2001 (first registered 07/2007)
Blue Bird TC200 (APC 2000)
Blue Bird Corporation
Blue Bird F129964
Purchased new by
First Group Olympia Training
Prototype to demonstrate 'yellow school bus' concept to government. Converted to non-PSV exhibition vehicle.
Manufactured in the USA by Georgia-based Blue Bird Corporation, Q275LBA is a rare and significant survivor operated by the First Group. Blue Bird Corporation are a leading independent designer and manufacturer of school buses, with more than 550,000 buses sold since its formation in 1927, and approximately 180,000 buses in operation today, mainly in America.
Built as a TC/2000 model in 2001, the prototype vehicle was imported by First Group UK to demonstrate the 'yellow school bus’ concept to the UK government, to persuade them to follow the US method of ensuring that all school buses were dedicated yellow buses. First Student already existed in America, so to develop the idea in the United Kingdom, the company decided to bring in American knowledge, from a woman who would later become managing director of First Student, after owning and operated her own school bus company in the States before it was acquired by First Group. Numbered 68000 in the First Group UK fleet, this prototype vehicle was built to US specification, although was naturally a right-hand drive model for the UK roads. The company displayed the vehicle at Showbus in 2001, showcasing the concept to the public.
However, it was soon discovered that this vehicle failed to comply with UK legislation standards for carrying passengers, never mind school children. Nevertheless, First's promotion of the 'yellow school bus' concept did have success, with 20 modified and certified US-style examples subsequently being purchased in 2002 - receiving regions included West Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Surrey, Berkshire and Wales. For six years, 68000 operated on trade plates and toured the country promoting First Student. At the end of its touring days in 2007, it was finally officially taxed and registered by First Manchester who removed all the seats so it could be taxed as a non-PSV exhibition unit (hence the 'Q' plate). By this point, the later schemes of First Student were now using more conventional UK bus shapes with many still operating today.
68000 didn't last long with First Manchester but stayed long enough to make a guest appearance at the Trans Lancs rally at Heaton Park in 2007. Since then it has been in use as a staff transfer vehicle with First Hampshire, First Essex and First Aberdeen - plans to put it on show in a Manchester Transport Museum fell through prior to it moving up to Scotland. On transfer to Aberdeen, they repainted it from yellow to First Group's Olympia training livery, but as probably expected, it was not very well liked in the role so remained in storage for a number of years.
As a TC2000 model, it is fitted with a front Cummins 5.9 litre diesel engine and twinned with an automatic Allison AT545 gearbox, originally sitting around 60 people if it was used for its passenger carrying purpose.
On Monday 13th May 2019, First Group sold 68000 to Alpha Recovery of Weetslade deemed for scrap, however given its rarity and our desire to continue to operate the vehicle as an exhibition unit for our group, First Group permitted us to secure the Blue Bird for preservation.