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Bendy buses - Round the bend or frugal move?

EASY DOES IT: A bendy-bus negotiates the mini-roundabout at Douglas Sea Terminal during the trial in 2009. PHOTO: John Maddrell JM091209 (39).

EASY DOES IT: A bendy-bus negotiates the mini-roundabout at Douglas Sea Terminal during the trial in 2009. PHOTO: John Maddrell JM091209 (39).

 

BRANDED ‘cumbersome machines’ by London Mayor Boris Johnson, they were banished from the English capital for clogging up narrow streets.

Now it seems that bendy-buses could be coming to the Isle of Man – but the plan could get a rough ride from the travelling public.

Community Culture and Leisure Minister Graham Cregeen MHK has confirmed his department is investigating the use of controversial articulated buses on a limited number of suitable routes following approval by Council of Ministers.

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One of the Arriva bendy-buses from London was trialled in the island in 2009. That trial was deemed successful although the Minister at the time David Cretney MHK said he recognised that members of the public were not keen on them and this would be taken into account when any decision was made.

Mr Cregeen said that of 10 people who had answered a question about bendy-buses in a public consultation on HGVs, none had been supportive of the articulated vehicles.

But he said that with his department facing severe financial pressures, savings had to be made – and bendy-buses could offer value for money.

He said: ‘It has got to be right for the public. It’s got to be safe and appropriate for the roads. But we’ve got to make savings. We have to investigate how we protect services. If we don’t have these buses, where else are we going to make savings?’

He explained a new double decker costs £214,000 and a new bendy-bus under £200,000. But he said the department could secure a second hand articulated bus for £40,000. For each one brought into service, two older double deckers could be sold, fetching between £20,000 to £25,000 each.

The minister said bendy-buses could achieve double the fuel mileage than a traditional bus.

He suggested Boris Johnson had got rid of them from London for ‘political reasons’ but these vehicles were still used in Liverpool, Manchester and elsewhere – while a number have been sold to Malta, prompting Mayor Boris to jibe that the ‘jack-knifed diplodocus’ buses were now ‘clogging up the streets’ of Valletta.

Mr Cregeen said they could be suitable for 10 to 12 routes in the island, including the one from Douglas to the south and they could be used for the school runs. He said there would have to be change in legislation to allow the use of longer vehicles before any bendy-buses can be ordered.

The Minister said that his department was also considering acquiring minibuses to use on skipper services in areas of less frequent demand.

In a written reply to a House of Keys question from David Quirk (Onchan), Mr Cregeen said: ‘I have instructed my officers to investigate all possible efficiencies before the department considers reducing services or increasing prices.’

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