State Transit’s Scania L113TRB Ansair Orana fleet is now in the final stage of its retirement, with just 3 buses left in service and a planned final withdrawal in early December. These buses, affectionately referred to as the ‘long bus” and “14.5s” have been driving around Sydney for over 26 years, but alas, all good things must come to an end.
The Scania L113 series of bus was first introduced in 1989 and was produced through to 1998. It was their third series of 11 litre engine and was offered as both a low floor and step entry chassis. State Transit placed an order for 300 Scania L113 buses in the early 1990s, which included 50 L113TRB buses to be delivered in 1993 and 1994. The TRB in the model name stands for Tri-axle bus/coach, Right hand drive, Standard Floor Height. These buses featured the DS1134 (EURO 2) 11 litre engine and a ZF-5HP600 transmission. The buses have an high floor Orana body built by Ansair. Buses 3411 through 3430 were built at Ansair’s Tullamarine site, whilst buses 3431 through 3460 were built at their Tamworth site. They seat 61 passengers, with room for 34 standing allowing a total capacity of 95 passengers.
The Scania L113TRB first arrived in the State Transit fleet with class leader 3411. There was an official hand over ceremony at Port Botany depot on Thursday 28th January 1993, before entering into service on Wednesday 10th March 1993 at Port Botany. Over the next year, 49 more buses were delivered with fleet numbers 3412-3460. Buses were initially delivered to Port Botany depot, with later deliveries also being allocated to Kingsgrove, Ryde, Waverley and Willoughby depots. 3460 was the final bus to be delivered in March 1994.
Some of the fleet received an initial refurbishment in the late 1990s. Throughout 2006, 2007 and 2008, 49 of the buses received major refurbishments. The buses received new Mobitec destination boards replacing the original Alactel and Luminator equipment that was installed on delivery. They also received a repaint into the new Corporate V2 livery and had the seat padding replaced. The only bus in the fleet not to be refurbished was 3447. This was because a high level of rust was found inside the frame of 3447 and the decision was made to scrap the bus as it was not viable to fix the rust. As such, 3447 became the first of the 50 14.5s to be scrapped at the end of February 2009.
As the buses returned from refurbishment, they were concentrated at Kingsgrove, Port Botany and Willoughby. This was because of deliveries of new articulated buses at Ryde and Waverley which negated the need for the high capacity of the 14.5s. This saw half of the fleet, 25 buses, being based at Willoughby. At the same time, 14 buses called Port Botany home with 10 at Kingsgrove.
As the buses aged, some issues began to become apparent. The buses developed a very strong vibration when idling (some detractors claim this rattle has been occurring since they were introduced). In addition, a few of the buses developed engine issues. 3422 suffered an engine fire on Oxford Street whilst operating a L94 towards Circular Quay on 16 October 2012 and was withdrawn from service. 3411 suffered an engine failure on 16 November 2016 and was subsequently withdrawn. 3425 suffered a gearbox failure and was withdrawn around October 2017. 3459 suffered an engine failure on 1 September 2019 on Maroubra Road whilst operating operating a 400 towards Eastgardens and was subsequently withdrawn.
On 8 February 2018, it was announced that two 14.5s, namely 3413 and 3416, would be donated by State Transit to operate between Bourke, in western NSW, to a newly built abattoir, 15km away. These buses were withdrawn shortly before the announcement was made, and were transferred out to Bourke later that month after receiving a fresh coat of paint.
On 1 July 2018, the service contract for Region 6 transferred from State Transit to Transit Systems. This saw the 10 14.5s at Kingsgrove depot transferred from STA to TSA operation. TSA operated the buses solely on Route 400 between Bondi Junction and Burwood until 29 September 2018, then on Route 420 between Eastgardens and Burwood. The final 14.5 at Kingsgrove, 3434, was withdrawn on 2 August 2019 after operating the 11:50am 420 towards Burwood.
Withdrawals of the type have sped up significantly in 2019 as the 14.5s meet the upper end of their permitted lifespan of 25 years and 364 days. Port Botany and Willoughby have both been slowly losing their 14.5s over the course of 2019. The final two 14.5s at Port Botany, 3449 and 3460, both operated their final trips on 8 October 2019. 3460 operated the 9:44am 891 to UNSW and 3449 was just four minutes behind on the 9:48am 891. Since the start of November, withdrawals at Willoughby have sped up as well, with 11 buses withdrawn in November alone.
As of 30 November 2019, 47 of the 50 14.5s had been withdrawn. Only 3454, 3456 and 3458 continued on out of Willoughby depot, operating AM and PM peak services on Routes 272, 288 and 293. These buses were expected to be withdrawn after the AM Peak on Thursday 5 December 2019, marking the end of over 26 years of operation. The final service was the 9:01am 272 from North Willoughby to Wynyard operated by 3454.
The buses were used on routes that required higher capacity then regular buses could provide.
Kingsgrove and Waverley depots predominately used the buses on the Metroline 400 and 410 routes between Bondi Junction and Burwood/Rockdale. This service was later consolidated at Kingsgrove. Kingsgrove stopped operating Route 400 from 30 September 2018 when the route was spilt in half. From that date, the Kingsgrove fleet was dedicated to Route 420. For a short time, Kingsgrove also operated their 14.5s on “Green Line” routes of 423/6/8 and L23/8 as well as Nightride N30 services.
Port Botany mainly used their 14.5s on Anzac Parade trunks routes, particularly Route 392/3/4, 891/3/5/8, L94 and X92/4. After the spilt of Route 400 from 30 September 2018, Port Botany also began regularly operating 14.5s on Route 400. Port Botany 14.5s could also occasionally be found on other routes such as the 301/3/9.
Ryde used their 14.5s on Victoria Road services such as Route L20. Willoughby, as the largest 14.5 operator, used their 14.5s across their operating region. This included Eastern Valley Way routes such as the 204/5/6/7/8/9, Epping Road routes such as 288/9, 290/1/2/3/4/6 as well as other routes including 272/3.
A number of the type have been sold to other operators or preserved. 3419, 3420, 3428, 3430, 3434, 3439, 3440, 3444, 3449, 3453 and 3460 have all been sold. 3419, 3420, 3428, 3430 and 3440 are all expected to be preserved, 3434, 3439, 3449 and 3460 to go into service with charter operators, and 3444 and 3453 to be used as parts buses for those that are being preserved.
After 26 years in service, their time has finally come to an end.
Farewell 14.5s, you will be missed.
(Updated 5/12/19 to reflect final trip times)
Many thanks to Norbert Genci for the sheer amount of information he has on these buses and the sheer passion he shows for them. Much of the information in this article comes from him and he deserves credit for that information.
Further thanks to the many contributors of the Australian Transport Discussion Boards, where further information has been sourced.
All photos are attributed to their owner. Where attributed ‘Transport NSW Blog Collection,’ the rights to the photos are owned by the editor of this blog.