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Christchurch Shuttle Passengers Exceed One Million
Therese Banks - 28/4/00

If you haven't already done so, you may wish to read one of the earlier articles in this series, starting with article one.

Just slightly more than a year after their launch, the Shuttles have carried their millionth passenger. Passengers have clamoured to ride free around the inner city loop on this environmentally friendly vehicle. Fewer cars are travelling into the city centre.

Problems of pollution, particularly CO2 emissions, and a spread out city centre caused Christchurch City Council to form a partnership with operator, Redbus, and coach manufacturer, designline, to launch three electric hybrid Shuttles in December 1998.

Numbers travelling have exceeded several fold the estimated 300,000 annually. Passengers are shoppers, tourists and students. Many travel on the Shuttle because it is convenient and free; others because it is environmentally friendly. All like the fun image of the Shuttle, its colour and design.

The Christchurch Shuttle
The Christchurch Shuttle
Photo Source Peter Hunt
All passengers rate the smooth ride, the spaciousness and the quietness of the vehicle very highly. There are no hassles of queuing and finding change. It is easy to enjoy the city. The Shuttle makes people feel happy. Christchurch city is saying that people matter. Results are obvious....

The Shuttle has lifted the whole image of public transport.
Some passengers are making their first trip on public transport and would be prepared to pay to ride.

Shoppers are returning to the city centre, say retailers.

Fewer cars are travelling into the city centre. Christchurch Polytechnic reports that with improved public transport fewer students and staff are parking cars.

Successful Shuttle is being repowered.
The millionth passenger is riding just as the Shuttle is being repowered in another technological breakthrough for the manufacturer, designline. Power is still supplied from solid gel, water-cooled batteries. However, the diesel-engined Auxiliary Power Unit which charges the batteries is being replaced with a Capstone Turbine. Developed from auxiliary turbines in Boeing jets, the turbine's use on a bus is a world first.

The Shuttle will now go further, run more quietly, and have a higher average speed. The top speed is set at 80 km/h, average speed at 22 km/h and maximum distance at 340 km in an 18-hour day. The turbine is powered with LPG and meets Euro 111 1999 Enhanced Environmentally Friendly Vehicles Standards, the most stringent in the world. In ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) mode, pollution is zero.

Passengers benefit as noise levels are well below acceptable levels. Full loads can now be carried with the reduced weight of batteries.

Operators benefit as the vehicles are simpler to operate. Controlled management produces a constant power supply and there is less opportunity for damage from inexperienced drivers. The on-board computer system sets vehicle performance to suit the route.

designline's breakthrough has real commercial benefits. Running costs are no more than diesel vehicles. They reduce further with the overnight charging of batteries from off peak power supply. Maintenance costs are considerably lower than for diesel vehicles. With no engine there is no engine maintenance; with less vibration less body and brakes maintenance is required.

Green medal winner enhances New Zealand's green image.
designline's development of this green medal winner is opportune. Today there is considerable public focus on the environment. Concerns about long-term health implications of pollution have led to calls for reduced traffic in city centres.

Local authorities everywhere agree than bus transport offers the best solution to traffic problems. The bus is a far lower environmental burden than passenger cars, calculated on the number of passengers per kilometre. If buses are clean burning and smoother riding like the Christchurch Shuttle, then passengers want to use them. If bus lanes are introduced, then travel by bus is efficient for everyone. If more passengers travel by bus then the higher number of passengers means a much lower cost per passenger kilometre.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport, UK, has estimated that the greater use of public transport in the place of the car can reduce carbon emissions per passenger kilometre by almost 80%. Buses could transport 30% of all travellers. Just 15% of all vehicles on the road they would occupy only 3% of road space. This applies equally in New Zealand.

designline electric vehicles are green medal winners that reflect well the environmentally friendly status of New Zealand. They are now a commercial reality able to be used in any city environment.

The time is right to extend their use throughout New Zealand to prove to the world we are serious about preserving our clean, green image.

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