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Luzern [CH] - First RBus of the 2017 series delivered

J. Lehmann - 26.06.17

On 13 June 2017, the first of eight double-articulated trolleys scheduled for delivery in 2017 arrived in Luzern. Just six days later on 19 June, the Swiss Federal Office of Transport (BAV) issued the operating permit. After the vinyls for the special livery had been applied and passenger information screens were mounted inside, the vehicle was ready for revenue service. The second double-articulated trolleybus is expected to arrive in late June; the third one by mid July. After the summer holidays conclude in mid August, the producer Hess will deliver the fourth bus, with the eight and final one arriving by late September. The vehicles will be sequentially numbered as 410-417. Eventually, the local operator VBL will have a fleet of 29 double-articulated (231-242, 401-417) and 30 articulated trolleys (201-230).

The longer double-articulated units are branded as RBus and used on lines 1 (10 circuits), 2 (8 circuits) and 8 (6 circuits). The somewhat shorter articulated units are typically deployed on lines 4 (3 circuits), 5 (7 circuits), 7 (8 circuits) and 6 (8 circuits). During rush hour, line 6 still needs to be boosted by double-articulated vehicles in order to meet capacity, as long as enough such vehicles are operationally available.

Of the older single units coupled with trailers, only five are still in public service, including 260, 262, 263, 274 and 279, plus the trailers 312-316. The buses and trailers are actually also coupled to each other in that numerical sequence. The single trolleys 261 and 264 have already been withdrawn and are mothballed at the garage of the private bus company Heggli. Their operating permits expired in mid May 2017. In late 2017, the seven single units and the driver trainer 252 are scheduled for sale to Valparaiso, Chile. As more double-articulated trolleys enter service in Luzern, more of the trailer formations will be withdrawn at the same time, although they are still expected to run during the summer.

Coinciding with the start of school holidays on 8 July, several construction sites will appear around the city for required road and network maintenance. This includes the renewal of the concrete surface on the main bridge over the lake. As a result, the bus lanes over the bridge will be closed from 3 to 23 July. Congestion and likely service delays are expected as a part of the works.

Already on 29 May, groundbreaking ceremonies were held for a second trolleybus depot in Root. The project is being completed as a public private partnership, with a real estate developer building the site for the establishment of new commercial and light industrial facilities. To the rear of the complex, there will be stabling points for 27 articulated trolleys. VBL will rent space from the real estate company for its buses and is expected to start occupying the depot by December 2018.

The extension of line 1 for trolleybus use is planned by 2019. A formal decision by BAV is still expected in 2017. The planning and permissions procedure has already been running since 2016. VBL has been pro-active in seeking input and feedback from local residents, with only 17 people lodging appeals with BAV. Presently formal meetings and community consultations are taking place, in order to resolve any last issues. Coinciding with these procedural processes, the release of project funding is also expected sometime in 2017. If all goes to plan, construction work on the catenary extension as well as the new bus interchange in Ebikon should commence sometime in 2018. Total costs for the extension from the present terminus of line 1 at Maihof to Ebikon are budgeted at 9 million CHF, plus an additional 4 million CHF for the further extension from Ebikon interchange to the new Mall of Switzerland, which is expected to open in autumn 2017. As part of the original feasibility studies for the project, VBL evaluated various technical options and concluded that the extension of the electric power lines throughout was by far the most economic solution.

VBL has not entirely ruled out off-wire battery options for other lines and is presently assessing in a combined study with the local engineering school Hochschule Luzern, if the planned RBus line 3 to Littau should be completed with catenary throughout or operated with battery trolleys instead. Electrification of the line is planned by 2022.

Top: The five trailer formations will be withdrawn in autumn 2017. On this picture dating from 27 June 2017, trolley 262 and trailer 313 are seen in use on line 8 to Würzenbach.
Bottom: The double-articulated "LighTram" 410 has arrived at the Luzern depot and awaits revenue service. Photos: Jürgen Lehmann

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