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Custom Bus Closes and its future

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Custom Bus Closes and its future

Postby Daniel » Thu Jan 18, 2018 2:24 pm

Custom Buses, which repairs and services SA metro buses, hit by financial distress
Valerina Changarathil, The Advertiser
January 18, 2018 11:52am

AUSTRALIA’S second-largest bus body building company Custom Buses, which repairs and services SA’s bus network, has again been placed in administration due to “financial distress”.

Administrator Worrells is looking for a buyer for the business, which operates from Villawood in NSW and Wingfield in SA.

The state Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure is a major customer of Custom Buses.

It is understood the company employs more than 100 workers in Villawood and about a dozen at Wingfield.

Custom Buses (previously called Custom Coaches) closed its Royal Park manufacturing facility in 2014 ending more than a century of bus building in SA when it was placed in administration by then UK owner Alexander Dennis.

Back then, Australian specialist funds manager Allegro Funds stepped in to rescue the business as part of a consortium led by Mark Burgess, who had sold it to the UK company in 2012.

Mr Burgess is related to Stanley Hillsdon, who started the business as Cycle Components Manufacturing Company in Guildford in Sydney in 1935.

Allegro Funds sold its stake in Custom Bus to Mr Burgess in February 2017.

Custom’s customers include some of Australia’s largest government and private bus operators.

“(The business) fell in to financial distress late last year as a result of production problems and operational challenges,” Worrells said in a statement.

Worrells partners Simon Cathro and Aaron Lucan have been appointed as the administrators.

“The business will continue to trade as usual through the Voluntary Administration process and administrators will work closely with the employees, customers and suppliers to ensure the delivery of all buses currently under order,” Mr Cathro said.

“We will continue to undertake a financial assessment of the business and will be placing the businesses up for sale.”

Mr Cathro said there would be no changes to the current employee structure

“There will be no changes to the current employee structure at this stage but we will continue to review that position regularly over the course of the administration.”

All offers from interested parties will be considered, Mr Cathro said.

A comment from DPTI has been sought.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby tonyp » Thu Jan 18, 2018 7:18 pm

A neighbouring birdie alerted me to this a month ago! So it has come to pass.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby TA3001 » Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:42 pm

I'd almost prefer a Bustech over a modern CC bodied vehicle. Their bodies have never been that flash at any point, possibly excluding the CB60 Evo 2 which was succeeded by the (in my opinion) awful CB80 body which has only gotten worse and worse over time, not better.

I have no intention of being defamatory towards this company. I'm just being straight forward, as a not so satisfied passenger.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby tonyp » Thu Jan 18, 2018 9:03 pm

In terms of citybus design, Volgren has it all over those other two. It's not just a slight difference, it's yawning. I've ridden Custom buses since CCMC days and there were some excellent products over the years and nice memories; not so lately.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby Frosty » Thu Jan 18, 2018 9:22 pm

Volgren is the market leader and is doing well also now exporting to Japan. While on the other hand Bustech has a strong grip on the Queensland & NSW markets while also being smart by having partnerships with Elphinstone & Precision buses. Sadly in all honesty Custom hasn't really innovated & just been left behind the Australian bus market is maybe too small for 3 locally-built major bus companies. Maybe there's a future for Custom in manufacturing overseas and bringing them to Australia like BCI.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby PoweredByCNG » Fri Jan 19, 2018 11:51 am

The latest Volgren design has some infuriating flaws that make life as a driver or passenger less pleasant.

For starters, all the cabinets filled with electricals above the driver rattle incessantly, and the hinged access doors that cover the electricals are fitted with budget locks that have varying amounts of play in them from the factory so any slight bump in the road induces further rattles. Same deal with the hinged access panels that cover the mechanisms above the doors.

The driver's cab door latches are typically also delivered with excess play - more rattles. Parts of the driver's cab surrounds rub can rub against the aluminium body frame - yet more rattles. Modesty panels that divide the door areas and the passenger seating bang and carry on. The standard fibreglass staunchions also can rub against the aluminium frames underneath - constant creaking.

