Joined-up thinking on bendy-buses?

TEST DRIVE: One of the two Arriva articulated, or bendy, buses. PHOTO: Mike Proudfoot MP130206 (2).

TEST DRIVE: One of the two Arriva articulated, or bendy, buses. PHOTO: Mike Proudfoot MP130206 (2).

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COULD highways chiefs put the skids on plans to introduce bendy buses – after advising they are unsuitable for use on Manx roads?

Two articulated buses arrived in the island this week ahead of a month-long trial due to begin within the next fortnight.

That trial will determine whether or not the Department of Community, Culture and Leisure should go ahead with the purchase of bendy buses to operate on eight services.

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Parents have expressed concern that the vehicles will be used on school runs with standing room only for up to 90 children.

And now it has emerged that the Department of Infrastructure’s highways division does not support their introduction as it believes they are not well-suited to the island’s road network.

Infrastructure Minister David Cretney MHK, who did not support the use of bendy-buses during his time as minister of the DCCL, said the Council of Ministers had made a decision that the bendy buses should be trialled – although his professional officers had taken a differing view about the vehicle’s suitability.

He said: ‘I am a member of the Council of Ministers and Council has determined a trial should take place.

‘The Department of Infrastructure had a differing view. The opinion of the professional officers in my department, whose advice I agreed with when I was minister at the DCCL, is that bendy-buses are unsuitable for Manx roads.’

Mr Cretney said he continued to have misgivings about the use of the articulated vehicles.

He said he hoped the trial would be a ‘proper independent assessment’ allowing those on both sides who have entrenched positions to form a balanced view and that it would end with the ‘right result for the Isle of Man’.

An Arriva bendy bus from London was trialled in the island back in 2009.

The DCCL believes articulated vehicles will make significant savings in operating costs in terms of staffing, maintenance and fuel efficiency – as well as being cheaper to buy. Bus Vannin says the £40,000 price of a second hand vehicle could be funded by the sale of two double deckers.

The maximum number of standing passengers allowed on a Bus Vannin vehicle is currently 31 but a Mercedes Citara articulated bus is certified by the manufacturer to carry up to 101 standing passengers.

Bus Vannin is planning to change the internal layout of these bendy-buses, if they are bought, to increase seating from 49 to 56, which would limit standing to 94.

Related article: The bendy-buses are here!

Two Arriva buses arrived on the Ben-my-Chree on Monday night and have begun driver and fitter training ahead of the month-long trial.

The Department of Education has said it supports, in principle, the introduction of ‘suitably-equipped bendy-buses on appropriate school routes’ and would take a ‘keen interest’ in further and more rigorous trials.

Director of public transport Ian Longworth says up to 30 children can safely stand on the current school service buses in the island and that ‘with a professional driver and school pupils behaving in an appropriate manner, articulated buses present no greater safety risks than traditional buses.’

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