Melbourne bus innovation

By: Ian Porter

Victorian operator Skylight Bus Lines wants to add its own flair to buses

Melbourne bus innovation
Their time working at Firefly had instilled in Kuvanci and son Serge the importance of presentation when doing charter work

A Victorian operator has made the move to design its own buses after just over a decade of service.

Skylight Bus Lines, with owner Mustafa Kuvanci and his family at the helm, has become an innovative establishment in the Victorian bus industry.

Kuvanci moved to Australia in the 1970s when he was a teenager and later drove for Northern Buslines, before he found himself driving for Firefly in the early 2000s.

Their time working at Firefly had instilled in Kuvanci and son Serge the importance of presentation when doing charter work, and they started thinking about how to get their hands on some new buses.

The problem was the arrival of buses from China had forced a massive restructuring of prices in the charter market.

"Chinese buses that came into Australia actually killed the contract prices," Serge says.

"You used to tender for a $700,000 Australian-built coach and someone else goes and says hold on, I’ll use a King Long at $350,000.

"Without going into Chinese buses, you’ve really got no work."

Skylight checked out all the Chinese coaches but wasn’t thrilled with the basic finish inside.

Serge and his father decided to investigate what it would take to have a Chinese bus fitted out more to their liking.

They ended up at Zhuhai Granton Bus and Coach Company in Guandong province, just north of Macau in Southern China.

Granton makes a range of diesel-, gas- and electric-powered chassis and assembles buses for Alexander Dennis for use in markets including Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok.

Skylight redesigned the interior with different colours, leather on the seats, different seats, armrests and other features, Serge says, and, guided by Australian vehicle engineering consultant AVASS, came up with a bus which satisfies Australian Design Rules.

It was a three-year project and they had to crash the prototype to test its rollover capability, but all those costs are now behind the company.

"Compared to US chassis, everything is the same: the warranty, the usage years, the mileage, everything the same," says Kuvanci.

"But when it comes to the engine, I say it is better than the European engines. It doesn’t hurt the pocket.

"A European engine- just the engine itself without all the bits and pieces on the engine- costs round about $36,000 to $40,000. This one here, with the complete, fully assembled engine, it’s $13,000.

"So we made the decision.

"It’s got a Yuchi engine in it, the same as they use in their military vehicles. You get the same wear and tear, you get the same mileage. And it’s Euro 5."

Skylight only has one of its Granton coaches in Australia, badged as a Skylight, but it owns 10 chassis in China and intends to build its self-designed coach body on them and bring them over – when the time is right.

It wants to use them in its own fleet, but is also be prepared to distribute them to other operators.

Even if Skylight does not sell the completed buses to other operators, Serge says, Skylight can use the chassis it has in storage in China to gradually upgrade its own fleet.

Read the full operator profile in the upcoming edition of ABC magazine

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