VIRUS SPIKE PUTS BUS ANTI-COVID MEASURES INTO SPOTLIGHT

By: Fabian Cotter, Photography by: courtesy Irizar Europe


EXCLUSIVE: Recent coronavirus case number increases in Victoria has put new emphasis on hygiene protection strategies on buses and coaches becoming standard - not just optional – sooner rather than later, according to a leading European bus-body manufacturer spokesperson.

VIRUS SPIKE PUTS BUS ANTI-COVID MEASURES INTO SPOTLIGHT
“In this way people can travel more at ease on buses and it might even help improve (or lessen) social distancing, so as to increase passenger capacity safely on buses,” Castro added.

"We are seeing certain anti-coronavirus measures being ISO certified in Europe due to demand, where the impact of the disease has reportedly been much greater than here in Australia, in terms of cases and deaths," said Daniel Castro, director at Irizar Asia Pacific Pty Ltd based in Melbourne.

"Unfortunately, what we are seeing here in certain parts of Melbourne, Victoria, right now could be an indication that such a virus or maybe even future viruses could repeat and would need to be best managed and mitigated quickly, so maybe anti-viral strategies and improved hygiene and non-contact screening measures on buses should be made mandatory, so we are being proactive and prepared instead of being ‘reactive’ and caught off guard," he explained.

"In this way people can travel more at ease on buses and it might even help improve (or lessen) social distancing, so as to increase passenger capacity safely on buses," Castro added.

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According to Castro, Australian operators taking on its new ECO3 system include: Greyhound, GoWest, all BHP operations and an increasing number of school bus operators in Victoria and Queensland. Its driver separation screens are being used by Murrays, Transwa in Western Australia and Busways in NSW, he adds.

While such sentiments come at a time Irizar is trialling its new European-sourced suite of anti-virus bus-travel solutions, it is quick to point out the issue is greater than one brand and that other bus marques also have emerging technologies and strategies to help combat the spread of the disease.

"It might be a case where government contracts for bus services are only awarded in future when the buses being used have a checklist of anti-Covid measures fitted from the factory, or need them retrofitted by the aftermarket, if and when such things exist," he suggested.

"Europe is following this pathway of certification and there is definitely talk here that maybe we should, too – regardless of there being more operators vying for business in Europe and that ‘competition’ driving the need to better protect their passengers and drivers and such."

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PT REACTIVATION

In a move to further promote safe and sustainable collective mobility, the Irizar Group in Europe highlighted a range of hygiene solutions recently, which Castro has brought to the Asia-Pacific market for extended trials and further demonstration.

To combat the virus on public transport, the company also displayed its range of strategies to help tackle the Covid-19 problem on buses and coaches with a video showcasing them in action.

Aside from the expected screens and passenger dividers (in principle similar to what many consumers in Australia and New Zealand have seen used in supermarkets and sundry stores), these include: a smart camera for access control; automatic vehicle disinfection without passengers on board; and Eco3 air purification.

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- Smart cameras

The access control camera is a smart system located at the vehicle's entrance. Its goal is to keep passengers who show symptoms, or who do not follow the Covid-19 protocols, from boarding the vehicle, Irizar explains.

It is equipped with a body temperature sensor that measures the temperature of the passengers and signals when it is above 37º. It also has artificial vision cameras that can be used to detect whether passengers are wearing masks and the complete process is done automatically and in real time, it adds.

"When a passenger has a fever or is not wearing a mask the system will make a signal alerting them that they may not board the vehicle and the driver can act proactively without needing supervision to follow the established health protocol," Castro outlined.

"These cameras do not record the personal data of passengers in order to comply with privacy requirements," he is quick to explain.

The device provides the possibility of being integrated with the fleet manager product provided by Irizar, for the purpose of monitoring and managing the recorded Covid-19 incidents quickly and easily, Castro states.

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- Automatic vehicle disinfection

This consists of installing a fixed outlet on the vehicle that connects to an external device through a nozzle and - with a pneumatic nebuliser system - it can completely disinfect the vehicle through the air automatically without any passengers present in 30 minutes, Irizar states.

"This technological solution - homologated by the Spanish Ministry of Health - can be controlled through industrial or programmable interfaces and it is activated from outside the vehicle with minimal handling and without requiring access to the cockpit," Castro said.

The ‘nebulising process’ lasts between 15 and 30 minutes and requires a wait of three to four hours before the coach can be accessed, according to the company.

"It’s easy to use, has a wide versatility and is very adaptable to the needs of every vehicle," Castro said.

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- Eco3 air purification

The Eco3 air purifier drastically decreases mould, bacteria, virus, volatile organic compounds, allergens etc, says Irizar, and it prevents foul odours.

Its functionality is based in generating negative ions and ozone in the appropriate proportions and increasing the concentration of oxygen to eliminate odours to maintain healthy levels and keep the air inside the vehicle from becoming contaminated, it explains. Safety levels are maintained and it cannot be adjusted by the operator, he points out.

It is installed in the return of the climate-control system of any new or currently used bus or coach regardless of the manufacturer, it adds. The turbines in the device are what distribute the ozone through the interior of the vehicle to contribute to disinfection, it says.

"In contrast to other cleaning and disinfection systems, Eco3 is designed to do its job with passengers on board and when the vehicle is moving," said Castro.

"This solution has been widely tested on the market and its efficiency has been endorsed by SGS, a global leader in inspection, verification, testing and certification," he explained.

"Conversely, using the climate control systems installed on the buses and coaches also contribute to preventing the contagion of infections though bio-aerosols because they have air renewal systems that guarantee a complete renewal of the air inside every three to six minutes.

"The air renewal can be increased if the renewal gates are kept completely open.

"With open nozzles, there is a vertical flow of air from above to below at a velocity that impedes cross contagion between passengers. With the nozzles closed, the design generates a ‘bubble’ or ‘canopy’ effect around passengers, which creates a barrier to bio-aerosols around them," he said.

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- Separation screens

Irizar is providing operators with separation screens for drivers and "easy-to-install" dividing panels for seating to provide protection for both drivers and passengers, it says.

Both solutions - designed in Europe for the Irizar model i3le, Irizar i4, Irizar i6 and Irizar i6S coaches - have been developed and manufactured with materials that meet the requirements of the European laws in force regarding indirect vision (R. 46), interior fitting (R. 107), fire performance (R. 118) and energy absorption (R. 80).

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