New line-up ticks all of the boxes

Closing Date: 30/08/17

Route-One Magazine – Tim Deakin

Nu-Track has seen a busy period of late, with new models joining its product range as the accessible sector becomes more competitive. It now has a comprehensive line-up.

Route-One Magazine – Tim Deakin

Nu-Track has seen a busy period of late, with new models joining its product range as the accessible sector becomes more competitive. It now has a comprehensive line-up.


It’s been a busy time for Northern Irish accessible specialist Nu-Track. New models added to its range are making good market headway, with sales of the largest, the Pulse, now at well over 100.

But it’s not just the Pulse that is doing well. miniplus has already looked at the Nu-Vibe, which is suitable for several tasks including bus work, and the high floor Iveco Daily-based Stellar and City Lift – on Volkswagen Crafter chassis – are performing strongly. Add to that the low-floor City Dash and Nu-Track has a comprehensive line-up.

Recently, Regional Sales Manager Thom Bateman corralled the City Lift, Pulse and Stellar to give an idea of what they do and how. At the time of writing, each vehicle was in use with Renfrewshire Council from its Paisley base. The Stellar is part of its own fleet and the City Lift and Pulse were on demonstration.

All are used for carrying schoolchildren. The City Lift and Pulse are fully seated but the Stellar is partially fitted, giving space for wheelchair users at the rear.

Each bus has a PLS Access Lite outboard lift, and seats in all are on NMI tracking. Renfrewshire has a niche for each model, and for its application – where low-floor access is not needed – the three make a versatile line-up.

Take an MAN’s Pulse

The Pulse debuted at Euro 6 to replace an earlier product. It is built on a 10-tonne GVW MAN TGL chassis, powered by a 180bhp, 4.6-litre D0834 engine coupled to a six-speed automated TipMatic gearbox.

Extensive tracking inside the Stellar, and this is the same across the range

As introduced, the Pulse lacked a driver’s door. Nu-Track has rectified this omission, and the demonstrator has the optional offside cab access.

Accessing the driver’s seat from the saloon can leave footprints on the engine cover, but cab door or not, it is likely that drivers will still use this way to enter and exit when they would otherwise be at risk of being hit by passing traffic.

The BCE passenger door is behind the axle. It is a plug-type and extensively glazed, and like the City Lift and the Stellar, it can be activated by a fob and is lockable. Four steps lead to the gangway.

The Pulse demonstrator has 34 Cogent seats with three-point belts; capacity increases by one in non-accessible examples.

Up to 10 wheelchair users can be carried, and floor tracking is complemented by partial cantrail tracking that can extend the length of the body if required.

Seats from other parties, including Phoenix and Rescroft, are available. This choice and the tracking options apply across Nu-Track’s range.

Up to two auxiliary heaters can be accommodated, from either Eberspächer or Webasto, and an engine-driven saloon air-conditioning unit is among further options.

The demonstrator has a large fixed external step at the rear, and like other lift-equipped Nu-Track models, only one rear door leaf has latches. This is because the opening is an emergency exit, and both leaves must open together.

On the road

Adapting the TGL for a passenger-carrying application has been done well by Nu-Track, although there could be more room around the driver’s left foot, and the cab is not the largest.

Gear selection is via a rotary switch to the driver’s right and the handbrake is in the same location. The TGA is well geared to suit its 62mph maximum speed, but first gear is low and the TipMatic changes up at little more than walking pace.

As a result, initial progress is rather slow, but once moving the Pulse gets along well and it is composed at higher speeds.

Air suspension all round gives a good ride even when empty, and that combined with its high-speed potential makes the Pulse suitable for medium-distance work besides school commitments.

Another Vario replacement?

While the Pulse has taken up much demand at the upper end of the accessible market, Nu-Track’s 7.2t GVW Daily-based Stellar is equally competent.

The Euro 6 Daily has been well received, and the Stellar’s regular driver – who previously piloted an older Daily – speaks highly of it, describing it as a step-change from its predecessor.

Like the Pulse, the Stellar is available in both accessible and non-accessible forms. Renfrewshire’s is configured with 17 seats and space for two wheelchairs. It has an extending step above the lift, the only noticeable difference in this area from the Pulse.

The Stellar’s maximum seating capacity in non-accessible variants is identical to the Pulse’s at 35 and up to eight wheelchairs can be carried in lift-equipped models.

Renfrewshire’s Stellar has Rescroft seats and it is fitted out nicely for a bus in its category. A pen by the front door can be used to hold wheelchair restraints, and cantrail tracking is complemented by waist-level and vertical tracking at the rear.

Nu-Track extends the dash as part of the bodying process, and together with the fascia to the driver’s right, it is finished in a carbon fibre-effect material.

The bodybuilder adds a second battery to allow for lift use when the engine is off. Also fitted to the Renfrewshire Stellar is a reversing camera, an Eberspächer heater and all-round air suspension.

The driveline is Iveco’s three-litre F1C engine coupled to the Hi-Matic seven-speed automatic gearbox. It works well, and like the Pulse, the Stellar is easily capable of 62mph. It is perhaps better suited to urban work than the Pulse thanks to the excellent gearbox.

Although the Pulse and the Stellar are similar, operators must consider which one of the two suits them best, says Thom.

“We can do the same seating capacity in both buses. If buyers need to carry larger wheelchairs then the Pulse is a better bet, although naturally it is more expensive than the Stellar.”

The crafty little one

The third member of Nu-Track’s current line-up with Renfrewshire Council at the time of writing was a City Lift. The coachbuilt City Lift will continue to be offered on the new Crafter, which VW says will make its debut at the CV Show (see pages 35-38).

The City Lift with Renfrewshire was the first to be built and it dates from 2015. It is to Glasgow City Council specification as it was demonstrated there at the beginning of its life, and fittings include an interior that is largely wipe-clean, including the ceiling.

22 Rescroft seats are fitted, all within NMI tracking, and they have dual three-point belts; the latter, says Thom, is popular with councils that carry children who may become unruly.

The demonstrator is fully seated, although due to weight limitations the rearmost row has only a single seat on each side, rather than the 2+2 layout in the rest of the bus.

As supplied by Volkswagen, the Crafter has a GVW of 5,000kg. However, Nu-Track has undertaken the necessary brake testing to uprate it to 5,500kg; it has been suggested that the new model may come with a 5,500kg GVW directly from the factory.

To drive, the City Lift shares a lot with coachbuilt Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based vehicles. It has a six-speed manual gearbox and a car-like cab experience.

Two aspects have been changed since the demonstrator’s debut. The mirrors now sit more proudly, which is useful, as on this early City Lift, the offside pane is slightly obstructed. Additionally, the cab floor has been smoothed.

The bottom line

Nu-Track offers a comprehensive accessible range. Renfrewshire Council currently operates only high-floor models, but if the low-floor City Dash and Nu-Vibe low entry products are factored in, there is potential for local authorities to fill their bus fleets with Nu-Track products.

Thom stresses that the buses included in this review are specimens of what is available. Nu-Track, he says, builds to customers’ requirements, and it offers a variety of seats, lifts, tracking and other internal fittings.

“Some buyers want internal lifts. Others require specific tracking, and others prefer to work with just one seating company. We can meet all of these requirements.”

The accessible market is a competitive one. That is not just the case at the smaller end of the sector, but it’s now equally so in the 30-plus seats segment.

Nu-Track’s products stand up well to others, and in Thom it has a Regional Sales Manager who knows the sector inside out. He also promises that backup is where it needs to be, and on that basis, Nu-Track’s updated range is well worth a look.

Thank you to Tim Deakin at Routeone Magazine for this editorial