The standard ductwork is made of a thin, squeaky fibreglass that visibly flexes and rubs against adjacent sections as the bus travels down the road, and often is fitted so poorly that the panel gaps between each piece is obviously different.

The interior LED light strips seem to be very prone to failure, with a large number of buses in Perth driving around with at least one non-functioning strip.

And for a HUGE driver ergonomics flaw - the multiplexing/computer control console on the left side of the main dashboard binnacle is used to control settings displayed in a monitor mounted high at ceiling level to the right of the driver. Who thought that that was a good idea?

Plenty of other structural flaws in the Volgren design, but all I'll say is that Volgren's latest products are far from brilliant. In fact, Volgren's products from 15 years ago were put together more sturdily than the products available today. At least the aluminium body frames are a proven quality that can withstand the test of time. Shame about everything else bolted on top of said aluminium...
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby Swift » Fri Jan 19, 2018 1:07 pm

Sounds like it's time to give up the illusion that we have any real manufacturing sector left and import our public transport as NSW has started.
We can't style our buses to save our skins and they're functionally inferior to overseas designed transport.
Just look at any brochure from any overseas city with trains or buses in the photographs and they look alot better and more professional than our ramshackle systems. The 1950s have been and gone.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby TA3001 » Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:21 pm

Swift wrote:Sounds like it's time to give up the illusion that we have any real manufacturing sector left and import our public transport as NSW has started.
We can't style our buses to save our skins and they're functionally inferior to overseas designed transport.
Just look at any brochure from any overseas city with trains or buses in the photographs and they look alot better and more professional than our ramshackle systems. The 1950s have been and gone.


What do you mean by this? You're saying that NSW public transport seriously isn't reliant on local manufacturing in any form, and that Australia should import new buses from overseas?

What exactly do these body builders do differently to the ones in Australia?
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby PoweredByCNG » Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:37 pm

TA3001 wrote:What exactly do these body builders do differently to the ones in Australia?


A lot. For starter, many manufacturers overseas build "integral" products, which means that there's no separate chassis as such (i.e. integrated product). This reduces the weight of the vehicle and increases its structural rigidity. Furthermore, instead of two separate entities in relation to aftersales(i.e. chassis manufacturer and coachbuilder), you only deal with one.

Furthermore, the European manufacturers place a lot of emphasis on safety and the latest technologies. Just have a look at the standard equipment supplied on a European Mercedes-Benz Citaro or MAN Lion's City, for example. Australian operators and coachbuilders are actually extremely conservative by world standards.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby jibb » Fri Jan 19, 2018 6:28 pm

Frosty wrote:Volgren is the market leader and is doing well also now exporting to Japan. While on the other hand Bustech has a strong grip on the Queensland & NSW markets while also being smart by having partnerships with Elphinstone & Precision buses. Sadly in all honesty Custom hasn't really innovated & just been left behind the Australian bus market is maybe too small for 3 locally-built major bus companies. Maybe there's a future for Custom in manufacturing overseas and bringing them to Australia like BCI.

Bustech is building buses in Adelaide also-has 4 prototypes with Adelaide Metro operators with 2 electric buses shortly to enter service.They are also building buses for the interstate market.
They are about to expand their SA operation,and must stand a good chance of winning some of the next round of tenders.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby TA3001 » Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:37 pm

From my obs, Bustech bodies are no better or worse than CC ones, but here are my thoughts regarding modern Bustech bodies.

The internal paneling with the Bustechs is not really friendly towards those with schizophrenia or similar conditions. I do not have this condition, but the matrix style panels cause an unpleasant sensation with my eyes when looking at them for any prolonged period of time with the bumps on the road etc. I think they should switch to standard panels instead of trying to be too stylish. Even below where the window line should be, it's still unpleasant. It is appalling in my opinion.

The 'next stop requested' announcement is slightly less annoying than the very loud and annoying next stop tone that CC seem programmed into buses produced since late 2016. It is still pointless though. The CC buses from interstate that were purchased second hand by Torrens Transit tend to have a single tone alert, which is more audible than a ding (on high floors, and Volgrens). There is no need for stupid experimentation with these useless chimes. On a few CC bodied buses, they are way too loud, yet I got criticised for mentioning this in 2014.

