The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has appointed Renault UK, LeasePlan UK and TGS via Crown Commercial Services to double its existing fleet of Test and Trace mobile testing units (MTUs).
Developing such a specialised vehicle and delivering it in significant numbers, on budget, and within an extremely tight three-month timeframe, ensued close collaboration between the three companies, with all involved in playing a key role in helping the Government to suppress the spread of COVID-19 across the UK.
The 500 Renault Masters replace, and nearly double, DHSC’s existing MTU fleet of 258 vehicles. The bespoke conversion, developed by LeasePlan UK and TGS, also offers twice the daily testing capacity of the previous MTU, with each of the new vehicles having the ability to store 1,000 test kits compared with the original’s capacity of 500. These developments significantly increase the testing capacity offered by the UK’s mobile testing capability and enhance the NHS Test and Trace Programme.
Tenders, issued via the Department of Health (DoH) and Crown Commercial Services (CCS), saw Renault UK awarded the contract to supply the entire order of 500 vehicles after demonstrating its manufacturing capacity. The contract for the supply of the vehicles was awarded to LeasePlan UK, following success in an initial tender for consultancy work to create a single, viable conversion which LeasePlan delivered pro bono. TGS was chosen for the conversion of all 500 vehicles after completing the pre-order concept and having the ability to deliver the order within a tight three-month timeframe.
TGS, which is an accredited converter in Renault UK’s conversions portfolio and a Tier 1 supplier to LeasePlan UK, completed up to 60 MTUs per week. Despite a late design change dictating the necessity for sliding doors on either side of the Renault Masters, all 500 MTUs were completed by the end of March. It is believed that the delivery of such a detailed conversion in such a quantity and timeframe is near unprecedented in the industry.
The purpose-built conversion ensures safe and comfortable testing conditions for staff and subjects in all weather conditions. Features include twin awnings with layouts to accommodate drive-through testing and staff welfare areas, pedestrian testing bays, onboard heating, hot water and hand-washing facilities, generator for additional power, comprehensive charging and electrical access points, and extra lighting. To ensure the Renault Master MTUs are instantly work-ready, TGS and LeasePlan UK have worked with third-party suppliers to guarantee the continual flow of components and inventory sourced from across the EU and included in each van before delivery.
Vincent Tourette, Managing Director, Renault UK, added: “We are exceptionally pleased that the Renault Master is playing a part in helping the DHSC to continue its invaluable work in controlling the spread of COVID and further enhance the size of what is the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history. Being able to provide such a substantial number of base vehicles in such a short timeframe presented a significant challenge, but it’s something that we and our factory were proud to overcome. It’s very rewarding to see the Renault Master MTUs in service on the frontline and contributing to the UK’s fight against COVID.”
Alfonso Martinez, Managing Director, LeasePlan UK, commented: “Making sure that vital vehicles remain on the road has been a priority for us throughout the pandemic, and the involvement we’ve had with this tender has been no different. Our remit has spanned initial conversion concepts and vehicle supply, to ongoing training, and a full-service, rapid-response maintenance and repair program should the vehicles need it. We’re delighted to play our part in ensuring the DHSC has all it needs to continue the great work it’s doing in keeping people safe, protected and constantly tested, as part of the wider effort in combatting this virus.”
Glenn Smith, Director, TGS UK, added: “We are very pleased that we have had the opportunity to play a vital part in supporting DHSC in their heroic effort to suppress the spread of COVID by converting these Mobile Testing Units. Fellow director Nathan Smith and I worked closely with DHSC and LeasePlan to develop the initial design concepts within a very short timeframe, through to delivering the completed vehicles to the testing sites, fully stocked and ready to work. Our industry expertise and dedication has resulted in us delivering this 500-strong fleet at a speed that is unprecedented and which many believed was unachievable. This project has set new levels of performance and service in the industry and really set us apart, highlighting our ability to progress a complex order in record time, spanning prototype development through to deployment of the completed vehicles. Our dedicated Customer Care Team supported by highly trained on-site technicians now look forward to supporting DHSC in ensuring these vehicles stay in service, performing their important role in combating this pandemic.”
The Renault Master MTUs have been praised by their users. Crews have been particularly receptive to the improvements that the new conversion offers over the previous vehicle, notably the improved welfare facilities, the ability to complete some duties inside within clinical requirements and the new walk-through awning providing a more private experience for the person being tested.
The order has also included the delivery of technical training to MTU operatives, COVID-safe handling procedures for those involved in the collection and handover of the vehicles, a rapid response servicing programme and a dedicated hotline for MTU service providers by LeasePlan UK.