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January 09 2019
By Tim Deakin

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

CoachMarque: Standing still will never work

Members of industry accreditation scheme CoachMarque were able to hear why it’s important always to be looking forward at its 21st conference, which was held on Monday 7 January in the East Midlands

CoachMarque represents the very cream of the British coaching industry

Being at the forefront of developments was the theme of the 21st CoachMarque conference, held on Monday 7 January.

CoachMarque is an exclusive club. It recently welcomed two new members - Bayliss Executive Travel of Dover and Centurion Travel of Midsomer Norton - and participants were able to listen to presentations covering several hot topics.

Among them were Earned Recognition (ER), Euro 6 retrofit, CoachMarque’s new website and where intercity coach travel technology specialist Snap sees its business going in the future and how that will benefit operators.

Earning stripes

Steve Whitehart, DVSA Heavy Vehicle Process Manager, delivered an update on ER. 6% of eligible PCV and LGV fleet volume has been captured, with 67 operators participating. 15 more are “very close” to joining them.

Mr Whitehart says that DVSA no longer considers ER a pilot. Instead, it is part of the agency’s normal business. Nevertheless, it will make a decision in a year’s time whether ER has been successful. In a worst-case scenario, that could lead to ER being abandoned, but that outcome is considered to be highly unlikely.

DVSA’s target for eligible vehicle parc capture is 20% by 2021 before later settling at 40%. Another DVSA representative conceded that currently, the main benefit of being part of ER is prestige. The agency initially wanted to offer an MoT fee discount to members, but that was vetoed by the government.

Members’ experiences

The subject of MoT testing was also raised by Lucketts Travel Director Ian Luckett. He believes that operators participating in ER should be able to test their own vehicles. “If we are trusted to be the best on the road, it should be permitted. It would not be too difficult to allow and it would alleviate the problem that DVSA experiences in providing test dates,” he says.

Both Mr Luckett and Lakeside Coaches Operations Manager Sam Hall agree that presently, little in the way of benefits come from being part of ER. Although the outlay required to become accredited is not huge - and Mr Luckett argues that a leading operator would do almost all of what is required anyway - they acknowledge that being part of it has some value. ER is a nationwide, government-administered scheme, and that has worth when conveyed to customers.

Centurion Travel (pictured) and Bayliss Executive Travel are new members

DVSA acknowledges that despite its promise that ER membership would take an operator’s vehicles out of scope of routine roadside enforcement, that has not always been the case in practice.

ER participants are given a blue OCRS status, which is superior to green. But some DVSA staff are not entirely familiar with that. In addition, DVSA does not share its data with the police - meaning that officers may still direct ER members’ vehicles to checkpoints.

Coach emissions

LowCVP Project Manager Daniel Hayes continued by informing delegates that, while LowCVP has succeeded in convincing policymakers that Euro 6 is indeed very clean, the next step on the urban air quality roadmap is likely to be zero emission zones (ZEZs).

Oxford is set to begin moving towards a ZEZ in 2020, and Transport for London (TfL) is talking about the concept.

The reason for a wish for further improvements is largely perception, Mr Hayes adds. He presented graphs to show that 60% of airborne particulate matter (PM) now does not come from the tailpipe at all; instead, it is from brakes, road abrasion and tyres. “But coaches and buses are the easiest things to target. There is still a common perception of the dirty bus, despite it no longer holding true.”

He adds that clarity on the certification of retrofit to bring older coaches up to Euro 6 standard is expected soon. The process hinges on DVLA’s VERIS system, which is expected to come on-line by March. It differs from TfL’s own structure.

New showcase

Launched at the conference was CoachMarque’s new website. Due to go live next Monday (14 January), it is for the remainder of this week viewable as a beta site. All members have their own profile page. IP tracking means that visitors are able to see their nearest CoachMarque operators, and there is also a request-a-quote function.

The new site has been optimised for mobile devices, and members are given many tips to ensure that their profile remains prominent on Google searches. They also have individual access to a content management system to optimise their page.

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CoachMarque is made up of the cream of the UK industry, and it expects to add further new members soon to complement Bayliss Executive Travel and Centurion Travel.

The quality of its conference line-up – which also included a representative of a college that provides apprenticeships relevant to the coach industry and speaker, author and entrepreneur Warren Cass – gives an indication of the organisation’s gravitas.

What will face the industry in coming years should not be underestimated. CoachMarque’s work complements the efforts of the Confederation of Passenger Transport and those of the Guild of British Coach Operators.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts and in all of these cases, it is more important than ever that the industry works together for the collective benefit of its members.

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