10 Executive Travel and a TGE 5.180 17-seat accessible minibus.

Pelican Bus and Coach is set to show a Yutong TC9 and a GT12 and Plaxton will once again support the Rally with a product launch.

Two new models - the 9900 and the MCV-bodied B11R - will be part of the Volvo Bus display.

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