Mega-factory explored

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A right hand drive GTe14 wrapped in protective layers for transport to the UK. ADRIAN MORTON

Adrian Morton continues his account of his visit to Yutong’s 134-hectare production facility in China, capable of turning out over 400 buses and coaches per day

In last week’s issue, we arrived in China and after a day of sightseeing at the Great Wall, were treated to a high-speed ‘Bullet Train’ ride to China’s seventh city and home to the Yutong mega-factory, Zhengzhou in Hanan Province. Along with some well-known UK coach operators, we began our tour of the factory, astounded by the sheer volume of new vehicles awaiting collection that same day.

After completing a visit to the visitor centre and the company’s museum it was back on our ‘business bus’ for a short drive to the main manufacturing facility, the scale of which really has to be seen to be appreciated. Witnessing an entire line of bus and coach body shells being dipped in huge vats or baths of degreaser was a spectacle to behold. This is just one of the many processes ahead of the electro-coating for anti-corrosion protection, ensuring whole life cycle protection and a paint finish without blemish. The technology is the same as that used by many of the world’s top car makers, such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.

We continued to tour the factory, firstly to the coach area where a good number of vehicles for the company’s home market were under construction, the design very reminiscent of the 1990s Neoplan Cityliner, before moving onto the bus division where all manner of sizes of vehicle were in production, with drivelines from conventional diesel to electric. The efficiencies were obvious to see with the factory environment more akin to that of a hospital; the floors were so clean you could have eaten your dinner off them!

Moving outside you could again be forgiven for forgetting that we were literally in the middle of a bus and coach factory. The internal path and road system is lined with trees, shrubbery and flowers. It was only a short walk to our next location but some of the group chose to make use of the autonomous buses that run around the complex, moving workers from one part of the vast site to another.

First put into use in 2021 the Xiaoyu 2.0 Autonomous Bus won the ‘Red Dot Award,’ making it the first Chinese bus to achieve this recognition, sharing its ‘intelligent and connected technology’ with the world.

It could only be viewed from a distance but a large unit housed several bays where vehicles were tested for water ingress by being continually drenched by high pressure water jets. Noted was a right-hand drive GT12 in FlixBus livery destined for a UK operator.


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A further short walk took us to the viewing platform of a large test track where several vehicles at a time could be witnessed being put through their paces, one part being a huge bank with an angle which must have culminated in being near 45 degrees. Speeds appeared fairly fast, and a mix of left hand drive and right hand drive coaches were witnessed. The experience awe inspiring; I could have stood all day watching the spectacle before us.

The Yutong factory complex is vast. YUTONG

Lunch break

It was soon time for lunch so it was a welcome relief that our chauffeur was waiting in our nicely air-conditioned coach to whisk us to the on-site hotel for some refreshment. The afternoon took a more leisurely pace with a quick visit to the testing laboratory as we were passing, before an hour’s drive to the Millenium City Park of Kaifeng, a large scale historical and cultural theme park.

Founded in 1992 and opened in 1998, the national park covers over 40 hectares, 12 of which is water, with over 50 ancient decorated boats and more than 400 buildings in Song style. If you visit in autumn it plays host to a Chrysanthemum Festival with more than 100 varieties spread across Kaifeng City.

It was a relaxing afternoon in glorious sunshine walking through the park, with an opportunity to take a boat trip, visit the period shops and immerse yourself in the culture of years gone by. Early evening we were taken back to Zhengzhou and treated to another fine meal at a truly exquisite seafood restaurant, the lobster some of the best I have ever experienced. Sadly we arrived back at our hotel too late to visit the skyline bar but you never know, there could always be a next time!

GTe14 update

The next day I woke at 7am to a frightening thought that it only midnight in the UK, so there would now be some 38 hours of travelling before getting home, but even that couldn’t detract from the fact this trip really was an experience of a lifetime.

After breakfast we loaded the coach and headed again to Yutong’s production facility to view the new fully electric GTe14 coach for the UK market. Although a number are now being prepared to enter service in Scotland with Ember and the Pelican demonstrator is currently on trial with Xplore Dundee this is still considered to be one of the first and incorporates a totally new dashboard configuration to any delivered so far.

This consists of what can only be described as two small screens equivalent to that of an iPad, one for the main binnacles such as the speedometer and air pressure and another to the left with functions for the many other components of the vehicle such as demisters and audio entertainment facility.

