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It’s a dream to drive

Leading Victorian bus operator Ventura Bus Lines has acquired eight new Scania Touring school and charter coaches for its outer urban depots. Four of the vehicles will be based at the hilly and picturesque village of Monbulk on the edge of Melbourne’s Dandenong Ranges.

The 57-seaters all feature powered wheelchair lifts above the rear wheels on the kerb-side, and a capacity for carrying two wheelchairs internally with the loss of four rows of seats on the left aisle.

The seats have been designed to be easily removed and stored at the depot. A bespoke wheelchair lashing system has been designed and the chairs’ occupants are secured with three-point seat belts for additional safety.

Although freshly commissioned, the Touring coaches have been welcomed quickly into Ventura’s Monbulk fleet.

Long-serving driver Roy Beattie said that the new Touring was very smooth to drive and the ZF automatic transmission provided a refined travelling experience for the passengers.

“It is more comfortable for drivers and passengers, and the braking system is very well calibrated, too. I recently did a school camp run and the luggage all fitted, and we had a lot of it,” he said of the 9m3 luggage capacity.

“The school kids were really happy to be driven around in a new bus and one that’s smart and quiet,” he said.

A benefit of the slide-out wheelchair lift design is that is does not eat into precious luggage space as previous lift mechanisms have.

Further driver assistance technologies have also made a positive impression on Roy Beattie.

“I was previously driving a 2000-model manual transmission Scania bus and the difference is significant. There’s so much more technology on these new vehicles, such as Lane Departure Warning and Adaptive Cruise Control, but also nice features such as a heated driver’s seat, which gets hot very quickly and no doubt will be very popular in the winter. We also have a dual radio system so we can have the passengers and driver listening to different stations, although I have made a playlist for my school run and play that through the system,” Roy said.

“The new buses have plenty of power and even when fully loaded they are getting up the steep hills around here very easily. The bus also cruises at high speed very nicely. I took a charter to Philip Island recently and the bus sits very securely at 85-90km/h.

“It’s a dream to drive,” Roy said. “It’s like the bus becomes an extension of you, it’s very predictable.

Shaun Staggard has been driving for Ventura for nine years and says the new bus has been well received by school kids on his runs.
“They’re impressed with it and happy to be on an upgraded bus, and for a driver over six-foot-tall like me, the driver area is very accommodating. The switches are all in the right place, there’s plenty of space and the mirrors are good, so it’s easy to drive.

Ventura Bus Lines is the largest provider of public bus transport services in Melbourne. Its fleet of 883 buses operate 141 routes out of 12 depots and move on average 36 million people each year.