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Transport Benevolent Fund
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September 29 2017
By Mel Holley

A former routeone editor, Mel has more than 30 years’ experience in road and rail transport journalism.

Levante III is here...


The all-new Caetano Levante III has arrived in the UK from its Portuguese builder.

It was rolled out for a press inspection this week, ahead of its official unveiling at Coach & Bus UK at the NEC, Birmingham, on 4-5 October – visit

Sharp modern looks; clean lines. ‘Stair-rods’ decals have been deleted

It is the outcome of a project started in 2015, when stakeholders including passengers, operators and manufacturers, were consulted on their vision.

Fresh, sharp design

The result is a new sharp-looking design, along with improvements to make it easier to drive, maintain and more pleasant for passengers. Top of the list for National Express is safety, and the new coach is bristling with features from Volvo and other suppliers.

At 14.9m it’s 0.6m longer than the current Levante II tri-axle, which remains in production and examples will continue to be delivered until full series production hits its stride early next year. 

The extra length adds three more seats, taking it to 59, but only a little more weight thanks to improvements in the structure to mitigate in part some of the extra weight dictated by Euro 6 requirements.

More for passengers

Passengers will benefit from two USB ports at each seat position, and under-seat bag stowage, with airline-style bars to stop items sliding forward.

Rear has more familiar styling cues, a clever use of grille arrangement

Also, the toilet has been redesigned to prevent smells and make it easier to keep clean and presentable throughout its life. When National Express duties have ended, the toilet can now be dismantled in situ and removed through the rear emergency door. Four seats replace it and already a kit is available to reconfigure the saloon. 

Underfloor heating is a first

One of the most fascinating developments in passenger comfort is totally hidden – underfloor heating using conductive film. 

Not only does this deal with complaints about cold spots, especially by the large entrance door, but also does away with perimeter heating. Removing the water pipes not only deletes potential leaks, but the absence of the heaters frees up valuable legroom by the window.

The underfloor heating is split into four zones, front/back, left/right, to cope with the differences of temperature near the engine, and cooler front.

Drivers get a new dash with better switch location, a lockable storage box to the left of the seat and UVB coating on the windscreen to cut down solar gain. Co-drivers will enjoy a new larger courier seat, with bigger footrest that slides out from the top step.

Black section between rear wheels is part of panel, designed to hide dirt

The trademark ‘rising floor’ Hidral wheelchair lift is unaltered to ensure commonality across the fleet.

Edwards Coaches to get prototype

The prototype coach – bound for South-Wales based Edwards Coaches after the show – is on Volvo’s B11R chassis.

The next prototype, for Skills of Nottingham, will be on a Scania chassis. The Mercedes-Benz OC500 chassis, available at Euro 5, is no longer offered as the manufacturer’s cooling requirements dictate a grill arrangement that do not meet with National Express’ aesthetic needs at the rear.


See below for more pictures...

New courier seat in entrance. Easy to de-brand for second life
Two USB ports in each socket, per seat position, including the wheelchair seats
Toilet now has stainless steel bowl for cleanliness
Politecnica seats instead of Fainsa, now real leather front and back 

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