The Herald reports that the first double decker bus arrives in Auckland this weekend.
Northern Express service operator Ritchies Transport expects the 88-seater vehicle to arrive by sea from Malaysia at the weekend, before being painted in Auckland Transport livery for trips to start between Albany and Britomart by mid-March.
Rival operators NZ Bus and the Howick and Eastern Buses are also involved in “infrastructure trials” with the council transport body to select other potential routes for double-deckers.
Its been almost a year since we first heard that bus companies were considering them. In the interim I understand that the bus companies had to address various technical issues like size and weight restrictions which is also likely to be why Ritchies are only bringing in one at this stage. Once they are comfortable that it is working well they say they will order more.
It hoped to order 15 to 20 more once the pioneering vehicle had proven successful in clearing peak-time passenger loads on the busway.
“I don’t think there will be any issues, but just to make sure it is all okay, it is better to just get one and then if we want to make changes [for future buses], to make those off the first one.”
Mr Ritchie said the bus had been purpose-built over a European Scania chassis, and would be about 4.3m high.
Although it would not have a conductor to supervise passengers reaching the top deck, he expected the roll-out of Auckland Transport’s electronic Hop card to buses from April to improve loading times.
He understood the council organisation did some tree-trimming along Fanshawe St so double-deckers could get close enough to bus stops, but not any major pruning.
And as mentioned briefly above, some of the other bus companies are looking at double deckers too.
Howick and Eastern general manager Sheryll Otway said her company was keen to select a main arterial route from its home base to the city before ordering several double-decker buses for delivery next year.
It wanted to reduce its “geographical footprint” with double-deckers about a metre shorter than its existing 13.5m vehicles.
It has attached a metal frame on one of its existing buses to a height of 4.2m, ready to start infrastructure trials next week, but Ms Otway does not expect any major obstacles.
NZ Bus conducted a similar trial along Mt Eden Rd this week, but has yet to disclose its findings.
For some reason, having double deckers for PT seems to give the impression that the city is growing up and like with other changes coming over the next few years, it will hopefully help to give Aucklanders a new appreciation of our PT network.