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April 2019
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Mercedes-Benz Sprinters provide 'vital lifeline'

Elderly and disabled residents of the London Borough of Wandsworth travelled in fine style to do their Christmas shopping – aboard a smart new Mercedes-Benz minibus.

The Long-bodied Sprinter 313CDI is powered by a clean, ‘green’ 129hp Euro 5 engine and wears the colours of Wandsworth Community Transport, a registered charity that supports local groups and individuals with mobility issues.
The vehicle was supplied as a Long-bodied panel van uprated from the standard 3.5 to 3.85 tonnes gvw, by south London dealer SG Smith. It was converted by Stanford Coachworks, of Stanford-le-Hope, Essex.

The mobility specialist has fitted 10 individual seats in the passenger compartment, taking the total number of seats, including the driver’s, to 13. There is also space for a wheelchair – access for wheelchair users is via a Passenger Lift Services cassette lift, which is installed beneath the floor at the rear of the vehicle. Up to eight of the passenger seats can be quickly and easily removed, leaving additional room for four more wheelchairs.

Other features include non-slip flooring, handrails in high-visibility yellow which are connected to the fold-out step at the side of the minibus, and integral ‘all age’ seat belts, which negate the need for child or booster seats when transporting youngsters.

Wandsworth Community Transport’s fleet of 25 vehicles includes a dozen wheelchair-accessible minibuses, every one of which now wears a three-pointed star. Most are 17-seaters that can also accommodate up to five wheelchairs – these larger vehicles are based on Sprinter chassis downrated from 5.0 to 4.25 tonnes gvw, which means they can be driven by holders of a standard licence.

Wandsworth Community Transport provides mobility for around 350 groups – among them churches, schools, retirement and sheltered homes, and lunch clubs – as well as some 1,700 elderly and disabled individuals. Users pay a fare, but this is heavily subsidised by the local council and other contributors.

The charity lays on outings and day trip visits to the coast and other places of interest. But its day-to-day work entails collecting clients from their homes across the borough and taking them to local shopping centres, where they are met and, if necessary, accompanied by representatives of the Shopmobility scheme.

Managing Director Manuel Button leads a team of 35 staff, as well as scores of volunteers. -We provide a vital lifeline for people who might otherwise be housebound, he explained. -It allows them to get out, meet friends and enjoy themselves, as well as undertake routine tasks such as shopping which the rest of us take for granted.

Mr Button continued: -We probably buy three wheelchair-accessible minibuses every couple of years and have been gradually phasing out our older, non-Mercedes vehicles and replacing them with Sprinters – the introduction of our latest vehicle marks the completion of this process.

-We have been very happy with the quality and reliability of our Sprinters, while the drivers particularly like the smooth power delivery and the automatic gearbox that Mercedes-Benz offers as a standard factory option. Clients have also complimented us many times, on how comfortable the ride is.

Wandsworth Community Transport’s Sprinters are maintained in SG Smith’s Sydenham workshops. -Our relationship with the dealer goes back a number of years now, added Mr Button, -and they provide a first class service.

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