Regarding the actual window line, it is disgraceful. I don't know why they haven't lower it in line with the actual seating. When I was on 1906, little kids were complaining that they couldn't see out the window, which is surprising given it's a modern bus design. Even the PMC 11.190s had a proper external view from all seat, and this has never really been a problem with CC buses until about 2014 (right after the Adelaide plant closed down) with the very bright side desto display reflecting on the window and being an annoyance.

In short, a bus shouldn't be irritating or be causing annoyances to passengers regarding the build quality. But unfortunately, it seems to be the case with most modern Australian designs, regardless of the manufacturer. The Volgren CR224L was a fairly decent body in my opinion, with enough noise insulation to prevent headaches from excessive engine noise, but without making the vehicle sound like a washing machine on wheels. Much better than anything by CC or ABM. But since then, they seem to have gone downhill by 'improving' things.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby Swift » Sat Jan 20, 2018 12:32 am

The reason our local body builders get away with such mediocrity is because the passengers (the end users) don't make the decisions on who to order from. The customers who order them don't have to ride the scrappy things. As long as they fulfill what the operator wants, mechanically reliable and easy to repair, stuff the rest. Not their problem.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby tonyp » Sat Jan 20, 2018 9:30 am

It sounds like Volgren has some minor quality control issues that they're not addressing as hard as they should because of continuing large sales and thus perhaps an element of resting on laurels, a bit of an old syndrome that was found in the former Australian automobile manufacturing industry and we know what happened to that. I must say that as a passenger who uses them a lot both in Perth and Wollongong, I haven't noticed anything - certainly none of the issues noted by PoweredbyCNG, but then he possibly focuses on different issues from me (said in a complimentary sense - the more eyes that see different things, the better!).

My main focus is on how they work as an efficient mass transit vehicle in which the general internal functionality (involving issues like seating layout and the design of internal steps) is at the forefront. I also like the Volgrens' ambient lighting, reminiscent of an aircraft. I would hope that Volgren's success in getting orders from Japan will encourage them to lift their game because the Japanese are not going to tolerate any quality shortcomings for very long. Perhaps locals should give them direct feedback on these issues. They have a contact system on their website. I'm sure they'd welcome feedback.

Bustech is no doubt a manufacturer capable of producing good production quality, from accounts given here, but they seem to have absolutely no idea about functionality. Designing an urban bus with steps at a door in the 21st century is an in-your-face clanger of the first order, compounded by a depressing number of operators/agencies who seem to see no problem with that (which is a real commentary on the backwardness of much of the Australian operational scene as well). Then, when we come to an agency/operator (AdMet) who is fully competent and does see a problem and demands that the builder amend the design accordingly, Bustech puts in a (part-) low floor but doesn't adjust the window line so that people on the low floor can see out, as TA3001 points out. As for WA, Bustech wouldn't even meet PTA's minimum design standards at present, leaving the field to Volgren.

Then, by the same token, we're not going to get anything better from Asia, as indicated by this beauty from Gemilang (on a BYD chassis and ADR compliant apparently!):

BYDsteps.jpg
BYDsteps.jpg (151.76 KiB) Viewed 4642 times


This makes Custom's already challenging aisle stairs look good by comparison. Nobody (apart from Volgren) thinks of the actual users of the bus.

Europe is the place to look for good urban bus design and only Europe. Operators/agencies here should also be setting better minimum standards. A manufacturer will only supply what's permitted/recommended and we can't expect them to raise standards on their own without leadership from agencies in particular. There is some good agency leadership in WA and SA but the east coast is a desert of mediocrity.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby PoweredByCNG » Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:58 am

tonyp wrote:It sounds like Volgren has some minor quality control issues that they're not addressing as hard as they should because of continuing large sales and thus perhaps an element of resting on laurels, a bit of an old syndrome that was found in the former Australian automobile manufacturing industry and we know what happened to that. I must say that as a passenger who uses them a lot both in Perth and Wollongong, I haven't noticed anything - certainly none of the issues noted by PoweredbyCNG, but then he possibly focuses on different issues from me (said in a complimentary sense - the more eyes that see different things, the better!).


