After 22 years in service across Sydney, the final Mercedes Benz 0405NH Citaro will be retired by the end of this month. 300 of the type were built specially for Sydney and operated out of Leichhardt, Port Botany, Ryde and Waverley depots.
300 buses, with fleet numbers 1100-1107, 1109-1160, 1162-1196, 1200-1233, 1236-1405 and 2000, were built between 1999 and 2002. The chassis and body shell were built by EvoBus in Germany, with final fit-out occurring at Custom Coaches in Sydney. They feature a Mercedes Benz OM 447hG rear mounted engine producing 175 kW and a 5-speed automatic ZF 5HP500 gearbox. Powered by compressed natural gas, there is a pod at the front of roof of the bus containing two gas tanks. They are 12.5m long with a 6.7m wheelbase, with a capacity of 70 passengers – 45 seated and 25 standees. Mobitec ICU400 flipdot destination boards and Coachair air-conditioning were also fitted to the vehicles.
The buses were rush ordered so as many as possible could be ready in time for the Sydney Olympics in 2000. As a result, several of the buses provided transport to and around Sydney Olympic Park at the time of the games in September 2000. The vehicles were also used to transport athletes during the paralympics as they were some of the few wheelchair accessible buses in Sydney at the time. The first vehicle built was registered m/o2000 and allocated fleet number 2000 to mark the games.
Buses 1389-1405 were used as the original fleet for Western Sydney Buses for use on the newly constructed Parramatta-Liverpool T-Way. They featured a modified livery with T-Way insignia and were equipped with special transponders for the operation. These buses were based in leased space within the Westbus depot at Bonnyrigg, however as the Bonnyrigg site did not have CNG fuelling facilities the vehicles had to return to Ryde daily for refuelling. Due to this fuelling issue, they were replaced by diesel powered Volvo buses in 2004.
There were structural cracks found in the body of a number of the buses in 2007. 1210 was returned to Daimler in Germany to determine the cause and develop a fix for these structural issues. As a result, all 300 of the vehicles had a diagonal structural support bar installed across the front most passenger windows fitted in 2008.
The decision was made in 2013 to not replace the gas tanks on the vehicles. Despite the gas tanks having a life span of 40 years according to the manufacturer, NSW regulations require the gas tanks be recertified or replaced at 15 year intervals, with recertifications required every 5 years after the first 15. A single recertification of the gas tanks on each vehicle would take place, and once the tanks required additional certification the vehicles would be retired. For operational reasons the tanks were often swapped between vehicles, meaning that retirement order did not necessarily match build order.
The first vehicle built, 2000, has been donated by State Transit to the Sydney Bus Museum for preservation. All other 299 buses built will be sent to scrap, as the fuelling facilities for the vehicles do not exist outside the depots they were based at.