Line 6 between Torvalla and Brittsbo is one of the busiest bus routes in Östersund, with about 100 departures a day. After the line was rescheduled and electrified, several new residential areas now have access to the city buses, enabling them to choose the bus instead of cars.
The line is just over 14-kilometres long and runs from Torvalla in south-eastern Östersund, through the city centre and past the hospital, to the new large residential area Brittsbo in the north. During peak hours, the bus runs every 15 minutes and the line is covered by a total of seven buses. The line has more than 800,000 passengers per year and is operational 16 hours a day. Each Line 6 bus covers 330 kilometres a day. Part of the route has dedicated bus lanes.
At the end stations in Brittsbo and Torvalla Centrum, the buses are charged for 6-8 minutes using pantographs, before returning to the other end station where they are recharged again. A full charge gives the buses enough range for a return trip. Therefore, the buses can continue driving even if one of the charging stations is out of service, or if there is no time to charge the bus.
In Brittsbo, the pantograph has just charged the batteries, when Petra boards the bus with her stroller and daughter Lina. Petra appreciates the open space and the low and flat floors, as it makes her travel easy and convenient.
Lina is sleeping and as soon as Petra takes a seat, she plugs in her phone in one of the power sockets to charge it, and to surf while going downtown.
“To be honest, I don’t see this as a bus”, she says.
“The drive is so quiet and smooth that the 20 minutes to downtown feel more like some sort of… waiting or resting-room.”
The buses were all given individual names
The first three electric buses were all given individual names. “Tor-Britt” is named after the two end stations Torvalla and Brittsbo, “Jorm” after a regional mountain troll. “Potter” is of course named after the British soccer coach Graham Potter, who propelled Östersund FC to Europa League and international fame, before he was recruited to the English Championship Club Swansea.
“What Potter did for soccer in Östersund was almost magical. Perhaps this electric bus and the other ones can make an even greater footprint”, says Petra.
At Kyrkparken’s bus stop in the centre of Östersund, Karin gets off “Potter” to go to her home at Odenbacken. She has made this trip five days a week over the past six months, and now she finds it hard to remember riding a regular bus.
Appealing interior and practical features
“I work in the service sector in the city centre, and my days are usually quite hectic. It is lovely to step on the electric bus to go home, so smooth and silent. Sometimes, I would like the trip home to be longer,” she adds.
The design of the electric buses has been determined by travellers’ wishes for an appealing interior with practical features on board. The buses have extra wide doorways with low inlets, allowing quick and smooth loading and disembarkment.
“They are so incredibly quiet!”
Line 6 used to be a rough ride, according to the bus driver Janne Monteiro. Every shift felt like an eternity. “It was busy, crowded, and the 14-kilometre long route felt even longer with many stops on the way”.
But it all changed with the electric buses.
“Above all, they are so incredibly quiet! You do not feel the same fatigue when driving them. It is a different drive all together”, he says, and gives an example:
“Two and a half hours in an older bus … you really feel it. But driving an electric bus for the same amount of time, I could easily take another lap without a break.”
The setting around the driver’s seat is very similar to a regular Scania Citywide, although the instrument panel is a bit different. For example, the tachometer has been replaced by an instrument showing the charging status of the batteries. When the bus arrives at the charging station, Janne Monteiro only needs to pull the handbrake, make sure that the bus is placed correctly, and that the electrical outlet on the roof is connected to the pantograph for the charging to take place. The entire charging process takes no longer than 6-7 minutes.
Every bus driver in Östersund has been positive so far. They value the quietness and absence of vibrations, but also the quick response when starting and accelerating. In fact, acceleration is throttled electronically, which keeps the wheels from losing traction or passengers from being injured, but also saves energy.
Janne Monteiro knows many of his passengers well and he finds them satisfied with the new city buses.
“Most people I have talked to enjoy Scania’s electric buses. Quiet and comfortable. I even know of people who wanted to go for another round – 28 kilometres – just for the joy of it!”
A concert hall on wheels
- To further highlight the non-existent noise level of the electric buses, the theatre group Estrad Norr was invited to perform as on-board entertainment, offering different performances like opera, dance, scenic readings and music improvisations. They also produced a video clip where Estrad Norr performs the lead theme of the Phantom of the Opera. Watch the video here:
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