The usual Optare advert in the trade press last week featured the Olympus double deck. It reminds us that Optare decker orders have all but dried up and it needs a marketing push. After the conclusion of the Blackburn factory’s current build, there are believed to be no forward orders remaining. And to think of the double deck heritage from the former East Lancs factory.
It’s therefore unsurprising that Optare has recently let contract staff go, previously hired to rush through delayed orders; and there’s talk of redundancies mostly at the former East Lancs factory at Blackburn though Leeds is by no means immune. This goes beyond rationalisation following merger and accounts for up to half of Blackburn’s 320 workforce who could be affected owing to the downturn in demand. Optare therefore joins ADL and Wrightbus in resorting to job cuts in the teeth of recession. This in spite of bus orders holding up well thanks, of course, to long lead times. The bubble, it seems, has now burst.
Is the double deck manufacturing sector becoming a little too crowded for the number of orders now anticipated? Optare continues to ready the integral Rapta it showed at the NEC in November. This differs to the body on chassis Olympus but Rapta promises weight reduction-related economies. Fewer orders for the Enviro400 is understood to be the principal reason why ADL is considering redundancies. Against these are the Wrightbus Gemini 2 that combines style and high build quality plus the Scania offering, doing well thanks in part to a significant Go South Coast order.
Meanwhile, MCV will offer a double deck prototype towards the end of the year, again on the Volvo B9TL. Images released by Volvo in the trade press indicate a front not unlike the former Alexander ALX400 body, with its wide, black under-windscreen grin.
A dozen Optare Olympuses (Olympi?) currently under completion on Scania chassis are for Wilts & Dorset. They are variously conventional but mainly full- or half-open tops. These have been a while but aren’t far off with reports that a small number will be making their journey way south this or next, or by the end of the month. In a reverse of the policy adopted by sister Go Southern Vectis, expect some W&D buses to feature non-standard, route-specific livery and branding.
Other recent Olympuses delivered or in build include:
- London Big Bus Sightseeing: 20 either delivered or in build
- Ensignbus: 10 for Thurock local bus services
- Kent Top Travel: 10 for Canterbury park & ride
- Soul Bros, Bucks, Beeston's, Suffolk, Confidence Bus, Leicester: one each