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Sydney bus fire risks reduced

Fire suppression units have now been retrofitted to NSW State Transit Authority (STA) gas buses

May 17, 2013

Fire suppression units have been retrofitted to New South Wales State Transit Authority (STA) gas buses, in response to a bus fire that occurred almost two years ago.

NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian yesterday announced fire suppression units and fire alarms
been installed on 254 Mercedes Benz gas buses.

The program to retrofit fire suppression units on STA Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses follows a fire in July 2011 on a State Transit Mercedes Benz bus, model OC500LE, at Hillsdale in south east Sydney.

The Hillsdale bus was not in service and was not carrying any passengers at the time of the fire, but several passing motorists and a motorcyclist narrowly avoided being injured by the fire.

The fire prompted an Office of Transport Safety Investigations (OTSI) report, which found the most likely fire cause was coolant sprayed onto the engine from a split hose connection on the turbocharger coolant return line to the compressor.

According to the report, the water content of the coolant evaporated on the hot surface of the engine, allowing residual ethylene glycol to crystallise and ignite.

The fire intensified and burnt through the rear floor hatch and ignited the seating and other combustible interior materials.

The use of the bus’s dry powder portable extinguisher failed to stop the blaze.

The report recommended the replacement of the return coolant line and connecting hose fitting on all State Transit Mercedes Benz OC500 LE CNG model buses.

It also recommended tendering for the retrofitting of fire suppression systems on all the Mercedes Benz buses and training for drivers and network control personnel to deal with bus fires.

Berejiklian says the program to retrofit fire suppression units and onboard fire alarm systems on CNG buses has been completed more than eight months ahead of schedule as part of a tender awarded in August 2012.

Also included in the tender is a five-year maintenance program of the units.

Berejiklian says fitting the fire suppression units had originally been scheduled for completion by January 2014, but the installation program was ‘accelerated’ and completed before the end of April.

“Safety is paramount when it comes to public transport,” Berejiklian says in a statement.

Berejiklian says the fire at Hillsdale has been the only incident of fire on a State Transit Mercedes Benz OC500LE gas bus to date.

But the OTSI report noted a number of bus and coach fires had occurred in NSW.

Bus fires have been high on the agenda of national and state bus unions and bus industry associations, following a spate of fires on buses across the nation in recent years.

All new buses received by NSW State Transit have a fire detection and suppression system fitted at the time of manufacture.

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