Maltese cross over bendy bus fires

A bendy bus pictured during a trial in the Isle of Man

A bendy bus pictured during a trial in the Isle of Man

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Bendy buses have been taken off the roads in Malta following a series of fires - a move that will further fuel demands not to introduce them here.

An independent report on the suitability of using the articulated vehicles on Manx roads is currently being considered by public transport bosses.

Last week the Maltese Transport Ministry instructed Arriva Malta to take bendy buses off the road pending investigations.

This followed an urgent meeting between officials from the ministry, Transport Malta and Arriva after a third bendy bus in as many days burst into flames.

Bendy buses serve a third of all the routes in the Mediterranean island. A fleet of 68 was bought from London in 2011 after being phased out by Mayor Boris Johnson.

So far this year nine bendy buses have caught fire. No one has been injured.

The last incident took place in Xemxija on Tuesday last week when thick smoke could be seen coming from the back window of the bus and the engine vents. The blaze was contained quickly and passengers disembarked unharmed.

Two days before, one bus was destroyed in Marsa and another extensively damaged in Mellieha. Six other less serious cases were reported since the start of the year.

In a statement, Arriva said: ‘The safety of our passengers, employees and vehicles is central to our operations. To have incidents occur so closely together is extremely rare and as a result we are taking the precautionary step of bringing our vehicles in for a series of checks before returning them into active service.’

Bus Vannin bosses say bendy buses, if introduced, will save £300,000 in staffing and fuel costs, plus £3m of capital costs saved in replacing older buses – and if they do not prove suitable, the savings will have to be found elsewhere.

A month-long trial was carried out earlier this year at a cost of £10,000.

But the exercise was dogged by embarrassing breakdowns. A replacement bus had to be shipped over after one bendy developed a fault on the first day of the trial. The same week a second one broke down near Fairy Bridge. Then in the last week of the trial, there were two breakdowns in two days.

Results of the trial were considered by an independent working group comprising TravelWatch chairman Brendan O’Friel and representatives of the DoI and the Department of Education.

Mr O’Friel has called for the 50-page report to be made public.

A spokesman for the DCCL said: ‘The department is discussing various aspects of the report with the Department of Infrastructure to fully understand the findings and implications of the recommendations.’

‘It is not appropriate for the department to comment on the operations of Arriva in Malta.’

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