Plaxton Elite-i team coach: Not just for football

A team coach can be an asset that spends a lot of its time idle. That’s not the case for one in East Yorkshire, which is kept busy year-round thanks to a diverse workload and a versatile internal layoutVolvo B11R Plaxton Elite-i team coach one of three Acklams interdeckersTeam coaches: To some operators, they are a key part of their business. To others, they are something to shy away from. But one company in East Yorkshire has such a vehicle that fits in perfectly with the rest of its fleet, in terms of both parentage and workload.Acklams Coaches of Beverley is a loyal Plaxton and Volvo customer, and when it needed a second team coach to add to its existing Neoplan Starliner, it specified a B11R with Elite-i body.It is the third Elite-i to join Acklams’ fleet. The earlier pair are fully seated and they put their high capacity to good use on school trips, concert excursions, cruise work, and carrying supporters of Hull’s professional sports teams.The new coach, however, is to a completely bespoke layout. Although to team specification, it is also PSVAR compliant thanks to the low-floor area. At 13.8m it has a total of 42 seats – against 73 in the two 15m Elite-is – and it was fitted out by AD Coach Systems over a multi-month stay at AD’s Biddulph premises.While it’s largely kept busy in its primary role, downtime in match and training schedules means that Acklams can use the team coach on work that would traditionally be outside the remit of such a vehicle.Immediately after routeone saw it in February, it headed out on a contract for a nearby private school, and it already has a nine-day trip to France planned for the summer. Cruise transfer duties to Southampton are also bread and butter for it thanks to cavernous luggage space.Tested combinationAll of the full-sized coaches bought new by Acklams since 2005 have been Volvo Plaxtons; the Starliner was purchased second-hand. “We did look at other manufacturers before we went for the third B11R Elite-i, but we have diagnostic equipment for Volvos and our engineers are used to them,” says Director Paul Acklam.Rear lounge comes with conference table and two X-Box game consolesThe Swedish chassis have also proved themselves to be man enough for hard work; as an example, Acklams recently acquired a used Plaxton Volvo that was utilised by its former owner on National Express work. Despite having covered a high mileage, it is in excellent condition.Familiarity with Plaxton also played a part in the purchasing decision. Acklams is around 30 miles from the Scarborough factory, which assures a rapid response when needed.Another positive of the Elite-i is its road presence. Paul and his son and fellow Director Alan Acklam believe that that alone generates work.While 15m coaches may be tricky for inexperienced drivers to handle in some situations, that’s not such a problem with the 13.8m Elite-i.30 of Acklams’ staff regularly drive tri-axles, and of particular appeal on the Elite-i is the small lower-deck area. “We’ve no issue with sending any of them on a school run if necessary, but drivers must know how to handle them,” says Alan.Goodies insideFootballers from Hull City FC, and rugby players from Hull FC, Hull Kingston Rovers and Hull Ionians RUFC, all use the Elite-i team coach to travel to away games, and it is also employed to move various academy and youth teams.Unlike some other coaches in its sector, it has been built specifically for the task at hand and it cannot practically be up-seated later in life. It is replete with luxuries, toys and essential fittings for its primary application, and within the luggage space is a generator to power them when parked.“At some stadiums it’s not always possible to get close to a shore supply, so we need the auxiliary power unit,” says Alan. A Webasto coolant heater is also fitted.In the main saloon, the coach has six full-size tables and a further conference-style table in a rear lounge, around which eight seats are positioned. Wireless charging for certain devices is provided and at the front, three smaller tables are present.Most seats in the main saloon around tables; a large kitchen is also fittedNumerous monitors are fitted throughout the coach, and two of those in the rear lounge are connected to X-Box systems. Also there is ‘sky’-style lighting, made up of a twinkling star display.Much of the offside is occupied by a large kitchen and serving area, which is split around the continental door. A sink and coffee machine are part of it, along with various ovens and fridges below, and numerous cupboards.The overhead racks are removed above the kitchen, but elsewhere on the coach, they have aircraft-style doors. All passengers are provided with 240v and USB charging points.Each of the black leather seats has a choice of antimacassars, each with an individual club’s logo embroidered into them.As a result, they must be changed dependent on the team being carried, or removed entirely when on other work.The responseThe Elite-i is not Acklams’ first team coach, but the response from players and officials that have used it has been universally positive.Power is from a Volvo D11K engine rated at 460bhp, and it drives through an I-Shift automated manual gearbox. While the unladen weight at 18,457kg is high, the D11K gives excellent performance and the coach has no problems keeping up with traffic. Fuel consumption is not always a principal concern at this end of the market, but it is thought that the team coach returns around 10mpg.All three of the Elite-is have proved to be useful and versatile members of the Acklams fleet, and neither Alan nor Paul rule out a fourth in the future should work dictate. They have not been entirely without issue, but aftersales support from both Plaxton and Volvo has mitigated any problems, and they are otherwise proving to be reliable.Wireless charging for certain devices is provided at all of the tables“Sometimes we can have all three interdeckers on the same job, with the two 73-seaters carrying supporters and the team coach doing its thing,” says Alan.“As an operator we sometimes overlook it as we see them every day, but the Elite-i is a striking mobile advertising hoarding. If you see a convoy of coaches and one of them is an Elite-i, it stands out.”While the exact price has not been disclosed, an Elite-i to team specification is a major investment.Acklams’ is looked after entirely in-house, and is in the same Elite Travel livery as the other two, creating a unified look.But one of its true appeals is its versatility. Acklams has developed its sports team work over a number of years, and that means that there is plenty to keep its three Elite-is busy during the season.Outside of it, the team coach can be usefully employed on other duties, keeping an expensive asset busy – just as it should be. read more