THE senior government official in charge of the island’s public transport network has defended his department’s policy on replacing buses.
When Tynwald approved the Budget last month, it also approved a capital programme that includes £2.7 million to buy replacement buses in the coming year.
Bus Vannin bosses are pressing for the introduction of bendy buses as they say they will save £300,000 a year in revenue – mainly staffing – costs but will also save £3 million on the cost of replacing ‘ageing’ double deckers.
But they have already come under fire for selling off double deckers to Blackpool.
The articulated buses currently being tested for the suitability for use on Manx roads are leased for the duration of the month-long trial.
Bus Vannin has been offered a demonstrator from Mercedes that it is intending to purchase ‘as it should be available at a significant discount on the new price’, confirmed Department of Community, Culture and Leisure chief executive Nick Black.
But he insisted no other buses have been purchased since the last batch of single deckers a year ago.
Mr Black said Bus Vannin had been replacing buses on a regular basis for many years - and new vehicles will be much more fuel efficient.
He said the actual number of buses to be purchased will depend on the prices and on whether articulated buses are going to be introduced.
Mr Black said the total number of buses in the fleet had been reduced by 20 in the last four years and this reflected ‘not only improved scheduling but also the benefit of improving the overall quality of the fleet’.
He said: ‘By increasing the quality we have improved reliability which means that we need less “spare” vehicles to cover time when vehicles are off the road for repair.
‘This has allowed us to make staff savings in the workshop too.
‘The new buses are much more fuel efficient - one of the old buses will do less than 5mpg; the new ones do almost 9mpg.
‘With our mileage, that makes for massive savings - in the order of £75k per annum, depending on the cost of diesel.’
He added: ‘Any business needs to invest capital to operate. DCCL cannot decide to use capital money for revenue purposes, such as wages or fuel costs. We have to provide a business case for capital spend - when it comes to buses we submit cases based on the operating costs and an overall replacement strategy.’
He said the annual budget funds the cost of replacing vehicles though the decision about disposal is based more on condition than on age.
Mr Black added: ‘The proposal outlined for the articulated buses is based on comparing the cost of 16 double deckers against eight articulated buses. The cost is a matter of our business case and the available capital resources.’ In 2011-12, 11 of the oldest double deckers in the fleet were sold for £20,000 each to Blackpool Transport.DCCL Minister Graham Cregeen told Tynwald in April last year the buses were 12 years old and each needed at least £20,000 to £25,000 spending on them to bring them up to acceptable bodywork standard.
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