Ambulance chiefs covering six counties have embarked on a major upgrade of their front-line fleet in conjunction with East Anglian Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle dealer Orwell Truck and Van.
The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust has taken the first deliveries from an order for 147 new vehicles worth some £15 million.
Based on 5.0-tonne Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 519 CDI chassis, and fitted with purpose-designed box bodies by German specialist WAS, all are scheduled to enter service by the end of 2014.
At the beginning of the year, 283 emergency ambulances covered Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, all but 45 of them by Mercedes-Benz.
Most of the new arrivals will replace older vehicles which are being stood down.
However, 27 represent extensions to the fleet, which is increasing in size to 310 units, so ensuring that the Trust is ideally placed to deliver better care to its patients.
Once the new order has been complete, every one of its 999 ambulances will wear a three-pointed star.
John Hole, head of fleet at the Trust, said: “The 5.0-tonne Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is well proven in operation and offers the combination of performance, reliability, safety and carrying capacity that allows us to provide a high-quality service to patients.”
The Trust’s latest Sprinters are powered by smooth and fuel-efficient 190 hp V6 common rail turbodiesel engines and additionally equipped with Telma electro-magnetic engine retarders to reduce wear and tear and enhance braking performance.
Key to the model’s appeal for ambulance services nationwide is the availability of a fully automatic gearbox.
“This makes life a lot easier for our drivers, particularly when they’re on a ‘blue light’ call, as it leaves them free to concentrate fully on the road,” said Hole.
Other optional features specified to ensure the Sprinters are ‘fit for purpose’ include air conditioning, adjustable steering wheels, an outside temperature gauge, halogen fog lamps, Comfort seats for driver and front-seat passenger, and an airbag for the passenger (the driver’s bag is standard).
The Trust has also updated and refined the successful design of the vehicles’ WAS box bodies, for example by adapting the cupboard layout to better reflect the needs of crews, and altering the positioning of the ‘Battenburg’ livery to increase visibility.
Hole asaid: “Orwell Truck and Van is our preferred dealer and a company with which we have enjoyed a very good relationship over many years. It provides an excellent service, maintaining some of our ambulances in its workshops, and supplying parts to our own facilities in Norwich and at Barton Mills, Suffolk.”
Orwell Truck and Van dealer principal Jonathan Ager said: "We're delighted to have won this order from The East of England Ambulance Service. We now look forward to maintaining our excellent relationship with the Trust and to playing our part in delivering this important local service."