BUSES ‘FLEXIBLE’, NEED LESS INFRASTRUCTURE: DUTCH MINISTER CONFIRMS

By: Fabian Cotter


PUBLIC TRANSPORT BY BUS is “as good as light-rail connections” and requires less investment in infrastructure, says a Dutch Minister of Parliament - confirming what many in the global bus industry already know, but what many ‘outside’ transport planners perhaps often fail to fully appreciate.

BUSES ‘FLEXIBLE’, NEED LESS INFRASTRUCTURE: DUTCH MINISTER CONFIRMS
Dutch Secretary of State for Infrastructure and Transport, Stientje van Veldhoven, echoes the sentiments of many Australians in the bus vs light rail debate.

As reported by Busworld South-East Asia recently, Dutch Secretary of State for Infrastructure and Transport, Stientje van Veldhoven, has said that public transport by bus-like intercity lines and commuter lines are as good as light-rail connections.

Minister van Veldhoven-van der Meer is a Dutch politician and former diplomat and civil servant. As a member of the Democrats 66 party, she has been an MP since 17 June, 2010.

"There is no one-size-fits-all solution, all mobility concepts should be part of the solution," she wrote [to] the Dutch parliament, recently.

She states that to implement light-rail connections large investments are necessary and the projects are not always as manageable as suggested upfront. Also they are "complex" and "require years of planning".

According to van Veldhoven light rail is not a solution for projects that need, "fast realisation especially in cities were the growing number of inhabitants ask for new and easy access to public transport to ensure a good economy and sustainable mobility of people".

"A bus service can provide just that," she wrote, "and needs far less investment in infrastructure than a light-rail system [requires]. Also the bus is very flexible," the Minister stated.

In conjunction with other means of transport like the bicycle, walking, shared car systems and taxi, she sees bus lines and light rail as part of the mobility solution.

van Veldhoven’s sentiments come at a time when not only are many cities around the world contemplating light-rail systems, or have implemented them, but while locally Sydney is seemingly in the grip of a light-rail construction quagmire, with Brisbane opting for articulated 'vehicles' (buses) for its impending Metro system and has put out an international tender for such.

WHY USE IT?

According to NSW Government website www.mysydneycbd.nsw.gov.au, across the world major cities are looking to light rail to help meet the transport needs of growing urban populations.

It states in 2014 nine cities opened a new light rail line, bringing the number of cities with light rail to almost 400 worldwide. And this number is increasing further, with more than 180 networks in the planning stage or under construction.

Laurent Dauby, rail director at the International Association of Public Transport (UITP, from the French: L’Union Internationale des Transports Publics) said transport planners around the world are increasingly using light rail as part of an integrated transport solution.

International cities with light rail include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Dublin, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Tokyo and Toronto.

Dauby said light rail has been so successfully developed because it delivers significant benefits for both customers and cities.

While light rail’s benefits are well documented, there’s equal evidence that the overall costs and time needed in setting up such systems arguably defeats the purpose.

In NSW, multiple media reports indicate a virtual standstill and blowout in costs of Sydney’s $2.1bn light rail project, with the State Government embroiled in a bitter unforeseen court battle with main Spanish-based contractor Acciona, which launched a $1.1bn lawsuit against the state’s leading transport agency, Transport for NSW, earlier this year.

 Related article: Custom Bus Group in Brisbane Metro tender hunt
Related article: Custom Bus Group in Brisbane Metro tender hunt

BUSES FOR BRISBANE?

As reported in the Brisbane Times newspaper in May, Brisbane City Council’s public transport chairman Adrian Schrinner said the council would start looking at vehicle options at the end of the year.

"We know things like how many people we need to carry, approximately what length it will be, [but] it may be that an operator comes in and says we can carry 150 people with a shorter vehicle, so the length may change, various things may change," he said.

Cr Schrinner added that all power types from diesel through to hybrid and electric would be considered, and when it comes to purchasing the Metro vehicles the council will buy just one to start with.

"One thing we’ve discovered with various vehicles that Transport for Brisbane operate, specifications for overseas don’t always translate into the Australian or the Brisbane context," Cr Schrinner said.

"When we go out to market, probably later this year, we will be doing a full scan of what is here at the moment, but also what is in the pipelines

"I’d prefer to buy one, discover there are problems with it up front than buy 60 and discover there are problems."

According to Cr Schrinner, the vehicles would have a separate compartment for the driver, all-door boarding and be low-access vehicles.

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