The Herald reports that the first double decker bus arrives in Auckland this weekend.

Northern Express service operator Ritchies Transport expects the 88-seater vehicle to arrive by sea from Malaysia at the weekend, before being painted in Auckland Transport livery for trips to start between Albany and Britomart by mid-March.

Rival operators NZ Bus and the Howick and Eastern Buses are also involved in “infrastructure trials” with the council transport body to select other potential routes for double-deckers.

Its been almost a year since we  first heard that bus companies were considering them.  In the interim I understand that the bus companies had to address various technical issues like size and weight restrictions which is also likely to be why Ritchies are only bringing in one at this stage. Once they are comfortable that it is working well they say they will order more.

It hoped to order 15 to 20 more once the pioneering vehicle had proven successful in clearing peak-time passenger loads on the busway.

“I don’t think there will be any issues, but just to make sure it is all okay, it is better to just get one and then if we want to make changes [for future buses], to make those off the first one.”

Mr Ritchie said the bus had been purpose-built over a European Scania chassis, and would be about 4.3m high.

Although it would not have a conductor to supervise passengers reaching the top deck, he expected the roll-out of Auckland Transport’s electronic Hop card to buses from April to improve loading times.

He understood the council organisation did some tree-trimming along Fanshawe St so double-deckers could get close enough to bus stops, but not any major pruning.

And as mentioned briefly above, some of the other bus companies are looking at double deckers too.

Howick and Eastern general manager Sheryll Otway said her company was keen to select a main arterial route from its home base to the city before ordering several double-decker buses for delivery next year.

It wanted to reduce its “geographical footprint” with double-deckers about a metre shorter than its existing 13.5m vehicles.

It has attached a metal frame on one of its existing buses to a height of 4.2m, ready to start infrastructure trials next week, but Ms Otway does not expect any major obstacles.

NZ Bus conducted a similar trial along Mt Eden Rd this week, but has yet to disclose its findings.

For some reason, having double deckers for PT seems to give the impression that the city is growing up and like with other changes coming over the next few years, it will hopefully help to give Aucklanders a new appreciation of our PT network.

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  1. For some reason I really like double deckers, despite only having rode them a handful of times. There definitely is some ‘grown up city’ aspect to them, in the same way as trains and trams give the impression of ‘proper’ transit.

    I hope they can make some important design changes at the same time. I’m thinking having double doors front and back (with double tag posts) to assist dwell times, and having the forward section of the lower deck with longitudinal seating and grab handles only. That way we sort of get the best of both worlds, the front part of the lower deck works well for hop on hop of short ‘metro’ style trips (and can be crush loaded to accommodate unexpected demands) while also easily accommodating wheelchairs, prams and those with large luggage. The rear of the lower deck and the whole upstairs can be filled with seating for those making longer trips who want a bit more comfort. Perfect.

    I would be very upset if they had just the usual not-quite-double door at the front and single door at the back, and crammed in as many seat rows as possible upstairs and down. That would make it very difficult to get in, around and up and down the stairs, which would be terrible for dwell times.

    1. But remember that longitudinal seating is much less comfortable in a vehicle (ie bus, not train) that has high & unpredictable micro-ac/deceleration (aka jolts). When the driver jabs the brake, hope that the person on the wrong side of you is not a footballer.

      If more standing space is wanted I would suggest three abreast seating. Then you also have seat back corner handholds.

  2. Does anyone know how much fuel a (modern) Double Decker uses over a (modern) single decker on a like for like journey?
    Thinking that double the frontage area must reduce fuel usage more than any other thing.
    While of course the bus can carry more people = heavier, so uses more fuel too.

    So just interested to know if running double deckers can only make economic sense at peak times, or if they’re only marginally more expensive to be run on off-peak trips as well?

    1. the biggest bus operating cost is the driver sitting behind the wheel, the variability of other cost items with vehicle size isn’t as big as you’d expect

  3. The double doors are a great idea to get the well times down.

    Ive heard the problem with double deckers in NZ is that the maximum axle weights means you cant load them with as meany people as you would overseas, so the idea of longtitudinal seating and extra standing room on the bottom level may not be of any benefit if it pushes the load over the max axle weight.

    1. I assume they would all be triple axle buses. Shame because the double axle double deckers look nice and manoeuvrable and relatively compact. Like the ADLs, basically a double deck version of the Link buses:

      1. Or they could go for a triple door, double staircase option, although I suspect a fair bit of placating nzta would be required, as I think they would be oversize for NZ

    2. Yes that is what I heard too, the restrictions meant that they would only be able to have a handful of standees which isn’t much use when you have a busy corridor.

  4. On the money Nick, design is going to be really paramount with optimising the operation of the double deckers – single-decker NEX buses already have issues with dwell time and standing room at peak times so big doors, multiple tag posts and plenty of standing room are key.

    On a different but not unrelated note – as a NEX passenger I seem to recall a reading on here a while ago that they were looking at re-configuring the NEX bus stop at Britomart – removing the shelter and sticking in tag posts to enable quicker loading – i.e. 2 buses at once through all doors. Strikes me as a great idea – with the help of HOP they could load two double-deckers simultaneously in pretty quick time – allowing back door loading has already helped a lot with loading NEX buses faster.

    Anyway, was just wondering if that idea has gone anywhere (or was it just that, an idea?).

      1. Yeah I know that, I use it… I’m talking about reconfiguring that bus stop entirely in a way befitting an RTN station – it’s a dog’s breakfast, even with the rear door boarding.

  5. This is good news for the NEX service. I have heard they will be getting the new HOP card installed first so will be interesting to see if this bus goes live with HOP or has be reconfigured later.

  6. Double-decker buses should be pre-paid only. The tradeoff would be easy to manage – customers could take a look and know straight away that their bus was a cash option or pre-paid bus.

  7. Exciting news, I think they will look great in the new AT Livery. Can someone please put pics up when it’s on the road (multi-angle pls!)

    On another note, I reckon they should make the city part of NEX express as well and take out the stops between Vic Park (Outside Air NZ Building) and Britomart. It would speed the journey up considerably, and the walking distances from either stop aren’t huge. So it should be North Shore Stops > Victoria Park > Britomart.

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