National Express trials mirrorless coaches

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Externally, the only noticeable changes are the additions of the sensors behind the front wheel arches, and the replacement of the ‘praying mantis’ mirrors. NATIONAL EXPRESS

National Express is trialling a new Caetano Levante IIIA which is the first in the company’s white fleet to use a camera mirror system in place of traditional mirrors. It is fitted with Orlaco’s ‘Mirroreye’ system, which has been developed in partnership with the Portuguese manufacturer, and as well as improving visibility around the coach, removing blindspots and giving improved night vision, National Express expects that the removal of wing mirrors will also help improve fuel efficiency.

Other new features of the Levante IIIA are driver alerts, drawing drivers’ attention to potential hazards such as vulnerable road users or obstructions within the blindspot area, and the cab design has also improved, to make controls such as heating/air-conditioning and wheelchair lift deployment easier to use.

The updated Scania Step E chassis on the model also has potential to be upgraded in future to accommodate a zero-emission drivetrain, supporting National Express’ commitment to operating a net zero fleet by 2035. The Step E variant is very similar to the current Step D model used in the Levante III, but has a number of changes, in particular a new front end module and suspension. It brings a number of additional features as standard, and the option to add extra features which the manufacturer says will increase the safety of the vehicle.
Over the coming months, the operator will have two Levante IIIA vehicles on trial with partner operators Clarkes of London and Bruce’s Coaches of Salsburgh on a range of short, medium and long-distance routes.

Tom Linnecor, Head of Engineering at National Express, said: “The new Levante IIIA represents a step forward in the vehicle’s design. It takes driver technology to the next level by increasing the number of safety features and keeping our passengers and other road users front of mind. Working closely with Caetano, the majority of the latest changes implemented have stemmed from feedback from our drivers and engineers. In addition to improved visibility for drivers, the mirrorless coaches will also deliver significant fuel savings. We’re looking forward to getting the Levante IIIA out on the road and gaining as much insight as we can.”

As part of the trial, National Express will review driver feedback and make any necessary specification changes before the vehicles are then rolled out across the fleet from spring 2023, in line with the company’s continual replacement programme.

The new cab layout includes an electronic handbrake, plus air-conditioning and heating controls for the saloon in the cab and mirror monitors mounted to the A-pillars. NATIONAL EXPRESS