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TrolleyMotion's Zurich Conference 2008

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updated 8/12/08

Trolleymotion, the trolleybus action group based in Austria and Germany, spent a year preparing perhaps the most professionally useful trolleybus conference to date, in Zurich between 18th and 19th November 2008.

Despite the local transport operators devotion to trams and because they also have a commitment to a 'high quality of city life' achieved by getting car users onto their very integrated transport system, ZVV also has trolleybuses; and is very pleased with its 25m Hess bi-articulated vehicles on route 31 - they've further improved ZVV's positive view of the mode. Plans exist to convert route 32 and more bus routes could go trolleybus (16,17, 67).

Zurich's 76, a Hess 25m bi-articulated 'Lightram' at the VBZ Hardau depot, with conference delegates at lunch behind.

So said Hans-Peter Sch?r, the director, who had laid on special tours in the 25m Hess 'Lightram' on both days of the conference -the title of which was 'New Horizons for Urban Traffic - Innovative Electric Bus Transit Systems'.

While there were presentations on hybrid buses (Iveco), 'trams on tires' (Translohr) and 'catenary free concepts' (Bombardier and Numexia), most were about trolleybuses; from operators (Zurich, Luzern, Castell?n, Leipzig, Lecce, Bogot?, Lausanne etc.) manufacturers (Solaris, Hess, Irisbus, Viseon, Van Hool etc.) and suppliers (Kummler & Matter, Vossloh Kiepe, Siemens, Cegelec etc.). All aspects were covered, including how topology is important, how electricity producers, like EDF, are committed to promoting the trolleybus, how supercapacitors can be used, guaranteeing traction power supplies, how overhead is planned, why optical guidance on new rapid transit trolleybus schemes is beneficial, and crucially, trolleybus economics.

Arnulf Schuchmann, an expert consultant, gave a detailed talk on what electric systems cost, with the conclusion that trolleybuses cost 80% of diesel buses to operate but twice the investment. 30 year life costing, which assumes trolleybuses need modernizing after 14 years and replacing after 26 years, gave a total equal to that of diesels without factoring in the environmental and health benefits. All this also assumes high usage, which Arnulf repeatedly stressed. The 25m trolleybus is better economically that an 18m version and, he said, the Solingen trolleybus that had been fitted with a supercapacitor is costing 1.8 euro/km whereas a standard trolleybus costs 2.4 euros/km.

Bombardier showed how their 'Primove' system uses iron plates attached to the underside of a bus to collect 250kW by induction from underground cables laid 70mm away and supercapacitors to even out the power supply. They didn't say what the efficiency is, but did claim the system was a trolleybus without wires. Numexia, an industrial transport company, presented a similar scheme.

Christian Vanna, the Neoplan chief trolleybus engineer, said Neoplan is supporting a management buyout of the Pilsting plant and the formation of a new company, Viseon Bus GmbH, which will continue production of the 'Electroliner' trolleybus. He also bought with him, one of the final Barquisimeto trolleybuses, which, together with a Solaris Trollino from Winterthur toured the bi-articulated trolleybus route 31 for the benefit of attendees.
One of Neoplan's "Electroliner" trolleybuses for Barquisimeto, Venzuela at the Farbhof turning circle in Zurich, with Winterthur 173, a Solaris 18m Trollino.

The conference attracted 250 delegates, more than the 150 expected, and had the slight disadvantage of 2 concurrent sessions to get all 36 presentations into the two days, while also allowing for round table sessions, lunches, dinners, tours and earnest discussions about whether optical guidance is really necessary! Trolleymotion's conference was highly professional and hopefully useful in ensuring the trolleybus continues to succeed around the world.

More details of worldwide Tbus developments are here

updated 8/12/08
By Ashley Bruce