Posts Tagged ‘Van Hool’

19424599495_0ee31c05cb_cThe original Southend Transport X1 route to London was introduced in 1980; the same year as the UK coach market was de-regulated, and was operated jointly with Reading Transport. It was in the following year that Southend Transport was granted a licence for a Southend to Hammersmith route, but disputes with staff at Reading resulted in temporary withdrawls of service. It was at the time of the rail strike of early 1982 that gave the coach route a huge boost in passenger numbers, and when the joint venture with Reading ceased following irreconcilable issues over revenue allocation and service development, Southend Transport operated a reduced service to Heathrow airport as well as added double-deck duplicates to cope with the growing patronage of the routes to Green Park. By the end of the year, period return and season tickets were introduced.

In 1983, the frequency of the service to London was increased, and the fleet of (mostly) Leyland Leopards and newer Leyland Tiger/Duple Caribbeans was augmented by the arrival in April of the first three of six 80-seat Van Hool three-axle double-deck TD824 ‘Astromegas’ powered by MercedesBenz 0M422A V8 engines coupled to Allison four-speed fully-automatic gearboxes (as opposed the eight speed manual ZF gearbox). New routes had also been introduced to the London service; the X11 (direct route not calling in to Basildon) and the X21 (from Shoebury). The X31 (from Canvey Island) began in June 1985, and the following April saw the first X41 route (from Prittlewell). Additional peak-time routes were added – the X10 and X30, and in April 1986, the X1 service to Heathrow was extended to the newly opened Terminal 4.

The Astromega Fleet:

243: JEV243Y CH57/27F 4/1983

244: JEV244Y CH57/27F 4/1983

245: JEV245Y CH57/27F 4/1983

256: C256FHJ CH57/27F 11/1985

257: C257FHJ CH57/27F 12/1985

258: NDS841Y CH57/23Ft 1985 (secondhand acquisition from Stagecoach, Perth)

Van Hool Astromega (JEV243Y)

Van Hool Astromega (JEV243Y)

Van Hool was founded by Bernard Van Hool as a family business of coach body builders in Belgium in 1947, and at the time were producing one-off as well as series units for clients. In 1957, a commercial contract was entered into with Fiat, who supplied the engines and running gear for their new line of vehicles, branded under the name Van Hool-Fiat, while Van Hool still expanding their own enterprise as coach builders. The contract, which had proved to be a great success, was terminated in 1981.

In 1990, Van Hool purchased the coachbuilding business of LAG Manufacturing of Belgium, and continued producing their EOS models for about ten years. Most of the buses and coaches are built totally by Van Hool, with engines and axles sourced from Caterpillar, Cummins, DAF and MAN, with ZF or Voith gearboxes, with some of their production still consisting of building bus and coach bodies on separate bus chassis from manufacturers such as Volvo and Scania.

Van Hool established itself as the manufacturer of the broadest range of coaches on the market. Their ‘T8’ Touring Coach platform was introduced in 1979. The body was based on the Alizee bodywork that had been launched the previous year. The early models were powered by Cummins L10, and later models by M11 diesel engines. Over the course of several years, a large range of touring coaches were developed based on this platform, each distinguished by a number and a name, following a clear naming convention. For example, in ‘TD824 Astromega’: T= Touring Coach series, D= Double Deck, 8=Part of the T8 series, and 24= the theoretical number of seat rows.

An upgraded version of the T8 (the T9) was produced for the North American market, and the T8 itself was discontinued in the 1990s after the introduction of the (European) T9 platform, which became the most extensive series of motor coaches available today. In the British Isles, however, the T9 body is only available on Scania, Volvo, and VDL chassis.

Van Hool presented the TX series – the successor to the T9 series – at Busworld, Kortrijk, Belgium, in 2011.

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