Sunday 21 April 2019

New direction as first hybrid bus works cross-city

THE FACE of commuting in Dublin will be changed in the next decade by new technology and modes of transport.

And the future is here as Dublin Bus trials its first hybrid vehicle in the capital this month.

The long-awaited double-decker is expected to be placed on a cross-city route in the coming weeks and represents a major advance for the company.

Joe Meagher, chief executive of Dublin Bus, described it as a "significant development" for the semi-state.

"A hybrid bus in fairly simple terms is one that has a much bigger battery and a smaller engine. There's less fuel consumption so it's much more environmentally friendly but this is a new concept and a new design," Mr Meagher told the Herald.

"There's a few of them, double-deckers, on trial in London. We'll be trialing it to see how it goes and taking it from there. That's probably the most significant development. We always comply with the most up to date regulations in terms of emissions.

"We do a lot of work in that area. But the hybrid is a new direction, a new development. We're certainly looking very seriously at that and looking forward to trialing the bus to see how it goes because it might well be the future," he added.


Mr Meagher said a route has yet to be chosen for the vehicle, though "the probability is that we'll put it on a cross-city route".

"We've got to get it down, we've got to look at it, we've got to look at some training," he said.

It will be supplied by the Wright Group in Ballymena, Co Antrim.

Dublin Bus has agreed to lease the low-floor bus from Wrights for three years.

"They've done some hybrids before -- they've been sort of one-offs. But this is the first, online one that they've built. They see it really as their first. So they're excited about it as well," Mr Meagher said.

The public won't find it hard to recognise the bus -- it will be painted green to stand out from the rest of the fleet.

"This is very new technology. There are some in the [United] States but I think they're single-deckers. It's just going to be interesting to see how it goes," Mr Meagher said.

Also on the horizon is AVL technology, which is a satellite location system. This will enable Dublin Bus to know where every vehicle is at any time, thereby improving control of the fleet.


"The other thing is that it enables real-time passenger information to be displayed at bus stops," Mr Meagher said.

This means anxious commuters will know exactly when the next bus is arriving.

A more distant prospect is the development of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which has been described as a Luas on wheels.

"It's developing. It's supposed to look like a Luas track. CIE group are looking at trialing it in one of the provincial cities," Mr Meagher revealed. He said Dublin Bus will examine the system too.

BRT is more suited for short journeys as the vehicles have lower seat numbers and more people standing.

"The demand for us currently is from places such as the developing areas of Clongriffin or the far end of Blanchardstown or Ballycullen or Tallaght. So you're talking about long distances. What we've done is that we have bought some, what we call, tri-axle buses.

"They are slightly longer buses and the capacity is higher. If you're bringing people in from the far side of Blanchardstown into town, it's generally taking them maybe one hour and 40 minutes to come in. It would take that in the morning peak.

"People will not appreciate standing for 100 minutes, therefore we've got to find a vehicle that has the capacity, but seats a good proportion of people," Mr Meagher said.

However, after the Metro and the underground Dart are built "the capacity of those rail-based options will increase immeasurably," he added.

"So therefore the requirement of the bus is going to change quite significantly."

Mr Meagher said the bus service will move from bringing people in to town to feeding the rail and underground stations.

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