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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April, 2005, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
BBC bus revs up for the election
It's always the same. You wait ages for a bus, and then when one comes along all the seats have been ripped out and it's been turned into a BBC studio.

The finishing touches were being put to the BBC's election bus as the country prepared for Tony Blair to declare the date of the next general election.

Ready for the road

In the four weeks leading up to polling day it will visit every UK nation and region, becoming a daily fixture on radio and TV bulletins, and online.

But what is it for?

Richard Critchlow, who organises special events for BBC News, has been looking after the project since last year.

His brief was to come up with a way to get to the crux of live issues in different parts of the country as people prepared to vote.

"The political parties shouldn't always dictate what is going to be talked about. We decide where we are going, and thoroughly research the issues that affect that area.

"Sometimes they will coincide with what the parties are talking about and sometimes they won't.

"We have tried to identify as big a variety of areas as possible, whether it be a city centre or village of 200 people, to reflect the whole country and the issues people will be voting about."

We are used to having much bigger spaces for this kind of job
Richard Critchlow, BBC News

So, for the first time, it was decided the best way to go about it would be for the BBC to have its own roving 'battle bus'.

For many of the viewers, listeners and readers, this will mean having the bus parked up in their area for a day.

Logistics

As well as providing a base for reports for outlets such as the 6 O'Clock News, News 24, Radio Five Live, Radio 4 and the BBC News website, a marquee will be erected alongside for people to see what's it all about.

They'll be able to access the website, ask questions and have their say about election issues, and watch what's going on in the bus on a big screen.

Man working on bus
Putting the finishing touches to the bus

Dedicated correspondents Caroline Wyatt and Jill McGivering will write for the BBC News website, and get involved in online discussions with readers.

Their reports will focus on different issues each day, from the viewpoint of the voter.

Due to health and safety issues, only invited guests will be able to get on the bus and be interviewed on board, explains Richard.

With all these plans came one or two logistical challenges, he adds.

Firstly, to get a hold of a bus, and secondly to adapt it to the needs of a multi-camera TV and radio newsroom while remaining professional and safe.

A former London bus was duly hired and the work began in finding the right specialised people and equipment to do the job.

The double decker accommodates four remote-controlled cameras on the upper deck - meaning just one operator can be used rather than one for each camera - as well as an editing suite, production area, interview set and lighting.

An extra staircase is carried in a trailer while the bus is on the move, and the special roof is lowered and folded in to a box at the back of the vehicle.

"We are used to having much bigger spaces for this kind of job," says Richard. "Most things have been specially brought in."

The team, including reporters, researchers, engineers, drivers and security staff, comprises about 28 people. That doesn't include those who will be dipping in and out to produce one-day shows from the bus, such as local BBC crews or Five Live's Simon Mayo.

"We have a fantastic team who are going to help up achieve our editorial - to get to the heart of local issues," adds Richard.





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