Monday, December 23, 2013

Sydney Double-Decker Express Commuter Bus

In June, Sydney's private Hillsbus company introduced five Double-Decker buses for the M61 "Metro-bus" express route from the city to Castle Hill, in the North West. The M61 service operates every 10 minutes in peak time, 15 minutes off-peak and 20 minutes on weekends (there is an M61 Castle Hill to City Timetable, but it is 70 pages long). The double deck buses are only used for the morning and afternoon peak services (see times appended). These services take the "MyBus" tickets accepted on Sydney's government buses, as well as cash fares.

As described in the brochure, the buses have 92 seats and look huge from the outside but a little cramped on the inside. The stairway on the right behind the driver takes up a lot of room, making it hard to get past. But the stairs are wide (for a bus) and well lighted (with luminous treads). Upstairs is a little roomier but with a low ceiling (one passenger hit their had on the LCD display screen at the front, which fortunately was padded.

There are two double bench seats upstairs at the front with a very large window in front. The view is excellent, but leg room cramped in the front row. Also it can be a little unnerving watching trees, bridges and traffic lights rushing towards you (some trees in George Street did seem to be scraping on the bus roof). Those without a head for heights, or long legs, might choose the second row of seats.

The bus has a much more compliant ride that the regular single deck Hills buses. The double deck buses seem to float over bumps, rather than crashing. However, high up this can induce a slight feeling of seasickness (some magnetorheological dampers might help).

Next to the bus stop at Castle Hill is the information office for the North West Rail Link. Work on the Castle Hill station is under-way across the road, but given the stop-start nature of previous Sydney metro projects, it is difficult to believe this will be built. In contrast the Metro-buses and transit lanes along the main roads are cost effective and tangible parts of a a transport system.

While at Castle Hill, I visited the excellent Castle Hill Library, which has a cafe where you can browse the magazines and newspapers. The easiest way to get to the library from the bus stop is to walk along Castle Street and under the enormous Castle Towers Shopping Centre (there seems to be no pedestrian exit to the centre on the library side).

M61 Double-Decker Times

The bus operator CDC advised that the Double-Decker buses usually run on these services:
WEEKDAYS: The weekday timetables are run during peak hours only as follows:
CASTLE HILL: AM 06.50, 07.00, 07.50, 08.00, PM 16.01, 16.11, 16.51, 17.01, 17.11
RAILWAY SQUARE: AM 08.18, 08.28, 09.02, 09.17, 09.32 PM 17.15, 17.25, 8.05, 18.15, 18.25
WEEKENDS: The weekend timetable is a little more frequent as follows:
CASTLE HILL: AM 07.30, 07.50, 08.10, 08.30, 08.50, 09.50, 10.10, 10.30, 10.50, 11.10, PM 12.50, 13.01, 13.30, 13.50, 14.30, 16.30
RAILWAY SQUARE: AM 08.40, 09.00, 09.20, 09.40, 10.00, 11.40, PM 12.00, 12.20, 13.20, 14.20, 15.00, 17.40

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