AUSSIE ARTICULATED-BUS MAKERS STILL IN BRISBANE METRO HUNT; NEW-LOOK CUSTOM TO TENDER

By: Fabian Cotter


EXCLUSIVE: CUSTOM BUS GROUP – the official new business name of the iconic Australian brand Custom (Coaches) – is “in a position to put in a viable proposal to Brisbane Council” given the recently announced global tender to produce ‘Brisbane Metro vehicles’, new owner Scott Dunn confirms.

AUSSIE ARTICULATED-BUS MAKERS STILL IN BRISBANE METRO HUNT; NEW-LOOK CUSTOM TO TENDER
A foreign company seems strongly tipped to win a Brisbane Metro vehicle-manufacturing contract (Pic: Artist's impression - Brisbane City Council).

First announced in 2016, Brisbane Metro is a $944 million project using high-capacity, high-frequency articulated ‘vehicles’ (buses) incorporating new stations and platforms akin to a light rail or rail system.

Speaking exclusively to ABC magazine from its brand-new location in St Mary’s, in Sydney’s West – which no more than five weeks ago was a vacant timber yard with one side of the main factory missing but is now a modern and bright manufacturing facility with streamlined bus-production processes in action – Dunn says the Brisbane Metro tender matches well with the new product, designs, materials and engineering processes that will be the hallmark of Custom’s new quality and efficiency levels.

The articulated vehicles forming the cornerstone of any new Brisbane Metro bus service have not been selected yet, a council spokesperson verifies, meaning local manufacturers are still in consideration for the coveted contract, ABC magazine can confirm.

However, as recently reported by the Brisbane Courier Times newspaper, a foreign company seems strongly tipped as the favourite to win any such tender to supply the vehicles.

Lord mayor Graham Quirk said, "The Brisbane Metro is now fully funded and we are getting on with the job to engage with global industries to deliver this world-class project," he said.

As reported, Cr Quirk says the council ‘needed to look globally as metro vehicles were not constructed in Brisbane or Australia at present’.

"Where possible we will be seeking Brisbane partners or Australian partners, but we will be going international on this because it is a project of significance where vehicles currently of this sort are only constructed overseas," he said.

"Where we’ve got an equal footing obviously Brisbane companies will come first."

The council spokesperson ABC dealt with earlier says Brisbane Council will undertake a national and international procurement process for such vehicles later in 2018, possibly staring as early as late July.

"Brisbane City Council has announced that Council’s Transport For Brisbane will operate Brisbane Metro services, in the same way it operates and manages bus services for the city," the unnamed spokesperson stated.

"Later this year Council will undertake a national and international procurement process for Brisbane Metro vehicles. Vehicles have not yet been selected.

"The Metro project was first announced in January 2016, with completion expected by the 2022/23 financial year. The project is on track and we expect that construction on the Brisbane Metro will be complete in late 2022, with the first services in the first half of 2023," they stated.

 Related article: Telfords confirms new Custom Bus production location, name
Related article: Telfords confirms new Custom Bus production location, name

DRAFT REPORT

A Draft Design Report was released late April this year, with some critics stating it lacked costing detail or was too bus centric. However, construction news website www.brisbanedevelopment.com released a detailed summary of the report, which goes some way to help clarify certain aspects of the Draft Design Report.

As stated, the long-awaited Brisbane Metro project will be a high-frequency public transport upgrade to 21 kilometres of existing busway.

While not a railway system in any form, the metro project plans to apply a lot of the basics of what a typical metro rail system offers, it states.

Contrary to popular belief, the system will not act like the typical bus service that Brisbane has become used to, it continues.

"Aside from aiming to reduce inner-city bus congestion, cut travel times and improve services to the suburbs, the project features a few important operational improvements which will fundamentally evolve the current busway network into what would look like a traditional metro rail line or ‘transitway’."

 "The project will create two enhanced high-capacity metro lines using the existing South East Busway, and parts of the Northern Busway.

 Brisbane Metro will be delivered through the following key elements, including:

-         New and modified infrastructure;

-         High-frequency turn-up-and-go metro services;

-         A new fleet of high-capacity metro vehicles;

-         Policy and operational improvements;

-         New customer and vehicle management systems;

-         18 stations and 11 interchanges;

-         A fleet of 60 high-capacity metro vehicles."

BOTTLENECKS?

The summary addresses the issues of bottlenecks and intersection congestion, with bus services directed away from the busway corridors in an attempt to improve journey times.

