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Old 20th June 2005, 13:38   #1
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Default Mercedes Benz Citaro

Saw these in London -would do well in Bangalore but for the cost and lack of maintenance!!!!


Model: Mercedes Benz Citaro
Cost: approx 200,000
Carries: 142 passengers - 49 seats, max 93 standing and space for a wheelchair
Engine: Mercedes-Benz OM906hLA 6.4-litre, 278bhp diesel turbocharged, six-cylinder
Transmission: Voith D863.3 automatic gearbox
Brakes: disc brakes
Weight: 16,680kg, unladen
Fuel consumption: approximately 4mpg

I have seen the future and it curves. Like them or loath them, bendybuses are here to stay. After a century of the two-storey bus and the gradual emergence of single deckers and minibuses, this country has paved the way for the inevitable conclusion - a double decker arranged horizontally.

From the transport manager's perspective it's a bit of a no-brainer. Each bendybus can carry 142 people compared with 90 on a modern double-decker, and almost twice the number carried on the ageing Routemasters, the hop-on-hop-off vehicles with conductors that are still found in central London.

On the bendybus passengers must have a ticket before boarding. They then simply get on through one of three double doors and the driver can move off straight away without having to wait for fares - as they have done in Continental cities for decades.

The bendybus's fans in the capital say it is even quicker than the Routemaster, but passengers are less enthused. The vehicle started with a bad press in London after early models developed a habit of bursting into flames. The problem stemmed from pipes carrying pressurised air to the brakes, door and suspension system that had a tendency to burst.

Worse was to come when Transport for London (TfL) chose to replace the Routemasters on the 73 route through Islington (rich with lawyers and media types) with bendybuses. All hell broke loose. Websites were set up and protest groups launched to save what is still a global image of London.

Perhaps the only major party not to have had a say are the drivers. Six months after the 73 went bendy, Arriva's commercial support manager, Dave Jones, believes passengers are getting used to them.

"Everyone is passionate about the RM and there was a campaign to save it but we don't get as many adverse comments now," he says.

Paul Webb, 48, a driver who has piloted most types of bus to run in London over the past 25 years, has been in control of bendybuses since April last year. "They are the most comfortable bus I have ever been in, the controls are really accessible and air-con as standard is marvellous."

The driver's cab is certainly state of the art. The steering column and control panel are fully adjustable, and to complement the air con is a booster heater that can warm the whole bus in 10 minutes. The driver can change the destination screens at the touch of a button. The bus has anti-skid brakes, two sun roofs, 10 CCTV cameras and window blinds. The 278bhp engine is at the rear of the bus, making it so quiet it is hard to tell when it has been switched on. One of the doors has a fully extendable ramp for wheelchairs. There is a "belt and braces" system that prevents the bus being driven with any door open, and even an override to neutralise the actions of anyone using the outside emergency door control buttons at a traffic light. Perhaps the weirdest "added extra" is a button that raises the bus floor in the middle to enable it to clear a hump in the road.
"It's a very smooth and comfortable bus to drive - but may be that's because it's a Merc," jokes Dave Lynde, one of Arriva's training officers. Mr Lynde says drivers moving on to articulated buses get 45 hours of training over 20 days. Learning to reverse alone can take four solid hours of practice.

After a few minutes' tuition, I was in the driver's seat with my right foot resting on the gas pedal of a 6.4-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine. I have driven a Routemaster and, thanks to Arriva, a couple of double deckers, but this was something else. The simple difference is that as you drive on a straight road you can see the first half of your vehicle in the side mirrors. As you turn left or right, the back end of your 18m-long bus suddenly reminds you it's there. So concerned was I about not clipping any of the parked cars while circumnavigating another bus I forgot where my back half was. Only the firm instructions from Mr Lynde and the panic-stricken look from the instructor on the other bus reminded me I had forgotten about the small matter of eight metres of back end.

Going forward is one thing, but reversing is terrifying. The trick apparently is to have a centimetre reflected in your right-side mirror. Any more and you are in danger or swinging wildly to the right. If it suddenly jerks over to your left mirror, then you are about to jack-knife into the opposite carriageway.

Driver Paul Webb says he can get a full complement of passengers on board at peak hour in 30 seconds, compared with three minutes for a double-decker. In the capital, TfL plans to roll out bendybuses on three or four new routes a year, even though fare evasion is estimated at 4 per cent - double the rate on conventional double-deckers. The larger ground area taken to park them has meant that new garages have had to be built, although TfL said they would have been needed anyway.

As a diehard Routemaster fan, I can't bear to see them disappear. But given that the battle is all but lost perhaps it's better to have bendybuses rather than the bog standard double-deckers that emerged in the early 1980s - some of the grimmest, most uncomfortable and soulless vehicles ever designed for the travelling public.

I doubt the bendybus will ever capture Londoners' hearts as the RM did, but it does have its own quirks that will probably grow on its regular passengers.

Or as another German automotive giant would probably put it, Vorsprung durch Technik
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Old 20th June 2005, 13:42   #2
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Lol, I'd like to see that taking a tight turn in one of Bangalore's back alleys!

They have similar buses (no, not with the 3 pointed star) plying the suburban highways here in Bombay. They stick to the highways as the roads are broad and straight enough for them.
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Old 20th June 2005, 13:52   #3
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I have seen a similar bus only twice in Hyderabad. I feel it's a bad choice for ill-mannered indian traffic.
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Old 20th June 2005, 13:58   #4
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What happened to the low floor buses that were bought with a World Bank Loan
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Old 20th June 2005, 22:52   #5
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They are technically called vestibule buses. BEST runs 1/2 of them.
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Old 20th June 2005, 22:57   #6
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Yup revv.. Best runs the 348 number bus from Sion/Anik Depot
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Old 20th June 2005, 23:04   #7
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Originally Posted by khanak
What happened to the low floor buses that were bought with a World Bank Loan
I saw a low floor bus at Opera House 84 ltd.... looks smart .... really liked it waiting to sit in one
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Old 20th June 2005, 23:11   #8
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Originally Posted by satish_appasani
I have seen a similar bus only twice in Hyderabad. I feel it's a bad choice for ill-mannered indian traffic.

currently that bus is out of service, rumour being that it has faced some major problems. (dunno of what kind)
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