Turning to the future

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Jonathan Welch test drives preserved Mercedes-Benz O405G K1 GRT, Aberdeen’s unique Alexander-bodied articulated bus which aimed to set new standards when built in the early 1990s

Bendybuses,’ or articulated buses, are somewhat of a marmite subject in the UK, where some people love their crowd-swallowing abilities and ease of access, while others insist that they are lethal contraptions based seemingly on a few incendiary incidents in London and some vocal cyclists. Having driven them for many years before I joined CBW, I found them to be excellent vehicles when used properly, on services with high passenger churn and with predominantly younger passengers such as students, and in the hands of a skilled driver.

Whilst British bus operations have traditionally favoured the double-decker as a means to move more people, thanks to more generous overhead clearances on British roads and city road networks which often suit the shorter vehicles, in Europe they are the standard bus in many cities. Whilst manufacturers including Volvo, Van Hool and more recently Solaris have a foothold, the ‘go-to’ for many European ‘artic’ operators is still one of two: MAN or Mercedes-Benz.

Articulated buses have been a common part of the Mercedes-Benz line up for many years, and the lineage of the current Citaro models can be traced back to the O305 of the 1970s, which developed into the highly successful high-floor O405-series and the later low-floor O405N, encompassing rigid and articulated buses. Unveiled in 1983, the model survived in various forms until the early 2000s, available as both a full bus and as a chassis for bodying by local manufacturers, before being replaced by the first generation Citaro models.

A sight not often seen, a bendybus in a petrol station. Not having seen much use during the 2020 season, K1 GRT needed topping up before our test drive. JONATHAN WELCH

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