A key component of this is also a new Cultural Centre underground station and precinct for metro vehicles and buses, intended for a site, "at the intersection of Melbourne and Grey Streets, beneath the existing South Brisbane railway corridor, 125 Grey Street, and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) Green."

The station will, "feature full-height safety screen doors and will be designed to support potential low-rise development above it."

Other key aspects include: Victoria Bridge converted in to a ‘green bridge’ for metro and bus services, pedestrians and cyclists, plus a new tunnel under Adelaide Street to connect from North Quay to King George Square station, completing the segregated corridor for metro and bus services.

There are still some pivotal land acquisitions to be had, with a depot facility for metro vehicles at School Road, Rochedale, adjacent to the South East Busway, the summary states.

"The proposed depot site will be approximately 55,000 square metres and will require Council to acquire four private properties and a property currently owned by the Department of Transport and Main Roads."

The depot will provide stabling for the initial fleet of 60 metro vehicles and have capacity to accommodate growth of the fleet in line with demand.

METRO ‘VEHICLES’

The new fleet of 60 high-capacity metro vehicles will be introduced, each able to carry up to 150 customers, it’s claimed. However, as highlighted by the summary, "according to industry specialists, similar bi-articulated buses in operation overseas can achieve a patronage of 200 to 250+ passengers. The vehicles will be approximately 24-25 metres in length.

It states key features of the metro vehicle will include:

-         Three passenger compartments;

-         Low-floor design to allow quicker boarding and alighting;

-         At least four large (double) doors to allow rapid boarding and departure;

-         On-board features such as Wi-Fi access, customer information systems to provide real-time travel updates, and public/voice announcements of the next station; and

-         The metro fleet will expand over time to accommodate growth in services.

 Brisbane Metro is proposed to operate:

-         5am to midnight, Monday to Thursday;

-         5am Friday to midnight Sunday (i.e. all day Saturday and Sunday);

-         High-frequency services every three minutes in peak periods; and

-         Five minutes between peak periods.

In the year of opening, metro services will operate at three-minute frequencies during peak periods. During daytime inter-peak, metro services will operate at about five-minute frequencies, it’s stated.

"Over the subsequent years of operations, metro frequencies in peak periods will continue to increase in line with demand."

HYBRID BUSWAY

Of particular interest is the Brisbane Metro’s plans to turn the busway network from a direct service (single seat) model to a hybrid network.

The summary states the Brisbane Metro will act like a trunk metro service that operates as the primary service along the busway and is supported by numerous ‘feeder routes’.

"Many current BUZ (high-frequency) and Rocket (peak-only express) services to the CBD will continue to operate, retaining a strong complementary network of suburbs-to-city services for existing bus customers."

"Other current lower patronage bus services will feed high-frequency trunk metro services on the busway.

"Transport experts praise this evolution and see a hybrid model as a more efficient use of the existing bus fleet and infrastructure. A trunk service allows lower-density areas to benefit from additional services which, in turn, connects areas to the Brisbane Metro trunk service.

"This will reduce bus congestion on the busway and in the CBD, helping to improve travel times and reliability. At the same time, customers will benefit from an easier-to-use network and better, convenient connectivity to a wider range of growth destinations.

 "This will be supported by improvements to other high-frequency distribution services, such as Council’s CityGlider network and the Inner City Loop."

Consultation on the Brisbane Metro draft Design Report closed on Friday, 25 May, 2018. Council says it is now reviewing feedback during the consultation period, which will "continue to help shape this vital infrastructure project."

OVERVIEW

According to the council, "Brisbane Metro comprises a turn-up-and-go metro network across 21 kilometres of existing busway that links the Eight Mile Plains, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital (RBWH) and University of Queensland (UQ) Lakes busway stations and all stations in between.

"The alignment will feature two new high-frequency, high-capacity metro lines: Metro 1 - Eight Mile Plains busway station to Roma Street busway station; Metro 2 - RBWH busway station to UQ Lakes busway station.

"The project will introduce a new fleet of 60 metro vehicles, each with capacity for up to 150 people, which can use the busway alongside other bus services.

"Some high-frequency bus routes will continue to operate on the busway, providing a network of suburbs-to-city services for residents across Brisbane. Other services will provide regular, frequent connections from the suburbs to high-frequency metro services at busway stations. Improvements such as off-board ticketing and all-door boarding will also help to improve journey times and reliability."

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