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21.04.2009

Expensive buses head to the garage

Milliyet

ISTANBUL -Most of the expensive "metrobuses" that were promoted as the solution to Istanbul’s traffic problem have been removed from traffic because of technical problems with the vehicles.
Thirty-five of the 50 Phileas model buses that the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality imported from the Netherlands for 2.4 million Turkish liras each are no longer used between the Avcılar-Söğütlüçeşme route because the vehicles cannot climb hills or accelerate and their suspensions frequently broke. The first batch of the Phileas busses arrived in Istanbul in September 2007.

The Phileas model buses were replaced by cheaper Mercedes buses.

The municipality had ignored arguments that Phileas buses were unsuitable for Istanbul. After being introduced to traffic at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last year, there were many reports about the buses breaking down and clogging traffic.

There are 205 Mercedes buses, 140 of which are Capacity models and 65 Citaro, currently running on the Avcılar-Söğütlüçeşme route, while the withdrawn Phileas buses sit at the municipality’s İkitelli garage.

Municipal officials misdirected Milliyet reporters who were trying to find where the Phileas buses were located.

Only when the reporters tried to find the buses from the air did they see that they were hidden at the municipal garages in İkitelli.

When approached, the municipality said the Phileas model buses were currently being tested. "The testing of the buses is executed in a very detailed way by municipal personnel and an 18-member team that came from the Netherlands. Each system is checked differently, and for each bus the testing can take as long as 15 days. The buses will be reintroduced to traffic next week. Currently, a few are undergoing test-runs between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.," said a statement from the municipality.

One reason why the buses kept breaking down was cited as the fact that each bus carried more than 300 passengers on average, with the number increasing to 350 during rush hours.

According to the manufacturer of the buses, APTS, the buses have a maximum capacity of 185.

In a press briefing last month, Istanbul Transportation Authority, or IETT, Director Mehmet Öztürk dismissed reports that the Phileas buses could not climb slopes and that the department had to pay 2 million Turkish Liras to replace the suspension and motors of the vehicles. Only last week, Öztürk told the municipal assembly that the Phileas buses were used outside of rush hours.

A former IETT executive told Milliyet that Phileas buses were recommended to the municipality in 2003 but were rejected because of experts’ advice. The former official who did not want to be named said: "These vehicles can be used for tourism purposes in areas with no sloping roads."