Mountain Rescue services fear lives could be put at risk when Jaguar Land Rover end production of their “workhorse” vehicle in two years time.
And an official of Lancashire’s Bowland Pennine team has challenged other four-by-four manufacturers to develop an alternative to the iconic Defender which doubles as an off-road ambulance.
“If the Defender is no longer available and there is nothing on the market to do that job for Mountain Rescue teams then it is going to leave us with a big headache,” said Paul Durham, the fund-raising officer for Bowland Pennine which is based in Garstang and Penwortham.
“This vehicle plays a vital role for many of the rescue teams who have it in frontline service. The majority use it as an ambulance to transport injured and ill patients off the mountainside. Without it we will need to carry patients down by hand and, depending on their condition, that could make a big difference.”
The last Defender will roll off the production line in Birmingham in December 2015, killed off by new European laws on exhaust emissions and vehicle design. At present it is the only suitable four-by-four on the market with a long enough cargo bed to take a stretcher.
Land Rover has been making the vehicles since 1948. Most of the 50 Mountain Rescue teams in England and Wales employ them to get lifesaving equipment up on to casualties on high ground and transport patients back down to the road network to transfer to an ambulance.
Bowland Pennine has just replaced the oldest of its two Defenders after scouring the country to find a new model. “The other is only three years old, so we are OK for the time being,” said Paul Durham. “We were lucky to find one near London, but other teams might no be so lucky.
“If Land Rover won’t be making them any more then maybe some other manufacturer can come up with a replacement.”