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DB subsidiary Autokraft: Neoplan Skyliner for Lübeck – Puttgarden and electric buses from BYD

...: Zwei der neuen BYD im NAH-SH-Outfit | © DB Presse

Six double-deckers from Neoplan

Autokraft – Deutsche Bahn’s bus subsidiary for the region Schleswig-Holstein – has six Neoplan Skyliner double-deckers (numbered 22007 to 22012) in service since 8 January 2023 – as a railway replacement services between Lübeck main station and the island of Fehmarn. This service uses the line number “X 85”, which identifies it as an express bus line. Line “X 85” runs at hourly intervals, whereas the train only ran every two hours on this route. Five coaches are needed for the scheduled operation of the line, the sixth serves as a reserve.

This substitute bus service is necessary because the railway line between Lübeck and Fehmarn is being extensively rebuilt and partly re-routed in the context of the the construction of a new tunnel under the Baltic Sea between Germany (Fehmarn) and Denmark (Lolland Island). Train operation has been suspended on the route.

Neoplan Skyliner no. 22008 for Autokraft | © Wolfgang Sachsenröder
© Wolfgang Sachsenröder
The upper deck | © DB Presse
Neoplan Skyliner for Autokraft | © Wolfgang Sachsenröder

Since the replacement buses are travelling a long distance – a trip from Lübeck to Puttgarden on Fehmarn takes one hour and 49 minutes – DB and its subsidiary Autokraft have opted for comfortable buses with many seats. Just like a double-decker bus. They have 75 reclining seats, and panoramic windows in the roof also provide an upward view in the upper deck. In the barrier-free low-floor lower deck there is a large multi-purpose area for up to two wheelchairs, for prams or for several bicycles. The door in the middle of the lower deck is wide enough for a wheelchair to pass through, and a ramp can be folded out here so that wheelchairs and prams can also roll into the bus.

Passengers can store their luggage in shelves in the interior and in the luggage compartments accessible from the outside, as every double-decker coach has them. At the rear, the buses are equipped with a bicycle rack for five bikes. And of course the double-deckers – here it becomes clear that they are descended from coaches – have a toilet. Which might not be entirely wrong given the long journey times of the line …

In the interest of maximum safety, the buses are equipped with driver assistance systems such as a distance-controlled cruise control as well as lane monitoring and emergency braking systems. The cornering assistant, which warns if necessary, ensures that no cyclist or pedestrian gets “under the wheels” when turning. The same purpose is served by the rear-view cameras, which are mounted instead of conventional rear-view mirrors. They offer a larger area for the driver to see when looking behind – accordingly, the blind spot that the driver cannot see is significantly smaller.

Passengers have access to free Wi-Fi as well as USB and power sockets for 220-volt devices. Displays in the interior provide information about the journey, the next stop and connections.

And to prevent the bus from consuming fuel unnecessarily and emitting exhaust fumes with the engine running unnecessarily, it has an automatic start/stop system. When the vehicle stops, the engine switches off automatically, and when the driver accelerates again, the engine also starts up automatically.

22 electric buses from BYD

At he end of January 2023, Autokraft presented some other remarkable buses, too: The first of 22 battery-electric buses supplied by Chinese manufacturer BYD of its eBus-12 model. BYD was originally a company in the electrical industry and then also discovered the electrically powered motor vehicle for itself. It has always used batteries that it produces itself – today these are lithium iron phosphate (LiFePe) accumulators. BYD delivered its first battery bus in 2010. This made it one of the very first bus manufacturers to offer such a product. To date, BYD has delivered more than 70,000 battery electric buses – making the company not only one of the world’s oldest manufacturers in this field, but also the largest.

Two of the new BYD in NAH-SH livery | © DB Presse

With its 22 BYDs, Autokraft becomes the largest operator of buses of this brand in Germany, closely followed by Bogestra from the Ruhr region, which has already had twenty of these vehicle in operation since 2020. Two more are running at the neighbouring Herne – Castrop-Rauxel tramway. A larger order for 15 of these buses is currently running with NEW in Mönchengladbach. Two more will go to their sister company in Viersen.

The new Autokraft electric buses numbered 22013 to 22034 will have their home base at the Bad Segeberg, Eutin, Heide / Meldorf and Sankt Peter-Ording depots and will gradually enter service from February.

The new BYD eBus-12 are low-floor buses with 33 seats, each of which has a USB port. There are special use areas on the bus for wheelchairs and e-scouters, and special seats are provided for mobility-impaired passengers. The stop request buttons are marked with Braille, the coaches have air conditioning and video surveillance. WLAN is available to passengers. And – very importantly – pedestrians and cyclists next to the bus are protected by a turning assistant.

Daniel Marx, spokesman for the Autokraft management, says: “We are pleased and proud that many public transport authorities have already placed their trust in us and are tackling the issue of the mobility revolution with us. The modern and emission-free buses should inspire our passengers. This is the best argument for using public transport more often and thus contributing to climate protection conveniently and easily in everyday life.”

The procurement of the electric buses was made possible by funding from the Federal Ministries of Economics and Transport within the framework of the “Directive on the Promotion of Alternative Propulsion Systems for Buses in Passenger Transport”. For the required infrastructure, there was a 50% subsidy from the “Wirtschaftsförderungs- und Technologie-Transfer GmbH Schleswig-Holstein“.