Breadvans or Workhorses?

We’re back to another blog and another hot topic of conversation among many a bus enthusiast and that’s Minibuses, many referring to a minibus regardless of the amount of seats as a glorified bread van!

So I’m discussing the various minibuses I’ve photographed over the years and their uses and giving a different spin on “Glorified Bread Vans”.

Make no exceptions, some minibuses are ghastly, they’re just vans with seats in, but don’t tar them all with the same brush! Some were different and some served a very good purpose.

Operators in the Teesside area that stuck out to me the most for using minibuses would be Arriva, Abbey/A1 Coaches, Leven Valley, Compass Royston, M&D Travel and P&E Coaches to name a few. They used a variety such as Mercedes 709Ds, Mercedes 814D, Optare Metroriders and all with a variety of bodies.

But just how useful were these buses? I’d say from an operators point of view they were very useful. They were relatively straight forward and easy to fix, they were nifty to get in places your long coach couldn’t and they were an alternative to having a half empty bus running round. Not to mention the savings you could make and the unique offering that you could give to potential customers. They were ideal for pottering around the town, up and down the country side and just general pottering around.

P&E Coaches is a fine example of a company that very much made “Breadvans” work for them. They had a number of ready to go Mercedes Minibuses for school contracts along with one or two larger coaches, now from an operators point of view, they’ll of stood out from a crowd, the use of small minibuses keeps the price of fuel down, the maintenance costs will be low and in turn this cost saving can be put onto the customer, with a profit margin still to be made.

Some operators had an advantage over others, those smaller minibuses were ideal for contracts that you couldn’t use a large bus on, whether that be ferrying children from rural communities to schools within town areas, for around the town work pottering up and down estates or for use on things such as rail replacements. I recall one opportunity where Compass Royston used a 16 seat LDV Minibus to call at a number of stations along the Whitby line during a rail replacement along with Croft Coach Travel’s 33 seat Mercedes and Commercial Coaches Mercedes Sprinter.

Not all minibuses look the same, with the varying body styles, not all were and including current ones, are, as awful as you think. Some Mercedes Sprinter minibuses coming out these days have posh seating, mood lighting, bus type doors, destination blinds and air conditioning and the same for some 33 seat mini coaches. However actual “minibus breadvans” on service work seem to be very much a thing of the past, the Optare Solos and other smaller Enviro Type vehicles that operate on services up and down the country these days are certainly more advanced in technology.

But regardless of the views, they served a purpose, a purpose of being economic and cheap to run along with being ideal for a variety of work!

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