The Malta Independent 21 October 2021, Thursday

Arriva-like bus carrying young children gutted by fire in Germany

Malta Independent Sunday, 6 October 2013, 11:00 Last update: about 8 years ago

Malta’s bendy buses are not the only ones to have been catching fire, it seems, as a similar incident occurred in Germany only a few days ago.

The Mercedes-Citaro bus, which was not an articulated vehicle but is nonetheless the same make as Arriva’s bendy buses, caught fire while transporting a class of primary school students. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

The bus was travelling on a country road in the Kassel district of Hesse state, with 19 children and three teachers on board.

German website reported that the bus driver’s quick thinking saved the day. The 73-year-old noticed smoke coming out of the engine compartment, pulled over and quickly evacuated all the passengers from the bus. Shortly afterwards, the vehicle was engulfed in flames and the firemen that arrived at the scene found it completely burnt out. The news report said that the cause of the fire could have been a lack of engine oil.


Malta bus fires

All Arriva Malta’s bendy buses have been withdrawn from service after three of them caught fire in as many days. The first incident happened in the early hours of 25 August, when a bendy bus was destroyed after it caught fire in Marsa. Luckily, only the driver was aboard at the time, and he managed to jump off the bus in time.

A few hours later, all 12 passengers were safely evacuated when another articulated bus caught fire in Mellieha and two days later, a third one caught fire in Xemxija.

The bendy bus fleet was suspended on 27 August and Arriva has since been chartering 65 buses from the Unscheduled Bus Service which, according to reports, is costing it around €30,000 a day.


Bendy buses suffered same problems in the UK

Arriva’s bendy buses had drawn harsh criticism from the public after it was revealed that they were second-hand buses that had been removed from London’s roads.

Originally, they had been bought by Transport for London in 2003. But they were plagued by mishaps from day one, with one of the buses catching fire on its delivery journey. A further three buses were destroyed by fire in similar incidents.

Mercedes had reportedly “solved the problem”, but by then, the buses had already been nicknamed the “chariots of fire”. All London’s bendy buses were subsequently retired, but 68 of them managed to find their way to Malta in Arriva’s service.


No date for return of bendy buses

Earlier this week, the Transport Ministry told this newspaper that it had never received the safety report drawn up by Arriva, and insisted that Minister Joe Mizzi had not been given the necessary assurances required for the bendy buses to be allowed back on the roads. Arriva has asked the Transport Ministry to allow the bendy buses back on the road, but the Ministry has insisted that Arriva had only provided it with a reaction to a report compiled by Transport Malta. Neither report will be published.

The Ministry said that it had taken all necessary precautions and suspended the bendy buses. For the time being they will remain suspended, and no date has been set for their return. Negotiations between the government and the public transport company are “ongoing”.

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