Just a missing piece of the puzzle; I found out in Northern Ireland that Belfast is having its own rapid transit scheme using bendy buses.
Recently, we have seen Van Hool being awarded the contract to build buses for the Belfast Rapid Transit scheme.
From Department of Regional Development (Northern Ireland)
Transport Minister Michelle McIlveen has announced the award of a £19 million contract to supply a fleet of 30 vehicles for the new Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) system.
Belgian-based company Van Hool won the contract and will be supported locally by Road Trucks Limited of Larne.
The new vehicles, known as Exqui.City, will be built over the next two and a half years, and are scheduled to come into service on the new BRT network in September 2018.
The BRT vehicles will be 18 metre long articulated buses with a capacity of around 100 people. The tram-like buses will be a key part of the BRT system image. They will have three sets of double doors providing easier and quicker boarding and alighting, air conditioning and high quality materials for passenger comfort, CCTV for passenger safety and on-board passenger information screens, audio announcements and Wi-FI. The vehicles will utilise some of the latest hybrid technology with lower noise, vibration and pollutants.
· The BRT system will be operated by Translink when it begins services in September 2018.
· The BRT vehicles will provide a high quality environment for passengers in terms of comfort, space, security and on-board information. They will provide accessible easy boarding for people with reduced mobility and parents with pushchairs as well as a mix of standing and seating areas with good legroom. They will have three sets of double doors and good circulation room to enable rapid boarding and alighting, minimising the time spent at halts and therefore reducing journey times.
· The BRT vehicles will have onboard information screens providing real time journey information and audio visual next halt and destination announcements. Free on-board Wi-Fi will also be provided. The BRT vehicles will be equipped with CCTV for both passenger and driver safety.
This sounds interesting, but with the capacity for 100 people, it's worth bearing in mind that the Mercedes Benz Citaro-Artic had a capacity for up to 140 passengers. They used to serve London Buses routes during the 2000’s.
So let’s read more about the Belfast Rapid Transit.
Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) is an innovative and ambitious project that will create a new and dynamic public transport system for Belfast.
The BRT system will use high quality rapid transit vehicles which will provide a modern, comfortable environment for passengers in terms of space, security and on-board information. The BRT system will also incorporate high quality halts with easy access to vehicles, real time information systems for easier journey planning and off-vehicle ticketing to speed up the boarding process. The speed, reliability and comfort of the BRT services will provide an attractive alternative to private car use.
The BRT network currently being developed will link East Belfast, West Belfast and Titanic Quarter via the city centre.
It is the intention to extend the BRT network to other areas of Belfast, subject to the success of the pilot network and the availability of funding. The Department is already engaging with those responsible for proposed developments on potential routes outside the current network to ensure as far as possible that the future provision of BRT to key areas is not prejudiced.
BRT will provide fast and reliable services connecting East and West Belfast, Titanic Quarter and key locations of economic and social activity in the city centre and along the BRT corridors.
Subject to demand, services will operate between 6:00 am and 11:30 pm on weekdays. At the weekend services will start slightly later in the morning and potentially operate later at night. Peak-time services will operate at maximum intervals of 10 minutes. Early morning and late evening services will operate at intervals of around 25 minutes. Services will be tailored to meet times of peak demand such as major sporting or entertainment events.
BRT will replace the main Metro services on the routes that it serves: Metro 4 in East Belfast and Metro 10 in West Belfast. Some Metro services, which serve destinations off the BRT routes, will continue to use parts of the BRT routes and therefore benefit from the increased bus priority.
Ulsterbus services will continue to operate on the BRT corridors. They will benefit from the increased bus priority on the routes and therefore experience shorter, more reliable journey times.
The current public transport services on the BRT corridors will be reorganised to provide feeder and/or complementary services with appropriate interchange facilities and co-ordinated service schedules.
The lanes which the BRT vehicles will use are known as running ways. These will consist of both dedicated bus lanes and mixed traffic lanes. Where BRT operates on bus lanes these will also be available for use by other bus services, cyclists, motorcyclists, permitted taxis and emergency vehicles. Where BRT operates on mixed traffic lanes these will be available for use by all traffic.
Bus lanes introduced on the routes prior to BRT becoming operational will operate during peak hours only. When the BRT system becomes operational in 2018 it is intended that the bus lanes on the BRT routes will operate from 7am to 7pm, with relaxations for deliveries, servicing, etc.
BRT fares will be comparable with existing public transport fares on the routes and concessionary fares will apply as they do to other forms of public transport throughout Belfast.
Payment systems and tariffs will be designed to encourage cashless payment. Tickets will be purchased prior to boarding to minimise waiting times at halts and will be integrated with other forms of public transport, where possible, to enable seamless interchange.
Regarding the cashless payment, I hope they will accept Contactless Payment Cards in the same way that London Buses provide. This is what the Fastrack Bus Rapid Transit (from Kent Thameside area) needs to implement.
With the ExquiCity manufactured by Van Hool, it reminds me of the Streetcar which is manufactured by Wrightbus. First Group had operated those buses in Leeds, Luton and Bedfordshire under the ‘ftr’ brand in conjunction with infrastructure upgrades by local authorities. Wrightbus is still selling the Streetdeck which you can view on their page from their website.
I've also found out that Ensignbus is selling the former ‘ftr’ buses on their website. So could this be a cheap way for the Belfast Rapid Transit scheme to buy, refurbish the bus and upgrade the engine to low emission?.... or probably convert it to an all electric bus. The bus is a Volvo B7LA FTR manufactured in 2006 which will shortly make the buses a decade old.
I have found a link to the specifications of the ExquiCity which you can read from the Van Hool website.
Anyway, here is some London Bus news from LOTS:
· Tower Transit E400VE’s DH38501 returned to service on Tuesday 24th after two weeks off the road. Subject to its day-to-day availability it will run the three round trips per day, as we have already listed. A second DH is now being prepared for service. Go-Ahead’s electric Metrocity (now numbered OE 1) is now working in Mon-Fri peaks only on route 108 as NX175.
· Go-Ahead’s StreetDeck WSD1 now at BX has been invariably in use on the 486. The E40D demonstrator at Abellio (No.2400) had ceased operation after 31st October but returned in the past week but now on route 109 from BC Garage to cover the recent fire victim (2498).
· The Citaro-K demonstrator BU13ZVE which had been with several operators in 2013/14, is in London once again, this time as MCS 1 with London United at Hounslow.
· Delivery to London is now commencing of Go-Ahead’s two batches of buses for Merton, Volvo B5LH/ Gemini3s WHV 81-110 and E20Ds SE 268-287. Also over half of Abellio’s LTs (batch 602-640) for the 159 have now arrived, and the first E40H-City buses for Arriva route 78 (batch HA 1-19) have started to arrive.
Not long now till we officially see the New Routemasters on route 159 and the Alexander Dennis Enviro400H City entering service on route 78 for the first time.
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