So today is not only a day with a snowflake coming down and touching the ground, which in itself is always an event that puts the Netherlands into chaos (The Dutch are generally awesome with liquid water, but are completely unable to deal with the same substance in a frozen state).
Today is also the day where Connexxion switches to the new Dienstregling, stops accepting cash in the buses and also switches to new equipment. This is not without it’s share of problems.
For us here in Vijfhuizen, it means a completely new set of buses. The 300 line is the line that goes from Bijmer ArenA via Schiphol and Hoofddorp to Vijfhuizen and Haarlem. It’s an express line, with a bus frequency of – on the average – of five minutes, and a ride is an hour long in one direction. So we are talking about at least 24 pieces of equipment plus spares, at a base price of 400k EUR apiece.
The past few weeks already saw a lot ominous portents: The 300 bus stop in Haarlem was moved from slot A (the innermost) to H (the outermost), and various narrow crossings saw roadwork widening the turn radiuses and generally making more room. A lot more room.
Today we had the real thing on the road:
The new equipment has a total length of 21m, and needs quite a bit of sideways room when making a turn.
The actual bus is now as long in the rear carriage as the the front part, so we get two front doors, and two back doors. The thing carries 191 people, and reaches a total loaded weight of 32t.
Of course, this being the first day, nothing works. So we rode the bus for free in both directions, because the OV Chipcard readers and the electronic cash register were not operational, yet. The internal passenger displays did work on the trip back, but not on the trip in the early morning, and we saw a lot of very busy people instructing drivers and helping to smooth over problems.
The snow on the road certainly didn’t help at all.
Not all drivers are familiar already with the size of their new equipment. The 346 line from Haarlem to Amsterdam got double deckers, for example.
As you can see the bus is higher than the red “R-Net H aisle” sign in the upper right hand side of the image.
On the way out, when making a turn, the longer and higher bus moves over the front of the two rear axles, turning and yet still sliding the back rear axle. The back of the bus actually moves quite a bit to the side, endangering passengers waiting in the H aisle, and ultimately touching the mast.
Nobody was hurt. But the damage was quite spectacular:
The toplight of the H mast came down, hitting the ground more or less directly next to my son. I was busy jumping out of the way, as the rear of the bus scraped the curb and tried to swing over the H aisle. That was good, because in the position I would have been in had I not been jumping a rain of black glass splinters came down.
As our 300 arrived, we entered that, and passed the damaged 346 on our way out. Our driver, by the way, was extremely careful. One could tell they were really taking the turns in wide, carefully driven arcs, and they were careful to control the speed of the completely filled vehicle on the icy roads.
We made it home safely.
All in all, the new equipment looks pretty awesome, and even more modern than the hardly outdated equipment that is being replaced. The capacity upgrade will be welcome, as the line is very busy and well used.