This page looks at the different types of higher capacity buses (as vehicles) which are used in various towns and cities globally - including rigid / single / double articulated, passenger trailers plus variants which have a single / 1½ / two floors (usually known as double-decker).
To cater for large passenger flows most British bus operators (and a few overseas operators - especially but not exclusively - in former Colonies) tend to use double-deck buses, which are seen to be a very space efficient way to carry large numbers of people on crowded cities where road space is a commodity.
|Double-deck buses in London's Oxford Street, as seen from the top deck of another double-deck bus. If these had all been articulated buses there would not have been enough road space to carry them! (London buses are around 12 metres long whilst artics are about 18 metres in length.)||In 1992 a British built tri-axle bus was trialed in London before being exported to Hong Kong. However at 15 metres in length it was so long that at some road junctions it could not turn the corners so had to follow alternative routes.|
It is generally accepted that the longest "rigid" (ie: not articulated) buses will have multiple axles (either three or four) and be 15 metres in length. These come in both single and double deck variants - the latter often feature two staircases and three sets of passenger doors.
In London the front doors are usually used for boarding and the centre doors for alighting whilst most other British towns and cities use buses with just one combined entrance and exit doorway at the front. Elsewhere globally many towns and especially the larger cities use buses which have two or even more doorways, often with them all being for both boarding and alighting passengers.
|15 metre double and single deck motorbuses in the German capital city of Berlin.
Halfway House - The 1½ Decker!
|In the past several European cities have also used 1½ deckers which featured single-deck front sections and double-deck rear sections. However the headroom on the upper deck is *very* restricted, such that
when standing even a short person has to stoop.
Clicking either of these 1½ deck bus images will lead to a dedicated page showing more (and larger) images in a popup window; alternatively clicking here will open the page in a new full-size window.
The largest non-articulated double deckers were these 15 metre four axle double deck buses which were known as the N4032/4 Megashuttle.
Dating from 1993 a small fleet of these were used in the German city of Chemnitz
A N4032/4 Megashuttle on demonstration in Hong Kong.
Picture source - Hong Kong Vehicles Network Express http://www.hanvas.com/hkvne/photoalm/p990527a.jpg
(external link opens in a new window).
|Also called the CapaCity the Mercedes-Benz O530GL Citaro is the longest of a bus that is sold in a range of sizes. With a capacity of 193 passengers and 19.54m in length, CapaCity buses are so long that in Germany their
use needs special authorisation based on the suitability of the roads it is intended to serve.
|Neoplan Megaliner N128/4 operated in "Seishun Mega-Dream" long-distance coach, in Osaka, Japan. Note how to maximise manoeuverability the front two and the rearmost axles steer.
Another option is to use articulated 'bendi-buses'.
An alternative which has been popular overseas for many years is the use of single-deck articulated buses. In the majority of places these vehicles will feature twin-section buses with one articulation, a handful places however also use triple-section double-articulated buses which depending on the local language (or version of English!) might also be known as "bi-articulated", "mega-bus", "superbus" or other names...
|Above (both) and below - left:
Low floor single-articulated trolleybus in Vevey, Switzerland.
This vehicle features four wheel steering - on sharp curves such as this both the front and back wheels steer.
The internal view (left) looks forwards from the back of the bus, with a ticket machine just out of camera to the left. To improve ventilation in hot weather these vehicles feature several skylights.
Below - right:
A closer view of the inside of the articulation, as seen on a North American New Flyer D60LF articulated bus.
Deckers versus artics: which is better?
This is a question without a clear cut answer. Both have advantages and drawbacks.
Double deck buses give passengers (who travel upstairs) a grandstand view of the districts they are travelling through and can offer a much higher number of seats - albeit with the upstairs seating only being reach-able by able-bodied people who can climb the stairs. Critics claim that stairs on moving vehicles can be dangerous (they talk of the possibility of passengers falling if the stairs are used whilst the bus is in motion and it makes a sudden movement - braking, turning a corner, etc). Some transport planners say that especially for short journeys passengers tend to shun the upper deck and this leads to both overcrowding downstairs and under-utilisation of available space upstairs.
Articulated buses will usually feature several sets of doors spread out along the vehicle's length (usually three or four), the idea being that with passengers entering and leaving at all these doorways simultaneously bus-stop dwell times will be reduced - so speeding the service. Critics often question the wisdom of such long vehicles because of their increased land-take on crowded city streets where road space is a (perhaps very valuable) commodity but their advocates claim that even if the articulated bus is only half full it will still be taking far less roadspace than the cars that would be using the road had the bus not been there in the first place!
