The evolution of articulated buses in Canberra

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Bus 450 was Australia’s first articulated bus.

Canberra led the way with articulated buses in Australia, with the first such vehicle in the country, an MAN SG192 to be registered as ZIB 450, delivered on 21 May 1976.

The bus, featuring a German-built MAN/Goppell body, was delivered with a Voith D506 gearbox, which was subsequently modified to the Voith 851. It entered service on 27 September 1976 and was met with such enthusiasm by the operator and passengers alike that a further 24 units were purchased.

The second MAN SG192, ZIB 510, was a German-built stock model which was delivered to ACTION on 23 February 1977.

In late 1977, an MAN SG192 demonstrator was hired by ACTION to assist with shuttle services to the Pacific Conference Games at Bruce Stadium. The bus would later join ACTION as BUS 671.

The next twenty MAN artics, ZIB 532 through ZIB 551, were delivered between 20 November 1978 and 28 November 1979. 532 was fully imported from Germany, whereas 533 through 551 were bodied in Melbourne by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC).

Bus 615, a Mercedes O.306G at Belconnen Depot

The articulated fleet was boosted with the addition of five Ansair bodied Mercedes O.305G buses in the early 1980s – ZIB 613 through 617. The first to be delivered was 614, arriving on 17 December 1982; 616 was the last to enter service in 1984.

Three additional MAN SG192 articulated buses – 671 (MAN/Goppell body), 672 (Custom Coaches body) and 673 (CAC body) – were purchased second-hand by ACTION, with the buses entering service in late 1985 and early 1986. All three were built as MAN Demonstrators and had seen service for Government Operators elsewhere in the country (and, in the case of 671, New Zealand) prior to arriving in Canberra.

Between January 1988 and August 1989, ACTION took delivery of twenty-seven Ansair bodied Renault PR180.2 (Mk1) buses, numbered 700 through 726. Initially delivered with three doors, the buses were later modified to remove the centre doors due to safety concerns.

The MAN SG192 fleet was retired in 1990 and 1991, meaning for a brief period towards the end of 1989, there was more than fifty articulated buses in the ACTION Fleet. Following withdrawal, 450’s significance was recognised by ACTION by being retained by the operator for some time as part of its Heritage Fleet, although it would later be sold.

Bus 700, a Renault PR180.2 Mk1

Between 1994 and 1998, the five Mercedes O.305G Buses were withdrawn from service as seven additional Ansair-bodied Renault PR180.2’s were delivered – these were the newer ‘Mk2’ model. The first, BUS 983, was delivered on 16 June 1993. The last, BUS 989 was delivered just nine days later.

The first of the Renault buses to retire from service was coincidentally the first of its class to operate a revenue service – Bus 703. The bus began its service with ACTION operating Route 435 on 15 April 1988 and ended it in 2006 following a driveline failure incident in which it sustained major mechanical and structural damage.

All was not lost for Bus 703, however. In May 2008, the trailer section of 703 was joined to the front section of sister unit 724, which had suffered an engine fire. The newly combined bus re-entered service as 724 in May 2008; the remains of 703 were sent to the ACT Fire Brigade for rescue training.

Bus 506, a Scania K360UA, entering City Bus Station

Retirement of the Renault PR180.2s commenced in 2012 as the Custom Coaches-bodied Scania K360UA units entered service. Thirty-three Scanias were ordered as one-for-one replacements for the aging Renault fleet. The total cost of these vehicles was $24.4m.

The first Scania K360UA, Bus 506, was delivered to ACTION on 13 June 2012 and entered service on 3 September 2012. It was the first low-floored, climate controlled articulated bus in the fleet. On the same day, the first non-accident related retirement from the Renault fleet occurred, with Bus 720 transferred to Woden Depot, though it had been withdrawn from service some weeks earlier.

Bus 538, the last of the 33-strong Scania K360UA order, was delivered to ACTION in October 2013 and entered service on 11 November 2013. At that date, five Renault PR180.2 articulated buses were still in service, making a total of 38 articulated buses operating for ACTION. The Renault fleet has since been retired.

Information and photographs for individual units: