City debut for extra-long tri-axle bus in uni-link trial
In a transport first for Southampton, a new, extra-long bus is currently on trial to determine whether it could become a permanent sight on the city's public transport network.
The blue 'OmniLink' bus, produced by vehicle manufacturer Scania, is being trialled by the University of Southampton's award-winning uni-link service until the end of November.
An alternative to the articulated or bendy buses, the 'rigid' single-decker bus is 13.7 metres long - almost two metres longer than a standard length 12 metre bus. It has three axles, features rear wheel steer to improve manoeuvrability and carries 97 people.
During the trial, the bus will help manage additional demand from students at the start of the academic year and will run along the popular U1 uni-link route from Southampton Airport to Dock Gate 4, past the University of Southampton's halls of residence in Wessex Lane.
Uni-link was launched in 2001 and links the University's campuses and halls of residence with Southampton General Hospital, the Docks and the city centre through four city-wide routes. More than three million passengers a year, including staff, students and the general public, now use the network.
The long bus trial is one of a number of improvements to the uni-link service following the start last month of a new ten-year deal between the University of Southampton and Bluestar, which makes the Eastleigh-based bus operator the provider for the network. The new contract will see a £3 million investment in the service, including a new fleet of buses to be rolled out between September 2008 and March 2009.
On Monday 29 September, the first day of the new contract with Bluestar, uni-link carried 15,500 passengers, the highest daily total yet carried since the service was introduced in 2001. Between 6 and 12 October a record 106,000 passengers used the service.
George Fair, uni-link operations manager, comments: "As well as a first for Southampton, we believe this bus is the only one of its kind running anywhere along the south coast at the moment.
"This trial is helping us achieve our aim of constantly improving our service for users and, if it is successful, we may decide that the bus will become a feature of the uni-link service in the future."
The new uni-link timetables are now in operation and are available to download from the new website at www.unilinkbus.co.uk
Notes for editors
The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health and humanities.
With over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover of over £350 million, the University of Southampton is acknowledged as one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine. We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.
The University is also home to a number of world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies and the Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute
Solent Blue Line, which trades as Bluestar, employs 220 staff including drivers, engineering and administrative personnel to deliver a network of 25 key routes and contracted services for a wide range of clients, using a fleet of around 90 single and double deck buses.