No wait for right-hand drive EX

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Van Hool’s newly launched EX16M is to be available immediately in right-hand drive from Arriva Bus & Coach in the UK. GARETH EVANS

Arriva Bus & Coach confirms Van Hool’s refined EX will be immediately available after Busworld Europe show launch

Coach operators in the UK and Ireland will not have to wait to get their hands on a right-hand drive version of Van Hool’s refined EX range, which was launched at Busworld Europe (see p16) last week. According to Arriva Bus & Coach (ABC) MD Ed Potter, the first EX coaches will be coming to the UK with deliveries from Q1 in 2018.

Ed told CBW: “There will be three right-hand drive vehicles. One is going to Ireland and the other two are coming to us. That’s an important gesture by Van Hool – a right-hand drive variant right from the day of launch. We at ABC are looking forward to quickly getting them into to the hands of UK operators.”

Commenting on the changes, Ed said: “The vehicles benefit from a new look, especially around the dash. The aim is to try to bring the look of the EX to what the industry expects of a Van Hool coach – and that includes giving it a degree of family styling. Personally, I believe aspects of the new look are familiar. It’s an elegant-looking vehicle.”

Turing to the new EX16M model which was launched at Busworld Europe, Ed enthused: “It’s a variant of the EX range we’ve yet to see up until now – a two-axle EX which offers 57 seats. We feel it enables the EX to go head to head with established big players in that segment.

“We’re excited about the fact we can bring a new good looking Van Hool coach that’s well-specified in a competitive price bracket. It’s great news for us – we’ll be exclusively distributing that vehicle in the UK. It’s a vote of confidence by Van Hool.”

Plans have been drawn up to give the new EX a UK launch, which is set to include an event at the Millbrook proving ground in Bedfordshire. Ed said this could include a combination of experience and validation.

He added: “We’re talking to a small number of operators about being launch customers.

“We’ve taken feedback on board from EX15 and EX17 customers, who will hopefully be able to see that in this new vehicle. The new styling, which includes changes to the front end, dash and rear – is going to be introduced across the EX range. Therefore, orders for the EX will now benefit from the changes.

“In fact, we’re talking to a London customer about a multi-vehicle order for EX15H in the new style.”

Asked about the TX range, Ed replied: “Because of weight changes, the TX16 Alicron is now available again in the UK – it had become difficult to meet the previous axle loading. Beyond that, we’ll continue to market the TX range to order. We’re currently processing orders for 2018.

“Unlike in the past, we will no longer order stock as one of the biggest attractions of the TX is the ability to customise specification. With stock of course, that opportunity is lost. We will though, be carrying stock EX coaches.

“We currently have small numbers of EX15 and EX17 in stock. We’ve sold two lately – one has gone to Sharpes of Nottingham.”

Picking up on points he made in his ‘Face to Face’ interview in early Summer (CBW1301), Ed said that plans remain on track for the upgrading of ABC’s rental fleet, with a mix of EX16M, plus Temsa MD9s and Safaris. He added: “I can see us taking EX16Ms into our rental fleet to showcase them to operators without requiring the commitment to buy them.”

Turning to personnel, Ed said: “Nigel Clarke is joining ABC as Head of Aftersales & Operations on November 20. He will be leading our engineering, parts and service functions, including our ambitious expansion agenda. Nigel’s background is automotive aftersales.”