A ride on our first Double Decker

This morning I managed to drag myself out of bed a bit earlier than usual to make my way to town. The reason for this was to ride on the first double decker bus that is going to be used in Auckland and I was very impressed by it. The bus looks and feels superb, both inside and out.

NEX Double Decker 1

NEX Double Decker 2

The bus definitely turned a few heads as we drove past.

A view outside the upstairs window with the single level NEX bus off to the right. I bet there will a lot of people wanting these seats on a nice day like today.

NEX Double Decker 3

From about the middle of the top level, looking back. One of the great things is that the seats are more spaced out than other buses giving passengers more room. It was much more like you get on a train. The great thing is that this is apparently now a requirement in the NZTA spec so we should be seeing it in other new buses in the future. All up the bus has 86 seats compared to the 51 on other NEX buses.

NEX Double Decker 4

The stairs to get to the top level, to the right there is even a little luggage area.

NEX Double Decker 5

And looking in the other direction on the downstairs level of the bus.

NEX Double Decker 6

Another great feature is that both of the doors are wide enough for two people to board or alight at the same time which will definitely be useful once HOP starts rolling out next month.

NEX Double Decker 7

Lastly from the upper level you get a stunning, unobstructed view across the harbour on the journey.

NEX Double Decker 8

All up, a very welcome addition to Auckland.  The first normal run will happen next Monday.

Double Deckers are almost here

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.