MP visit
Keith Newman

Member Article

MP gets Smiles more MPG

A Newcastle engineering company is using their skill; experience and manufacturing techniques to bring buses bang up to date, saving operators money and ensuring they meet environmental regulations.

Smiles Engineering is a specialist in repowering buses to make them greener and more fuel-efficient. The company also refurbishes and remanufactures engines with its own Newcastle-based team carrying out the work and making many of the new parts on-site.

Smiles Engineering moved from their previous premises in Byker to its new home on the Brunswick Park Industrial Estate a year and a half ago. Since the move, turnover has grown by 300%.

Managing director Gordon Mockett said: “We now have better facilities and the larger workshops we needed to meet demand”.

“We work with bus companies from all over the UK to repower engines and replace emissions control systems to make them greener and more efficient. By improving the engines’ emissions, it gives the bus a new lease of life, so the bus operating companies don’t have to buy new vehicles. We can repower the engines of five buses for the price of one new bus.

Buses that have been through Smiles’ workshop use less fuel, something that is about to become even more important as the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) is reducing. Bus Operating companies claimed a 50% fuel subsidy up to April 2012, but that has reduced to 30% and it’s future existence could be doubtful.

Gordon, who has been with the business for three years, said: “From an operators point of view, repowering the engine can improve fuel consumption by between 20% and 100%, depending on the original engine.

“Along with saving fuel, it is also about improving air quality and there are potentially huge EU fines for non-achievement of specified the air quality and target emission levels.

“As the average bus can last for 25 years, it makes sense to keep it running efficiently as long as possible.”

The cost of a new bus is a major capital outlay for the bus operator, especially those vehicles that are compliant with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act. These special buses have low steps and internal features to help the disabled traveller. The work carried out at Smiles Engineering enables bus operators to keep their vehicles running longer and more efficiently.

As part of the expansion, Smiles recruited General Manager, Rob Pease in September last year. The company now has 27 employees; it has taken on a number of apprentices and has future plans to add more technical apprentices to the operation.

Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell recently enjoyed a tour of the site and a visit to the workshop.

She said: ““The great thing about Smiles Engineering is that it is a North East company employing time-served engineers, who know their job, whilst also training the engineers of the future. “Public transport is a vital service and ensuring bus operators meet their environmental obligations is a big, but important, job. I’ve really enjoyed visiting Smiles to see how they are helping the bus companies to achieve this.”

Gordon said: “The Government needs to encourage bus companies to reinvest in their current fleets, rather than buying new, and allow us the access to funding to help them refurbish their engines.

“Repowering old engines is lot more cost effective and better for the environment than buying new vehicles.”

Ends

Photo shows: MP Catherine McKinnell with the Smiles Engineering team

More information from Keith Newman Highlights PR 07814 397951

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Keith Newman .

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