Museum’s modern bus policy

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This preserved Dennis Trident made its debut after renovation as part of the Transport Museum Wythall
fleet. TMW

Museums don’t just have to be about half-cabs and obsolete marques, reports Nick Larkin

A major transport museum says its policy of embracing more modern buses as well as traditional classics has delivered major benefits. Transport Museum Wythall (TMW) held an event celebrating 25 years since the first low-floor, easy access double-deckers entered revenue earning service.

‘Step Free 25’ took place as part of the museum’s August Bank Holiday Gathering and included the debut of 2002 Alexander ALX 400-bodied Dennis Trident BX02 ASV following mechanical refurbishment, re-panelling and repainting. Also on display was R1 NEG, museum’s 1997 Optare Spectra, new to Travel West Midlands, fleet number 4110 and one of the first low-floor buses to enter service in Britain. Both vehicles were donated to the museum by National Express West Midlands.

TMW’s collection also includes 1998 Wright Crusader-bodied Volvo B6LE R598 YON. Overall, the museum is home to 90 historic coaches and buses. Museum spokesman Denis Chick said that the low-floor acquistions had delivered major benefits in attracting younger members to the museum: “TMW is regularly asked by members and visitors why the museum acquires and displays ‘new’ buses – after all, the Tridents are (just about) still in service. Surely it’s a home for old vehicles, not these modern boxes?


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“The reminder that these two are 26 and 21 years old respectively and represent their own particular technical advances of their time, plus the fact that history doesn’t stop at any point, somewhat focuses the mind.

“The challenge of appealing to younger volunteers faces all heritage sector transport organisations but the spin-off from these newer generation buses is having a very positive effect on potential volunteer uptake.

“Wythall’s younger audience of bus fans went to school on such vehicles and whilst recognising that our 1931 AEC Regent has beauty to behold, it fails to provide an emotional link or memory. These ‘new’ vehicles have that familiarity and emotional connection and are much more interesting to the younger generation.”

Acquiring low-floor buses means the museum has benefitted from an influx of younger members who come along to drive or help with maintenance and general upkeep.

Concluded Denis: “New buses? Don’t knock them, embrace them!”

The Optare Spectra is said to be Britain’s first low-floor bus. TMW

Spectra and Trident – a brief history

In 1997, DAF designed a new low-floor chassis, the DB250LF, the rear of which was similar to its earlier model, but the front was entirely new. Optare developed a new version of the Spectra body to fit the DB250LF chassis. R1 NEG, the first example of the Optare/DAF combination, was displayed at the Bus & Coach Show in autumn 1997, although it did not enter service with Travel West Midlands until January the following year.

From January 2001, the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations required all new buses on scheduled services to have easy access for all, with provisions for the carriage of wheelchair users and priority seats for passengers with limited mobility, among other features. Travel West Midlands went on to order a total of 360 Dennis Trident chassis fitted with Alexander bodywork to satisfy its need for PSVAR-compliant double-deckers.

TMW’s 1931 AEC Regent is undeniably beautiful but does it have an emotional connection for young enthusiasts? TMW