It is true that artics will have a lower seating capacity than deckers - but that is partly because of the space left clear for special needs access and also because with single-deck buses it is usual for many passengers to stand. Many modern double deckers also include "special needs" areas on the lower deck, and it is not at all unusual for passengers on a short journey to stand (on the lower deck) when travelling on these buses too.
Why Not Articulated Deckers?
With a capacity of 144 seated passengers it was thought that perhaps the ultimate in carrying capacity (for buses) would come from articulated double deck buses, such as these Jumbo Cruisers
However in the period 1975 to 1986 only a dozen of these double-deck single-articulated Neoplan N138/4 vehicles were ever built - and they were mainly kitted out as luxury coaches (rather than urban buses) for which comfort is as important a pre-requisite as overall passenger capacity.
Image sourced from the vehicle manufacturers' publicity material.
Image: Xaver X. Dreißig http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Neoplan N138/4 Jumbo Cruisers.
The different wheel arrangement is because the vehicle on the left had its engine in the rear section,
whilst the vehicle on the right had the engine attached to the main body.
To Cope With The Largest Crowds Extra Long Triple Section Single Deck Buses Are Preferred.
In South America the Brazilian city of Curitiba has a very successful Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system which uses over 170 three-section double-articulated (bi-articulated) buses as the backbone. This system includes 60km [37 miles] of segregated busway, 26 major and moderate size integration-interchange terminals, and seven different types of bus service including trunk route, express, local, feeder, inter-regional (to link different districts of the city) out of town (beyond the city borders) and more. They are all colour coded to make identifying buses easier. Only certain services use the double-articulated buses.
Note that these buses offer significantly fewer seats than double deck buses, and instead expect many passengers to stand during the journey. Often in crush-load conditions.
|Bi-articulated bus in Curitiba, Brazil. Image sourced from the bus manufacturer's promotional material.||Bi-articulated Transmilenio BRT bus in Eje Ambiental, Bogotá, Colombia.
Curitiba has been using these high capacity (270 passengers) bi-articulated buses since 1992. To facilitate speedy boarding / alighting they have many doorways (sometimes on both sides) and call at distinctive kerbside tube style stations where passengers pay their fare on arrival so that when the bus arrives they are ready to board. The waiting area at these tube stations has a floor height which matches that of the bus so there is a safe and accessible step-free entry.
Where local laws permit them double-articulated buses are being used in an ever growing number of towns and cities. but as the aim of this website is to use sample locations to demonstrate possibilities for use elsewhere too, so it is not intended to even try and provide definitive lists of every location. Four Swiss cities use the electric trolleybus versions, most other places use liquid fuel powered versions. These include São Paulo, Campinas, Goiânia and Curitiba in Brazil and the busiest services of the TransMilenio BRT system in Bogotá, Colombia.
|Bi-articulated bus with doors on both sides in Curitiba, Brazil.
Image sourced from the bus manufacturer's promotional material.
|Double articulated trolleybus in Zürich, Switzerland, where it was found that the resulting 35% increase in passenger capacity which these vehicles offer over single articulated variants represents a cost effective
alternative to converting very busy trolleybus routes to tramway. Note the five doorways which along with off-vehicle ticketing help reduce dwell times at bus stops.
|Double articulated trolleybus in the suburb of Kriens, Lüzurn, Switzerland
|Double articulated trolleybus in St. Gallen, Switzerland
The prototype Geneva, Switzerland mega-trolleybus calls at Geneva airport, plus a view of inside this vehicle from the back looking forwards.
This location is also an excellent example of transport integration as the bus stop is right outside the entrance to the airport's railway station and the airport terminal is immediately behind the photographer.
(Transport integration is also looked at on the Transport Integration page.)
(Zero emission electric and trolleybuses are also looked at on the Electric Buses page.)
|Until the opening (in 2003 & 4) of a new 3 route steel-wheel tramway Bordeaux, France, had a fleet of 11 (including the bus builder's demonstration vehicle) 24.4m long double-articulated Mégabuses which could carry 200+ passengers, of which 63 were seated.||Nancy, France, the double-articulated 'TVR' trolleybus which is often nicknamed as a rubber-tyred tram. Two cities use these specialist vehicles - here as a trolleybus
upgrade and in Caen as an alternative to steel-wheel trams.
