ABC (Australia) - - NEWS -

BORNE OUT OF a ne­ces­sity due to The Top End’s mon­soonal weather to load wheel­chair pas­sen­gers onto school buses faster, Buslink NT is adding to its fleet of eight Vol­gren low-floor wheel­chair school buses it was re­cently re­ported.

Proof such low-en­try buses are still mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in Dar­win nearly 15 years af­ter the much-needed bus body de­sign was in­tro­duced into that area, Buslink NT’s fleet of low-floor, Vol­gren-built, wheelchairac­ces­si­ble school buses re­mains one of the best ex­am­ples in Aus­tralia of how lo­cal con­di­tions can in­flu­ence bus body de­sign and engi­neer­ing, it states.

The brain­child of Buslink di­rec­tor, Mick Han­non (who was, at the time, Buslink

NT’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor), the com­pany’s ex­ist­ing fleet years ago had ex­ter­nal wheel­chair lifters only, which were not con­ducive to Dar­win’s sav­age mon­soon sea­son, it’s re­ported.

Han­non came up with a ve­hi­cle de­sign to en­able chil­dren with spe­cial needs to board the bus in sec­onds with their wheel­chairs – speed be­ing a crit­i­cal fac­tor in keep­ing pas­sen­gers dry.

Buslink NT’s cur­rent MD, David Han­non (Mick Han­non’s brother) said they needed a so­lu­tion that kept pas­sen­gers out of the weather while getting on or off the bus.

“If you’ve been to Dar­win dur­ing the mon­soon sea­son, you’ll un­der­stand about ex­treme weather con­di­tions and, as a bus op­er­a­tor, you need to fac­tor that into the de­sign of your ve­hi­cles. We thought of a low-floor so­lu­tion that was adapt­able and could be re­con­fig­ured in min­utes for wheel­chairs.”

Un­able to find a suit­able ve­hi­cle in the mar­ket, Buslink took the idea to chas­sis sup­plier MAN and bus body builder Vol­gren, which sub­se­quently de­vel­oped the first low-en­try wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble school bus in 2004.

Now, close to 15 years later, Buslink NT suc­cess­fully runs a fleet of nine of the easy-board­ing school buses af­ter the lat­est Vol­gren easy-board­ing bus was de­liv­ered this Septem­ber.

David Han­non said the adapt­able de­sign that Vol­gren came up with has re­mov­able seats, as well as an in­ter­nal wheel­chair lift.

“The in­ter­nal wheel­chair lift is an­other way of re­duc­ing pas­sen­gers’ ex­po­sure to the el­e­ments and dou­bles the amount of wheel­chairs we can carry by [let­ting us store] an ad­di­tional four chairs in the top section of the bus,” Han­non said.

He adds that feed­back from the car­ers sta­tioned on the buses in­di­cates the quick load­ing is less stress­ful for the pas­sen­gers, re­sult­ing in a more en­joy­able jour­ney.

Vol­gren CEO Peter Dale said the com­pany’s long as­so­ci­a­tion with Buslink, par­tic­u­larly in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory, had led to a range of ve­hi­cle de­sign im­prove­ments across all body types over a 25-year pe­riod.

“The ex­treme weather con­di­tions in Dar­win are chal­leng­ing for any ve­hi­cle. Feed­back from Buslink reg­u­larly in­forms our sales and engi­neer­ing teams, help­ing us de­liver buses bet­ter suited to lo­cal con­di­tions,” Dale said.

Be­low: Mon­soon sea­son in the NT led to a need for a longer-term ac­ces­si­bil­ity so­lu­tion.

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