New small neighbourhood buses
In a first for New Zealand, Red Bus Ltd will introduce new, smaller, more nimble and economical buses on some Christchurch neighbourhood bus routes in the next two months.
Starting with eight new vehicles, the Red Bus initiative will see the first small Mercedes ‘City 45’ bus go into service on route 535, from Eastgate to Rapaki, this Thursday.
The next to arrive will also serve that route, and the remaining six will be put straight into service on their arrival from Germany in June and July.
The 17-seater buses can take up to 22 passengers, will be cost effective, accessible (they can ‘kneel’) and each can take two bikes on the front, says Paul McNoe, Chief Executive of Red Bus.
“This is a first for Christchurch and a first for New Zealand, following an extended trial last year. It was so successful with positive feedback from passengers and drivers that we wanted to proceed as soon as possible and are delighted that ECan agreed to the change.
“We believe these smaller buses will change the public perception about public transport. They are really lovely little vehicles, neighbourhood friendly, with a smaller space and cosy environment, and allowing a closer relationship between the driver and passengers on these neighbourhood services.”
Red Bus wanted to introduce the new buses on neighbourhood routes that have smaller numbers of passengers and more narrow streets. Big buses, which are 11m long and can carry up to 55 passengers, are not as economical to run on those routes and can look out of place.
Environment Canterbury public transport manager, David Stenhouse says the smaller buses are Red Bus and Environment Canterbury’s response to requests from suburban communities.
“These communities have provided feedback to us that larger buses can be unfriendly in terms of noise, manoeuvrability and size. The introduction of the hubs and spokes network has allowed these buses to be introduced and it is a great initiative that will help to reshape the network over the next few years.”
Mr McNoe says the bigger buses coming off those routes will be kept in the fleet and used for charter services.
He says the new buses have been bought with cash reserves. Red Bus has not needed to borrow money to buy them.
They include air bags and all the latest safety features and their Euro5 engines meet low emission exhaust standards.
“These are small urban vehicles fully compliant with our New Zealand urban bus standards, factory built by Mercedes and supplied by Keith Andrews Ltd.”
A Christchurch engineering company designed the bike rack system.
Other routes selected to feature the new buses over the next couple of months are 107 Styx Mill-Northlands, 108 Casebrook-Northlands, 145 Westmorland-Sydenham, and 135 Burwood Hospital–New Brighton.