Prague may get superbuses

A fleet of longer buses is being considered by City Hall

Prague City Hall is discussing adding a fleet of extended “superbuses” to improve service to the airport. Two types of buses have been tested by ROPID, the organization that oversees mass transit. ROPID last week recommended to the Transit Committee of City Hall that extended buses are the best option.

It will be many years before either a train or metro service is completed the airport, and in the mean time the city has to find a solution for the growing number of people using the airport. The extended buses could also be used on the route to Prague Zoo and other crowded routes.

The other current option would be increase the service of already existing articulated buses, but this has two drawbacks. It is not economical as it requires more drivers, and it is not ecological as it increases pollution.

Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Dolínek (ČSSD) told daily Lidové noviny (LN) he was enthusiastic about the proposal, but the question was how quickly the longer buses could be acquired. It could be as early as next year, in theory. Dolínek added he would be content with borrowing the buses.

One of the buses that was tested was the longest ever to be used in Prague. A three-section AG330 bus made by Belgian firm Van Hool is 25 meters long and carries up to 181 passengers, with 74 seats. Using same number of buses on the airport route, capacity would increase by 38 percent, LN reported. During testing, the Van Hool bus had two accidents resulting in one minor injury.

The other bus to be tested was the two-section Mercedes-Benz CapaCity L, which is 22 meters long. The CapaCity L can carry up to 191 passengers, with 45 seats. For both buses, different seating configurations would change the total number of passengers. It was tested for four days in early 2016.

DPP had to get an exemption from road regulations for the testing of the buses as they exceed the legal road limit of 18.75 meters.

The law would need to be changed if one of the longer buses went into service. City Councilor Matěj Stropnický (Green) in particular sees the law as a possible drawback, as a permanent change is not certain. He was also concerned about details such as service contracts and other costs aside from purchase or rental price.

Martin Gillar, the director of the Prague Transit Company (DPP), told LN that while larger buses are he best option it still had to be determined whether the buses should be purchased or rented, and a tender would have to be held once the market prices were determined. Which of the two buses would be used also has not been determined.

If the buses are used, there would initially be 15 buses on route 119 to the airport, and a similar number on route 112 from Nádraží Holešovice to Prague Zoo, on route 107 from Dejvická to Suchdol and on route 136 from the Čakovice housing project to Jižní Město.

There are some drawbacks, according to media reports. The buses are too long for some of the bus stops. Also they can cause delays as other buses can't use the same stop at the same time.

Using the larger buses on the 119 line would increase the annual cost from Kč 49.9 million to Kč 66.8 million.

DPP currently operates some 1,100 buses with an average age of nine years old. The annual cost of bus operation is about Kč 4 billion.

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