Van Hools return to National Express network

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The new Altano is an imposing coach, but the entry for wheelchair users is simple. NATIONAL EXPRESS

Adrian Morton reports from the launch of National Express’ new Van Hool Altano coaches on 15 March

I set off from home in semi-rural Cheshire at 6.30am in the pouring rain, allowing myself plenty of time to reach Van Hool UK’s premises in Wellingborough by 10.30. Rather surprisingly the M6 was kind to me, so arriving with plenty of time to spare I went first to a nearby Tesco superstore in the hunt for some much needed breakfast. It was here I saw parked one of Souls of Olney’s tri-axle Volvo B9TL 100-seat Optare Olympus double-deckers dating from 2009; these vehicles are of particular interest to me as I operated six identical vehicles at Mortons, with only penny numbers ever being produced. Anyway, back to the matters that brought me here and after a further five minute drive I had arrived at Van Hool and was warmly welcomed by Nikki Houghton, National Express’ UK Communications Manager. The striking Van Hool Altano TDX21 was immediately apparent, glistening in a short burst of sunshine, a far cry from the weather I had experienced earlier in the day.

On a high

Altano refers to the most characteristic feature of this coach, that being the height of the cavernous luggage holds (altus being Latin for ‘high’). Those on the 14.4m long and 3.73m high model chosen by National Express boast an impressive 16.5m3 of capacity. Van Hool used to produce its own seats but Kiel is now the preferred supplier, with 63 reclining seats on the upper-deck and three on the lower-deck of this coach, and space for one wheelchair.


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