STAGECOACH will spend over £75 million in the coming year on hundreds of additional buses, including ten purpose-built “sleeper coaches” to run on cross-Border Megabus routes in the UK.
The transport group’s annual cycle of vehicle replacement includes the special consignment of double-decker coaches featuring airline-style seats that convert into flat beds for overnight journeys. The coaches can accommodate 55 people in “luxury seating”, or 41 people in the bedding layout.
Stagecoach’s Megabus subsidiary already operates a sleeper service between Glasgow and London, though this is provided in standard buses retro-fitted with lie-down berths.
The new coaches are likely to be initially trialled on this and other long-haul routes.
A Stagecoach spokesman said: “Those kind of long-distance journeys that cross the Border are ideally suited for this kind of vehicle.”
The sleeper coaches will be made by Van Hool of Belgium, but the vast majority of the 432 vehicles on order this year by the Perth-based group will be built in the UK by Falkirk-headquartered Alexander Dennis.
Les Warneford, managing director of Stagecoach’s UK bus operations, said the investment by Stagecoach was “a great new year boost for Britain”.
He added: “It will deliver better bus services to local communities across the country and will help support British manufacturing jobs.”
Alexander Dennis – which is owned by a group of private investors that includes Stagecoach chairman Sir Brian Souter – will build 351 of the vehicles being ordered. This includes 28 coaches from its Plaxton subsidiary, which was acquired in 2005, and 351 environmentally-friendly single-decker, double-decker and “midibuses” produced by Dennis with Scania chassis.
The buses will be deployed across Stagecoach regional networks throughout the UK. They include 60 hybrid electric vehicles, which produce 30 per cent less carbon emissions than standard buses, taking Stagecoach’s hybrid fleet to 240 by the end of March.
“These new buses will be better for the environment and continue our market-leading investment in greener technology,” Warneford said.
He also highlighted the continued investment in Megabus, which carries more than five million passengers annually between some 60 UK destinations. In addition to the sleeper coaches, a further 20 vehicles will be delivered for Megabus services in the UK and continental Europe.
It follows on from a similar order in November, when Stagecoach spent £3.2m on a new fleet of 11 coaches for its cut-price inter-city travel service. Those were also produced by Alexander Dennis, which employs about 900 of its 2,200 global workforce in Falkirk.
Yesterday’s announcement is a further boost for the Scottish manufacturer, which has been expanding its business since it was rescued from the administration of its parent company in 2004.
Alexander Dennis said in November that it had won orders for nearly 1,000 vehicles – including major new business from Hong Kong – which in turn is expected to take annual turnover through the £500m barrier.