PTE seeks derogation for the operation of bi-articulated buses



Centro, the West Midlands PTE, is seeking a special dispensation from the Department for Transport that would allow it to introduce Britain’s longest buses on its proposed Sprint-branded Bus Rapid Transit corridors.

Bus operators in the UK are currently limited to a maximum vehicle length of 18.75 metres, however in an OJEU notice seeking manufacturers to provide vehicles for Sprint, Centro says that it has ambitions to utilise single deck bi-articulated vehicles of 24-metres in length on Sprint corridors. “This is subject to derogation from the DfT which has yet to be granted,” it adds.

Consultation on the first Sprint BRT corridor, connecting Birmingham city centre with Quinton in the west of the city via Broad Street and the Hagley Road, has now commenced. The PTE’s current plans envisage the £15m scheme opening in 2016, funded by the PTE and the Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership with funding provisionally approved as part of the government’s Growth Deals (PT087).

A Statutory Quality Partnership Scheme will be introduced on the Sprint corridor with operators expected to be invited to submit tenders for operation of Sprint services later this year.

Centro intends to award the manufacturing contract through a framework that will give it the flexibility to acquire ‘tram-like’ single-deck articulated buses of either 18 or 24-metre length.

Although Centro’s preference is for the longer vehicle type, it says that if the DfT is unwilling to allow a derogation, it will procure the smaller 18-metre vehicles instead. Several European cities already have experience of operating 24-metre vehicles including Barcelona in Spain, Eindhoven in the Netherlands and Malmö in Sweden.

“The vehicles will need to provide a step change up from traditional buses,” adds Centro. “The vehicles are intended to encourage modal shift due to their style, comfort and appearance. The vehicles should be perceived as a ‘premium’ product, attracting the interest of the public. It is the intention that the vehicles will possess the appearance of a tram on wheels.”

A maximum of two manufacturers will be appointed to the framework, which will run for eight years and have a maximum value of £40m, but the PTE hopes to award it to a single manufacturer capable of delivering the same model in either the 18 or 24-metre lengths.

Nine vehicles will be required for the initial Sprint network but should additional Sprint routes be developed during the life of the framework, additional vehicles will be required.

Plans already exist for a second Sprint corridor connecting the city centre with Birmingham Airport via the Coventry Road. This route would also serve the proposed Birmingham Interchange station on HS2 and Birmingham International.

Centro estimates that if its aspirations for the introduction of Sprint on several corridors across the West Midlands are met, the full network will require a total of 50 vehicles, but this is subject to the availability of funding.


This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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