Chris Reay, Shaun Murphy and I recently had the opportunity to visit the Van Hool coach factory in Belgium. Van Hool manufactures approximately 1,400 buses and coaches, and as many as 3,000 commercial vehicles annually. Of these 80% are exported worldwide and at Reays we are proud to have Van Hool coaches within our fleet. With a workforce of over 4,500, Van Hool is a major bus manufacturer in Europe, offering a complete range of buses for public transport for international markets, ranging from a 9-metre midi bus to a 25-metre double articulated low floor bus.
Our journey started at Manchester Airport where we flew to Brussels. On arrival Van Hool had kindly arranged a taxi to the factory where we were greeted by Dan, who took us into the office where we were treated to lunch and refreshments.
After lunch we were shown around the factory, visiting all the different departments and observing the process of manufacturing from beginning to end. We viewed various vehicles being built which was awe inspiring. For over 70 years, Van Hool vehicles have become a synonym for quality and reliability and anyone working in the industry respects the reputation Van Hool has earned for designing and building high quality, state of the art products.
After a non-stop super first day we returned to our hotel where we enjoyed an evening meal and a short sightseeing tour around the beautiful sights of Belgium.
The following day we returned to the Van Hool factory for day two. We spent the morning choosing the specification for our brand new 87-seater double decker coach. After much debate and deliberation, we opted for an TDX27 Astromega, complete with all the latest mod cons including USB ports, CCTV, three-point seat belts and even a skibox for extra luggage space! The fun part for me was choosing the interior which included the seat and curtain fabrics and colours. I encouraged Chris and Shaun to have a ladies touch here and even got my own way with a sparkly floor! Our new decker is due for delivery on the 1st March 2019, watch this space for further updates.
Not content with purchasing a brand new double decker Chris got carried away with his passion for Van Hool coaches and decided to buy five more brand new 57 seater vehicles which will join our fleet by the end of 2018.
After an exciting but hectic morning we enjoyed lunch hospitality courtesy of Van Hool catered for in the original Van Hool family owned house. The family lived in this house before building the factory alongside their home and it was great to see how the business had transformed and grown over the years. Following lunch, we viewed some of the new coaches all ready for delivery, including a new 24 metre service bus which will carry 250 passengers due for export to Sweden which was simply astonishing! After an incredible and very educational two days we ended our visit, returning to the airport for our flight home.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Van Hool for their tremendous hospitality for which we are very grateful and thank them for arranging a superb trip to Belgium.