Thing is, as a bus owner, I now see things from both a passengers' as well as a drivers' perspective. Remember, the driver is the person who is going to spend 10 hours in a particular bus, so things such as unnecessary noise and poor ergonomics really infuriate me. Afterall, undue stress has the potential to affect how well a driver performs his/her job. Volgren love to claim that their latest products are designed by Monash University students, but obviously these students don't hold heavy vehicle licences and/or don't travel extensively by bus!!
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby tonyp » Sat Jan 20, 2018 1:18 pm

PoweredByCNG wrote:Thing is, as a bus owner, I now see things from both a passengers' as well as a drivers' perspective. Remember, the driver is the person who is going to spend 10 hours in a particular bus, so things such as unnecessary noise and poor ergonomics really infuriate me. Afterall, undue stress has the potential to affect how well a driver performs his/her job. Volgren love to claim that their latest products are designed by Monash University students, but obviously these students don't hold heavy vehicle licences and/or don't travel extensively by bus!!

Ah, yes perhaps that's the problem! As soon as a university becomes involved, everything goes pear-shaped. There's no substitute for practical knowledge and experience.

All I can say as a passenger is that, of all the Australian bus body brands, Volgrens work the best for passengers. That's probably not so much to say that Volgren is good, more of a case that (as I like to put it) it's the "least worst" out of a poor bunch.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby Swift » Sat Jan 20, 2018 2:30 pm

Saying a bus is the least shitty is no endorsement.
Apparently the driver ergonomics of Sydney's small batch of Volgren B12BLE rigid from around 2006 are the pits, but are nice things to ride from my recollections, though it has been a decade since I rode one, but I haven't forgotten their nice night time lighting.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby tonyp » Sat Jan 20, 2018 2:44 pm

I would think that, considering the close politcal nexus between PTA as a customer and Volgren as a manufacturer heavily dependent on PTA and also a significant source of employment for the WA economy, if there were any significant shortcomings in the Volgrens, ergonomic and otherwise, PTA should be straight onto having these issues rectified.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby Frosty » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:36 pm

Swift wrote:Saying a bus is the least shitty is no endorsement.
Apparently the driver ergonomics of Sydney's small batch of Volgren B12BLE rigid from around 2006 are the pits, but are nice things to ride from my recollections, though it has been a decade since I rode one, but I haven't forgotten their nice night time lighting.


Is it an STA order the Volgren B12BLE Euro 3 rigids or is the Custom Coaches ones ?
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby Swift » Sun Jan 21, 2018 5:23 am

STA's original batch of 50 Euro 3 Volgren Volvo B12BLEs, some of which passed to Transit Systems due to their takeover of the Western Sydney Buses T-way.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby BAMBAM » Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:07 am

Swift wrote:STA's original batch of 50 Euro 3 Volgren Volvo B12BLEs, some of which passed to Transit Systems due to their takeover of the Western Sydney Buses T-way.


Only 2 of the 50 was transferred.

With other states buying locally made state buses, and when State Transit bought bustech original tender of 80 which was increased, I wonder how if that was won by custom will we see it in the situation today.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby Swift » Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:27 am

^ I wonder if Gladys ever ponders how she may have affected the maker of the bus she catches? She would regularly ride in a Customs product.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby tonyp » Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:34 am

Swift wrote:^ I wonder if Gladys ever ponders how she may have affected the maker of the bus she catches? She would regularly ride in a Customs product.

Probably put a hex on it.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby Swift » Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:44 am

Mechanical staff usually do that.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby lunchbox » Mon Jan 22, 2018 9:53 am

A display ad in the Sydney Morning Herald of 20.1.18 invited expressions of interest for the purchase of Custom Bus Australia. Tenders close 29.1.18.
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Re: Custom Bus Enters Voluntary Administration

Postby Swift » Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:57 am

Bustech or Volgren will probably take over and adopt the CB80 for a while and maybe absorb features from it into their models.
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