(These buses are looked at on the New Era Hi-tech Buses page.)
|A double articulated bus in Utrecht, Holland.||A double articulated bus in Hamburg, Germany
The use of the longer buses in Hamburg has not been without controversy. They are used on high frequency services (every 5 minutes) which pass along some narrow streets and very crowded areas. Even though they are driven by specially trained bus drivers and in crowded areas often carry an assisting driver they are experiencing a higher than average number of accidents. It was suggested that Hamburg would really prefer longer (21 metre) single articulated buses. However such vehicles do not exist. Until 1978 Hamburg used trams and the idea was that a new U-Bahn (underground railway / subway) was going to be built to replace the trams, but this did not come to pass.
Possible Use In Britain?
It is not impossible that double articulated buses could be used in a British city. In the early 1990 the Bristol based bus company Badgerline [which later merged with another bus company and formed the First Group] demonstrated a double-articulated GLT vehicle in several British towns and cities. This was in connection with a proposal to use these buses on British BRT schemes, as alternatives to steel wheel trams. To avoid copyright issues it is not possible to show any images of the vehicle whilst it was here. The GLT is looked at on the New-era Hi-tech Buses page
Trolleybus double-articulated buses were suggested by the Electric Tbus Group (link to an external site which opens in a new window) for the proposed "West London Transit" scheme, as a more affordable alternative to a steel wheel tramway. (This was before the tram scheme was scrapped).
Technically these vehicles are illegal here (too long) but the real stumbling block is best described as "human politics". All it would need is for those in power (politicians, regulatory authorities, etc) to have the will to find workable solutions and then use their powers to influence the necessary regulatory changes. There is no other reason why they could not be allowed for specific busy bus routes / transport corridors - subject to the proviso that the extra long buses are physically capable of being used [ie: negotiating junctions, etc] on the roads involved. It should be noted that despite being extra long these buses are still shorter than many of the trams which are used on British roads. For instance, at 34.8 metres in length the double articulated trams in Sheffield are 10 metres longer than most designs of double articulated buses.
Apparently although under EU laws anything which is legal in one EU country can be deemed legal in all other EU countries too (with total disregard for local legislation) the EU rules for bus sizes specify shorter vehicles than these. Sweden, Holland (etc.,) are able to use double-articulated buses because the same EU rules allow individual nations the right to allow the larger vehicles within their own areas of administration.
Who has the longest?
It is probably inevitable that the friendly rivalry between our global family of nations would result in several locations claiming to have built the longest double articulated buses. The Chinese claim that their 25 metre Youngman JNP6250G which is used on BRT services in Beijing holds this accolade.
Curitiba's biofuel powered 28 metre bi-articulated Volvo B12M (chassis) with a Neobus body. Note the five sets of doors!
The 30.7m AutoTram® Extra Grand, in Dresden, Germany. Developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems and constructed by bus manufacturer Göppel Bus GmbH in Thüringen. Despite its length this vehicle still meets the German legal requirement to have a 12.5 metre turning circle. Image from a Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems press release.
Double articulated buses were investigated for use in Australia (especially in Brisbane) but they are unlikely to be used, if only because of suggestions that if traffic regulations were to permit buses of this length then the same roads would have to be opened to the extra long multi-articulated "road trains", such as the fuel tanker seen here.This image shows a B-train with two dolly/semi units.
This type of longer combination vehicle is allowed to be up to 53.5m (180ft) in length.
An alternative to both double decker and articulated buses is the 'road-train'.
Essentially the concept sees several independent road-going vehicles 'coupling up' just like a railway trains - except that they are on rubber tyres. The idea is not new, and in many cities has been superseded by articulated buses, but is still favoured by some bus operators because by adding the trailer vehicles at busy times, for sporting events, exhibitions, etc., an enhanced flexibility is gained to 'tailor' capacity to suit short-term increases in demand.
Usually only two vehicles will run in multiple, although rare instances of 30 metre-long 'road-trains' (with two trailers) have been known to exist too. At one time some european bus operations included 'road-trains' which featured through corridor connections, allowing passengers to pass from one vehicle to the other during the journey. Regrettably however photographic evidence is lacking.
Amongst the advantages of 'road-trains' are that compared to a pair of 'solo' motorbuses there is a very significant reduction in fuel consumption (as much as 75% has been noted) and a saving in staff costs. 'Road-trains' work best with 'off-vehicle' ticketing systems, otherwise any financial savings from fewer staff will be eroded by the need for an on-board conductor. Surprisingly, despite being unpowered the special trailers are not necessarily any cheaper to buy than new motorbuses, although they should have a much longer working life.
