Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ash Vegas hits Downtown Baltimore

Well this is just parochial pride, one of life's sillier ways of boosting the ego, taking kudos merely for living in an area adjacent to someone else that has achieved success. But damn it all, I feel a big beam of local pride, I am going to hop on this bus as it goes past!! Good on yer Canterbury! Good on yer Ashburton. Good on yer son of Ashburton John Turton. Yep Ashburton has extended its mark - indeed its tyre print - upon the world, cutting it with the big boys in New York and Baltimore!  What next, redneck Ash Vegas racing for leadership in the the greenest of green public transport!!  A few months ago it was announced that New York Metropolitan Transit Authority has extended its trial of Designline hybrid gas turbo buses, from one bus to 30,  a significant step towards future sales. One person who rode on it described it as quiet as a library (he obviously hasn't been near a library for years!!).  Just recently Baltimore launched a new central city circulator, filling a similar role to The Shuttle in Christchurch,  and, hello, that front window configuration looked very familiar - yes it's a Designline bus - a Designline Hybrid Olymbus. In fact you can even take a virtual ride on it per u-tube  -
Designline Bus in Baltimore

The only things slightly askew with the fairytale is that to get the foot in the door of the USA market, original owner John Turton had to sell controlling interest in Designline to an American bus manufacturer some years ago, albeit he retained a major role himself. Second rat pulling Cinderella's carriage is that "small town does well and then gets dumped" - it happens so often and is such a crappy part of capitalism's so called success.  Instead of development being balanced and spread, offering prosperity across a nation, allowing sensible development that doesn't squash every thing, and everybody in one place, the need for maximum profits ensures big fish eat little fish. Anything of any quality that develops or grows in the provinces that can possibly be asset stripped and moved to a bigger centre will be plundered. So it is with the move of  Designline's New Zealand plant from Ashburton to Rolleston, to be closer to a guaranteed labour market and presumably also to major bus operator customers and the port to the North Island. Sooner or later, give another decade or two, no doubt the same plant will relocate to Manurewa, or if they can crack Australia, the NZ bus building industry will become based in North Sydney!! Getting labour was a constant problem in Ashburton, at one stage fifty workers were brought out from China, so this was no small problem, but it is still very sad to see all this concentration of jobs and industry in major centres, loss of a major employer in a small town. 

In the meantime for no justifiable reason I'll share in a wee bit of pride that a kiwi could come up with a hybrid formula years ahead of some of the world's biggest bus manufacturers, not only the gas turbine but also the idea of the supplementary engine itself generating electricity rather than running in concert or alternating combination with a diesel engine.   I'll go along for the ride [a cheeky 18 year old in the room describes the virtual trip around Baltimore as the world's most boring u-tube...have to agree it is a pity they don't run a circuit bus around Ashburton, I imagine it would be a more interesting downtown!!]

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