The Bristol RE – Deliveries 1971

No new vehicles were purchased in 1970, but the versatility of the RE chassis was reflected in the 1971 deliveries (except that some did not arrive until 1972). From the registration numbers, the first were 4 RELH chassis with ECW dual purpose bodies. These provided extra comfort for longer distance bus services, and had underfloor luggage accommodation enabling them to be used as coaches when required. The use of the coach chassis meant that they had a flat floor throughout, but an extra step to the seating area. In practice, such compromises inevitably have disadvantages, and the seats were not as luxurious as those in the coaches delivered in the previous years, and they tended to spend most of their time working as buses.

Next came 4 RELL buses with 53 seats, which seem to have spent most of their lives in the valleys depots. The standard ECW bus body now had the double curved BET windscreen, which may have assisted with some problems with reflections at night – or not, depending who you ask! It also seems to have been a result of one of the National Bus Company’s ideas about standardisation on a smaller number of different components – sounds good in theory, but, of course the devil is in the detail, and the curved screens were undoubtedly more expensive than the flat variety they replaced in the case of the ECW designs. The standardisation mantra fell flat when other manufacturers redesigned their vehicles, so the exercise probably cost more money than it saved!

ECW ceased production of their mark 1 coach body for the RELH chassis, so that R&W’s two coaches delivered in 1971 had Plaxton Panorama Elite bodies. The Panorama Elite was undoubtedly a landmark style in coach design, but it was certainly not as robust as the ECW mark 1 body. These two coaches tended to be used on private hire and tours, rather than the more demanding express services. Unusually for Panorama Elites, they were fitted with window sliders in the three main side windows, at least initially. Opening windows in coaches had been commonplace until a few years before, and indeed Duple were still building their Viceroy range at this time, most of which featured these items – but I’m not sure why Red & White selected them for these RELHs. Perhaps it was simple parsimoniousness, or possibly a lack of confidence in the forced air ventilation system’s ability to cope with the scorching tropical heat of a South Wales summer!

The largest single group of vehicles in the 1971 order were 10 Bristol RESL with 47 seat bodies, several of which were used regularly on the 73 Cardiff – Gloucester service. Slightly longer than the 1967 short REs, these (along with all of the 1971 deliveries) had Leyland 680 engines, which again gave a sparkling performance, as well as some very musical – and loud – sound effects. 3 additional REs were also delivered to the Jones, Aberbeeg, subsidiary – 2 Plaxton Panorama Elite bodied RELH coaches and one RELL/ECW bus, which were numbered within the R&W fleet numbering sequence with ‘J’ suffixes.

Red & White’s western neighbour, Western Welsh, had ordered 10 RELL/ECW buses for 1971, but later cancelled them, so that they were diverted, with 4 going to the Bristol Omnibus Company, and the other 6 to R&W, one of which was an additional vehicle for Jones. None of the REs from the 1971 deliveries survives today, and indeed none from any of the subsequent years.