BCI is cel­e­brat­ing its 25th an­niver­sary in style with a dou­bledecker that will no doubt be a strong com­peti­tor in an ex­pand­ing Aus­tralasian mar­ket for high-ris­ers

BCI is cel­e­brat­ing its 25th an­niver­sary in style with a dou­ble-decker that will no doubt be a strong com­peti­tor in an ex­pand­ing Aus­tralasian mar­ket for high-ris­ers

ABC (Australia) - - CONTENTS - WORDS STEVE SKIN­NER PHO­TOS PAUL ALDRIDGE

You wouldn’t think bus steps could be so im­por­tant. Be­lieve it or not, in Lon­don, the spir­i­tual home of dou­ble-deck­ers, peo­ple die each year from fall­ing down the stairs. So BCI has de­signed its new dou­ble-decker to pre­vent that from hap­pen­ing.

“In the tra­di­tional way, the steps will go straight down,” BCI’s Chris Cor­dia says. “It will be one ight of stairs – so, when stand­ing at the top of the stairs as the bus takes off, and if you’re not re­ally hold­ing on, you could fall a long way. Noth­ing is go­ing to stop you.”

But that can’t hap­pen with the BCI dou­ble-deck­ers, which are al­ready run­ning around the Lon­don area cour­tesy of Bri­tish bus op­er­a­tor and dealer, En­sign.

“The stair­case in this bus is a com­pact, short fall de­sign,” Cor­dia continues. “We have two steps down to a land­ing, then an­other ve steps down to a land­ing, and then you turn again.

“The land­ings them­selves are square, they’re not a feath­ered-out step, so when you step down to turn you have solid foot­ing.

“The dis­tance from the start of the step to the back wall on the step is very short, so if some­one does fall, they’re not go­ing to fall far.

“The stairs have been de­signed with safety in mind and of course it’s com­pact, so you have more room up­stairs and down­stairs for pas­sen­gers, and more room for wheel­chair ac­cess. It’s a very wellthought-out system.”

In fact, ABC found the whole bus to be im­pres­sive on our re­cent test drive in Mel­bourne. It has a qual­ity feel about it.

BIRTH­DAY CEL­E­BRA­TIONS

The same couldn’t be said about BCI buses of old. But this dou­ble-decker shows how far BCI has come in the 25 years since Ron Naz­zari kicked off in Perth, where the com­pany is still based, with deal­er­ships in each state and ter­ri­tory and in New Zealand.

BCI has op­er­ated out of its own pur­pose-built fac­tory at Xi­a­men in China since 2011 un­der an Aus­tralian team led by well-known in­dus­try de­signer Boyd Den­ning.

“Since we have es­tab­lished our own fac­tory we now have com­plete con­trol over our prod­uct,” says Cor­dia, who has a tech­ni­cal back­ground and is a knowl­edge­able am­bas­sador for the com­pany.

“We’re not buy­ing a prod­uct from some­one else and adapt­ing it from their de­sign.

“This is our de­sign, it’s been de­vel­oped and built by our own team. Our team runs the fac­tory, our team lives there and con­trols all as­pects of that build.

“Our Aus­tralian de­sign team knows the Aus­tralian mar­ket and are build­ing buses for Aus­tralian con­di­tions. All the buses that are built at BCI are ex­port-only prod­ucts, noth­ing is sold into China. So we’re build­ing for ex­port mar­kets only.

“We train our work­force to do things the way we want them done, and pay our work­ers by the hour, not per unit, so the benet there is they can slow down and take more time to do things prop­erly.

“Our wiring looms are all done in­house, so we have com­plete con­trol over our wiring loom man­u­fac­tur­ing process now. Pre­vi­ously the wiring looms were out­sourced.”

BIG BUSES, BIG DE­MAND

This is the very  rst BCI dou­bledecker in Aus­tralia. The ver­sion we drove is 11.8 me­tres, but you can go for a 12.5m or 10.8m 2-axle model as well.

BCI is one of only a few man­u­fac­tur­ers able to sup­ply dou­bledeck­ers to the Aus­tralian mar­ket, which has a grow­ing ap­petite for high-rise com­muter units, at least in Syd­ney and Mel­bourne.

“It’s go­ing to start tak­ing off,” Cor­dia says. “The main rea­son is the conges­tion in our cities. We need the high ca­pac­ity.

“The other op­tion is an ar­tic­u­lated bus which works very well but some­times park­ing in ar­eas such as the air­ports is very hard. So a bus like this, only 11.8 me­tres, it’s no big­ger than a stan­dard school bus. You can get in to all the same spots but you can load up to 100 peo­ple [seated] de­pend­ing on the spec.”

You can go for the open top tourist op­tion too, if you like, and you can even run this ve­hi­cle as a school bus with the op­tion of ADR 68 com­pli­ant high-back seats with seat belts.

