VDL Developing a Double-Decker for Berlin
FRANK BEETON reports on double-deck buses developments in Berlin.
Through the successful testing and supply of lightweight low-entry single-deck buses, a relationship was established between VDL Bus and Coach NV of Eindhoven and the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), operator of the public transport network in the German capital. This has led to an opportunity for the Dutch manufacturer to develop its first ever double-deck bus for evaluation in that city.
Following an intensive two-year trial of two Citea LLE-120 single-deck buses, the Berlin operator placed an order with VDL for 236 similar vehicles in May, 2014, with delivery scheduled to take place over the 2014 to 2017 period.
The first completed unit was handed over to BVG on January 30, with the first 40 units entering service in south-west Berlin from February onwards.
The VDL Citea LLE Euro-6 buses, as supplied to Berlin, are configured for 38 seated and 32 standing passengers. Their 12-metre long, lightweight integral construction results in an unladen mass of approximately nine tonnes. The tests conducted in Berlin suggest that these vehicles can achieve hybrid-type economy without the added complication of diesel-electric drivetrains.
Their specification also includes a high-contrast black and white LED destination indicator, low-floor construction with two doors, and a suspension kneeling function for easy passenger entry and egress.
The Euro-6 Citea LLE-120 is powered by a 187 kW (255 hp) Cummins ISB 6,7-litre diesel engine, coupled to either a Voith DIWA.6 or ZF Ecolite fully automatic transmission.
The VDL Citea DLF low-floor double-deck bus that will be supplied to Berlin for evaluation will employ the same modular design system as used on the single-deck Citea models. These 11,4 m two-axle vehicles will incorporate two staircases to enhance passenger flow, USB connections for each row of seats, and a display showing empty seat availability on the upper deck.
Although double-deck buses are more usually associated with cities in Great Britain and United Kingdom’s traditional areas of influence, Berlin has operated buses of a similar configuration since 1909.
The first double-deck buses to enter service there were supplied by the Neue Automobil Gesellschaft (NAG) in 1909, and were advanced for their time in having shaft drive, whereas most contemporary vehicles were still relying on sprockets and chains.
NAG subsequently became the sole supplier to the Allgemeine Berliner Omnibus AG, but its commercial vehicle activities were taken over by Büssing in 1931, and that historic truck and bus manufacturer consequently inherited a major share of the Berlin business.
Some of the double-deck buses supplied by Büssing-NAG in the period before the Second World War were fearsome looking beasts. They were more than ten metres in length, equipped with tandem rear axles and sporting an impressively long, overhung front bonnet housing a 12,5-litre diesel engine.
Berlin was partitioned after the war, and, while Büssing continued to supply its buses to West Berlin, the East Berlin authorities sourced their requirements from behind the Iron Curtain. In 1971, the West Berlin business passed on once again, when Büssing was acquired by MAN and it took over the role as sole supplier of double-deck buses to the city.
In 1990, Germany was reunified, and Berlin regained its position as the country’s capital. During the post-war period, single-deck buses had assumed an increased role in Berlin’s transport profile, and the first articulated bustrains were introduced in 1992.
Nevertheless, the present-day BVG has continued to buy double-deck buses, and, over the 2007 to 2010 period, took 400 new MAN Lion’s City tri-axle, 128-passenger double-deck buses into service. VDL’s test arrangement with BVG is clearly focused on providing regular replacements for existing double-deck units as they reach the end of their service lives.