Safe & Sound

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Jonathan Welch visits a small operator that makes a lot of noise: Rochdale-based brass band specialist Sounds Travel

I have to admit that until the first Honk for Hope event at Lightwater Valley this summer, Sounds Travel was not a name that had come to my attention, and I was a little surprised to learn that although the company had the air of being a much larger operator, it has just three o-discs and operates two coaches and a minibus from its small depot tucked away on an industrial estate in Rochdale.

Sounds Travel has somewhat unusual roots. As the name subtly suggests, the operator has a musical background and specialises in carrying brass bands, of which there are still a good number across the north of England. At the time of CBW’s visit, the company had just taken delivery of its second tri-axle Setra S416 GT HD, which had just returned from a repaint into its smart glossy black colour scheme – Jaguar Ultimate Black – by Lawtons in Stoke on Trent. At the same time, the driver’s and courier’s seats were retrimmed to match, complete with embroidered logos in the headrests. It joins a similar coach already in the fleet and a smart silver minibus, which between them serve some of the biggest names in brass bands and are regularly to be found at concert venues across the country.

It seems somewhat of a niche and unusual market, so how did Sounds Travel come about? I met up with Owner Stephen Ward and Operations Manager David Foster to find out. “I spent a lot of time on coaches, I was part of a brass band so that was a way in for me. For a band, the coach is a means to an end, but we want it to be a pleasant experience for them. They can be spending three or four hours on a coach going to a concert. They want to know that the driver knows what he’s doing, especially loading and unloading the instruments. Some of them can be worth over £15,000,” said Stephen.

The ‘stealth’ imagery only becomes visible under lighting at night – or with a camera flash. JONATHAN WELCH
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