SOLIDLY BUILT

BCI in­sists this dou­ble-decker will go the dis­tance in Aus­tralia.

“Be­cause this bus is de­signed to last for 25 years, we have gone with the best qual­ity we can pos­si­bly get,” Cor­dia says.

For ex­am­ple, the frame uses Aus­tralian-spec gal­vanised steel,

We have gone with the best qual­ity we can pos­si­bly get

which is 200-mi­cron thick coated, not the usual 100-mi­cron thick coat­ing more com­monly used.

Also: “The stretch pan­els are bre­glass and bonded to the frame, they’re not screwed on, so there are no lit­tle screw holes and points for rust to be­gin.”

There are bre­glass front and rear head­ers, and all the lower bolted-on pan­els – which are the most likely to get hit – are alu­minium.

The mono­coque de­sign means it’s an in­te­grated body and chas­sis, which BCI says is good for strength and weight.

“Man­u­fac­tur­ing is straight­for­ward that way,” Cor­dia says.

SMOOTH

The Aus­tralian-de­signed, Chi­ne­se­built bus adds the in­ter­na­tional avour of an Amer­i­can power plant and Ger­man gear­box.

The engine is the ubiq­ui­tous 6- cylin­der, 8.9-litre Cum­mins ISL with Euro 5 emis­sions. It’s rated to 340hp (250kW) with about 1500Nm of torque. The ISL is matched to a 6-speed ZF ‘Eco­l­ife’ fully au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

The steer­ing box and rear axle are ZF. How­ever, the in­de­pen­dent front sus­pen­sion is by Chi­nese man­u­fac­turer Jin­ben. The wheels are Alexa al­loys with low-prole tyres.

Cor­dia says BCI has been us­ing Jin­ben and Alexa prod­ucts for many years “and they have proven to be very good”.

The front wheels and steer­able tags are su­per sin­gles, and that’s mainly for their higher weight­car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity. But, if de­sired, they can be changed to more stan­dard 275/70R22.5 all round, pend­ing cus­tomer specic re­quire­ments.

PLENTY OF POWER

We found this dou­ble-decker to be great to drive. There’s plenty of torque and the trans­mis­sion is smooth with an ex­cel­lent three­stage re­tarder.

We threw it into a round­about at Pak­en­ham a few times and were pleas­antly sur­prised by how sta­ble it is for such a tall bus – it seemed no dif­fer­ent to a sin­gle-decker. That’s thanks to a low cen­tre of grav­ity, sta­biliser bars and load-shar­ing sus­pen­sion with eight air bags.

Adding some peace of mind but not com­pla­cency was the fact that the model has been rollover tested in China, and has elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol (ESC) as part of the Wabco elec­tronic brake system (EBS). The all-round disc brakes are by Knorr. Ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity is good cour­tesy of the steer­able tag axle.

The bus cruised along the free­way at 100km/h with no prob­lems at all, sit­ting on the edge of the green torque/econ­omy band at 1800rpm.

The stretch pan­els are fi­bre­glass and bonded to the frame

Most im­por­tantly, it steered and han­dled very well and felt sta­ble de­spite the heavy rain. The Isri driver’s seat with air lum­bar sup­port is great, as is the blind-spot vi­sion.

The pas­sen­ger experience is pretty good too. There was no vi­bra­tion up the back down­stairs, and the noise level was ex­pected but ac­cept­able.

Up­stairs was quiet with sur­pris­ingly good head­room – 1.8 me­tres with 2.1 me­tres on the en­try down­stairs, de­clin­ing down the back of the bus, of course, be­cause of the tag axle. How­ever, there is a smooth oor to the back with no step.

The stan­dard seats on board were BCI’s own brand (TST) and we found them com­fort­able enough, but you can or­der what­ever seats you want.

BCI says qual­ity fea­tures in­clude Hella lights, formica in­ter­nal pan­elling, and a spe­cial type of vinyl oor­ing. There is roll-on wheel­chair com­pli­ance, cam­eras ga­lore, and an up­stairs pas­sen­ger in­di­ca­tor us­ing sen­sors on the stair­case.

The only down­sides that I could spot in this bus were mi­nor.

One was up­ward ad­justa­bil­ity of the steer­ing wheel – at the com­fort­able po­si­tion for me, the speedo was slightly ob­structed.

The other was the pres­sure needed on the foot brake when stopped at lights or in­ter­sec­tions.

Above and

left: The in­te­rior is sleek and de­signed for pas­sen­ger safety

Be­low: The ex­te­rior is clean and sim­ple

Clock­wise

from left: The big bus is very ma­noeu­vrable; A nice fin­ish on the in­te­rior; The engine packs a punch; Plenty of room in the aisle

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.