In September 2019, the SMPBA (Syndicat des Mobilités du Pays Basque Adour) opened a BRT line between Bayonne and the world-famous seaside resort of Biarritz. BRT is an English abbreviation and stands for Bus Rapid Transit. It is a rapid bus system that uses largely its own lane and right-of-way, completely independent of other traffic. In Europe, the number of BRT lines operating is still limited, but not so outside Europe, e.g. in South America, the BRT concept shows high performance rates and low transport costs on a daily basis.
If you want to see such a BRT system in full operation, you don’t even have to travel to South America. At the border between Europe and Asia, Istanbul’s public transport company IETT operates a BRT route that runs on a completely separate track in the middle of multi-lane motorway. The buses run at very short intervals, their stops have central platforms with the buses operating on the left-hand side. The initial vehicle equipment for Istanbul’s BRT system consisted of Mercedes-Benz CapaCity and APTS Phileas 26 (large capacity) buses.
Let’s return to the Basque Country. The well-known transport company Keolis opened the BRT line connecting the coastal cities of Biarritz and Bayonne in 2019, and it soon became a success story. „Bus Haut Niveaau du Service“ (BHNS) is the French name of BRT operation. As the buses use its own right-of-way on dedicated bus lanes with priority on traffic lights, the service is reliable and a viable alternative to individual car traffic on the route.
On 26 April 2021, Line T2, the second BRT line in the region, started operation. It connects the city of Tarnos with Bayonne, is 10 kilometres long, has 24 stops and serves the route in 20 minutes including all stops at the stops. This corresponds to an average travel speed of 30 km/h, which is truly not bad for a local public transport connection.
Line T2 serves several points of interest in the region such as three secondary schools, the town halls in Bayonne and Tarnos, shopping and sports centres, large cinema complexes, the Basque Coast Hospital Centre, the railway station in Bayonne and a newly built large P + R car park in Tarnos.
About 90,000 passengers per month are expected on the new service in total. With its higher frequency, it will improve the existing service between Tarnos and Bayonne by 25% and is expected to attract 50% more passengers to the public transport system.
Line T2 runs every 15 minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight. It will be served by seven battery-electric articulated buses of the type “ieTram 18” from the Spanish manufacturer Irizar, which has already supplied this model Line 1 in 2019. Irizar’s “ieTram 18” is characterised by a futuristic design that indeed looks not unlike a tram.
The stops are barrier-free and equipped with Dynamic Passenger Information (DFI) displays and ticket vending machines.
The electric buses can carry up to 150 passengers, thereof 38 seated. At each of these seats they have a USB charging socket. The Irizar ieTram 18 uses lithium-ion batteries which are recharged at both terminal stops (five minutes quick charging time each) and overnight at the depot, too (slow charge, full charge in 3 to 4 hours). As electric buses, they are of course completely emission-free and much quieter than all other traffic. And thanks to the new Irizar ieTram 18, 40% of all buses operating in the Biarritz / Bayonne region are now electric buses.
BRT lines operated by Keolis in France:
Amiens: 4 lines line with 43 buses
Bayonne-Biarritz: 2 lines
Pau: 1 line, the first with 18-metre articulated fuel cell buses
Sophia-Antipolis: all buses run on natural gas
Technical data Irizar ieTram 18:
Length: 18,730 mm
Width: 2,550 mm
Height: 3,400 mm
Height of floor above carriageway: 3,200 mm
Doors: 3 or 4 depending on customer requirements
up to 155 passengers
in Bayonne – Biarritz: 150 passengers, therof: 38 seats
Lithium-ion batteries, power: 240 kW
Range: 250 km
A report about the first BRT line in the region you can find here: https://www.urban-transport-magazine.com/en/more-brt-electric-buses-for-biarritz-and-bayonne/26.05.2021