Cameras in place of mirrors are standard fit. I have to say I was taken aback by this vehicle; the external styling, the cab layout, passenger seating, interior lighting and overall ambiance was simply stunning. The wheelchair lift to achieve PSVAR compliance is located in the centre; if a front loading option similar to that in a Caetano Levante could be achieved I think this would be a huge improvement but that is only my personal opinion. When it comes to smaller companies and touring work, I consider the down-sides, which may be restrictive to the many family-owned coach operators in the UK engaged in general private hire and touring activities, to still be the achievable range, which is currently less than 300 miles, as well as the the price point, need for depot infrastructure and the unknown of residual values further down the line. However for those with guaranteed income from local corporate shuttles or those heavily committed to scheduled express services then I think Yutong has a product which is undoubtably the forerunner in its field.

Yutong has quickly increased its presence across Europe as well as in the UK, and had a large stand at Busworld in Brussels. YUTONG

Marriage made in heaven?

We then journeyed the short distance back to the main marketing centre for a surprise addition to our itinerary. We were taken to the top floor and seated in rows ahead of a big screen and a table lined with white linen and flowers. Initially I though we were going to be guests at a wedding ceremony as that was certainly the feel afforded, however when the screen came alive we were invitees at a signing ceremony for Philip Hitchin from Belle Vue Coaches placing an order for a further eighteen GT12 luxury coaches for an increased commitment to the ever expanding FlixBus network.

This represents an investment close to £6m, and I have to say we even had a cake! That said Yutong does actually hold group weddings in the springtime for any of its employees who would like to hold their ceremony at the factory, in order to save money. Couples can make use of the extensive facilities including those of the hotel and Yutong’s company president will be witness to their marriage.

After the formalities it was time to head back to the railway station to begin our journey home but on the way there was just enough time for the ladies in the group to partake in some retail therapy and to grab a spot of lunch and a coffee in Starbucks. We visited two very different shopping areas, one reminiscent to Mcarthur Glen in the UK with all your high-end designer boutiques, the other a vast contrast being old and very much deserted but full of quite clearly low income self-employed shop keepers selling their copies of designer brands. In the main this was leather goods, purses, bags, belts and shoes.

Time to go home

We returned to Beijing on another bullet train. This time the journey was non-stop meaning we completed the 700km journey in even less time. A hired TC9 from the same operator we had encountered earlier in the week was on hand ready to transfer us to the airport and our Emirates flights back to the UK via Dubai, with its truly amazing airport.

An autonomous shuttle makes its way around the factory road network. ADRIAN MORTON

We had plenty of time to spare so our driver kindly agreed to a drive-by of Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City so at least we could say we have seen it whilst in Beijing. Half our group flew from Manchester to Dubai, the remainder from Birmingham, so our time there over breakfast was tinged with some sadness as we said goodbye to new friends we had made and who had afforded us many laughs along the way.

The sector from Dubai to Manchester utilises Emirates A380 aircraft which really is the modern day ‘Queen the Skies.’ The lounge and bar in business class brings a whole new experience to air travel, and once acquainted you’ll never want to fly any other way!

As an anecdote, when I fly, with whatever carrier that may be, short or long-haul I always sit and watch with amazement the degree of professionalism, the standard of customer service and the presentation of the crew and wonder why that is so hard to replicate in the coach industry. Do you ever witness a pilot turn up in jeans and a t-shirt showing us what he had for breakfast or a stewardess having a quick vape by the door, ignoring you as you board…?

Final thoughts

I’d previously only ever had a minimal dealings with Yutong and Pelican Bus & Coach and that was with my time whilst consulting at Fourway Coaches in Leeds from 2019 until 2021. My experience there of its parts and service operation was a breath of fresh air; advisors who knew the product, always a supply of stock and at extremely economical prices. Talking to those on the trip, my sentiments were echoed by other operators, all citing the Yutong product to be one of quality, coupled with fantastic service and after-sales support, hence all of those who joined me were returning customers highly invested in the brand.

I think Yutong and Pelican have developed a very unique way in making you feel part of a family, giving the customer immediate reassurance in the brand. They have worked together to build up an excellent product line up in both bus and coach and I would expect to see significant growth of their market share in the coming months and years.

My sincere thanks must go to Amelia Crump of Pelican Bus & Coach for inviting me along on this most unforgettable trip and to those who joined me for making it even more memorable.

A water test is carried out on new vehicles. ADRIAN MORTON
Vehicle shells are dipped in an anti-corrosion process before painting and assembly. ADRIAN MORTON