These images come from Lausanne, in Switzerland, and depict their latest trailers which are of the 'low floor / easy access' variety. By introducing trailers with this configuration in to their fleet it has become possible to offer enhanced accessibility without having to prematurely scrap the existing fleet of high-floor trolleybuses which still have many years of revenue-earning life left.
Nowadays Lausanne is one of a handful of Swiss cities which still uses trailers. To cope with increasing demand Lüzern reintroduced trailers, as it offers a cost effective way to increase passenger capacity when the fleet of buses (which are not articulated) still have many years of life left in them. Initially this was only as a temporary stop-gap measure before converting an overcrowded trolleybus route back to tramway however they have now adopted a different solution and are also using Hess double-articulated LighTram trolleybuses. The advantage of the double-articulateds is that whilst just 2 metres longer than the rigid trolleybus + trailer combinations they can carry 20 more passengers. The Swiss also use trailers on some inter-urban and rural services, including the 'post buses' (which carry passengers as well as post) although these generally only use the trailers for luggage / post.
Although relatively rare trailers are used elsewhere too but as the aim of this website is to use sample locations to demonstrate possibilities for use elsewhere too, so it is not intended to even try and provide definitive lists of every location.
|Bus with trailer in Tallinn, Estonia.||A midi train in Neckarsulm, Germany
A variant of the road-train used to involve twin-axle rigid trolleybuses running in multiple-unit, with both vehicles powered but under the control of one driver. This was commonplace in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, although nowadays all examples of this have now been replaced with articulated (bendy) buses.
For multiple-unit operation the front vehicle did not use its trolleypoles and was both physically and electrically connected to the rear vehicle. The coupling between them worked by means of a drawbar which was connected to the steering arm of the rear bus - so that it just followed the driving one. Effectively therefore the principle was very similar to a road vehicle pulling a trailer - except that here both vehicles were powered. Once coupled the twin-set combinations would normally remain coupled (unless the workshops disconnected them). So the rear vehicle would not normally drive 'solo'. For safety pedestrians were prevented from walking between the two vehicles by means of flexible 'gates' - as seen in one of the images, below.
Clicking any of these four multiple-unit trolleybus images will lead to a dedicated page showing more (and larger) images in a popup window; alternatively clicking here will open the page in a new full-size window.
|Multiple-unit trolleybuses, in Riga.|
For safety concertina gates prevent pedestrians from walking between the two vehicles.
These images come from Riga, which is the capital of the Baltic state of Latvia.
Note how the first vehicles' trolley arms are lowered, and the concertina gates which prevent pedestrians from walking between the two vehicles. Since these photographs were taken Riga has replaced these multiple-unit 'rigid' buses with articulated buses.
A short film showing some multiple-unit trolleybuses (as well as some trams) in Riga has been placed on the 'YouTube' file-sharing website and can be watched (in a new window) by clicking the projector icon or the link below.
The film comprises of a few different sets of images, all hand held, and all of the 'snapshot' variety, as I was not sure whether I should have been filming at all. At one time I was stopped when filming the trams, so I had to be
Another option comes in the form of articulated lorry tractor units pulling passenger-carrying trailers which at the front fit over the tractor unit's rear axles. However the perceived danger of a passenger-laden semi-trailer dislodging from its tractor while under way has resulted in regulations being introduced which ban passengers from being caried in this type of articulated bus, especially in Australia, Canada and the USA.
|Known as the "Camelito" (trailer bus) these Cuban buses can carry more than 300 people each, albeit often in cramped conditions. As of 2007 the bus operator began to replace them with new "proper" buses bought from China and Belarus.
|For many years some Indian cities have used tractor & trailer unit style articulated buses - both single deck and double deck, as seen here. Typically the deckers would carry 150 passengers of which 80 would
be seated - but whether that total includes "hangers on" is unknown.
Image sourced from a message posted on the http://www.skyscrapercity.com forums. (link to an external site which opens in a new window)
|Bus trailer model NO 80 at the exhibition in Prague, Czech Republic Výstavištĕ - exhibition park. Trailer bus built 1958, ČSAP Nymburk operator. The author of this image specially requests
to be attributed as Aktron / Wikimedia Commons.
|Between 1939 and 1984 the Australians built 123 semi-trailer type buses. When the example seen here was withdrawn (in 1977) it was the last such vehicle to have been used in New South Wales. It is seen in the Sydney Bus Museum. This 1937
semi-trailer is coupled with an American-built 1943 White M3A1 tractor.
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