It’s hardly a secret that Boris has managed to con the Government into sending his overweight, costly, unsafe and ludicrously ugly buses on a World Tour – the first two vehicles, LT1 and LT2 are actually on loan to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  They’ve now been joined by LT3, which was shipped out over the summer, doubtless to the relief of Arriva who have to put up with the remaining five prototypes on the 38.  The FCO is very bullish about the whole thing:

Unfortunately things didn’t quite go to plan on the excellence front, as they couldn’t start it to get it off the boat.


Reportedly this all took some hours to sort out after which the bus, which was holding up a delivery of trucks which presumably worked fine, was parked at the docks.  They seem to have had trouble finding mechanics capable of dealing with an unreliable bespoke London bus on the other side of Asia. Funny, that.


The curious thing is this – Hong Kong is a valid target for a UK bus export drive for the simple reason that it’s got a high demand for buses due to space constraints and also that they drive on the left, so even the completely asymmetric and non-LHD convertible New Bus for London might stand a chance. Unfortunately they also demand working air conditioning to cope with the heat and, well, that’s not a strong point of the Roastmaster, to be honest.

Also Hong Kong likes to go large with its vehicles, liking behemoths with over 100 seats and three axles. An 11.3m bus with a substandard capacity is therefore not likely to be a serious rival.

So, who is supplying the Hong Kong bus market if the best and brightest at TfL, Heatherwick and Wrightbus can’t produce a suitable vehicle.  Well, Alexander-Dennis for one, Britain’s other volume double decker producer:

 The first is a ground-breaking, three-axle double deck for export markets that is lighter, more fuel efficient, easier to maintain – and can carry 135 passengers.The new generation Enviro500 has secured orders for over 530 vehicles from Hong Kong’s leading bus operators.

I suspect that, before investing in 530 of them, the Hong Kong bus operators made double sure that they’d actually start and be able to cool their passengers and indeed carry enough of them to be worthwhile.

Quite where this leaves the NB4L tour is puzzling, as Hong Kong already appears to know what it wants and be quite willing to go to the UK’s private sector suppliers to get it.  All the FCO seem to be doing is using public money to push a rival product into ADL’s successful export market.  Furthermore it’s a rival which is considerably less suitable and with obvious flaws, which as you might expect has annoyed ADL.  At last week’s Bus and Coach Expo in Birmingham and while announcing what, if it comes off, would be a considerable technical advance on the NBfL, the CEO made another not very veiled comment that is open to interpretation:

In revealing what he describes as a “virtual electric” bus, he said: “As with previous ADL technology advancements, the ‘virtual electric’ will do what it says on the tin. Yes, we will fine tune it in co-operation with operators – but we will not be selling them lame ducks they later regret buying. Too often the advancement of technology in the British bus sector is hampered, and dragged back, by ill-conceived products that are brought to market too early, well before they are proven or anywhere near the reliability levels required.”

He continues: “If I am honest, too often politicians are also drawn into supporting sexy solutions that grab headlines, solutions that fail to deliver in the long-term. The crux of the electric vehicle debate is that battery technology – at this stage – is simply not up to the demands expected in our sector.”

Whatever can he mean? NBfL?  Quaylink?  Early Wrightbus hybrids with van engines? Original *cough* ADL hybrid?  Leon Daniels’ Wrightbus Streetcar ftr bendy buses? In truth, Robertson is asserting that ADL’s baby-steps evolution-not-revolution is the most likely option for developing a viable long-term system, which is fair enough – they do reliable, not sexy, which is one reason people with a real need to move passengers around go for them.

This isn’t the first time ADL’s CEO Colin Robertson, who can legitimately feel very hard done by over the NB4L  has made veiled references like this – back in 2012, for instance:

This business is not about producing the most glamorous Ferrari of the bus world. It is about practical, fit-for-purpose vehicles that deliver what they promise. Yes, we want them to look smart and stylish but, along with this, they need to be built using modern manufacturing processes. These are the fundamentals that enable built consistency across all products and in all locations – and will raise the bar still further on quality, while keeping costs in check

Given the NBfL’s combination of high costs and low build quality, witnessed not just in the breakdowns but also the poor finishing noted by Helen on most NB4L journeys, who can say he’s wrong?


12 Responses to New Bus For Hong Kong? No, Thanks.

  1. Now I get why there were MAN mechanics trying to sort out the locked up bus – it was their esteemed trucks that were blocked by this bus!

    Hong Kong doesn’t only love behemoths that can seat more than a hundred, the TD doesn’t want heavy lorries to harm their roads, so a strict 8-tonne per axle limit is placed for vehicles. As a result, air- conditioned E400 needs to get weight exemptions and strictly adhered to 18-tonne limit by removing seats on board to be licensed on the road.

  2. Tuttlenotbuttle says:

    For your information HK now allows 11.5 tonne axles if it is fitted with air suspension, otherwise the limit is 9 tonnes. The E400 doesn’t need to remove any seats to meet the 18 tonne limit either (registered with 70 seats) although I believe other manufacturers who burn up taxpayers money on vanity projects and global holidays and who cannot move their buses out of the HK docks do.

  3. Tuttlenotbuttle says:

    And apparently the circus clown himself will be in HK on the 17th. At least it gives them time to tow it to wherever they want to blow some taxpayers money.

  4. Mad_Zoidberg says:

    You fail to mention the large number of Wrightbus vehicles already in operation in HK – Alexander are not the only show in town.
    Both Wrightbus and Alexander are having some success exporting to what is in essence China.
    The NBfL is NOT a suitable product for Hong Kong – it is a demonstration of what is left of the British Automotive Industry.
    From my enquiries, this had more to do with hidden start switches to stop people stealing the bus in London.
    Also useful against dockers it seems.

  5. Tuttlenot buttle says:

    If it is a secret switch then it is a secret to all of the Wrightbus staff in HK as well as the bus is still stranded as we speak.

  6. Mad_Zoidberg says:

    Stranded? Are you sure about that or just making an assumption?
    You are ignoring the point. The above is trying to make a point that it is a waste of money because Alexander are the only manufacturer in HK. They are not.
    The article also states that Wrightbus can’t come up with a better product – their HK DD product has been in HK for many years I believe.
    It’s one thing to have a political swipe at Boris, another to do down what little we have left of British manufacturing.

  7. Thanks Turtlenotbuttle, I’ve mixed up my stories: E400 indeed didn’t need removing seats (although more lightweight seats were chosen), it was the 2-axle Volvo B9TL in Wrightbus body that required removing of too deck back row seats in order to pass the 18-tonne weight limit.

    Wrightbus has a successful career in KMB for the last three years and imported hundreds of B9TL, but it is known to be heavier than ADL equivalent.

    Anyway, LT3 has left the dock as of 10 October and went to the nearby covered bus depot for safe storage. The glass front is now covered in tarpaulin.

  8. anon says:

    FYI, the sinfully ugly abomination is on display now. They must’ve finally found that switch, eh?

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